The Traveler’s Eye: The Curious Farmers of the Mountains of Laos

The Traveler’s Eye is a series about the stories behind some of my favorite travel photography I’ve taken over the years. Last week I told the story behind a photo I took when I taught child monks in Burma to play Frisbee. This week I’ll tell you the story about some curious farmers in the mountains of Laos.

My buddy Dave and I feeling guilty about a recent party binge in Vang Vieng decided that it was appropriate to take a 2 day trek through the mountains of Laos surrounding Luang Prabang.

There was a gross sticky heat all around us suffocating our skin and a humidity that made our collective pores leak like a sieve. But we needed it and tromping through small rivers and jungle we wondered if the leeches we were ripping off our legs every 5 minutes could still taste the booze we were drinking two days ago.

But the trek was not a waste or a chore; it was quite the opposite.  We were far off the tourists’ paths and were ascending into the upper parts of the jade mountains. The locals we saw became a little more local and a little less fluent and a lot less frequent.  Things began feeling more and more authentic. It was just our guide, the green mountains, and us.

As we weaved through a particularly dense piece of jungle the plant life opened up into a clearing. Draping down the side of this particular mountain was farmland. After several hours of just the sounds of the jungle and our minds we heard voices from the field above us. It was a small group of farmers working away. As we made our way by them they paused from what they were doing and their tools became quiet to analyze the two pale sweaty foreigners below them.  We had their attention and they had ours. We each stood quietly on the mountain examining each other until our guide yelled something to them.  We then waved and moseyed on.

I took this picture at that exact moment, that moment of quietness and curiosity. Two sets of people from different worlds trying to see what they could learn from the other in a brief glance.  The only thing making noise was the wind and our lungs. We were not so different, not less curious.

Next entry: Friday Moment of Zen with Thought and Music: Salman Rushdie and Jose Gonzalez

Previous entry: Save a Life on Your Adventure: How To Do C.P.R.


  • Booze, Food, Travel

    Posted on April 25, 2014 at 1:36 am

    Noticed quite a few farmers in Cambodia who stopped to stare at the two foreigners riding bikes along the dirt road—some waved and shouted hello to us. I love those little moments.

    • Shameless Traveler

      Posted on April 30, 2014 at 4:26 pm

      Definitely Matt, it’s all those little moments that make it worthwhile.

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