Pakse, Laos

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Pakse, Laos

Simplistic living inspires our giving

Memory from October 2014

A little goes a long way.  Granted you could argue the same could be true about showing cleavage, but when you’re traveling in less developed countries, these words couldn’t possibly ring more true…It doesn’t take long, no matter how you travel in Laos, to find poverty and a way of life so unfamiliarly different from our own.  Bamboo constructed huts complete with palm fern thatched roofs fill nearly every rural village in the country.  Spending time cruising theWaterfalls on the Bolaven Plateau (Pakse, Laos)se primitive areas always seems to inspire more gratitude in our lives, no matter what we have going on.  The problems we face in our western world never seem quite as difficult to overcome when witnessing locals living without running water and sleeping on dirt floors, yet always finding the time to smile at our presence.

Motorbiking on the Bolaven Plateau in Laos was no exception.  I won’t soon forget the friendly character of people offering hellos and the laughter of local children often wearing dirty clothes and playing with a stick and old motorbike tire instead of tapping on their new Iphone.  In the face of simplicity I seem to always find a reason to appreciate the positivity we’re all capable of.  Witnessing lives of relentless manual labor and small homes accommodating an overwhelming amount of inhabitants from multiple generations tends to tug hard on the old heart strings!


Equally as incredible at times were the magnificent waterfalls cascading over tall cliffs and plummeting into the pools of water below, each one we stopped at providing a unique treasure hidden in the wilderness.  In the company of such an abundance of beauty, even a proper downpour couldn’t deter our high spirits.  My laBolaven Plateau, Laosck of belief in coincidence could only lead me to believe in wonderful fate when the rain surprised us and forced me to pull the bike over to the only shop within twenty kilometers fully stocked with long, inexpensive plastic rain covers to shield us from the water.  Our positive outlook as we recognized our fortune was rewarded with a double rainbow behind us as we drove away from the dark clouds above.
As we continued our loop around the plateau, we took notice of a typical local home close the road decorated with hand-woven baskets for sale.  We pulled over and approached the three elderly men perched on the footstep of the doorway, finding it impossible not to realize the incredible amount of poverty they lived in on a daily basis.  Jessie honed in on her favorite decoration, pulling it from over the top of a short bamboo pole as I reached into my pocket to grab my wallet.  I handed the man, obviously in charge with gathering our fee, a bill in the local currency the equivalent of about $6.00 USD.

He retreated into his shack of a home, unable to scrounge up enough change for the $3.00 USD item we had purchased.  Instead of returning with the proper amount of change, he handed me crumpled bills remaining 50 cents short and apologizing in the local language repeatedly.  I looked to Jessie who smiled in return, knowing what was about to happen.  My hands offered the man the entire amountHand-woven basket Laos of change back and thanking him for his basket.  He looked to his row of baskets for sale under the impression that we would just take another basket.  We both just smiled and shook our heads as we casually turned to head back to our ride.

Before I could reach our motorbike, the old man grasped my forearm with a loving embrace, placing his hands in prayer position and thanking me with multiple bobs of his head upon realizing we simply wished to give him a very small gift.  The tears in his eyes invoked some of our own, holding his hands and listening to an unfamiliar dialect.  Still…we understood his absolute appreciation.

We rode off with heavy hearts and compelling compassion, understanding the true meaning behind our stop.  It’s true…a little really does go a LONG way…


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