This morning we met with our Swiss friends from yesterday to have a tour of Captain Hook’s village and coffee plantation. Thanks to our amazing tour from Mr Vieng yesterday, we were already coffee experts so it was a little hard to keep interested at first. However once we moved on it turned in to one of the most insightful experiences of our travels.
The village that Captain Hook is from is very remote and has it’s own belief system. They strongly believe in spirits, have ceremonies and regular rituals. Before taking the tour we was told not to touch any rice plants, doing so would remove the plant’s good luck. He then told us not to touch any part of villagers housing as this would invite evil spirits. The villagers housing was interesting to say the least, all hand built, they lived in raised wooden built shacks and each had their own selection of animals from pigs and chickens to dogs and buffalos.
It’s normal here for a household to have many people under one roof. The largest household was once 90 strong but nowadays the biggest family has 60 members and yes, they are all in one small house. This sounded very strange to us, but of course it is what they are brought up with and is therefore normal to them.
Another thing that is normal, which we couldn’t get our head around, was the fact many kids start smoking aged 3, they don’t go to school, are expected to marry around the age of 8 and have their first child at 12 ish. Men can have multiple wives so it’s common for the man of the house to live with his 5 wives (who could be as young as 8) along with all his children and his parents so you can see how the numbers can get up to 60!
Captain Hook’s past
Learning about how they grow the rice was very interesting, so was blowing bubbles using fluid from a plant and a leaf stem.
However what we was most interested in was his past and the culture of the village. It turns out to be quite alarming.
Captain Hook was well educated, he went to school and soon was studying at a Buddhist university before his parents contacted him saying they had found him a wife and he needs to come home. Captain Hook didn’t want to leave his studies and managed to convince his brother to marry the girl instead, problem resolved, or so he thought. The next call he received was to inform his that his grandmother was ill and he needed to return to say goodbye. This all turned out to be a trick by his parents, he came home to a fully arranged wedding to another girl. They married, and he never returned to his studies.
We was shocked, but that was just the start of it. Turns out before getting married Captain Hook had a relationship with a western girl that he was in love with. His village believe his return brought back evil spirits and still to this day none of the villagers will talk to him more than they have to, even his parents. It was becoming very clear why Captain Hook did not seem as happy as other people we had met, his story is very sad.
Pregnancy in the village
Adding to the shock we was told that when a woman is giving birth she is taken to the cemetery because child birth is a taboo within the village. Once the baby is born the woman has to stay in the cemetery for 3 weeks until they are allowed to return to their home. But upon reaching their home the father, and man of the house have to ask the woman if the baby is ‘good’, if she says no, the baby is disposed off. Apparently no none has ever said no, but how do we know that is true, would they keep a baby with a disability?
Another interesting fact is that there are 3 cemeteries, the first is for people who die of natural causes, good spirits. Then there was the the cemetery for people who die accidentally, bad spirits and finally for the women who die in child birth. This is the same cemetery where the women go to give birth.
At the end of the tour as we walked through the village back to his house we stopped at the central area, he said this is where ceremonies are held, we sacrifice animals to the spirits to keep them happy and every full moon we kick a dog to death… I’m sorry what? Yup, that is not a typo, nor did I hear him incorrectly. Every full moon a dog is tied to a post, and everyone kicks it until it is dead!
We was all utterly dumbfounded but I managed to ask how a dog is selected, thinking it would just be a random stray but no, each family wants their pet dog to be chosen as it will bring good spirits to their home. We was all quite lost for words, my first thought was how many people flew off the handle and went mental at him, but what would that achieve, they have been living like this for thousands of years, to them its completely normally.
Saying our goodbyes we all left with mixed emotions. It was such an interesting insight in to the life of the remote Laos villages, but trying to come to terms with what they believe in and what they do because of those beliefs is not so easy. Living our modern lives it was hard to imagine people still living like this but they do, the children don’t really go to school and Captain Hook really made us laugh when he said “if you could talk Laos, you would think my people are really stupid, for example they think you are white because of something you ate!”.
Back to reality
The four of us headed towards Paksong were we stopped for some food before visiting Tad Yuang waterfall which was up there as one of the most beautiful we have seen. It looked just like the artificial waterfall in Singapore’s Cloud dome.
Before long we was winding our way back into Pakse, handing over the bike and getting ready for the 10 hour bed bus up to our next stop, Vientiane. It’s lucky we’re small, even 5ft2 Hayley could only just lay flat!
The Bolaven Plateau loop was a great couple of day’s we’ll always remember and I’d highly recommend a trip to see Captain Hook if you’re ever in the area.