Intricately woven native birds' nests hang suspended from the lattice work of the balcony overlooking the river. Ingenious architects, the birds design their nests so that the entrance lies below. A long tube leads up into the cavernous interior, which is neatly divided into two chambers. An inner wall separates the entrance from the nest, deftly defying predatory snakes from stealing the bird's eggs. As though in homage to the avian talents, woven grass mats, hats and baskets produced by human hands adorn the polished teak walls.
A monkey cries from its cage at the door to the guesthouse. A wizened old woman carrying a huge basket of bananas on her back enters the compound. A small coin is proffered for the purchase of a single banana. Squealing with delight, the woman puts down her basket and takes out a whole bunch!!!
At the border crossing, I exchange six clean crisp Thai baht for literally hundreds and thousands of Lao kip. Suddenly, I am a millionaire! Eddie would be proud.
As we make our way downstream, I nibble on lightly roasted Lao peanuts with my Beerlao. I watch in fascination as people plant peanuts along the banks of the Mekong and think about the peanut's journey from their hand to mine.
Hands will become the enduring symbol of our trip. From my hands on the handlebar of my bike, to the hands that reap the rice in the fields, to the hands that thresh the rice from the husks, to the hands that spin the silk, to the hands that work the looms, to the hands that chop down trees, to the hands that carry firewood, to the hands that wash clothes along the riverbed, to the hands that push carts laden with produce for the market, to the continuously waving hands of the children by the roadside, to the enduring circle of hands of the CARE logo.
Gnarled, dusty, young, old, wherever we travel, the hands are always open.