Fishing voyage up the Nam Ou

We rose early this morning in order to formulate the plans James, Meesha and I discussed yesterday, to hire a paddle boat back to Nong Khiaw. Both James and Meesha are experienced Kayakers and Canoeers and are confident they can safely navigate us through a few ‘Class 2’ rapids along the route back from Muang Ngoi. My job would be to paddle and bail the water out the boat when necessary!
We spoke to monkey man Neet (he has no use of one of his legs and only partial use of the other, so he walks around on the strength of his arms, like a monkey) who confirmed that the price would be $30 to hire the boat (which included the fuel costs for his motor boat so that he could make the same journey separately with our bags and then transport the paddle boat back up to Muang Ngoi) and reluctantly agreed to let us pay once our belongings were returned to us the other end. He showed us the boat we would be traveling in and after debating its sea-worthiness, we all decided to live dangerously and give it a shot. We weren’t worried about it capsizing but the top of the boat sat very close to the water, so there was a danger that a lot of water could get into the boat once we hit some rapids.
Once our little adventure was all organized and the clouds had lifted after the rains of last night, Meesha embarked upon an independent trek to some of the local villages, whilst James and I sorted out our own little fishing voyage with Neet. We didn’t actually get to do a lot of fishing ourselves but James was interested in the Laotian fishing methods and their effectiveness.
The basic concept is a long net with weights on the bottom and corks on the top to keep it afloat. Once the fishermen have decided which area of the river to target, they lay the net around it, usually attaching either end to a tree branch on the shore, and then hit the water with force using a long bamboo stick. This is designed to frighten the fish so that they swim towards the net and their gills get caught in the holes.
We were witness to this technique on about 4 separate occasions on different parts of the river, and a total of around 20 fish were caught. The name James knows them by is “Tinfoil” due to the colour of their skin. They look quite similar to goldfish only a little on the larger side.
Once the mission to catch the fish was accomplished, we collected some firewood and some bamboo to use as skewers in order to cook the fish. We pulled up on a tiny rock outcrop in the middle of the river. Neet and friend had the fire going in a matter of seconds. We used rock salt and garlic to marinade the fish and then cooked them over the open fire.
Those little tinfoil have to be THE freshest fish I’ve ever tasted. Barbecued tinfoil (have to give them an alternative name if serving this up in a posh restaurant!) marinated in rock salt and garlic, served with sticky rice and hot chilli sauce. Very simple but very tasty, and so much more authentic than ordering fish from a restaurant in the village.
Fishing trip : $4 each for 3 hours, meal included.
This evening James, Meesha nad I ate at Sengdala Restaurant and decided, after the food had been consumed, that it was about time we sampled the infamous Lao Lao. After doing so I decided it wasn’t something I was going to do again! (at least not neat!) It’s certainly a very potent whisky and I like the effect it had (according to Meesha James and I were away with the fairies on the way home, taking random photographs of palm trees and the moon!) but I’m not sure I’d want to go through the whole process involved in finding that effect!
Photo is one James took of Neet and friend preparing our meal of marinated Tinfoil!

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