I had arrived at the village of Muang Ngoi in Northern Laos. It was during the monsoon season – the air was damp, thick and grey. It had been an 8-hour boat up the Nam Ngoi river and I was tired but happy to be there.
Muang Ngnoi squats on a riverbank and is wrapped by forest and rocky outcrops. The low lying mist, the silence, the wooded huts lining the muddy lanes give it a feeling that King Kong could be nearby watching the arrival of the very few travelers.
I ended up spending 5 days there enjoying everything that it had to offer.
But it was one particular experience that has lived with me ever since.
It was early one morning. I was wandering through the village. The mist veiled my view and the only sound was my boots squishing softly through the muddy lanes. It was just me, and my camera. There was 1 dozing dog on a porch that attempted to raise an eyelid to see what all the commotion was about but its attention didn’t last long.
As I was traipsed up a gentle incline wrapped in grey, a burst of colour exploded through the mist. A local monk draped in a rich orange robe, contemplated life from in front of a blue door. He looked content.
Wanting to grab this natural moment I gently drifted towards him, hoping to capture him unawares. Only the sound of the clicking camera thundered in my ears.
He looked up and smiled. I gestured if I could take his portrait. He nodded and stood up.
After I showed him himself he gestured for me to sit down. He couldn’t speak English and I could speak Lao and for the next while, we sat in the most comfortable of silence. I started out fidgeting while he sat in silence, looking ahead, smiling. Following suit, I put my camera down and relaxed back into the seat, the environment, and breathed.
The sun started blinking through the mist, and I noticed the rice paddies dappled in light.
The more I relaxed the more I witnessed.
The breeze gently rustled the trees awake.
Birds and insects melodically crooned their greetings.
The cool mist stroked my face, and the scent of the world after a night of heavy rain breathed fresh and alive.
After what seemed like a timeless age I stood up, bid my farewell, and started to leave.
As I was about to leave the monk said something to a teenager who had appeared at some time from nowhere.
He translated, “it’s only when we are silent that we are able to hear what our worlds have to show us.”