The mystery tree

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  • My two-wheel trek around southern Laos continued today as I rode toward the small town of Paksong and into coffee country.

    I spent the day dodging holes in the road and clouds in the sky, a tricky task on both counts at this time of year. The monsoon rain clouds congregate like troublesome teenagers looking to ruin someones day and I was determined it would not be mine.

    Wearing a ridiculous electric blue waterproof over-jacket and pants, I rode through small villages and communities. Wherever I went my somewhat bizarre attire raised smiles from the locals who must have looked upon me like an alien arriving from the planet Polyethylene.

    Along the way I came across a crowd of people beside the road. I decided to investigate and found that they were gathered around a small fenced tree. There was an offering table with incense and candles, and money was strewn around the base of the tree. It seemed to me that there was either some kind of ceremony or game taking place. People were taking it turns to very gently poke the tree with a long stick, as if they were looking for something amid the leaves. There expressions were very serious and the gathered crowd was almost silent as everyone watched intensely.

    I stood there looking on for a while as various people poked the tree. I furrowed my brow and examined the tree closely like the other spectators, but I couldn’t see anything that struck me as pokable, or otherwise noteworthy. After a while a man came over and spoke to me. I assumed he was telling to me what they were doing so I nodded in an understanding fashion. Of course, I didn’t understand a word of what he was saying as he was speaking in Lao and judging by his serious expression he might well have been telling me to stop taking pictures.

    So that’s my picture for today. A girl with a ribbon in her hair poking a small fenced tree for a reason that I suspect will remain a mystery to me.

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