Thursday, 10 December 2009

Luang Nam Tha

Getting to Nong Khiaw was pretty easy, getting out was proving to seem a little more difficult. The general idea was to take a public bus to Odomxai, a kind of arterial town in northern Laos, and change for a minibus to get to our destination, Luang Nam Tha. Seemed simple enough.

The problem was that nobody was entirely sure what time the bus to Odomxai was actually leaving (one person said 9am, another 9.30, another 10am). As the ticket window was closed when we arrived, we couldn't ask there so we took the safe option of getting to the booth at 8.30am the following morning, whereupon we were kindly informed that the bus was leaving at 11am! Dammit!

So we cooled our heels in a cafe for a few hours and when we returned at 10.30 to buy our tickets, some confused murmuring went on between the driver and the ticket man and then suddenly, at the last minute, they offered to take us all directly to Luang Nam Tha! Score! Only in Laos can they be so attractively nonchalant.

The road was yet another sinuous and often very rough test of our stomachs and backsides, though the scenery was, once again, glorious. There were a lot of roadworks going on using Chinese machinery and lorries, proof of the support Laos is now receiving from its big northern neighbour. We made it to Luang Nam Tha, a little brittle and broken, but after another very good Indian dinner (this time at Yamuna), we felt human again. Dave even had a few of the Hmong tribes ladies offer him (in very hushed tones) some opium for desert, which he politely declined!

The next day we did some exploring of the lush areas surrounding this dusty little town on some hired bicycles. It was cold in the morning as we pushed out to see Tam Dee Waterfall but the weather changed quickly around 10am as the mist burnt off and the sun came out so we had to double back to change into cooler clothes! We saw some local boys playing football on rice paddies and a giant golden stupa on the hillside before heading back out of town to the excellent Boat Landing restaurant for lunch. They do great northern Lao food and their menu is brilliant as it explains the genesis and (very importantly) the chilli content of each dish. Dave decided he had tiptoed around the mild dishes for long enough and jumped in for some chilli paste and sticky rice, a decision he lived to regret the following morning!

In the afternoon, we passed through small rural villages of black Thai people. We had bought educational books and pens from the excellent literacy NGO called Big Brother Mouse in town, with the hope that we could give them away at schools we passed along the way, but each one we passed was closed! Seems Lao children only do mornings!

As we returned to town, we got a real treat when we stopped by a local wedding party and were invited in. Apparently this was day 3 of the festivities and the bride and groom had cleverly taken their leave yesterday, leaving their family and friends to get suitably sozzled! Libby was invited to join in a traditional circle dance, kind of like the macarena but without the hip wiggling! Libs was really getting into it while Dave took pictures and drank rice whisky with the local brewer.

Good times.

Mr and Mrs T xx

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