On arrival back in the northern part of South East Asia we were a bit worried about whether we could handle the heat again after NZ – our few days in Chiang Mai were around 40 degrees and then our few days in Chiang Rai were all between 35-40. So after NZ, and the mountains in Indonesia, we were melting! So when we got back to Luang Namtha we were pleased it wasn’t quite so ridiculously hot. We got back to find out that our hotel booking had been given away – for the room that we had lived in for over 6 months already – because there was a large group that had come to the hotel. This turned out to be a blessing, because we found that the hotel neighbouring Forest Retreat had just opened it’s top 2 floors that week, and we ended up getting a room which is brand new, cheaper and bigger and nicer than our other room. Plus a view of the palm trees and mountains, so we are pretty pleased.
After catching up on everything that has happened while we’ve been gone (weddings, new businesses in town, etc) and had given Thong, Paet, Mona and Oudone their pressies, (Mona has played with her buzzy bee from NZ constantly this month!) we set about improving the shop more and moving closer to our vision of completion.
We have managed to get more couches and chairs for seating, sand and varnish the bar and kitchen and shelving, put up lanterns and fairy lights, get a sun/rain shelter built and have started to aquire plants. Getting plants is not as simple as it is in most western countries, because there is no garden centre and nowhere to buy potting mix, so you have to buy pots, (2 styles to choose from in the whole town), find somewhere on the side of the road to dig up dirt, fill pots with dirt, then walk around taking cuttings or branches or digging up plants that you like the look of and planting them in the pots. So pretty labour intensive! Plus we have had Dre’s sister Kate working on some really awesome signs for the building and outside. Thanks Kate!! We have managed to get Tiger Beer to sponsor us with a sign and a fridge as well. So yeah, it’s been pretty busy!!! We’ve been really overwhelmed by people’s repsonse to the bar also – we still only have a basic menu which will soon expand a lot – but after being open for one week, already we are getting people coming to town looking for us, who have met other travellers that have recommended us. So if that’s one week, we can’t wait to get more organised, get the menu sorted, get the pizza oven built and start selling food also and then see how many people are coming to town to find us! Thong and Oudone are both taking it all in their stride and are really excited by what we’ve achieved so far.
We’ve also attended a baby party, which is another sukwan string / Baci ceremony to bless the baby and the baby’s family. This was pretty cool because by now we actually know a lot of the people who were there and our Lao language skills are slowly improving all the time so we were actually able to have some conversations with the local people and have a bit more understanding of what was going on. The baby party involved us going on our first ever Asian road trip in a car – Thong borrowed his brother’s car and we drove there without a break down so it was very successful. It was Mona’s first time in a car so that came with associated excitedness and carsickness. But overall it was really fun.
We got to watch Paet’s mum and some other ladies from her village getting silk from some silk worms – amazingly they only do this for a couple of weeks a year and then have enough silk to weave for the rest of the year from this. They take the silk worms which are wrapped up in their little silk cocoons and put them in boiling water, and then sort of spin the silk off the worms. Then they eat all the boiled worms! It was really interesting to see.
Karen managed to get reasonably-well electrocuted too! Once the shelter was finished we decided to put the last string of electrical wire up to put lanterns up outside but it seems that the last wire was not lucky. She plugged it into the socket and the whole thing exploded with sparks and flames and smoke. Luckily she managed to unplug it and throw it on the ground but had tingling and spasming muscles through her body for the next couple of days…. apparently ‘made in Asia’ is not always best. But she’s fine, no lasting damage done!
In other news, Mona has just got her first puppy, and we are trying to convince her to call it Mopsy but at this point in time she’s not budging from calling it Puppy. We are teaching Mona her English alphabet and numbers, so far we are up to the letter D and number 3 but it’s a good start!
We send out a massive thank you to our new Italian friends Paul and Anna from just outside Milan. They have given us at least 10 authentic Italian pasta recipes and about 10 pizza topping recipies as well to use in the shop. Plus Paul taught us how to make real Mojitos so soon we will have proper food and drinks, courtesy of them!
Unbelievably, it’s visa-run time again already, plus we need to buy more supplies like Gin, tonic, coffee, etc so tomorrow we’ll head back to Thailand for a few days. Everything is going really well and so we can’t wait to get back and make more progress on the shop! Our photos are here.