We had a fantastic time showing Tim around Luang Namtha. We began by visiting our good friend Anic’s parents house and walking around their village (Tai Dam minority tribe) and eating lunch with them. Tim managed to get his first bike passenger – another of our friends, Jai – which was lucky because the amount of Lao Lao consumed at lunch meant that Jai became the driver and Tim the passenger on the way home. At lunch we ate snails, sticky rice, bamboo soup and fish which was delicious.
While walking around the village we got to show Tim the ladies getting silk off silkworms – where they simmer the silk worms wrapped in their silk cocoons and sort of spin the silk off them with a metal rod. When the silk has come off the worm they eat the worms too, so Tim got to have his first silk worm eating experience too. On the way home we stopped at another village, (Khmu minority tribe) had tea in someone’s house, corrected some of the English they were teaching their children, played with the kids a little and then drove through the beautiful rice fields.
We then went up to Muang Sing. On the way there we were amazed to see so many landslides – it has been raining a lot in the last couple of weeks around Muang Sing and we saw probably more than 10 landslides that had to be cleared to let traffic past at some point in the past few days. (Only 2 weeks ago when we drove on this road with Paul and Nedsy there were none). We stopped at the edge of the National Park several times to admire the view, and visited a waterfall where we walked about 1km into the jungle to see it. Tim also learned how to use a traditional umbrella – a banana leaf – for shelter from the rain while walking back from the waterfall.
We visited our usual restaurants – the rice paddy restaurant, the chinese retaurant where they don’t even speak Lao so we have to point at the ingredients for them to cook for us, and the szechuan restaurant too. We even risked trying some wine from the Chinese supermarket which wasn’t too bad, especially compared to the vile alcohol we got from there last time with Paul and Nedsy. Tim’s purchase proved to be the highlight – hard dough like sticks that we thought would be inedible, and kind of bought just for a laugh but he ended up buying a second packet so they must have been good.
We spent a day motorbiking around through the bumpy dirt roads and visiting some more villages. Firstly we decided to try to find a village we could see up on the mountain and after a few wrong turns we found the road. We stopped for Tim to pick up another passenger – an Akha woman who was walking to her village – so we drove her into her village and wandered up the path behind the village for a while and saw some tiny women (making Karen look like a giant!) carrying huge baskets of firewood from the jungle – wow they are strong! We spent some time chatting to the people in the village (Akha minority tribe) and watching the gorgeous kids play. (One game was: small boy sits at the top of a tree and repeatedly drops balls of spit down until some gets on the girls sitting at the bottom of the tree!)
We then visited a temple (kind of by accident because we took another wrong turn but it was really cool!) It had some young monks playing with their friends so was a cool stop anyway. Finally we found the road we’d been looking for to visit a Hmong minority tribe village that we had visited a few months ago. This village is one of our favourites – the Hmong people are so friendly and happy and relaxed so it’s a really great place to go. We spent some time talking to the kids who were super excited to see us.
We also rode to the Chinese border and just generally chilled out in Muang Sing. On the final day, after 2 days of keeping our eyes open around town for our friend Elu, she found us. She was really excited because as Tim had a spare seat on his bike, it meant we could visit her village and take her with us without too much hassle. (Tim has learned that if you ride a bike in Laos, you automatically become a free taxi for whoever is looking for a ride ;-) ) So we agreed with Elu we’d go and pack our bags at our hotel, and come back in 20 minutes to meet her.
When we got back, her Akha friends told us that she’d had to go and give some tourists a massage because there were 4 of them so she had to make up the numbers of masseurs. They told us she’d be back in an hour, so we decided to fill in time by visiting the museum – something we have often talked about doing but have never actually got around to, even though we’ve probably been to Muang Sing 8-10 times now. It was actually amazing, so much interesting information about the minority tribes in the area and Muang Sing in general. We all really enjoyed it and spent quite a while talking to the Hmong guy in the museum for more information about the area. He gave us some awesome advice about villages to visit on our journey back to Luang Namtha so we were really grateful for Elu going to do the massage otherwise we would never have found this stuff out.
After the museum we returned to see Elu, but she still wasn’t back so we decided to have lunch. After lunch she was finally back, but we all decided it was too late to visit the village now, so we proceeded home. On the way we drove through a Lolo minority tribe’s village and stopped at a Tai Dam village because we saw a girl weaving on her loom. We had a look at her beautiful weaving and decided to buy something from her. Tim bought some handwoven silk – which was pretty cool because the very first village we visited (at Anic’s parents place) was a Tai Dam village where we saw them getting the silk off the silkworms, and at this village they were using that silk to weave fabric – so we got to show Tim the full process from silkworm to fabric.
After that we realised the value of spending a day in Muang Sing waiting for Elu and visiting the museum etc – there was a huge landslide on the way home that had blocked off the entire road and when we arrived there it was just finished being cleared so we waited about 5 minutes and then drove through – but others had been waiting more than 3 hours so we were pretty pleased about the diversions in Muang Sing. We proceed to have a pretty chilled out time in Luang Namtha – we attempted to visit Nam De Waterfall but the bridge was flooded over so we only got to walk part of the way and didn’t see the waterfall. We visited the old stupa and also climbed the mountain behind the new stupa for amazing views over the town. We still had stuff left to show Tim but we suddenly realised that if he was going to make his flight from Bangkok back to Auckland he needed to leave the following day! So we booked a flight for him and that was that. We had a final feast with Thong and Paet which was delicious as always and prepared to farewell Tim.
We really had an awesome time showing Tim the highlights of Luang Namtha and could have easily spent another week or two biking around the place to see more interesting and beautiful things. Anyway, that can be for next time….our photos of our adventures with Tim in Luang Namtha are here.