Luang Namtha by motorbike

We again decided to spend some time biking around Luang Namtha province.  And, even though we had decided we wouldn’t go back to Muang Sing this time, the temptation was too hard to resist!  We absolutely love riding around on these deserted roads, usually the only other traffic is animals or other bikes, so it makes a very relaxing adventure.  We firstly went to visit Alack again, to help him with his English manual that he is writing for his school, plus explored some more of the old town of Luang Namtha.  We were really lucky to stumble across a Black Tai tribal dance rehearsal for an upcoming festival.  We managed to get lost on the many backroads too!  We were amazed to find people who even 5 minutes out of the old town had not seen tourists before.

We stopped heaps of times again, the views of the National Park are too awesome not to stop and see properly.  We lingered for ages at the site we want our house to be and just generally enjoyed the views and serenity of the park and roads.  At one point we were surprised to see an elderly Akha woman who was obviously really fit and healthy ‘mowing’ the grass verge on the side of the road with a machete!

After we had lunch at our favourite rice paddy restaurant, we found Elu! It was really exciting because the past few weeks we have heard so much about her and her daughter’s new baby.

It was nice to see the newly planted rice paddies turning green again, and we noticed that there seems to be 3 different methods for planting rice. We aren’t sure if this is because of the kind of rice, or just different ways of doing it.  It seems either the field is cleared and the new rice is planted, or the old, golden plants are left in the ground and the new rice is just planted around it, or, they plant one field thickly with rice and then when the plants are about 10cm high they transplant them, spacing them out, in the other nearby fields.

So once again we have really enjoyed exploring the remote areas of Luang Namtha and have again been touched by the kindness of the people.  It is hard to ride past anyone without being offered food, or a drink, or frantic waving and huge smiles.  We’ve probably said it before; Luang Namtha is a very special place. Our photos are here.

Beautiful Muang Sing

We decided to see Muang Sing the right way this time, and hired a  motorbike for a few days for our 5th Wedding Anniversary both to ride there and also to explore the area on.  The ride there is just breathtaking, and we were able to appreciate it a lot more from the motorbike than we did from the van on the way there last time.  We made lots of stops to see the beautiful forests and when we did arrive in Muang Sing rocked up to our favourite guesthouse and settled in.

The first thing we wanted to do was ride to the Chinese border again, so we set out on the bike only to discover our first flat tyre a few minutes down the road.  We got this repaired at the nearest shop in town, and paid the princely sum of 5,000 Kip (about 55 cents) and left on our second attempt to get to the border.  7kms from town and 3kms from the border, we realised once again that our tyre was flat!  Oh dear, this meant a 7km walk back to town pushing the bike.  Not to worry, we were on the most beautiful road in Asia and the sun was setting so we were very lucky to be there.  After perhaps about 3kms, a Lao guy motioned for us to go to the next house on the left, so we did, and it turned out that guy could fix our tyre.  After meticulously repairing it very skillfully with a grinder to get rid of the previous patch, blowing on the glue to make sure it was ready and patching it up for us, he graciously said he didn’t want any money, it was his gift for us.  We gave him 20,000 (about $2.10) because we were so grateful to have met such a nice, skilled guy who fixed our bike on the side of the road and saved us walking another 4kms back in the dark to town.  Fun times!

We ate at our favourite restaurant and then the next day spent the entire day biking around the outskirts of town.  We visited a few villages and rode up the mountains for amazing views of the rice fields and villages below.  It was such a cool day and we both couldn’t stop grinning the whole day because we were just having such a good time.

After deciding to stay another night and visit the festival the next day at the advice of all the locals, we wanted to go back to the Sechzuan restaurant we ate at last time but found it totally full so settled for the night market and lamented about how the noodle soups here don’t even come close to how awesome our noodle soup lady in Luang Namtha makes them.

We loved visiting the morning market here and got to have the best freshly steamed peanuts ever – something which is quite common here is peanuts steamed still in their shells and they are to die for.

We visited the festival on our way back to Luang Namtha and it was OK – sort of just a massive morning market with heaps more people and much louder music.  It wasn’t really our thing so after the 3km walk to the top of the mountain in the mud and the full sun, we had a quick look around and decided it was more fun riding on the bike through the mountains so left to do just that.  Our photos are here.