We went to Chiang Rai to meet Jillian at the airport and briefly show her some of Chiang Rai’s highlights. When Jillian arrived she was tired so we settled for going to the White Temple in the morning.
We spent probably an hour inside (where the real highlights are and where you can’t take photos) admiring the intricate artwork and then went to the art gallery beside the temple by the same artist.
Then it was on to Luang Namtha; we managed to have our first tuk tuk break down on the way to the bus station so had to get the driver to call the bus driver and get him to wait for us! Our arrival back in Luang Namtha co-incided with a cold snap which turned out to be the coldest two weeks of the entire year! The first day in LNT we heard there was a special occassion at the temple so went up there so we could all get blessed by the head monk and also see the celebrations; on the way Jillian also managed to have a motorbike break down! (again our first in Asia). As anticipated the celebrations were typical Lao style – very loud and basically destroying the peace and quiet that is the allure of the temple. We still got to see the views but with the raucous music it wasn’t quite the same. Both of us got blessed by the monk and after a motorbike replacement we all went back into town and then decided to visit the waterfall.
At the waterfall we saw the village has set up a water ‘pump’ of sorts where the waterfall fills the bamboo bucket and then when the water empties the rice is pounded – very clever! We went into the village to have a look around also and Jillian got some handmade bamboo paper.
We went to explore the river, and the old stupa, and the Lao Lao distillery where we got to see the fresh Lao Lao being heated and taste the fresh brew. Even more potent when it’s hot! We also stopped to join a Tai Dam party for a few minutes, Lao people really know how to party so we thought this would give Jillian a good insight into the craziness.
We then went up to Muang Sing for the night and along the way saw the usual groups animals and children. Once we got to Muang Sing we saw this cool huge katydid (above) just hanging out on the road. We moved it to the side of the road so it was less likely to get run over. We went to visit the school at a Hmong village that we visit fairly regularly. It was pretty cool because the kids were in class singing and learning and the teachers got them to sing a song for us and pose for photos. Then we wandered around a bit and were leaving on our bikes when school break started, so a group of kids ran after our bike for several minutes laughing and shouting. On our way back from Muang Sing we stopped in a Tai Dam village for Jillian to buy some handwoven silk handicrafts.
When we got back to Luang Namtha we visited Ban Sopsim, a local village that Forest Retreat Laos supports by way of donations, sending travellers to spend the night at their village, and paying them for trail maintenance etc. Jillian generously bought some excellent English teaching manuals for the school to use and she gave them to the village chief. We now also support the school by sending volunteers there to help with English also and ensure the teacher knows how to use the manuals properly.
Then it was time for Jillian to continue exploring Laos, so after a leaving dinner with Thong and Paet, the following morning she left for Nong Kiau. Our photos from Jillian’s visit are here.