Luang Namtha

I Continue From Here – Nong Khiaw

Backpacking Laos: Day 016 (22-Feb-2020), Day 017 (23-Feb-2020) 

Luang Namtha

I took a mini bus to Luang Namtha the next morning. The driver was playing a beautiful Laotian song. It was a 6h long drive. At Luang Namtha, I found a descent hostel by the main road. After settling down, I took a walk around the place. 

Luang Namtha is a small town. On a road parallel to the main road, a market was being setup. As it got dark, more shops were set up. I tried a few food items like spring rolls, yam etc at the night market. 

Most people visit Luang Namtha to trek in the forest and stay in tribal villages. The main road has several offices of trek organisers. Since I had already done a two-day trek in Nong Khiaw, I was not in the mood to do another long trek. So, I chose a day trek. Well, the trek is actually a 2-day trek. But, I would return on a bike the same evening by road. I thought that was a good deal. 

Next morning, I met our guide at the booking office. There were a total of 6 trekkers that day – An American couple, A British lady, a Spanish man, a young girl from Israel and me. It was an interesting group. 

I spoke to the Spanish trekker in his language to brush up my skills. The Israeli girl was on a gap year. I am not sure if she had already done her mandatory army service or she was about to. When I told her that I intended to learn Arabic, she told me something very interesting. She wanted to learn the language too. She believed that we fear those people whose language we do not understand. If we can understand each other and communicate with each other, then perhaps we can find ways to reconcile and solve the differences. She was referring to the conflict with Palestinians. I agree with her and this thought has stayed with me ever after. Of course there is an Arabic quote that indicates the same - Celui qui apprend la langue d'un peuple n'aura pas à le craindre. (One who learns the language of someone has no reason to fear them). 

Our guide took us to the market first and packed vegetables and food. A tuk-tuk dropped us at the beginning of the trial in the jungle. The path passes through a dense forest. The locals have traced this path to connect various villages. Though not very far from the town, these villagers live a secluded life. 

On our way, I noticed a few villagers walking into the jungle with their pistols. They were perhaps off to hunt some animals. 

We had lunch in the middle of the jungle, on a table made of wooden logs. Our guide served us food on a plantain leaf. 

I found several varieties of begonia plant on the way. When I was in college, I used to collect these plants. My aunt had a good collection of them. It was funny to see them grow so commonly here while we consider it as an exotic plant that needs special care. 

After 6 hours of walking, we finally reached an Akha tribal village near Phongsaly province. It was a beautiful village on top of a hill. A mud road separated few houses on either side. The houses were made of wood and built on stilts. At the main market area, people were selling hens, birds, eggs and vegetables. The villagers were dressed in their traditional attire.

The others were spending the night in the village. At the end of the village there was a guest house built for the trekkers. I would have loved to stay there but I did not have much time left. I wanted to take a slow boat to Luang Prabang. So, I chose to leave the same evening. 

A bike was arranged for me. The rider was very skilled. He rode on the unpaved, mud-filled, bumpy road as though it was a race track. I was scared and had a bad back ache by the time I reached Luang Namtha. But it was a fun ride. 

As the sunset, I was back in Luang Namtha. It was an interesting day. I took a walk around the city, had dinner and retried for the day. Next morning, I would hit the road again. 

CONTINUED HERE: Huay Xai and Slow boat