Laos: Luang Namtha

As I stepped off the mini van into the warm sunlight, I felt a tinge of desolation.  A few modern buildings, a concrete highway, dusty side streets all conjured a empty town feel.  If it were not for the string of guesthouses, mini hotels, and restaurants along the road, it would be middle-of-nowhere place.  It reminded me of Banlung in Cambodia’s Rattanakiri Province.

Oleg from Couchsurfing had earlier asked me to make a reservation at Zuela Guesthouse.   Too bad it was full as there were lovely wooden bungalows and a wooden Lao-style building set in leafy spacious grounds.  The rooms were a good deal too as it was only 70,000k.  I met the couple on the mini van as I walked out of the guesthouse and told them it was full.

The nearby hotel selling Honda motorcycles had an available  double room with ensuite bathroom.   The room only cost 60,000k and if I were to share it for the next 2 nights with Oleg, that only meant 30,000k each!  It was also right across the Night Market.

Having finally a place to lay my head on and drop my bags, I went in search for a late late lunch which I found at an unnamed noodle shop.  Kao Soi is a semi-spicy noodle soup with ground pork and eaten with a plateful of leaves.  It was filling and yummy.  The soup was very aromatic and tasted of herbs.  A squeeze of lemon completed it.

This soup is seriously yummy.

This soup is seriously yummy.

Nothing to do but walk down the road to burn some calories  and check what the tour companies had on offer.  The system was to check-out the boards out front and see what activity was being offered and how many had signed-up.  There were mostly kayak trips so I ended-up at Jungle Eco-Trek and signed up for a one day tour to some villages the next day.

While hanging-out at the wooden tables outside the hotel, an Akha women came along and showed me her merchandise —- bracelets, bags, and other tourist stuff.  I got some bracelets to give to people back home.  From deep within her layered clothing, she brought at a small white pouch, opened the top, and showed me some cannabis which I politely declined.

Akha vendor

Time flies when all you could think of is food because there’s nowhere to go.  Dusk had barely settled-in when I headed to the Night Market for early dinner.  With no way of contacting Oleg beside e-mail, I figured I would drop by the Zuela around 9pm.

Food stalls near the entrance sold I bought some sausages, sticky rice, and some vegetables at the Night Market for dinner.  It was good and inexpensive.  Fried rice, fried noodles, spring rolls, roasted duck, roasted chicken, roasted pork ribs, and other stuff were all being peddled by the stalls at the front of the market.  I could still taste the sausage I had at Houay Xai so I headed to the back where there were more stalls and rightly so, I found my sausages!  Sticky rice and small fish cooked inside a banana packet completed my meal.

Crepe_1

Lao style crepe. Thin and crips pancakes with a variety of filling. Mine is with pandan cream. This is then folded into a triangle and placed in a carton holder convenient for eating when on the go.

Crepe_2

Back at the Zuela, it was through sheer coincidence that I Oleg and I bumped into each other.  I did leave a note at Zuela’s front desk hoping that he’d see it.  At the reception, I saw a tall white guy at the talking to someone.  I excused myself and got the note.  The guy turned to me, saw his name on the note  and said, “I’m Oleg.”  Apparently, his reservation was nowhere to be found as the guy in-charge of making reservations denied receiving any phone calls from Oleg’s Luang Prabang’s guesthouse.  So we headed next door to my hotel and shared my room.

After dinner at the Night Market we went to Phontetip travel inside the Manichan Guesthouse to book a 2-day trip to Muang Sing with a homestay at a Yao village.  The girl running it was very helpful and informative.  We paid a reservation fee for the trip then went to Jungle Eco-trek to look at some day tours.  We settled on a day tour involving him on a bike and more on a motorbike with the driver/guide.  I paid a few dollars more as it was more expensive than the original tour I booked which involved hiking to a few villages and a waterfall.

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