Wednesday, May 25, 2011

North to Luang Namtha

Round ing out my visits to provincial offices were the journeys to Luang Namtha and Luang Prabang – both flights rather than road trips – YES!  

Luang Namtha is in the far north of Laos, bordering on China and Thailand. LN is a one horse town, but there are a lot of foreigners either travelling through from China or coming here to trek in the hills. Tourism is one of the big growth areas in the province.

However planes are only scheduled to fly in and out every 2nd day. So although we only needed one day for training, we had to fly up Monday afternoon and could only return Wednesday afternoon. Leaving more than enough time to check things out and the Provincial staff were very hospitable.

They took us to see the new Stupa built above the town 5 years ago. It replaced the previous temple that had been destroyed by American bombing. They took us to those ruins as well.

They took us to a cave about an hour's drive out of town. The village man who guided us through the cave had had a reasonable amount to drink and was quite happy to see us.

We were all dressed in work clothes and my colleagues saw nothing odd about clambering up and down slippery slopes dressed in high heels and skirts. If Andrew had suggested that to me he would have been on the end of some verbal backlash.

But I couldn't do that to my hosts.  As my work shoes didn't have much grip I ended up walking barefoot through a damp cave, hoping not to fall and rip my 'best' work clothes.  Using torches with batteries that had seen better days I clambered up and down, following a slightly inebriated guide, and a party of short Lao women.

We also had a dinner with a couple of projects working in the province. I ended up sitting beside the Deputy Director and he kept putting pieces of rattan – like bamboo- on my plate. It was... OK, one piece would have been enough, but as it was a local speciality he thought I would like more!

And some random images to finish

I wonder how often this gets opened?

Rattan in the background;
Squirrels and other rodents in the foreground
Prettu sure I only ate rattan!

When bank staff reload the ATM machine they are
guarded by a man carrying a machine gun

In contrast the trip to Luang Prabang was much more routine. We did attempt to visit a local waterfall – but as it was the height of the dry season, there was no water in the river and a garden hose would have challenged the "waterfall".

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