Luang Nam Tha

9 Jul

This city is one of this places that gathers all the basic ingredients necessary to have a perfect spot for backpackers.

The city itself is not a big attraction. It has a main street with the local market, some stores and hostels, and about two blocks of houses in both sides. In about hundred meters east of the main street the city turns into a rural area, where the river (nam) tha runs its slow and muddy water. At the other side of the river there is a village, and you can see laosian kids playing in the water.

This is good enough if you want to eat some local food and see some rural laosian life style. But it is the jungles in the protected area nearby and the ethnically characteristic villages around the province that make it so interesting. This together with the good hostels that make it so easy to meet people and visit around.

The first day I met three other backpackers and we rented some mountain bikes for the day. Except for a small waterfall the scenery was the same for almost all the ride: never ending rice filelds in both sides of the road. We also took a wagon road and rided through three or four villages of elevated wood-made cabins. kids are very playful and always say hi when you pass: sa wa dii! In the evening I had some papaya salad (sliced green papaya with garlic, chilli, peanuts, lime, eggplant…) and joined five other guys in a trekking tour in the jungle for the next two days.

It was pretty wild. We began our trek in a khamu village (thase), and crossed the river (shoes off and pants up) right next to it. In the other side a water buffalo was waiting for us. We followed a trail up a hill, with deep rainforest vegetation. It was very hot and humid so in ten minutes, and for the next three hours, everyone was sweating as hell. In the second break Ket and the two other guides collected some banana leaves (smooth and about two meters long) and put them on the floor. Then they put on top of them some sticky rice, beans, rattan, chicken, noodles, chilly sauce… I can’t remember all the other names. Usually I am very careful in washing my hands before my meals, and now we were obviously grabbing everything with our bare hands. But the food was already on the floor, so there was no much point to it. It was quite a feast.

In the last hour of our hiking we had the chance to enjoy the company of some very creepy animals that I didn’t expect to see at all and that turned to be the hot topic during the rest of the trekking: leeches. They were very tiny, bad thing if you had to check every two minutes all your shoes and legs. None of us got out of the jungle with at least having been sucked once.

At the top we swam in a river and slept in a wood cabin. More sticky rice for dinner and breakfast and back to hiking down the other side of the hill. At the end a very shaky and fragile bridge waited for us. We finished the tour giving away some notebooks and pencils in two other villages. The second one was lanton, from chinese origin. All the women had their eybrowes shaved and many had some kind of disease, which made the whole village a little creepy.

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