Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Just a quick update...I flew from Vientiane to Luang Namtha, in the north of Laos, yesterday morning without a hitch. Vientiane was as quiet as a mouse compared to the frenetic lifestyle of Phnom Penh. Collected by Tid, our guide and Now, our driver, we checked into the Zuela guesthouse and nosed around town before lunch at the breezy Panda restaurant. In the afternoon we saw some of the nearby sights like the broken That Phum Phuk stupa, which gave us some lovely views over the surrounding countryside, joined in with some Black Thai minority villagers who were rice-planting, sampled the lao lao whisky of the men tilling the water-filled fields and spent some time in an Akha minority village called Namyang, high in the surrounding mountains. In the drizzle, we stopped off at a couple of pagodas near the airport, Wat Luang Phone Rattanaram and Wat Ban Vieng Tai, before ending the day at the under-construction stupa of Tad Luang, sitting high above the town. This morning we climbed aboard a couple of mountain bikes and rode out a few kilometres to the Namdee waterfall (my first cycling experience since the infamous Mondulkiri forest trip) and crossed the Nam Tha river via a rickety bamboo bridge. After lunch I enjoyed my first-ever taste of kayaking, with a 3-hour trip along the same Nam Tha river, in a double inflatable kayak with my brother Tim. Great scenery, a few rapids (fast-running shallower water) to contend with, and a great guide in Yai. I've never enjoyed getting so wet before. Great fun. I'm off for a massage now and we leave for Muang Sing early tomorrow morning. Photos to follow once I get to Luang Prabang in a couple of day's time.