40 Days & 40 Nights

Trip Start Jan 02, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Khamking Hotel

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Loungnamtha,
Saturday, March 5, 2011

After our funny morning we got the boat back to Nong Khiaw. We got to the bus station but there were only 2 available seats left to Udomxai, and only 1 bus per day. We decided that we had to do it so 4 of us squeezed into the 2 seats, making it an interesting journey. We changed buses at Udomxai and it was another 4 hours to Luang Namtha. We finally arrived in town at around 8pm, nearly 12 hours of traveling. It is a little pricey here, but we checked in at Khamking Hotel for 70000kip; a little more than we wanted to pay but we got hot water, big clean rooms and free wifi. We had a little look around town, ate some dinner and started looking into treks.

A lie in at last and we sleep until 9am. We made use of our free time to update some blogs, burn DVDs and research our trek. After a lot of thought, we organised our trip with The Luang Namtha Ecotourism Agency for the Elephant Mountain Trek, 3 days and 2 nights was $72 each for 4 people (the cheapest around). We were also hoping more people would join to decrease the price. We eat at Panda Restaurant, which was a bit rubbish and full of mosquitos. We got back, packed our bags for the trek and fell asleep. 

Up for the trek and Jamie's stomach is giving him grief. We ate breakfast and met our other fellow trekkers who joined at the last minute, a Texan couple, Nick and Courtney and a 67 year old French man who spoke very little English, Bernard. This brought the cost of the trek down to $65 each. We met our trek guide, Syvon and left for the market to collect some necessities for the next 3 days. We figure that Jamie has a bacterial infection and we have to make stops enroute to the start of the trail as he feels very ill. He was suffering from feeling sick, weak and dizzy and almost had to call the trek off. He decided to carry on hoping things would pick up, which they did as the day went on. The trail started at an Akha village and a couple of the local people joined to help carry our lunch. We stopped and ate out of large banana leaves by a stream. The food was gorgeous, fresh from the market and included stir fried bamboo shoots, meat laap, sauteed cabbage and the essential sticky rice. It was a hot, steep climb after lunch and Lara took over carrying our heavy bag. We decided we would put all of our stuff in one bag, taking it in turns to carry it whilst the other carried the water and camera. We trekked through bamboo forests, forests and jungles and had great views over Laos and towards China. We were very fortunate to catch a glimpse of a rare monkey as we walked.

Todays trek finished at around 4pm when we reached the Black Tai Village, our stop over for the night. The tribes people seemed quite shy, keeping themselves to themselves, although we had some interaction with the kids when we went for a wash at the watering hole. We ate dinner, a traditional Black Tai meal, which was stir fried buffalo and veg with tomato soup, sticky rice and Jamie's friend the cabbage, which he carried all day through the forest. We played a few card games and lights out seemed to be at 8.30pm, earliest night we have had in a while. 

We slept in the village hut on a mattress on the floor with a mosquito net. With over 10 hours of sleep and a breakfast of coffee and fried rice, we were more than prepared for day 2, which started as a 2.5hr up hill climb. We were grateful to stop for lunch at a waterfall where it was possible to swim in the very cold water. We ate pumpkin and cabbage with sticky rice out of banana leaves before another few hours trek through jungle and forest with more stunning views over Laos and China. Our guide Syvon, had a close encounter with a Black Cobra, which he nearly trod on, resulting in him screaming and feeling quite flustered. We got to our next stop, another Akha village, and entered the chief's hut where there was a table of men sat around drinking the local alcohol, Lao Akha (their take on Lao Lao) and singing songs celebrating Women's day, with no women in sight. They seemed very pleased to have us and after putting down our luggage we are given shots and join in a quick sing song before being shown to the stream to wash.

Down at the stream there was a bunch of crazy crazy children, dancing and screaming around us. The girls were especially mad and at times we thought they were shouting curses at us. We told them our names and they were shouting them over and over again. They lead us back to the village where we are given shot after shot of Lao Akha, as we sit around singing and clapping, celebrating with the men of the tribe, a big contrast to the previous night. 

After dinner we showed the children our photo album and ipods with music; they were a lot more chilled out this time. Lights out was again around 9pm.

Our last day of the trek and we get up around 8am and have a really nice omelette with steamed rice and coffee for breakfast. We had some balloons, paper and crayons for the children and families start coming from all over the village as the news spreads. We say thank you and head back out into the forest and everyone is grateful for our visit and gifts. After a steady walk for 3 hours or so we reach another stream where we wash and eat lunch. There was only 1 more hour of trekking after this and we soon emerged through the forest and walked through some rice fields before reaching a solid tarmac road. We have a few celebratory photographs before the tuk tuk collects us and takes us back to Luang Namtha 1 hour away. We write our feedback sheets at the agency, give our guides a tip and say farewell before checking back in to Khamking Hotel. We have a much deserved shower and spoil ourselves next door at Manychan Restaurant. Lara had a green curry with chips whilst Jamie had steak with blue cheese sauce and chips, with profiteroles for pudding, accompanied with a few beers. We swapped some photos with the Texans, Nick and Courtney, and say goodbye to them before the 4 originals have a drink in our room and listen to music on our last night together as Lee and Michelle leave for Thailand in the morning. We have a big hug and say goodbye. We have thoroughly enjoyed our 40 days and 40 nights with them. They will be missed!

We wake up about 8am and Lee and Michelle have already caught their bus to Thailand. Outside our door is a little parcel of clothes for Lara from Michelle and a little notebook with a goodbye letter inside. We use today as a chance to get all our jobs done such as blogs, banking, helped etc. whilst wondering where to go next?

5/3/11 36 (including 16 transport)
6/3/11 20
7/3/11 34 *
8/3/11 31 *
9/3/11 51 *

* We have split up the cost of the trek over these 3 days. Total cost for trek was 90 for both of us including a tip for the guides (7 people on the trek = $65 each)

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