The Lao wilderness...and beyond

Nam Ha NPA Travel Blog

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Another Akha home

Day 4

A terrible night's sleep, or lack there of; several times we were awoken by dogs barking, the bloody cockerels at it again, and members of our family getting up at various points and stomping across the floorboards that made our heads bounce off the mattress. We were well and truly awake when an almighty vibrating and banging sound came from under the house. We realised that, at 5am, the vwoman of the house gets up to grind the rice on a large wooden contraption. It is a process that takes about an hour, so there was no hope of us getting back to sleep with the racket going on beneath us. There are gaps in the floors of the houses as it is only made of bamboo, so sound-proofing is not really an option here.

We eventually got up at about 6am, dressed under the covers (the kids of the house were already full eyes on us) and staggered over to the Chief's house.

Gerda and Tanno were already sitting there, having had a similar lack of nights' sleep and a rice pounding wake-up call at 5am. Their situation was worse than ours in that their house family had guests the night before so they had an audience of 17 people at the end of their bed!

After brekkie, we set off early for us at 830am and made the final trek up a hill, through a gap in the mountains and down to the road. The scenery up there was stunning, and the path wound through high bamboo plants. We made the road for 10am and again knew we were in for a bit of a wait for the truck to pick us up. we got comfy and played cards to pass the time. At 11am, a pick-up truck turned up and we all hopped in the back ready for a very bumpy and dusty 2 hour journey back to Muang Sing.

The sex swing!

We stopped off at the very first village we stopped at on Day 1 where the woman smoked opium in the house. Gerda and Tanno collected the remaining gifts we had all bought to give to the families we stayed with - soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste - and took them to the village to give out along with the remaining balloons and paper. Being an Akha village, the now familiar wooden contraption that looks a bit like a giant catapult, stood guard at the entrance to the village. The story behind this got a little confusing with translation and so the following description is not accurate. What we gathered was, the catapult thing is tied back and gets released once a year on a special day. It is held in place for the rest of the year to keep away or to 'balance' the (possibly evil?) spirits that the Akha people believe in.

The dusty road back to civilisation
The bit that got really confusing was when Pon tried to explain to us that a man and woman from the village supposedly have sex under the contraption in front of the rest of the village as part of the ritual. We are not sure if this was a) true, b) how often this was supposed to happen, and c) what happens during stage fright??? So of course, we named the contraption a 'sex swing' from Day 1 and every time we entered an Akha village, we would see the 'sex swing' and make a few jokes and/or comments about it.

After 2 hours of enhaling a lot of dust, we arrived back in Muang Sing and had lunch at Pon's house. Reunited with our bags, we quickly made our way to the bus station and got on the 2pm minibus back to Luang Nam Tha. We were all exhausted, filthy, stinking and very very happy from the most amazing 4 days experience. What stands out so much in our minds was how welcoming these humble villagers were and how easy it was to make them smile and laugh. These people are living a traditional simple and yet incredibly hard life, a world away from modern life.

It was incredible to see and live with these people for a few days and really experience what every day life is like for them.

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Another Akha home
Another Akha home
The sex swing!
The sex swing!
The dusty road back to civilisation
The dusty road back to civilisation
Nam Ha NPA
photo by: siri