Ban Nalan Trail (Day One)

Ban Nalan Travel Blog

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Trekking to Ban Nalan.
"You say the hill's too steep to climb, climbing.
You say you'd like to see me try, climb it."

Fearless - Pink Floyd

Today was the start of our two day trekking to Ban Nalan, through the jungle of the Luang Nam Tha National Procted Area. At 8:15 AM we met for a simple breakfast of French bread and egg an were joined by Keo who also took a cup of coffee before we left the hotel at half past nine. In half a hour the van brought us to the small town of Chaleunsouk where our trekking started. Besides Keo we were joined by Tuang (the trekking guide) and Souk and off we went for a steep start uphill. Quite a challenge and a whole lot more exhausting that our trek in Ladakh last year.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Quite frequently we needed to stop and catch our breath.

Just before noon we reached a small hut on the flank of a hill covered in rice. This tiny one room affair was the place where Souk stayed with his wife during harvest time. Souk's wife was out harvesting but we met her later when she came back to drop off and clean the collected rice. After being amazed by the stunning views from Souk's hut we were served lunch. Sticky rice packed in banana leafs, pumpkin salad, pork and spinach and some other very spicy stuff. In Laos you eat with your right hand by breaking of some sticky rice and scooping up one of the dishes with it. It took a while to get used to but before long we were scooping away!

At one o'clock we left for the second part of today's walk, which was mostly along a narrow path through very dense jungle.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
As a matter of fact, you couldn't describe my way of moving with the word 'walking', it was more 'tripping and stumbling'. Whenever I looked down at my feet I would be hit in the forehead by a thorny branch and when I looked up I would stumble across vines and roots. The next part was an absolutely exhausting walk downhill with dangerously steep parts. In the description of the trekking they had called this the 'easy day', but as we'd find out later they had decided to take an alternative route!

At three o'clock in the afternoon we arrived in the Khamu village of Ban Nalan. This town was little more than 10 houses with - as we'd seen the day before - a lot of roaming pigs, dogs and chicken (one of which I'd promised Mike to catch but turned out much to fast for me). Imagine a three year old girl carrying her baby sister .
Ed & Souk.
.. that's what you'll find in Ban Nalan. It's amazing how different circumstances come with whole new responsibilities.  
After a well- deserved Beerlao to cool down it was high time to wash the sweat away and Paul and I took a dive in the Nam Ha river that was running along the village. You cannot imagine the refreshment this brings after a 5 hour jungle struggle. I wrapped my Cambodian krama around me like a sarong and went to lie down in the hut that was our stay for the next evening, lying on a thin mat on the bamboo twines like any other Khamu tribe member does every night. It didn't bother me since I was so tired I could have taken a nap anywhere.
Later on Tuang would tell me that one of the boys from the village had been bitten by a huge python that lived near or in the water.
View from Souk's hut.
He had hinted at this animal when I took a dive but I thought he was only joking. Seemingly not !

Not only does the sun rise at 6 in the morning, it also disappears at 6 in the evening. But our trekking crew build us a nice campfire and at half past 6 they served us dinner. This consisted of a spicy duck soup (the main ingredient of which we'd seen slaughtered an hour ago), egg plant, tomato sauce salad and another spicy salad. And of course: sticky rice ! This was also the time that the first bottle of lao-lao, the traditional Lao rice whiskey, was opened. A little glass made from a piece of bamboo (later to be taken by Paul as a souvenir) was passed around. I'm not much of a whiskey drinker but this stuff was indeed devilishly good and it wouldn't be the last glass I had that evening.
Souk's hut.


After dinner we were joined around the campfire by the trekking crew, the town eldest of Ban Nalan and some of the local girls. Before long the 'chief' offered us a second bottle, which was shared among those present by the girls pouring bit in the little bamboo glass. You can imagine things got less serious and increasingly silly after that. A great experience for all, including the chief who received a large collection of ball pens from Paul for the kids of the village. By half past nine, when the campfire was slowly dying it was time to go to bed. A last glance at the bright stars in the sky and off we were with the seven of us to the hut where the locals had prepared our beds and mosquito nets.

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Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Ed & Souk.
Ed & Souk.
View from Souks hut.
View from Souk's hut.
Souks hut.
Souk's hut.
Relaxing at Souks hut.
Relaxing at Souk's hut.
View from Souks hut.
View from Souk's hut.
Lunch at Souks hut.
Lunch at Souk's hut.
Lunch at Souks hut.
Lunch at Souk's hut.
Lunch at Souks hut.
Lunch at Souk's hut.
Souks wife.
Souk's wife.
Relaxing at Souks hut.
Relaxing at Souk's hut.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Trekking to Ban Nalan.
Dense jungle path.
Dense jungle path.
Kids getting Miekes removable tat…
Kids getting Mieke's removable ta…
Bridge at Ban Nalan.
Bridge at Ban Nalan.
Khamu woman at Ban Nalan.
Khamu woman at Ban Nalan.
Kids at Ban Nalan.
Kids at Ban Nalan.
Khamu girl at Ban Nalan.
Khamu girl at Ban Nalan.
Bridge at Ban Nalan.
Bridge at Ban Nalan.
Our 5 star hotel at Ban Nalan. ;-)
Our 5 star hotel at Ban Nalan. ;-)
Preparing the duck soup ...
Preparing the duck soup ...
Pauls first glass of lao-lao whis…
Paul's first glass of lao-lao whi…
Moths gathering on our towels.
Moths gathering on our towels.
The chief (right) and girls of Ban…
The chief (right) and girls of Ba…
More lao-lao and Beerloa !
More lao-lao and Beerloa !
Ban Nalan
photo by: edsander