Chiang Kong - Houay Xai - Luang Nam Tha

Louang Namtha Travel Blog

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Sunrise over the Mekong river.
"I am a traveller, I move a long, long distance in the sun.
(..) Two strong arms, to string legs, one strong head.
So I am long gone, long gone."

Long Gone - Tilt

We had planned to get up at seven, but at six someone started to beat the shit out of a meditation bowl in the temple next door. This was the signal for the monks to rise and start their alms round, and quite effective I may add since neither Paul nor I was able to get any more sleep after that. Instead we decided to wash, pack-up and check out some of the town's wats (temples) before meeting Ad and Mieke for breakfast at half past 7.
Wat Sin Donchai, Chiang Khong.
Of the three temples we visited two were being renovated. The third one, Wat Sin Donchai, was a beautiful example of a Thai temple with many marvellous golden coloured ornaments, naga (snake) stairs and windows depicting scenes from the Ramayana story. Another temple had a sim (main temple hall) with lovely outside murals most probably based on the same epic saga.

Breakfast was relatively simple and the food unfortunately lukewarm. This didn't however keep us from filling up before checking out, and with the sun shining brightly across the Mekong from the Lao side there were much worse places imaginable to start the day. At half past 8 we took two tuk-tuks to the border crossing. Everything went very smoothly and after getting our departure stamps at customs we crossed the Mekong by boat to Laos.
Monks in Chiang Khong.
On the other shore our guide for the coming days, the 24 year old Keo, with his nicely parrot shaped hairdo, was already waiting for us. He helped us to fill out our arrival cards, get our visa and go through the various steps of the customs process. Although things were a bit more hectic and chaotic over here in Huay Xai than in Chiang Khong, the process went relatively smoothly and at half past nine our spacious air-conditioned 10-person bus pulled out of Huay Xai and headed into the mountainous region. North we went towards Luang Nam Tha.

Keo told gave us some background information about Laos and told us that he'd been a monk for 6 years, which sort of explained his love for a wild hairdo now. At half past 11 we made a short stop at a small village called Ban Sod.
Taking a tuk-tuk to the border.
In the north of Laos there's about 40 different ethnic groups of hill tribes and this one was a village of the Khamu. It was a collection of some 20 houses on poles along the highway Route 3. We walked around, saying Sabaai-di (hello) to the women and shy children, noticing that (besides one elderly man) there were no men present. Seemingly the men were out for work. There were also many chickens, little pigs and dogs wandering around. Keo told us that the Khamu get married very young, most of them at the age of 14 or 15, and because of lack of family planning measurements they end up with 6 to 8 kids. After taking a look in the small two-room school (which was deserted because it was Sunday today) we carried on northwards.

At half past 12 we stopped for an hour at a small local restaurant near the crossing of the Nam Fa stream.
Border crossing to Laos.
Here we had lunch with fried rice, soup, sticky rice and our very first Beerlao, the tasteful national pride. Continuing our journey we arrived at the Sokxaythone Resort in Luang Nam Tha at 14:30 hours, having slept for the whole way since lunch (what the hell was in that food? Or was it the Beerlao?).

Keo had told us he'd be back for some more activities in two hours so we decided to explore Luang Nam Tha in the meantime. Walking up and down what we thought was the main street we wondered if Luang Nam Tha was really such a boring affair. Later we would learn that this wasn't really the main street but a street than ran parallel to it. Nevertheless we found a nice restaurant where we had another Beerloa. Since we didn't have Laos currency (kip) yet we had to pay in US dollars or Thai baht. An extraordinary series of mindbuggling calculations between kip, bhat, dollars and Euro followed before we finally figured out what we had to pay in baht and the change we needed to get back in kip.
Kids at Ban Sod.
In the end three 65 cl beers and one can of Pepsi turned out to be about two and a half Euro. Have I already mentioned I want to live here? ;-)

While we walked back to the hotel we met Keo and joined him for a stroll past the fresh food market to the real main street. Here we visited the evening market where he obviously saw the look of temptation in our eyes and bought us some delicious spring rolls. We washed it down in a bar with some beers and continued to what Keo claimed to be the best restaurant in town. Now, I normally get suspicious when guides say this but the place was excellent indeed. They had an absolutely huge menu but we took the easy way and ordered some of the specialities of the house, all excellent food which we shared among the five of us. Keo had already proven to be a good-humoured bloke and he seemingly enjoyed our company as well.
Kids at Ban Sod.
 

After dinner we walked back to the hotel, quickly stopping by an Internet cafe to check our e-mails and upload the blog and dropping off Keo at his guesthouse a little further along the way. Back at the hotel we ended the day with many attempt to get the Lao sim cards that Paul and Mieke had bought working and sipping a nice glass of Drambuie on the balconies of our lovely little cabins. 
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Sunrise over the Mekong river.
Sunrise over the Mekong river.
Wat Sin Donchai, Chiang Khong.
Wat Sin Donchai, Chiang Khong.
Monks in Chiang Khong.
Monks in Chiang Khong.
Taking a tuk-tuk to the border.
Taking a tuk-tuk to the border.
Border crossing to Laos.
Border crossing to Laos.
Kids at Ban Sod.
Kids at Ban Sod.
Kids at Ban Sod.
Kids at Ban Sod.
Pigs at Ban Sod.
Pigs at Ban Sod.
Ban Sod.
Ban Sod.
Ban Sod
Ban Sod
School at Ban Sod.
School at Ban Sod.
Our first Beerloa !
Our first Beerloa !
Sokxaythone Resort, Luang Namtha.
Sokxaythone Resort, Luang Namtha.
Springrolls at the night market of…
Springrolls at the night market o…
Dinner in Luang Namtha.
Dinner in Luang Namtha.
Louang Namtha Hotels & Accommodations review
Nice bungalows in Luang Nam Tha
This resort consist of a series of small bungalows, each with a bedroom and bathroom. The bathroom has a relatively luxorious shower cabin and the bed… read entire review
Louang Namtha
photo by: edsander