Dusty Luang Namtha reminded me of the old west, though I didn’t see a single tumbleweed. The town is best known as a starting point for Laos’ popular hill tribe treks; lucky for me, the New Year celebration put all trekking thoughts out of the minds of my eager travel companions. So what is there to do in sleepy Luang Namtha?
- Eat roast duck at the night market. I don’t even like duck, but Anna insisted it was heaven and she was right. We ordered a whole one and shared among three gals. Coupled with a mango fruit shake, it was the perfect blend of Chinese, Laos and Thai flavors. And it cost about $3 total.
- Go to the Chinese disco. Luang Namtha is by no means a party town, but you can’t help but bust a move in the Chinese disco. Though the clientele appear to be in middle school, their intense consumption of Beerlao, the local brew, would indicate otherwise. Note that the young Laos gals insist on aggressively dancing with the foreign gals, and the same goes for the guys. And dancing is a relative term…
- Don’t get wet. (Or do.) During the New Year celebration the second week of April, you can plan to run all day long from kids intent on dousing you with buckets of ice cold water. Toddlers will haunt you with squirt guns. Adults will track you down in the streets. No matter what you do, at some point, you will literally get hosed.
- Trek if you must. Though I’ve given up on trekking for the time being, far be it from me to deny its pleasures to you, dear athletic readers. Luang Namtha is a great place to hop off the Stray Bus (or whatever form of transport you’re employing to get around) to secure a guide and trek into the hills.
- Make friends with the locals. Most Laos people are very sweet and eager to get to know falangs. As we wandered to the Chinese disco one night, we met some folks along the way who invited us to their New Year’s shindig in the front yard. They insisted we sample their homemade rice wine… the verdict? I’ll stick with mango fruit shakes.
Up next… New Year’s in April? An explanation.