2.2.3: Luang Namtha

Day 86: Vieng Phoukha to Luang Namtha

I met with David and Pedro and we went for breakfast in town. On the way we saw Timm at his office and he came and joined us a bit later. Afterwards we went back to the guesthouse and got packed. We walked back through the town and stopped at the office to say goodbye to Timm and Somhak before going to the main road to wait for the bus. While we were waiting, the restaurant owner, who is the wife of the guesthouse owner, sold us some tickets for a minibus to Luang Namtha. This was convenient as the minibus was faster than the local bus and also it stopped at the small bus station in town rather than the large one about 10 km out of town.

86.1. Pedro, Somhak, Timm and David outside the office just before we leave Vieng Phoukha.

We arrived in Luang Namtha in the early afternoon and we went to the Zuela guesthouse, which is a very nice place just off the main road. David and Pedro shared a room to cut costs but I got my own room. In the evening we went for dinner in the night market across the road from the Zuela and had a noodle soup and a beerlao. After dinner we walked around the town for a bit and stopped at a bar for a beer. We walked back and a little up the main road and we came to a street where a group of people were sat a line butchering what looked like several buffalo. We went to investigate and one of the guys said that it was for a wedding. The groom came out and introduced himself as Sam. He said that the ceremony was tomorrow at 9:00 and that there was a party in the night market from 11:00. He invited to come along if we had free time so we said that we would go as it sounds like it could well be an interesting experience.

86.2. Night butchery going on outside a house in Luang Namtha.

Day 87: Luang Namtha

We met in the morning at about 8:00 and had some breakfast in the garden of the Zuela before heading to Sam’s house for the wedding ceremony at 9:00. We met Sam and he introduced us to his brother Thing who waited around with us before the ceremony began. David and I sat near to the back while Pedro went further to the front to take pictures. The bride and groom sat in front of a flowered centrepiece while speeches were made. Afterwards followed a Baci ceremony where all 200 or so guests present, including we falang, tied the white cotton bands around the wrists of the bride and groom. Their wrists were thick with bands by the end of the ceremony.

87.1. Sam and Li’s wedding ceremony and Baci ceremony.

Afterwards David and I went with Thing to the wedding reception while Pedro wanted to join the precession and take more photos. The party was being held in the night market and almost all the available space was taken up with tables and chairs. On all the tables were plates and bowls of food (the buffalo from last night) and bottles of Beerlao and Tiger. We found a table in the sun and had some soup and laap salad with sticky rice and drank beer. After a while Pedro arrived and gave David and me an envelope to make a donation to the newlyweds. We went to post the envelopes into the collection box and met some of the friends and family of the bride and groom and drank a welcome shot of lao-lao.

87.2. The wedding reception at Luang Namtha night market and the welcoming party.

87.3. The bride and groom arrive at the party.

We then went back to the table and sat in the sun drinking beer. The beer was drunk in small glasses with ice which were filled up regularly. Frequently one of the Lao guys would approach and make you finish the glass, often if he was new to the table or had just arrived. After three hours or so, realizing we were getting quite drunk, we decided to head back to the guesthouse to leave our valuables. David and I came straight back but Pedro went to use the internet.

87.4. Our table in the sun (L); Soumxi tries to get Pedro to finish his beer (R).

When we returned we met with Thing and he introduced me to a Lao girl called La who is his sister of the bride, Li, and at the same University as Thing in Vientiane. La and I went to dance to the Lao music that was been played near the entrance to the night market. The dance was strange with the couples facing each other and dancing slowly around in a circle.

87.5. Dancing with La.

87.6. Our table towards the end of the day; Sam and Thing at the end of the party.

At around 20:00 David, Thing and I headed back to the house where the ceremony was in the morning and stopped at a bar on the way. At the house the party was still going on. I sat outside with La and we chatted for a bit before going in to the party. David went back after a while but I stayed for an hour or so longer before going back myself.

87.7. At the after party back at the house.

87.8. La and her friend.

Day 88: Luang Namtha

I got up around 9:30 feeling a bit rough after the yesterday. David knocked on the door and said that Thing had already come by. David and I had already decided to stay one more night in Luang Namtha as we knew we wouldn’t be up for traveling today, though Pedro, who hadn’t drunk as much as we had, had already headed on to Udomxai. We saw Thing and told him we would meet him in the afternoon and then we went to the internet café to burn some CDs for Sam and Thing of the photos we had taken yesterday. When we arrived at the house at around 13:00 everyone was still carrying on the party. We joined them for and had some beer and some lao-lao but we decided to leave after an hour or so otherwise we’d probably never get out of Luang Namtha. We said that we would come back in the evening. We came back to the guesthouse and rested for an hour or so before going to visit the stupa on the hill above the town. It is a large golden stupa in the Lao style and looks a little like the That Luang, the symbol of Laos, in Vientiane.

88.1. The stupa at Luang Namtha and the doors and naga stairs.

We came back and took a shower before going to a noodle shop for dinner. Afterwards we went back to the house and found that Thing had already left and gone to his grandmothers in Muang Long. I sat with Sam and La and drank more beer and ate more food. I showed La some of my photos on my MP3 player from home and from Europe and from Nepal. She liked them and particularly liked the pictures from the Alps and Nepal where there was lots of snow in them, since there is not much snow in Laos. David left around 19:00 but I stayed and chatted with La until about 21:00 when I headed back as well. La gave me her email address and we agreed to meet again in Vientiane.