Our first couple of weeks in Luang Namtha have been really good. We have spent quite a bit of time around the river this time, exploring the walking tracks and getting lost, finding the newly planted rice fields and generally seeing the local life outside of the town. It’s been interesting and amazing to think that there is still so much of Luang Namtha that we haven’t seen yet. The Akha’s have been excited to have us back and each day they run up to us and fill us in on which of them is staying in town, going to Muang Sing, going to meet Elu (Elu is the first Akha that befriended us and her daughter has just had a baby so she is staying in Muang Sing to look after her) etc etc. And of course all of that is communicated with hand gestures! It’s funny to think that they seem to find it really important to keep us updated with their movements – as though we will not cope in town if we don’t know where they are. It’s really cute though and they seem to enjoy it so all good.
After we had been in town a few days we got invited to the wedding of the sister of the first guy that we did the sign in English for last time (are you confused?). Thong took us there and it was kind of cool being at a wedding with hundreds of Lao’s and being the novelty white people. We also met up again with Dikla (the Israeli girl we spent time with in Cat Ba Island) and so invited her to the wedding aswell. It was interesting to see – basically there are heaps of tables all stocked up with bowls of food and Beer Lao, when you arrive you just sit at any table and the food bowls and Beer Lao keep getting refilled all night. So even when you leave the table, the food bowls are overflowing. It made us laugh when half way through the night Beer Lao Truck pulled up at the wedding and all the males at the wedding rushed to unload the truck and re-stock the wedding supplies. (As a side note: did we mention that most towns have a Beer Lao House which supplies the whole town with crates of Beer Lao – literally a 2 storey house where the entire bottom storey is filled with Beer Lao and the family live upstairs? Beer Lao Truck for each town belongs to that specific house.) The wedding dancing consists of each couple walking in a circle and moving their hands. Not really dancing as we know it but pretty fun anyway. We then also got invited to the wedding after party the next day – this was a real honour because there were only 20 or so people at that – only family and Thong and us.
We also went to visit Alack again, (remember the dude we were helping with his English from last time?) we went to his house for lunch one day and he invited us to his graduation the next day. So we visited his school to attend his graduation from English teachers college and it turned out to be a really special day. The new English teachers all wanted to talk to us, because the person teaching them English was Lao so it seemed there was a fair amount of grammar etc that was lost in translation. The school principal came out to meet us and said that we were the first westerners to ever visit the school and the school was very honoured to have us as their guests. We were basically treated like royalty and they insisted we stay for lunch, homemade Khao Phoun (local noodle soup similar to Khao Soy). We were shown the library with it’s meagre collection of books and promised to bring more books for the school next time we visit. We found it really interesting that Alack was writing the school curriculum for English – an actual reference book that the school will use going forward. We are going to correct all of his English in the book so that they have a guide book which actually makes sense in English. Also interesting is that the school has it’s own rice fields, which both students and teachers plant and harvest the rice twice a year; both for the school to eat, and to raise money for the school.
Other than that we have been spending a lot of time with Thong, Paet and Mona (mainly eating Paet’s amazing cooking!) and were lucky to fluke being in town for Lao Presidents Day which meant that for the first time ever, we saw our temple all lit up and finally realised that the lights draped around it are actually used sometimes. The ‘temple guy’ has befriended us also, now that he realises that we are the crazy falang that are up there twice a day most days, although he doesn’t speak so when we told him our names he just pointed at himself and then pointed at the temple. He has started charging other falang to take photos but always just wai’s and smiles at us. In any case he thinks it’s a huge laugh that he sees us all the time so at least we are keeping him amused.