Even at first glance it’s clear that the night market in Luang Namtha has a lot to offer. Once drawn in by the noise and smells erupting from the many stalls, you quickly become a part of the vibrant communal atmosphere which sees everyone seated in the centre of the market tucking into whichever of the many traditional Lao dishes they saw fit to choose (most pick more than one..).
Whilst you may think having someone attempt to flog you bracelets and bags you don’t really want might be taxing on your patience, for us it made the meal. Having been seated for no more than 5 minutes we were swarmed by four (one sitting by each of us) local Akha women from the surrounding villages who flawlessly began their well practised routine.
One took up my offer of a sip of coke with more enthusiasm than I’d ever have expected, whilst the others revealed their latest bracelet and bag designs on the table for us to peruse. They whispered in ears, they sang ‘Only 2000 kip’ (English translation: ‘Only 15 Pence’), they laughed knowing full well we didn’t want anything but that that wasn’t going to stop them. In short it was some of the best salesmanship I’ve ever come across, I ended up with two bracelets (after buying one from one I was guilt tripped into buying another), neither of which I wanted or even liked, and yet I came away laughing and happy.
But anyway; onto the whiskey. To my considerable surprise of the 20 something stalls at the night market (note: there are normally more but May is low season) one of the first you see is Auntie La’s. This is a stall which produces its own Lao whiskey infusions; they do a variety of different flavours from coffee, to scorpion or mint and lime. At 2000 kip (no song this time) a shot it’d be a travesty to have just one – I opted for one honey whiskey and one cinnamon. The honey was great and not too sweet – I’ll also go on record and state I think Auntie La was making honey whiskey long before Jack Daniels. The cinnamon was another experience entirely. Unless you’re a fan of taking the cinnamon challenge this, frankly, is not the whiskey for you- the flavour is more than a little overpowering. Still at 15 pence for a shot I wasn’t complaining and will be back to try more. Back to try them all in fact; I’m here for a month after all.
You can also get a bottle of your favourite to take home for a very reasonable 25,000 kip which makes for a great gift or two. Oh and they also do beer towers. Go tonight.
P.S. : Also look out for upcoming Forest Retreat Auntie Lao Whiskey Infusion cocktails which should be at a Forest Retreat near you in the near future.