Archives for : Luang Namtha

Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant needs YOUR help!

All of the information you see here on Luang Namtha Guide is brought to you for free, by Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant.

Due to the political unrest in Thailand, Bamboo Lounge is currently seeking help to keep our training restaurant and free information service running.

Please spare $1 for us to keep Luang Namtha Guide and Bamboo Lounge Laos alive.

Bamboo Lounge currently supports the local community by employing uneducated ethnic minority people and teaching them English and how to work in the tourism industry.

Additionally their profits (when they have any) support Luang Namtha’s Books In Schools program.

Please view our Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign here:

Northern laos best pizza

Help us keep our ethnic minority staff employed and making you authentic woodfired pizza!

Luang Namtha’s Nam Ha river

The most common river people kayak down in Luang Namtha is the Nam Tha river. This river has many small rapids and villages to visit and is an easy (grade 1) river to kayak.

Kayaking in Luang Namtha

Ryan readies himself to tackle the Nam Ha river!

If you kayak with a company that really goes into the Nam Ha NPA (i.e. not behind Luang Namtha township where there is not enough water for kayaking in dry season!) you can kayak all year round, the water in dry season, October to June, is crystal clear and lovely for swimming and fishing.

Kayaking in Luang Namtha

Kayaking is a great activity for northern Laos

The Nam Tha river has many ethnic minority tribes including Lanten, Khmu, Khmu Rok and Tai Lue  dotted along its length all on one side and the dense jungle of the national protected area on the other.

This makes kayaking or rafting down it a good activity to explore local culture as well as see a panorama of the jungle. This is a great option to combine with the more challenging trekking tours.

Trekking in the Nam Ha NPA

There are HUGE trees along the Nam Ha river

However, if you want to experience a more challenging river with jungle on both sides overhanging the whole way the Nam Ha river (similar name; different river ;)) is the best option.

The Nam Ha has very few villages along it and is mainly primary forest and jungle. It has some submerged rocks so requires a little bit of experience and in wet season is wild and dangerous, after June. In dry season, which is also high season for tourism, the Nam Ha can be kayaked or rafted down for only a few months.

The Nam Ha river is about to become available to more experienced tour providers in the near future.

A few weeks ago some staff of Forest Retreat Laos decided to venture down the untamed Nam Ha river to check it out as a future kayaking route. It is very beautiful, with dense forest, lots of birds and big trees to look at. There are often glimpses of forested mountains deep in the NPA too.

Nam Ha river in nam ha National Protected Area

The Nam Ha river from the mountain view camp trek

Forest Retreat Laos already offers a homestay at Ban Nalan which is a Khmu village on the Nam Ha river usually reached by trekking for 3-4 hours into the National Protected Area. This village was the original model homestay community based eco-tourism village in  the national park. There is also a less cultural and more jungled camp over-nighting option at Forest Retreats “Fisherman Camp” on the river amongst dense forest on a quiet spot of the river perfect for swimming.

Kayaking in Luang Namtha

The exotic, mysterious river in Luang Namtha

The Road to Muang Sing

Although I would love to be able to tell you all about what I am sure is the beautifully quaint, friendly town of Muang Sing, I’m afraid I can’t. I never made it that far. The farthest I got was the stupa, which sits upon a hill watching over the town, giving an incredible view allowing you to look into both Myanmar and China.

You are probably wondering why I didn’t go into the town if I was so close, and I have two reasons for that:

1. I was dangerously low on petrol, and was worried I may not make the return journey without having to beg, borrow and steal in order to get back to Luang Nam Tha.

2. The ‘Road to Muong Sing’ is all about the road, you don’t go on it for the destination, instead you go on it for the journey.


I, or in the wonderfully descriptive words of Drei “George the intrepid explorer,” set off from Luang Nam Tha at 11am; a little later than I had hoped because it was my first day on a semi-automatic motorbike and I needed to get used to it before the hours of riding that lay ahead of me.

The 30 minutes of necessary training had stood me in a very mediocre position as I grappled with the gears getting up the hills leaving Luang Nam Tha, but after another half an hour I was feeling much more confident and happy riding.
The scenery is spectacular as you snake your way through the jungle and villages, so spectacular in fact that you often have to stop to truly appreciate your surroundings (and also importantly have some water and apply more sunscreen). A word of caution though, these narrow winding roads are used by large trucks and reckless drivers, so always be aware and stay far to the right hand side of the road.
After almost two hours of riding I arrived at the Stupa outside Muang Sing, a temple with a viewpoint that rivals some of the best I have enjoyed in Laos
This is me having just arrived at the Stupa and I decided to Journey on a little further, and why not if you can get a view of 3 countries like this:
After my journey up to the Stupa it was time to turn round and head home, but not before a bite to eat and stopping by one of the most picturesque waterfalls I have ever been to.
I attempted to buy lunch at a restaurant  near the Stupa, but when my attempted miming for a menu and food fell through I thought I would just concede and get a coke. Everyone knows the word coke right? Wrong, and all I could keep saying was the word coke in more accents I imagined possible and probably looked like an absolute buffoon. I even started pointing to the pepsi sign and started to say pepsi but then quickly gave up and realised this naive ‘falang,’ myself, couldn’t be more British- so I thanked them, even more British, and left.
It took about half an hour on the return to get to the waterfall as I carefully watched my petrol needle go up, as I traveled down-hill, and down, as I traveled-up hill, moving either side of the half-way mark. ‘I will make it’ I thought, even though I knew I would be cutting it incredibly fine.
The waterfall itself is stunning, and for 10,000 kip it is well worth a visit as long as you are prepared for the potential leech. I would recommend having a swim and, do I dare say it, take a ‘selfie’ if you’re enjoying your own company because, if you’re as lucky as I was, you have the pleasure of the waterfall all to yourself.
After some good food and chatting to travelers at the nearby cafe, I began my long journey home, hoping that my fuel would last the hour ride back. After about 20 minutes of watching my needle drop closer and closer to empty, despite the hills being in my favor, it eventually hit the dreaded E. I thought well, no point worrying now, I might as well ride till it till it gives up on me or I make it to the closest petrol station minutes out of Luang Nam Tha. Miraculously despite being empty for more than half an hour I made it back in the nick of time with no problem save some very sunburned forearms and knees.
As I was arriving back into town Drei recommended I take a left at the roundabout and keep driving for another 15 minutes, and I highly recommend this to anyone as dusk approaches.
One of the most beautiful sights I have seen so far on my travels.
by George Wilcox
p.s. and remember always wear sunscreen

Luang Namtha’s Jungle Food Challenge

Masterchef in the jungle? Food in northern Laos gets serious…

Recently Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant was lucky enough to get 2 volunteers for a month, who not only taught the Lao staff there a lot about hospitality but were so excited by the abundant fresh produce available at Luang Namtha’s famous morning market, that they decided to put their cooking skills to the test and embark upon Luang Namtha’s first “Jungle Food Challenge“!

Laos most unique and fresh selection of ingredients

The main cause of Jack (from Spain) and Cass’s (from Australia) excitement was the fresh seasonal produce from the jungle (which you can read many posts on), which Luang Namtha is famous for, many of these fruits, berries, seeds, nuts, roots, leaves, shoots and flowers cant be found ANYWHERE ELSE in the world!

Northern Laos food challenge

Jungle food Challengers: Jack and Cass

So essentially Jack and Cass wanted to try cooking fusion dishes using ingredients that most likely no other westerner in the world has used before, and the results were delicious! This challenge went on for 6 days, usually Bamboo Lounge being full of customers, that were skillfully being wined and dined by the Lao staff at the same time this challenge was going on (one of the rules was the customers come first!).

Jack Cosson has trained as a chef in Europe and Cass Hay is a “foodie” from way back and has managed cafe’s in Australia. Jack with his professional training and euro-cooking style ‘vs’ Cass with her Asian heritage (her mum is Chinese-Malaysian) and life long passion for creating good food…an excellent match!

Challenge 1: Tomato theme:   who can come up with what amazing Tomato themed dish using Luang Namtha delicious local Tomato?

The results: Jack came up with a ultimate gazpacho featuring stuffed tomato and Cass came up with a play on choo chee fun (a Chinese dish of steamed, filled fresh rice paper rolls); fresh rice paper filled with tofu, mushrooms, lentils, a tomato lemongrass and lime leaf sauce, and banana flower, tomato, Thai basil and balsamic garnish

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Cass’s tomato Choo Chee Fun

Luang Namtha Tomato dish

Jack’s Ultimate Gazpacho

Challenge 2: Mushroom theme:   Luang Namtha has an amazing array of mushrooms, with a constantly changing seasonal stock from the jungle as well as shitake, wood ear, oyster, enoki, straw and many other species available all year round. So who can use what mushrooms to create the most interesting and tasty dish?

The results: Jack came up with a mixed mushroom terrine, spiced pumpkin and sesame tofu. Cass created a tofu steak, bed of lentils and tsi mushroom, fried enoki, roast oyster mushrooms, shitake sauce and kim chee combo.

Northern Laos mushroom jungle food dish

Cass’s mushroom combo

Luang Namtha jungle food dish

Jacks mushroom creation

Challenge 3: “Childhood memories”  theme:  this nights concept was to come up with a dish that you remembered or were influenced by in childhood, an inventive one!

The results: Jack decided to create an edible ode to his Granddad Rudi which was crispy potato pancakes, Bolognaise sauce and picked cucumber garnish. While Cass came up with 3 memories from her youth consisting of a ginger fragrant mushroom and sesame rice congee, followed by proper baked beans over sticky rice and coconut cream, and to finish, a caramelized sweet potato and jackfruit curry tucked inside and baked in banana leaf; Lao style!

Lao fusion cooking using Luang namtha jungle foods

Cass’s trio of congee, baked bean “pizza” and baked curry

Luang Namtha jungle food fusion dish cooking

Jacks potato pancakes, bolognaise sauce and cucumber

Challenge 4: Any 10 jungle ingredients, 20 minutes and no prep time challenge:  this means Jack and Cass could choose any 10 ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, but the had only 20 minutes to do all the preparation and cooking!

The results: Jack created local watercress soup with fresh peas and tsi mushroom. Cass countered with coriander and mint pesto on fresh rice noodle sheets, toasted endamame (soy beans) and cherry tomatoes. Cass also made it with 30 seconds to spare on the clock, while Jack was over by 1.5 minutes. Not bad considering Forest Retreat was packed out with fascinated customers at the time!

Luang Namtha, northern Lao jungle fusion food

Jack: a simple watercress soup with all the trimmings

Lao fusion cooking using northern Lao jungle foods

Cass: pesto, noodles, beans and tomatoes

The Final Challenge: for the last competition, Jack and Cass would choose ingredients for the other to make an amazing dish out of!   This means the selection of a combination of ANY of the weird and wonderful ingredients from the Luang Namtha fresh market, including insects, internal organs, spices, Bamboo rats..the possibilities were endless. But Jack and Cass were kind to each other (kind of).

The results: Jack came up with the following from what Cass chose for him a cauliflower, roasted banana flower and tamarind puree, roasted baby eggplant, courgettes, sautee’d green amaranth pods, fried tofu and tofu noodles. And finally Cass created this from what jack chose for her: charred chili, garlic and mandarin sauce feat. jungle olives, sweet potato and dill mash, spiced roasted eggplant, bitter melon with garlic and banana chips.

Luang Namtha northern Lao jungle fusion food dish

Jacks final creation!

Northern Laos jungle foods

Cass’s final jungle food masterpiece

So this was it the end of Luang Namtha’s first ever jungle food challenge. Both Jack and Cass came out with some truly delicious dishes many times using ingredients they had never seen or cooked with before. There can be no clear winner; Jacks professional training and slick style was given a really good run for its money by Cass’s imagination and ability to put together some damn good flavors.

In conclusion, there really is some AMAZING fresh foods to be found in Laos, especially Luang Namtha. Go into Forest Retreat Laos and see what the changing specials of the day are!

15 Reasons Why Luang Namtha Province Is The Best Of Laos

After traveling all around Southeast Asia, Laos is definitely a highlight for many, but for us coming back to Luang Namtha really hits home that this northern province is the best of Laos! Here’s why:

1. We have the BEST roads in Laos making transit far easier than the rest of the country and self guided tours on mountain bikes and motorbikes much more user friendly;  think flat, well paved, wide roads…not rock strewn, cratered, dusty and uncomfortable dirt lanes (except in tiny villages).

2. We have the most accessible National Park in Laos , which is called the Nam Ha NPA = National Protected Area ( also abbreviated to NBCA = National Biodiversity Conservation Area) with a huge range of genuine, highly regulated eco-tourism adventure activities and cultural immersion experiences to be had. The Nam Ha NPA is one of the top 200 important eco-regions of the world with tropical rainforests in the valleys and cooler montane forests higher up making for staggering biodiversity of plants birds, insects and animals. The most interesting of which are the clouded leopard, tiger and leopard.

Kayaking in northern Laos

Kayaking in Luang Namtha’s NPA

3. The people are so nice! The nicest and kindest people in Laos. This is partly because of the ethnic diversity creating a culture of tolerance, but also because local attitudes are so laid back, westerners get treated the same as local people!

Luang Namtha ethnic tribal experience

Luang Namtha has the nicest people in Laos!

4. The climate is fantastic with perpetual cool nights and sunny days, because of the altitude (700m above sea level) it never gets too hot for comfort like southern parts of Laos.

5. Luang Namtha is a natural travel crossroads between Thailand (180km away), China (50km away), Myanmar (130km away) and Vietnam (the city of Dien Bien Phu is 280km from Luang Namtha), this makes overland travel (the best way to see Southeast Asia) the logical choice.

6. Luang Namtha has the best and most varied Lao food, and is famous for its quality and huge variety. More species of jungle fruits, nuts, roots, seeds and vegetables than you can shake a stick at, combined with delicious dishes from different ethnic tribes and the most lush growing conditions. Luang Namtha even has access to cold climate (as well as tropical) fruits and veggies like apple, pear, broccoli, cauliflower and potato all year round.


Amazing food in Luang Namtha

The blend of culture and nature in Luang Namtha makes the food the best in Laos!

7. Close proximity to Thailand and the brand new friendship bridge, make overland traveling from Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai to Luang Namtha (and south) much faster and more comfortable than ever.

8. One of the cheapest provinces in Laos. Most accommodation in town is 80,000 kip per night for a decent room with free water and WiFi, local food can very cheap from the night market and even award winning pizzas, salads and pastas from Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant are much cheaper than they would be in Luang Prabang and Vientiane.

9. The most ethnically diverse province. There are over 19 different minority tribes in this province making it the most ethnically diverse part of Southeast Asia! Go and explore these villages, the people will be very happy to meet you. And walking through a village and being interested about the culture and their way of life is empowering to them and teaches them the importance of preserving their culture.

Visit to a Yao village in Luang Namtha

You can visit up to 19 different ethnic minority tribes in Luang Namtha

10. Chilled out atmosphere, lots of traveler interaction. Most people go to Luang Namtha to join groups for eco-tours, but when you’re not in the jungle, Luang Namtha is a great and scenic spot to chill for a while and meet some new friends if you want to.

11. Fastest internet in Laos; especially at Forest Retreat Laos! The proximity to China and Thailand and good infrastructure make for some of the fastest connections in Laos. Sweet!

12. Beautiful mountain and rice paddy scenery. The best place to see this is to head north out of town 2km, hang a right at the roundabout and cross the bridge, travel about 5km up this straight, flat, well-paved road and after you pass Thong Dee village (Ban Thong Dee) start looking for a good chill out hut on your right in the 30 square km “park” of rice paddies, completed with its own Eco-system! Walk out through the rice and witness an amazing sunset over 6 layers of mountains in every direction!


Luang Namtha rice paddies

Close to town, yet one of the most serene places I have ever been.

13. Get immersed into local tribes village life, Luang Namtha is the best place in Laos to base yourself then go and visit these tribes and experience different cultures and ways of life. Our record is 7 different ethnic tribes on 1 day on motorbike! In a small range of distance you will come across many different tribes living in separate villages, very cool to experience.

14. There are so many different eco-tourism tour options, all highly regulated by the local government using Luang Namtha’s award winning eco-tourism model. You can do: trekking, kayaking, cycling, rafting, motorbiking, cultural immersion experiences, fishing, cooking, homestays, forest retreats… Forest Retreat Laos is the only and most awarded eco-tourism company (other providers are agencies) who gives the most back to the local community and takes people deep into the Nam Ha NPA for amazing experiences.

Luang Namtha trekking

Trekking in the primary forest of Luang Namtha’s NPA

15. Amazing friends you will make when you do an eco-tourism tour in Luang Namtha. Nothing gets strangers bonding and makes fast friends like trekking around in the jungle for a few days! Many lasting friendships have been forged in the wilds of Luang Namtha…especially when topped off by a few cocktails when the group returns.

We hope you liked our reasons why Luang Namtha is so great, why dont you come and check it out for yourself!

Dokchampa Hotel


Room rates: 60,000 kip – 160,000 kip
Breakfast included: no
Free wifi: yes
Laundry service: yes
How to book: just show up at the hotel, or call +856 86 260003

Dokchampa is a big Chinese hotel in the centre of Luang Namtha. It is located on the main street, where you will find the Night Market, many restaurants and trekking agencies.

Dokchampa has 61 rooms in total. They offer single, twin, double and double VIP rooms with fan or air-conditioning. All the rooms have ensuite bathroom with hot showers and coffee or tea making facilities. Try to book a room on the third or fourth floor (on the back) to have nice mountain views.

The big lobby is furnished with big wooden couches and a fish tank. Behind the hotel there is a big parking lot for customers to park their car or motorcycle.

Room prices

Double VIP: 130,000 kip (fan) / 160,000 kip (aircon)
Family Room: 100,000 kip (fan) / 130,000 kip (aircon)
Double or Twin Room: 80,000 kip (fan) / 100,000 kip (aircon)
Single Room: 60,000 kip (fan) / 80,000 kip (aircon)


Adounsiri Guesthouse


Adounsiri is a family run guesthouse in the centre of Luang Namtha. It is located on the street parallel to the main street, only a five-minute walk. On the main street you can find the night market, trekking agencies and many restaurants.

Adounsiri has thirteen rooms in total. They offer twin, double and family rooms. All the rooms have a fan and ensuite bathroom with hot shower and western style toilets.

Outside the rooms there is a green garden sitting area. Remember that at night the guesthouse’s gates will close between ten and eleven o’clock.

Room rates: from 60,000 kip for a single to 100,000 kip for a family room
Breakfast included: no, but free coffee and tea in the morning
Free wifi: yes
Laundry service: yes
How to book: just show up at the guesthouse

Tribute to the Yellow Moth

Hopping into Laos


Exploration of local biodiversity starts even before you set off to one of the many tours available in the surroundings of Luang Namtha.

Today we would like to introduce to one of the small creatures that you’ll spot anywhere if you only stop for a second and look around. Arthropods, insects and spiders in particular, are often frowned upon or considered disgusting in the Western world, but actually they represent one of the biggest and oldest branches of the Tree of Life. They play an essential role in pollination among other things and they are also an excellent source of protein, which could make us reconsider Lao’s insect-based cuisine.

We will keep an overview of mouth-watering insect-based recipes for another post, as we would like this post to be a tribute to the dying Yellow Moth spotted on the wall of Forest Retreat Laos this week.

The Yellow Moth, Dysphania sagana, is a geometrid moth from Southeast Asia, Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo and has been reported in Northern Lao. Its larvae have been observed feeding on plants of the Carallia species, which, especially Carallia brachiata, is also an important source of nectar food for bees. As descripted by Wikipedia’s “moth writers”, the basal half of the forewings is chrome-yellow, while the outer half is bluish black, crossed by two bands of semitransparent white spots. The hindwings are chrome-yellow with a black spot at the end of the cell. The apex and a submarginal row of spots are black. The head, thorax and abdomen are yellow.

Dysphania sagana

Luang Namtha is a preferred destination for enthomologists, who come here on exploration and often leave with one or more species named after them, because the rich arthropods local biodiversity has been little studied and much has yet to be identified. This encourages all of us to go out with our cameras and big eyes to spot the universe of biodiversity that the surroundings of Luang Namtha have to offer.

Here a small collection of the hundreds of arthropods we have photographed and that we need help in identifying! More to come!

The antennae of the Indian luna moth detects a single sex pheromone molecule from more than six miles away due to extremely sensitive olfactory receptors.
[source The Encyclopedia of Life]

Luna moth

Common Mormon

Papilio palinurus, common name Emerald Swallowtail, Emerald Peacock, or Green-banded Peacock, is a butterfly of the genus Papilio belonging to the Papilionidae family. It is native to southeast Asia.


After mating, often female mantis eat their partner. This will give them extra proteins to tend their eggs.

Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge Restaurant = real western food

It’s official; Luang Namtha now has its own wood-fired pizza oven, it is even painted green and is decorated with Buddhas eyes, so you cannot miss it…

This iconic wood fired oven made from local clay has now served up thousands of authentic Italian (and not-so-Italian) pizzas to travelers and locals alike. The wood fired oven now baked fresh bread rolls and loaves daily as well as cakes and Lao Banana breads.

Northern Laos best pizza oven

The worlds most enlightened wood fired oven

So when you are in northern Laos if you get sick of sticky rice, or fried rice or rice noodles (it can actually happen ;) ) and you are craving the comfort foods from home or have just got back from a 3 day trek in the Nam Ha NPA dreaming of cheese and bacon for the last 2 days…then Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge restaurant can help you!

Bamboo Lounge is rated Luang Namtha’s #1 restaurant according to Tripadvisor, it has also won an excellence award for 2013 and an International Star Award for Quality.

Northern Laos best western food

BLET baguette; really good eating!

The concept behind  Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant is that it is a Lao and western collaboration. Western managers teach Lao staff English language, hospitality, customer service, hygiene and western standard cooking skills as part of their employment. Lao staff teach westerners about their culture, way of life and traditions.

Birthday cake

Even the locals enjoy real western food

Bamboo Lounge specialises in authentic western dishes. The drinks menu features a range of fresh roasted and ground espresso coffees, freshly squeezed juices and excellent western standard cocktails (with either local Lao lao rice whiskey varients or the real stuff).

Northern Laos best cocktails

Fresh fruit cocktails

For food you can have all day breakfasts, sandwiches on home made bread, authentic Italian pastas and wood fired pizzas or salads and other goodies like chat potatoes and risottos.  Their menu has many ingredients are either sourced from abroad or made from scratch like tomato pizza base, soups, pasta sauce, pesto, hummus and olive tapenade.

real cheese and bread? In Asia?

Mmmm,tuna melt on homemade bread…

There are many plants from the jungle, fast WiFi and the comfiest chairs and sofas in town. The service is quick, smiley and professional.

Northern laos best pizza

Pon cooks like an Italian!

So if you find yourself in Luang Namtha craving some REAL comfort food from home, follow the smell of freshly baked bread to Bamboo Lounge Laos.

The Luang Namtha Welcoming Party

Author: Ryan Crossett
The Akha  people are a large ethnic group with populations in Lao, Thailand, Burma and China.  Here in Luang Namtha Akha women provide a service unlike any other.  They will give you the opportunity to shop for souvenirs while you are dining, visiting the night market or out walking.  They peddle an assortment of handicrafts including bracelets, belts, hats and bags.
Akha sales women in Luang Namtha

But you DO want a bracelet!

If you’ve never met an Akha woman, you are almost certain to when you visit Luang Namtha.  There’s even a good chance you’ll be welcomed to Luang Namtha by one as you climb out of your tuktuk.  However, if you don’t meet one right away, no need to go looking for them, they will come and find you.
Akha handicrafts are easy to find in Luang Namtha

Welcome to Luang Namtha; would you like a hat, belt or bag with that?

The Akha ladies employ a unique sales tactic, taking “don’t take no for an answer” to an all new level.  The reason they can do this is because they know what you want better than you do.  They break through any communication barrier using their universally understood sign language to make sure you don’t leave empty handed.
Akha woman in Luang Namtha

No means yes right?

At Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant we have a special deal with the Akha saleswomen, no soliciting for free water and phone calls.  This has also given the staff here at Bamboo Lounge the chance to enjoy getting to know the local Akha saleswomen. They can be a lot of fun and may even bust a move if they like the music.
Elu queen of the Akha

Its all pleasure and no business for Akha at Forest Retreat Laos!

If you’re lucky, and you probably will be, there will even be a few ladies around to bid you farewell as you leave Luang Namtha to continue on your journey.  “Thank you for shopping with us!”
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