Sunday, December 20, 2009

Village wandering around Luang Nam Tha

The women carried manioc sticks and branches of wood in their baskets with the strap wrapped around their heads. We passed them as we teetered along rice bunds just outside Luang Nam Tha. Luang Nam Tha in northwestern Laos is a mountainous region shrouded in fog in December and is well known for its pioneering conservation and pro-poor sustainable tourism efforts in the Nam Ha Protected Area.
The rice had been cut making it easier to see the storage huts and the odd bird. After passing the Hmong village of Ban Nam Hoi, we climbed up a steep slope past swathes of sugar and into the planned lines of a rubber plantation. Our guide told us that this 2 ha plantation was managed by the Chinese who used the trees’ sap for shoe soles. At the top of the hill, the concentric circles of other rubber plantations could be seen banded up and down neighbouring hills.
At the Tai Dam village of Nam Gneane, the overpowering whiff of lao lao whiskey on the boil greeted us. Villagers combine 15 kg of rice, 2 kg of rice husk and yeast to produce 15 litres of lao lao that they then go on to sell for 4000 kip per litre.
At Ban Nam Mat Mai, an Akha Village, we passed on the outside of the spirit gates that bookend the village (as it brings bad luck to the village if a stranger touches the gates) and wandered up to see the village swing used in an annual ceremony to give thanks to the spirits.


  1. I hope the Akha in Nam Mat Mai are doing well. In 06 I passed through the remains of their old village up past the old French Road, nothing sadder than an abandoned village. The new one looked even worse, the one you saw. Everyone had bamboo houses, mostly low to the ground and temporary, none yet of wood. The rice harvest had been very bad as they didn't yet have feilds, kids had swollen bellies, not many had sandals. The poorest Akha village I've seen.

    I hope they have settled in to their new village. I've heard that area is now heavily rubber trees, maybe they've been able to find work as labor. Living so close to the Tai Dam it is probably hard to find places to grow rice.

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