Dec 13, 2006

Further North

Junction with road to Boten and China

By the time I waited for the bank to open and again went out to the Northern Bus Station I’d missed the early bus to Oudomxai, and therefore the connection to Luang Namtha. Oh well one mustn’t be in a hurry when traveling in Laos must one?
I now realize why Pak Mong is an important junction, it connects with the road headed over to Muang Ngoi and also a small but close crossing point into Vietnam open only to locals. Of course we got a flat an hour out of Oudomxai. And of course the spare couldn’t be removed without a hacksaw, which we didn’t have. We got into Oudomxai well after dark. Oudomxai is another town that I should look around a little more. There are now a couple of guesthouses catering to foreigners that aren’t Chinese.
Luckily there were still restaurants open at the bus station. Of course the choices are limited, barbequed meat or noodle soup. I went for the meat option with sticky rice. Couldn’t see too well in the dark. I took a pass on the squirrel but ended up with pig liver anyway.
Luang Namtha was my first opportunity for a real break. A friend I made from the last time in Laos has just opened up a new guest house that had very large and clean rooms. Luang Namtha itself seems to be experiencing more economic growth that is sure to turn to a mini boomlet once the airport is reopened and the new all weather highway connecting Chang Rai Thailand with Jihong China is completed.
For now there was a lot of business with NGOers and trekkers. Green Discovery has an office as does Action Contra La Faim. .

Public wash basin and towel at Lao Restaurant

Much of Laos remains Lao even in the face of tourism. In the midst of the centre of the tourist street in Luang Namtha I was happy to see the same han ahan I had last time. Serving up a pho with a heavenly broth, lots of greens and of course the local specialty kow soi. It’s very popular with the folks at the provincial building across the street and sees no need for an English menu, fried rice or any other of the usual dumbing down of Lao food.

Yawt Wai

I also took time to go look at the market, I’d never stayed a full day in Namtha before. I found the market to be great entertainment and well stocked, even with the high priced fruits from China. I loved the tiny mandarin oranges for ninety cents a kilo. I also found a new food to eat called naw "Yaw Wai". It’s the inside rattan, that stuff all the furniture is made of. The inside is white and starchy and wet and pretty tasty when mixed with a very few not strong ingredients. The taste is mild and so the spices seemed to also be mild so as not to overcome the subtle flavour.

There is a similar stick called naw nyea which doesn’t have the points on the stick and is bitter tasting that I have yet to try.

Jeao Yawt Wai... Sun Saap!

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