Hangin' with the Hill Tribes

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Asia » Laos » North » Muang Sing
July 25th 2007
Published: August 11th 2007
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So, yes, we arrived in Muang Sing! A day late, and still trying to clear our lungs of the black smoke that poured out the back of our tuk tuk thing, but the sun was shining and it looked like a nice little town... ran into some Vientiane living Brits at the bus station, well, the piece of concrete in the middle of some mud that the buses stop near, and they told us how great it was there and how we could get to various villages on bike. Hmmmm. Beats splashing out on a jungle trek - lets do it! So we set about, and failed as it goes, to get bikes. But we did take in a particualrly impressive wat (well, it was real colourful and had a kitten, and praying cleaning wormen. I loved it! Oo, and loads of murals of naked murderous debauchery! No, I do not know the significance, but i got some snaps!), giggled at the novice monks cycling round town in their bobble hats, marvelled at the french architecture (well, saw it), went to the tribal mueseum to help us in our attempt to recognise all the various hill tribes, and secured the bikes for tomorrow!

By mid-afternoon though, we were at a bit of a loose end, so thought we'd test the theory of the villages being really close by having a little walk and seeing where we ended up. Turned out to be a genius idea (my idea, obviously). As we started on our way, I finally caved in and decided to buy some of the bracelets that women from a local Akha village had on offer - i was thinking of you my dear friends - there will be gifts. But yes, smelling the western wallet opening, obviously i was mobbed, and Aka women from miles around flocked to me. Well, 4 of tem, but its a pretty accurate image! I boguht one from each to try and share the wealth, and all was well! i WAS IMMEDIATLY THEIR FAVOURITE tourist ever. Sorry, can't be arsed to rewrite that in lower case. mind you the amount of time its taking me to write this apology. hey ho. So yeh, as it turns out, our new Akha friends live the same way we were walking, so we were sort of walking together.... and we had a good ol time! Part of the Akha gang! They showed us how to make thread from cotton, offered Mark some opium, and made us carry their bags on our heads (sneaky). Fun was had by all, especailly as the scery on the walk was absolutely stunning! I mean really amazing, like the photos will never convey! The rice fields are so green, so bright! then with a backdrop of tree covered mountains, and a bright blue sky. Ah... you'll just have to look at the photos. Anyway, as the day drew on the Akha gang told us to head back, as they are no lights on the street, but we promised we'd see them the next day. Not least becasue they promised sofia a wear of the hat. So we wandered back to town, wondering if we'd run into them again. On the way back we heard musc coming fro nowhere... eventually i saw a random speaker, up a post, in the middle of nowhere - playing music to noone. Nice touch to what was frankly, a really brillaint day! so happy we decided to go to Muang Sing. We celebrated wit some beer Laos, and got ourselves an early night, so we could check out the morning market.

Obviously, for me, getting up before 7 is synonomous with PAIN. getting up before 6, UG. But, we heard good things. so i did it damnit. Obviously i didn't wash and just put on the previous das dirty clothes. but i did it! and it was worth it as it goes.. bascially the muang sing morning market has all manner of foodstuff for sale, ALL manner, sold my all manner of hill tribes from the surrounding area. Funny hats abounded people. As did funny food... everything from cakes and baguettes, to moonshine whisky, to entrails, live fish, and a freshly skinned cow. In fact, i wathed it be skinned. It was not pretty... even less pretty was its detached head. See photos for that tasty treat. Th moonshine queue was my favourite though. just a line of ladies, sat on the floor, pouring out shots and bottle to all-comers. I can't explain it, but it was just really random. Probably shouldn't mention it if i can't explain. But you know me, I hate to delete! Oo i just remembered i forgot to tell you about the deep fried, skewered, chicken feet on offer at every stall in the Luang nam tha night market. Thats it really. I means it's pretty gross! Worth mentioning....

So right, after the market, a bit of brekkie and then off we went! Like some kind of adventure tourist in sensible sandals, rucksack on back, cagoul on, that we would normally make fun of. For that day, i was that person.


My god it was so long ago... ok, we cycled off, lovely day and all that. Really beautiful scenery... my lack of fitness started to show VERY early in the day but i perservered! First village we came to, had a little wander around, novice monks shouted at us (sofia begs to differ, but i'm pretty sure they yelled 'wanker'), and we decided to turn back after seeing the road was under 2 feet of water (but like England eh? eh? HAHAHA! Ok, i know its nice niow, but 2 weeks ago that would have brought the house down). Anyway, some women set her dog on us, so we pretty much bolted out of there. Not the hill tribe charm we had been promised. However, who did we fuind waiting at the roadside a few more kilometeres along - one of the Akha women from the day before! She had been waiting for us, on the off chance we'd cycle over. How random is that! So of course we went along, about a half hour trtek through all kinds of crap to their village, but once there we were the most popular dudes in town. Children swarmed, and we were saved only by an ivite into her house. In case you're wondering, it was a one room hut, on stilts, ,ade of bamboo, or maybe rattan. When you stood on the floor you were convinced the whole thing would collapse. But obviously it didn't. that wouldhave been awful though, can you imagine. Bit embarassing, trashing someones whole house. But i digress, as i am wont to do (i have been drinking i might add... it like 8p a glass a beer here!) so we hugnb out, sofia tried on the ull Akha headress, and leg warmers (tasty!), we bought some trivckets, played weith the myriad of children, and Mark, the lad we were hanging with, trying the local speciality. Opium. I was offered, which was weird as i'm a girl, and they never offer girls. But it turns out everyone offers me drugs here, specifically me and no other girls, that is (must be part of my 'look')! But of course i declined. Honest dad. I am not an opium type of gal!

So yeh! basically, after that we stopped in a few more places, before realising we only 2/3km away from the Chinese border. Well you gotta don't ya? I mean, i was in slight agony, and it started pouring with rain the moment we started out... in face we well almost gave up! it got all uphill, the rain got heavier, me and fia were flagging badly... and then, there it was! the chinese border! Marked as it was by a group of chubby middle-aged lao men playing volleyball, it was wquite a sght. obligatory photo, and we were homeward bound. It was then we realsied that it was already 5, the bikes had tobe back at 6,that it would get dark soon, and we would probably die in a bizarre tractor-bike accident if we attempted cycling home in the dark. As the rain continued to pour, we feared the worse. we had taken all day (with stops!) to get there, so you know, not looking good. I can almost see the concern in your eyes... well, worry not! It was easy! Turns out, that our pain and suffering on the ride there was not just becasue of our impressive lack of fitness, but it was actually uphill! Hoorah! So i think we all know what the return journey was like,in the rain... WHEEEEEEE! Oh i swear, it was one the happiest times of life that journey home! Just whizzing along, rain puring down, splashing through puddles, beautiful scenery, yelling 'sa ba dee!' to all passers by and seeing them grin back at you as they struggled home with their wares or farm equipment from ahard day at work. I can;t excplain but it was just brilliant! I guess we can't claimto have 'cycled' it excatly, but we covered the 11km back in about half hour.

We got back, our wobbly legs only just making it into the chair (the last bit was uphill again... so unfit), and had another soothing beer laos. By half 8, we were pretty much ready for bed. Well deserved!

Hope that blog wasn't gibberish (well, imcomprehensible gibberish)... i did start it a few weeks ago! And of course i'm not gonna read it through... that would ruin its 'charm'. xx


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