Tag Archives: luang nam tha

The Good Life?

18 Jun

Four year old Hmong girl holds a handbag, Luang Namtha province, Northern Laos.

The handbag is for pleasure. The bracelet for good health.

This is Sing’s eldest daughter, showing off her handbag outside the house her father built.

Her name means “Be Loved”. Be Loved’s younger sister is called “Be Happy” and the baby’s name means “General”. Appropriately since, like many youngest children, she isn’t shy about asserting her needs.

Sing chose his daughters’ names before he was married — late for Laos, at twenty-eight. His wife and he were working in business administration in Vientiane, the capital, when mutual friends set them up on a blind date. On their second date, five years ago, they married.

Their eldest is four and a bit. You do the maths. Continue reading

On Books

15 Jun

Back in Udomxay, the construction town in northern Laos where our two-day odyssey from Vietnam reached a natural close, we met a crazy Canadian chap with an Irish accent and a Beer Lao can seemingly stapled twixt thumb and forefinger. Not so much met as, perhaps, attracted.

Charming chap. Pushing 70. Thoroughly pickled 24-7. And found in me, yikes, a kindred spirit.

Having travelled extensively with his own nipper, when the boy (now my age) was eight (roughly junior’s age), he had uncharitable things to say about my backpack. Particularly, the size thereof.

Now, to a degree, I second that emotion. Although, in our defense, I will say that I have only one pack, which goes on my back, rather than the “pregnant” two-pack look (one front, one back) so popular among our Nordic friends. Continue reading

A Rainy Season Odyssey

14 Jun

clouds descend over mountain gorge with waterfall visible in distance. Sapa, Vietnam.

View from a bus window #1. Mist, mountains and waterfalls, near Sapa, Vietnam.

The start of the monsoon season in Vietnam’s northern highlands is a beautiful thing.

The rivers turn turbid and golden, rapids smearing the surface like toffee coming to the boil; young rice seedlings and their older siblings stipple paddy terraces in varying greens; waterfalls appear everywhere you look.

Old women from the hill tribes carry leaves for making hats, sporting bright wellies over their leggings. Fireflies switch on their mating lights at night. Dramatic storms with sheet lightning pass over, sky darkening like a giant’s hand cast over the sun and after the rain, the earth has a rich, deep scent of settled soil and teeming life.

The nine-year-old was looking forward to our first proper rainy season journey. As he put it, “We might as well stay up all night. I’ve always wanted to stay up all night, and I’ve never done it. The bus the next day leaves so early we might as well… Plus, we’ll save sooo much money on the hotel room…” Continue reading