Nam Ha hill tribe trekkingTuesday, 10 March 2009
My final Laotian excursion was a three day walk into the Nam Ha NPA (National Protected Area) with the TV crew from Lonely Planet’s Roads Less Travelled. I was working on the Laos segment of a new series we’ll be releasing later this year.
From Luang Nam Tha, the main jumping off point for the park, we dived into the forest and at the end of our first day’s walk arrived at the Akha village of Ban Nam Lai. I decided the village was Old McDonald’s Farm, gone feral. It seemed to be overrun by pigs, ducks and chickens, all of them falling over each other. It was also a hotbed for local enterprise, everybody seemed to be spinning something, weaving something, husking something, pounding something or building something.
It was the ‘love huts’ which really caught my attention. ‘What are the little houses on stilts,’ I asked Boonsai, our walk guide. ‘Love huts,’ he replied and went on to explain how young Akha men can move out of the family home when they’re around 15 years of age and construct themselves a love hut. They can then invite young Akha women to join them for whatever two young Akhas might get up to in a love hut. Not much different from inviting somebody up to look at the plasma television in the penthouse suite I thought, although when I asked a young man if I could have a look inside his love hut there wasn’t much more than a mattress and a quilt and I don’t think his mother had checked he’d made it for a few days.
Day two of our walk took us through a wonderful forest, all soaring trees, creeping vines and creaking bamboo.
That night was spent at the Lanten village of Ban Nam Koy where we saw local paper being produced by pulping bamboo and mixing it with a glue-like liquid produced from soaking a root.
bamboo paper production
The pleasant surprise of this walk was how well we ate, particularly at lunchtime where an assortment of local foods, accompanied as ever in Laos by sticky rice, was appetisingly spread out on banana leaves and eaten with our fingers or natural chopsticks, produced by simply cutting up a green stalk into chopstick length segments.