07 Jul - 10 Jul 2010 Phongsali

Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos)
Northern Laos 
Phongsali (c. 1,430 m above sea level)
Homsavang Village
Pinkham Douangaly Guest House +856203933345 anou_pts@yahoo.com
Clean twin room for only LAK 60,000.- or US$ 7.30 per night.

Click below for an interactive road map of the Pinkham Douangaly Guest House in Phongsali and for directions:

Stepping back in time and wandering through the medieval-looking lanes of Phongsali’s old quarter, where Tibeto-Burman speaking Phunoi grannies, wearing their traditional white leggings, sun themselves with one eye shut and the other on the lookout for free-range fowl, lest they pilfer the rice, soybeans and peppers left drying on mats by the roadside, and where Haw men, descendants of Yunnanese traders, wearing floppy trousers, lead horses down the broken cobblestone lanes, and relaxing afterwards over a bottle of lao-lao, the infamous green rice whisky (LAK 10,000.- or c. US$ 1.20 for a 0.8-litre plastic bottle) with the fire of a blinding Siberian moonshine.

Hiking up to the top of Phu Fa Mountain (c. 1,650 m above sea level) aka Sky Mountain and enjoying stimulating views onto Phongsali town and some interesting cash crops from the solitude of the white stupa.
“Opium makes you quick-witted; perhaps only because it calms the nerves and stills the emotions. Nothing, not even death, seems so important..."

Organising for ourselves a Green-day event: (i) hiring a bilious-green Chinese 125-cc Loncin underbone scooter for LAK 100,000.- or US$ 12.10 per full day from reliable Amazing Lao Travel + 85688210594 in order to explore the Akha hill-tribe villages which one enters through their distinctive bamboo archways with an talaew on top, a six-pointed Magen David made from grass and strips of bamboo, (ii) tasting the villagers' very potent chartreuse-green lao-lao rice whisky, and (iii) visiting a couple of Phunoi hill-tribe villages whose inhabitants grow tea in up to 400-year old plantations with tea trees higher than 5 metres, watching tree-climbing local women pick the precious pigment-green tea leaves and learning that the village Ban Komaen claims to have the oldest tea plantation in the world.

Taking a long-distance government bus, jam-packed even by Lao standards with a diversity of locals tribes and their enormous agricultural luggage, from Phongsali to the village of Pak Nam Noi (c. 170 km of a roller-coaster ride on a long and winding gravel road over an endless and steep mountain landscape, 7 hours, LAK 48,000.- or US$ 5.80 per person), watching en-route many Akha hill-tribe women carry firewood using ingeniously designed back-pack baskets fitted with a wooden yoke and head-strap to distribute the weight, and taking thereafter a local songthaew from Pak Nam Noi, the busy junction for Muang Khoua, Udom Xai and Phongsali, back to Muang Khoua (c. 40 km, 3 hours, LAK 12,000.- or c. US 1.45 per person).

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