Trekking in Phongsali Province

Right: Proud Phu Noi father

Trekking was a clear priority for Patrick and I and as we were sitting around wondering how we would go about finding a guide, the guide found us. Consequently we organized a three day trek into the far north staying overnight in some hill tribe villages. There was quite a bit of hiking involved as we basically sqeezed a four day trek into three. Our guide reckoned we were up to it, and it turned out to be a great walk. As we passed through the villages the villagers very courteously filled our drink bottles with tea. The highest villages were Akha while those lower down were Phu Noi (our guide's tribe). This was not trekking like I've experienced in Thailand and other countries, these folk clearly were not in frequent contact with white skinned people. The kids in the second Akha village we got to looked at us like we'd just got off a space ship.

Phu Noi family
Phu Noi mother

Left: She who must be obeyed

We rolled into a Phu Noi village towards the end of the first day. One bloke who met us going in took a great interest, and when I showed him what my digital camera could do invited his whole family over to get portraits. A few of the village's maidens gathered around to check us out as we rested on the porch of our accomodation. I hoped to get a picture or two as they were quite comely lasses, but Patrick scared them off when he ripped off his bloody leech-ridden socks and whipped out his camera for a souvenir photo. You can't get every shot I suppose.

The next day we were individually ferried across the river on bamboo rafts. The river was high and I crossed with some trepidation, fearing greatly for my recently acquired digital camera. Fortunately we crossed without incident. It was a fairly arduous four hour trek back to higher elevations. We were under constant attack from leeches.

My companion Patrick was a nice enough even tempered young bloke, though at the same time a consumate complainer. I lost my rag at him at one point for disturbing my reveries with his remonstrations over the leeches and mud. He took it on the chin but thankfully he was quiet for a few hours. Me? I was off with Gandalf and the Elves! We passed through one Akha village and on to another, about an hour further along. We stayed in the chief's home and he was very accomodating putting on a pretty decent meal and plying us with laolao (a fairly potent rice whiskey).

Below: Akha Village, Phongsali Province

Akha VillageAkha Village