Debra and I wanted to say thanks once again for making our visit to Luang Namtha and The Boat Landing so special. We've added you to our email list so that we can keep in touch. Checkout our pictures and tales from Laos at http://www.debraandkevin.com Thanksgiving at the Boat Landing: http://www.debraandkevin.com/week15.html Debra & Kevin
Our week stay at The Boat Landing GH was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Everyone was so friendly and we had the time of our lives on the 2-day trek we took. We'll be sure to stop by again on our next trip to Laos and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, good food, and terrific people. Scotty
Our trip to Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Muang Long, and trek north was the highlight of our year in Laos. The Boat Landing was home base and we couldn't have done it without the advice, guidance, handholding and good company given freely by Bill, Pawn, Joy, and Liam. (Not to mention the solar shower, which was desperately needed after three days trekking in the mountain cold!) Joy is an amazing cook, a surprise treasure in this remote region of Laos. There was no better way to ring in the New Year than sharing her barbeque with all of you at the Boat Landing on the banks of the Namtha. Our highest praises and a strong recommendation to all who have not yet experienced the fun... Brian and Kristine Bramson
On February 17 and 18 I went on the two day/one night trekking, accompanied by 4 other foreigners. Our guides were Sert and Moo. They were excellent. The trek itself was great. The villages were interesting and the scenery was absolutely stunning. I've done 6 different treks in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son provinces in Thailand but this trekking was absolutely one of the best. The guides took good care of us. The Boat Landing Guest House has obviously the best rooms available in Luang Namtha. Frans Betgem
The lodge was great, and the food was fantastic, the best of our entire trip. The trekking was perfect as well. Bryan della Santina
Here is Erick and Kathleen, some cyclists who you let sleep on the porch of one of your beautiful buildings at the Boat Landing. Then you made a great map of the river with the boatmen for us, which we used to navigate the river starting at Na Le. We still remember your wonderful hospitality, and miss the great food at the restaurant. So, we did the trip in two full days and one morning of fairly continuous paddling. The rapids overall were not difficult, but it is by no means a beginners trip! The challenge for us were two things that will be new to any person used to paddling a self-bailing raftone that taking in water is a serious concern, the other that small rocks are a big deal! After one rapid we were pretty well full of water because we didnt avoid the main wave train, which is the best thing to do in a self-bailer or a kayak. Luckily we didnt hit any rocks, but that would have been terminal. I guess one other thing that should be said: the main problem wasnt the rapids, it was the long stretches of water where there weren't any! Especially in the lower river, the water often ground to what seemed a complete halt. Buying the boat: the first boat that the boatmen showed us was in our opinion unfit for taking down the river, especially with the bikes! So, then they showed us another, which was much better and which cost us 540,000 kip, down from the initial offer of 740,000. (BTW, not sure what the dollar is doing now, but then it was 8,000 kip to the dollar.) I am sure that we received the faalang rate, but no matter, because we got so much help from your friends. So, it was a beautiful boat, nice and big and long. Blue, plenty big to stay afloat with all of our bikes. The story goes, your friends took us to their village (Ban Kone Kham), where we were hosted very well. We shopped boats and took off early. We expected a lot of bad rapids that day, but had no big troubles (well, lost the straw cover). We stayed with Dr. Singkam, as you recommended. A huge town for its accessibility it seemed. The next day (number two paddling) slowed down quite a bit. We actually loved the views that came with the flat water very much. This day was a long and peaceful one. We kept on moving, thinking that Pak Tha might be near. But we make it to Ban Hat Lee Liap as darkness falls, and as we expect big rapids ahead, we stop. Again, we are hosted well. The third day we leave very early, and paddle only about one hour to Pak Tha. We just paddle quickly into the Mekong for a peek at the river we have been pulled to for the past few days. Selling the boat ended up being not too difficult. We met a speed boat driver who bought the the boat for 800 baht. Even though we didn't exactly come out even, we figure that we did pretty well, considering the incredible experience on that stretch, sitting and observing all day, at our speed, with almost perfect silence. After this, we headed straight for Bangkok's bustle and then some time on Ko Chang. So, thank you again, to you and the boatmen who helped us out. We definitely could not have done it without you, and it was the highlight of our trip, though I wouldn't give up the biking. If in Laos again, we will see you or the wonderful place you have made again. kathleen and Erick
When we planned our journey through Laos we accidentally found your Internet site. We have found it very interesting and detailed. We traveled down the Namtha River from Nalae to Pak Tha. Your Internet site was of much help for us. Without your information we wouldn’t have done this trip because we wouldn’t have known about this possibility!
This was a wonderful trip through beautiful nature, mostly friendly and helpful people thank you; we really enjoyed this trip! Silke & Martin
.....We are trekking on sometimes adventurous paths through the jungle, balancing over narrow wooden shelves or trunks over streams and are crossing rivulets hopping from stone to stone. After some hours walking through the jungle we arrive at our first village, an Akha village. This one already realizes when coming through the village’s ‘spirit gate’ standing half a kilometer in front of the village and preventing the village from bad spirits. Therefore a fur of a dog was put on it and many stars out of bamboo were fixed at it. Nobody is allowed to touch the spirit gate because the good spirits would get angry! Already here it is obvious that we have left the Buddhism and are now in animist religion. The Akhas are well known for their huge rule system e.g. it is not allowed to break branches from a tree inside an Akha village (it bothers the good spirits) etc. Toilets are unknown here, when the necessity occurs one looks for a quiet place in the forest. The water supply consists out of two wells close to the village. We expected there clear water coming out of the ground, but actually they are rather two small tarns which give now in the height of the dry season not much water. When we went for ‘taking a shower’ in the afternoon one well was already finished, in the other tarn was still some water. In sight of the not so clear water we thought ‘is this taken for cooking and drinking?’ Yes, it is, there is nothing else, but for us it will be boiled. For taking a shower a bucket of water is taken out of the tarn and the water is then poured with a scoop over the body. Men are allowed to take off their clothes except their underpants, women have to wear a sarong covering the body from the breast to the knees. Jackie and Silke preferred bathing with their clothes on since the handling of a sarong is not so easy if you are not used to it.
We sleep in the house of the teacher. The houses of the Akha are made out of wood and bamboo and are standing on poles. The leftovers of the meals and waste are dropped through holes and chinks in the floor where dogs, chicken and pigs immediately pitch into it. When the Akhas have guests many villagers come together in the house where the guests stay. Together they chat, laugh, eat, eat and drink Lao Laau (strong rice booze). The guests then traditionally get a massage by the young women of the village! Everybody is massaged by a couple of women together. We enjoyed it! For villages that can only be reached by hours of walking through the jungle a really sensible tradition!
The next morning we continue our trekking to a second Akha village. People of the village we stayed previously have founded it 11 years ago. When the villages get bigger and bigger the distances to the rice paddies get longer and longer. This lasts so long until eventually a part of the families found a new village in the vicinity. The new village is now located in a near distance to a stream. Here bathing is simpler: we just sit into it. Here we too have a look through the village and where we are invited for dinner. Amongst others we are served a vegetable dish made from banana flowers - very tasty - and of course lots of Lao Laau. After this we again enjoy a massage! On the third day we walk back to Luang Namtha through beautiful jungle with trees up to 500 years old. This trek we enjoyed so much that we decided to do two more offered by Nam Ha. In the next days this is not possible because Lao New Year ‘Pi Mai Lao’ is coming and everything in Laos is closing.
Back in Luang Namtha we do the one-day-trek. Here we visited a Hmong and a Red Thai Village. In the Hmong village we again come in touch with another culture: the houses are on the ground and are not standing on poles, have no windows but instead always two doors.
At lunch we had actually to get to know new things again. Silkworms and seaweed from the Namtha River were part of our meal. Seaweed was okay but the silkworms we didn’t like much. By the way, the silkworms have already done their job, only after they are finished with their cocoons they go into the pot.
When we reach the Red Thai village they are still hilariously celebrating PiMai. Rockets are fixed at the end of long bamboo poles and are fired off from a ca. 5-meter high racket specially built for this event. Whose rocket flies farthest is the hero of the day. The whole thing is of course celebrated with lots of Lao Laau. Many villagers come with the bottle to us and want to drink Lao Laau cheer with us, But in the heat of the noon those afflict us and we decide to escape. This ‘Nam Ha’-Trek we again enjoyed highly.
Three days later we started our last trek: the two-day-trek. This time we are eight tourists accompanied by two guides. Again we saw and learned much when visiting Khmu and Lanten villages but we cannot describe all of our experiences, this would simply go beyond the scope of an email.
We are happy having returned to Laos; no doubt the Nam Ha treks were absolutely worth it! Now we have done everything in Luang Namtha we wanted - and it was fantastic!
..........In Nalae we set ourselves a deadline of three days waiting for a boat, because there is nothing to do in this little village. During the day we estimate our chances rather low because we can not get out anything, but already in the evening our mood gets better: people say tomorrow a boat will go at least down to Ban Mo.
At the next morning we really board a boat. The well-equipped boats are about 10 meters long, 1 meter wide, made out of wood, have an engine and have amazingly low draft. Already 20 to 30 centimeters deep water are enough and if it is less it is still not too bad, the boat is just hopping a bit when touching the ground. Only for the ship's screw it is sometimes too low, it gets broken. When we stop for the first time and watch the skipper repairing the screw we think: 'oops, now we have a problem, what are we doing now?' But by the time one gets used to the repairing stops on water as to the ones' on the pothole-roads.
We enjoy driving along phantasmagoric nature, finally we can travel without having the red dust crept into every pore! The landscape indescribably beautiful, as we haven't seen before! Old pristine forests, where a human hand has never changed anything and have therefore unbelievable varieties of plants and trees. We watch colored birds and lots of colorful and big butterflies. Never before we have seen them so numerous and beautiful! Shortly before Ban Mo a snake is wriggling in the water. Our boatman stop the engine hit with a rudder at the snake to numb it and take it into the boat. Our boatman kill it, the snake is now probably on the way to the cooking pot. When we are told that the snake is poisonous Martins comment makes me laugh: 'I think swimming in the river won't make so much fun for me from now on.'
Arrived in Ban Mo we were led to a family were we can spend the night, in those remote villages there are no more guesthouses! When we later go with our toiletries to the river we are surprised: there is a market in this small village! The stalls are full of goods and many buyers come obviously from the mountains of the vicinity. Some can reach Ban Mo on foot others have to use the waterway, many boats have already docked. The sellers arrive at Ban Mo the same way. Not before we arrive in Thailand we will know how lucky we are - this market is just once a month! We go through the market to the river. The market is an attraction for us, but the attraction of the market are WE! When we go through the market, people watch us, here and there even a lane is formed, they call other's attention to us and some watch us with an open mouth. We have really the impression that many here have never seen any tourist. When we eventually take our bath in the river, people gather on the bank for watching us. I (Martin) count the people, when reaching 30 I stop counting! For us the local way of bathing in the river is still unusual, being observed thereby gives us a strange feeling. But we know that the people don't care for how we soap ourselves below the clothes, they do this themselves every day, they just want to look at us because we are so strange for them. This you have to bring in mind when standing there, soaping yourself and being observed carefully with every move. Well, we wanted to be where there are no tourists - exactly there we are! Laos untouristy - here it is! After bathing we stroll through the market, we too have a lot to marvel and to look at! A boy comes with a huge lizard from the forest, its 'hands' and 'feet' are in bonds. It's an exotic food he has to sell. The women smoke long-stemmed silver pipes when sitting together for a chat.
The next morning we are lucky again finding a boat. A Lao-American has chartered it, he will travel to the border town Houay Sai, but we want to get off earlier, in Ban Peng, a village recommended in our internet site. When going to the boat we meet 'Hjam', the Lao-American. Around him lots of people have clustered, we cannot recognize him when he is surrounded by the villagers, because he is looking like a Lao, of course. 'I am the only one who speaks English here' he is calling to us. Curious we go to him and he tells us that he has spent his holidays together with his family in a village that can be reached from Ban Mo by walking. Hjam escaped at the age of thirteen with his uncle via Thailand to the USA. With his big camcorder and his photocamera hanging round his neck he is standing like an American surrounded by the people. During the boat ride we talk to him and what interests us most: would he like to live again in Laos? He says many people have asked him this question, but what shall he do, he doesn't want to become a farmer, but in this area there are no other jobs. San Francisco/America and Ban Mo/Laos - it couldn't be more different.
...... So we have been sitting for three hours at the river when we hear the sound of engines from the headwater! A boat is coming! Will they take us with them?! We jump up and wave: the boat stops. At the second view we realize that this is a cattle transport: in the boat are lying two shackled cows!! Bless my heart, what else do they transport in those boats! Before we saw this we would have thought this is impossible! We negotiate about the price not knowing where we are going to sit between all the cows, cargo and the boatman's family!
We drive along stunning nature and we see how to maneuver with cows in the boat over rapids! Suddenly the man at the bow spots a big fish in the water, he almost jumps into the water but it's too late for him. So he calls it to his brother at the stern who reacts immediately, jumps into the water and emerges with the fish! We are amazed how he caught this big fish just with his hands! Wow! Everybody is looking to him and shares his happiness, but no one looks where to the boat goes! The boat takes course towards the rocks at the bank!!! The man at the bow tries to change the course with his long bamboo pole, but it soon gets obvious that it’s too late. We already see ourselves striking against the rocks when he spots a sandy niche between two rocks, jumps out of the boat and pushes it with his hands towards the niche. Grinding we run aground on the sand. Pfffff!!! Everybody is relieved! Together we pull the boat back into the water.
Eventually, after eight hours in the boat we reach the confluence of Namtha and Mekong. Here lies the town Pak Tha. All boatmen we had so far were really top! Driving down the river with so low water needs a lot of experience and sure instinct. From here we can take a big passenger ship or a cargo ship for the remaining part to the border town Houay Sai. In Pak Tha we spend the night and on the next day we take a big cargo ship to Houay Sai. There we make it at 17:57 over the border to Thailand, three minutes before it’s closed. Silke + Martin
Our stay at the Boat Landing started out with a walk from the airport to the property. We asked how to get to the Boat Landing and were told it was a short walk down the road. Well, it was a hot long walk with luggage, I bet the people thought we were two silly (mature) ladies. We did get a ride back to the airport on the return. We were very happy with our time there and will never forget the good feelings we have about the people. It is difficult to explain, it was peaceful, the people are gentle, the scenery is so nice. It can be difficult to explain what you want to do sometimes because of the language, but we did go on our boat ride, we did get a pickup truck and driver to go to Muang Sing. One morning we got up very early and had a ride to the early market in Luang Nam Tha, we were dropped off at the wrong market, but we finally asked someone that could give us directions. But all these things make for a memorable trip. The road to Muang Sing is something we will never forget. It is all we expected and more.
Oh by the way the ladder down to the boat is quite interesting. I'm a sailor so I didn't have any trouble. The little children are so beautiful to watch in there class at the Boat Landing. Thank You for all your help. I will always remember the wonderful people. Jeanne Power
I had a fantastic time at The Boat Landing and Luang Namtha in general. The place was a beautiful retreat and the food first class. From my point of view I was very lucky indeed with the weather although realized pretty quickly that 8 hours sunshine per day at this time of year is perilous locally. Although I travelled extensively in Laos after leaving nothing really beat my stay up North. All best wishes to the team Ian Stones