Friday, March 26, 2010

Luang Nam Tha - Logistics Frustrations

In which Mary and Josh attempt to sign up for a trek...

Upon leaving our hotel in the morning, we discovered that we were actually at the regional bus station 10km outside of town. Upon checking out, we discovered that there were no tuk-tuks, minibuses, or any other forms of transportation for hire at the bus station. Yeah, seriously.

So we started walking. It's incredibly pleasant here, maybe 70 degrees, so we figured we could probably walk the whole way if needed, but we figured we could probably also flag down a minibus. And after a bit, we did. It was very full of people and their stuff, but they made room for us. We passed quaint villages and beautiful jungle. In the distance were misty hill. Along the road were animals and sewage. It reminded us a little bit of India. Not really like India, but more like India than Thailand. It also seemed more like what we were expecting of Southeast Asia than Thailand has so far.

We looked at lots of guesthouses in the New Town, and broke down and checked in to one before getting to what turned out to be down town (and before finding the only one in town with free wifi). Then we went looking to book a trek.

It seems that there are a dozen or so agencies in town that do the same exact treks (we think the treks they can offer are defined by the government). Trek cost depends on the number of people who sign up, from outrageously expensive for 1-2 people, down to just pretty expensive for 4, or about what we were expecting for 6. Each outfitter had a whiteboard outside saying how many people were signed up so far for each trek (at their facility). Trouble was, there weren't many tourists in town for trekking (never thought I'd complain of that). There were two 2-day options each with 2 people so far, and we added ourselves to the more interesting one. Another couple signed up after us. But then it seems that those initial two couples had booked on the internet and ended up canceling at the last minute. The other couple on our hike didn't want to pay the 4-person rate, and we didn't want to pay the 2-person rate. So, the whole trip was cancelled. There was also a group of 4 doing a 3-day trek and cycle that didn't look that interesting to us and was longer than we wanted. So after spending most of the day waiting around, we have no trek.

But we decided that was okay because we'd since found a nice map and read recommendations for stuff to do by bike or motorcycle in the area. So we will do that instead. If we follow the 40km speed limit and wear helmets, motorcycling wont be that dangerous, right?

And today wasn't a total waste. We went to the museum where we saw traditional tribal clothing, saw some big ceremonial bronze drums, saw some looms, and learned that the women are not (at least traditionally) allowed to learn to read and write for religious reasons. Also read about how the women never seem to tire of working and how the men never seem to tire of watching them work. As one might imagine, this prompted a lively discussion between us, starting with Josh being pissed off at how it always seems (and we've seen some pretty scholarly sources for this) that in traditional cultures men are so often such a drag: often holding a great deal of power over the women, and not even coming close to pulling their own weight with the work. This lead to further discussion of the merits of preserving traditional cultures through isolation, vs. letting them learn that things can be different (be it technology, education, higher status of women, etc). Which seems to almost invariably lead to cultures being homogenized and lost.

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

There were pretty flowers outside the museum. The orange berries are on the same bush as the purple flowers.

From Drop Box

After that, we decided we wanted to get on the internet, so we went to check out the guesthouse advertising free wifi. They were full, but we made a reservation for after our trek (changed to tomorrow night upon trek cancellation), and they agreed to give us the wifi password and let us hang out in the hotel courtyard, where we also played some cards and got a glowing recommendation for the restaurant next door from another tourist. Went there for dinner, and it was fantastic, definitely among the best of our trip. It's Minority Restaurant, for reference. And have you ever seen such intricate carrot flowers?

From Drop Box

From Drop Box

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