The fascinating Lahu Tribe village near Luang Namtha in northernmost Laos offers an unforgettable trekking experience…
Where is the Lahu Tribe Village?
As the northernmost town in Laos and almost touching the border with China, rural Luang Namtha is where to book treks to the gorgeous surrounding region.
The Lahu Tribe Village sits atop a mountain an hour’s drive and a day’s difficult trek away from Luang Namtha.
Check my post on Day 1 of the amazing but arduous trek to the Lahu Village, which saw fabulous sunny weather for the ascent to the village.
Also check my post on Lazing in Luang Namtha for where to eat and sleep while in Namtha, before setting out on your trek.
Lahu Village Drinking session
Tonight, there is a celebration in one of the huts. Patiently, we wait for the sun to disappear and pitch darkness to envelop the day, before venturing to the hut with only oil and solar lanterns. The village does not have any electricity or running water.
Our guide Kong mentions the party is in honour because the village sold us a chicken to eat. This is quite weird as we never ate any chicken during our stay in the village. Anyway, the locals bought some Lao Lao (whisky) from the town below and we are invited – yes, they trekked down the mountain 1,300-metres and back up again carrying whisky.
Feeling a little awkward on entering the dimly lit party hut, swirls of heavy smoke fill the air.
The men sit on tiny footstools around a short table drinking shots while eating.
Offered some food from the centre of the table, which is very kind as these villagers don’t have a lot to eat, we politely decline, but also because we just devoured our dinner back at The Lodge. Although declining, is something I’m not comfortable doing in any country that I’m visiting for fear of offending the hospitality.
Local music plays in the background as the party becomes louder and one of the villagers offers us Lao whisky. The throat-burning clear liquid tastes awful but we happily drink away while smiling and feigning enjoyment, so as not to appear rude.
A few guys are sprawled out on a bed and look quite comatose but not from alcohol.
The women huddle together in another corner of the hut not participating but watching everything eagerly as does the village Elder. It appears that the women’s job is to replenish the men’s table with sticky rice and soup when required. Sometimes this is done as a result of a male waving his hand and pointing to a bowl, sometimes the woman does this intuitively.
Wanting the villagers to enjoy the spoils (slim pickings really) on their own, we stay for only an hour and head back to our dark Lodge.
Such a bizarre and surreal experience but very kind of the villagers to invite us and to share their scarce food and alcohol.
I still cannot believe someone trekked down the mountain and back for only a five-litre bottle of alcohol – Kong advised that food wasn’t purchased on that trip. And also explains that if it rains here, the villagers just sit indoors and don’t venture out much to forage for food, or anything else until the rain stops. A supply of pounded rice is kept in the huts so locals don’t have to trek up and down the mountain daily. I’m sure I would go crazy!
Day 2 – The trek down
The relentless torrential rain throughout the night during this wet season doesn’t clear by the following morning. Nor does it stop in time for the trek down after breakfast. During the sodden night, the hut did leak although nothing too drastic.
After saying goodbye for one last time to our gorgeous visitors, head off on the return trek.
The hike back down the mountain is definitely much harder. Maybe this is because every step taken ends in either ankle-deep mud or helps to slide you down the track even further. Trudging in the rain with sodden trekking boots and clothes through thick mud is not fun – everything is super slippery.
As it is raining so much and we need to make it down the mountain today, along the way, Kong decides to take another route as the previous ascent route proves too dangerous. The new route seems as though the non-existent path is less frequented by humans. Plodding through thick undergrowth, occasionally machetes are used to clear an opening or the nasty thorn-like branches, which catch and tear any exposed part of your body.
After around three hard and uncomfortable hours of trekking down the mountain in the wet and muddy conditions, happy to finally arrive at a clearing in the village of Ban Tapong. This village is larger – albeit still small – than the village of Ban Sing, where the trek started.
A well-earned stop with a lovely lunch of sticky rice, garlic stir-fried broccoli, and delicious stir-fried Morning Glory with a hint of ginger, served at a real table. Kong and our porter prepared these delicacies over the open smoky fire at breakfast time back in the Lahu Village, then carried everything down the mountain. Only the sticky rice is purchased from locals in Ban Tapong village today. Kong and the porter are amazing and so well-organised – totally impressed.
After lunch, Kong shows us through Tapong and explains everything that the locals work on as everything is handmade by the villagers using traditional methods from centuries ago.
Tapong is a much larger village, which also has a Primary school but the locals are actually busy working, whether it is weaving, blacksmithing, or otherwise. The government assists this village, but can’t assist the Lahu village as it is too high up on the mountain, so the villagers of Lahu are completely on their own. A weird set-up.
A very different mentality in Tapong to the Lahu Village at the top of the mountain where if it rains, the locals just stay indoors until the rain stops. Kong can’t understand why the Lahu locals won’t even venture out looking for or collecting food, instead, would rather just kill a chicken and stay indoors.
Returning to Luang Namtha
The same Songthaew from yesterday morning collects us for the cold and wet ride back to Luang Namtha, although it feels as though a week has passed since we saw the driver – not just two days. Venturing on a long loop around the rice fields to absorb the breath-taking scenery one more time…what a fantastic and memorable experience, and well worth the price!
Worth trekking to the Lahu Village?
Yes, definitely as the experience is both confronting and fascinating. The Lahu people are warm and hospitable, but the inquisitive children are adorable – very humbling.
As this is the wet season and experienced torrential rain during the night and while trekking today, the two days are definitely enough for this trek. A longer trek would be more comfortable during the dry season. Depending on the available tour, you trek to more isolated villages or further into the jungle during the dry season.
Luckily, we brought along our super warm sleeping bags, which are devoid of fleas as I’ve had too many bad sleepless nights from fleas, bedbugs, and other hungry insects knawing at my body.
Check Part 1 for the start of the trek from Luang Namtha, the ascent of the mountain, and also how to organise the trek.