Fortified by the green curry from the night before I said to John: I’ll come for a bike ride with you.
That isn’t as adventurous as it might sound, Luang Namtha is delightfully flat. But I came up with this scheme a little late in the day if I wanted to rent a suitable bike.
You see when it comes to bikes they don’t make many for people my size. It’s not that I’m fussy. I just expect to touch the ground with the tip of my toes when sitting on the seat – something most of the biking population takes for granted. There were no mountain bikes left that met this simple requirement. But, luckily, there was one very dignified lady’s street bike. It was the sort of bike that made me wish I’d packed a frock. Nevertheless, a bike is a bike. It had wheels and brakes and for 10,000 kip ($1.60) I thought I could go anywhere.
Remember my photo of a typical road back in Muang Khua? A couple of blocks from the centre of Luang Namtha the roads were the same – dusty, rutted, and stony – and my bike wasn’t up to the job.
But not to worry, there was plenty to explore and explore we did, somehow managing to find the only hill in all of Luang Namtha. Near the top we left the bikes and wandered up some steps that led us to Wat Samakyxay. Builders are still working on it.
A bit further up the hill, near a rubber plantation, we came to a Stupa that’s being renovated.
These guardians welcomed us.
In case you’re wondering, a Stupa is a spiritual monument in the Buddhist tradition. It usually contains relics and is built to particular specifications which represent Buddha’s path to Enlightenment. Wat Samakyxay and the Stupa, That Luang Namtha, replace earlier versions which were destroyed or fell into disrepair as a result of the Second Indo-China war, known to us as the Vietnam war. (Like so many of the towns we’ve visited much of Luang Namtha was destroyed during the war.)
That Luang Namtha stands at the top of the hill looking down over the town. I took photo after photo, trying for the one shot that would do justice to such a significant monument.
Behind the Stupa was a reclining Buddha.
It was hot – the hottest day by far since we left Vang Vieng, back in early January. I did hear a loud buzzing in my ear as I took the photos but didn’t pay any heed. I hadn’t seen a mosquito for weeks – it had been much too cold for them.
But they love the heat. And that shirt I was wearing – the checked shirt which reminds me of pyjamas, and which is made from easy wash, quick dry fabric a certain store in New Zealand promotes for travellers, the shirt that is impregnated with Permethrin, the stuff mozzies don’t like, and which the label says remains effective for seventy washes, of which this shirt has had four, the shirt I chose because of these practical attributes, not because it’s my favourite fashion item – it let me down. It turns out Buzzguard isn’t any good once a mozzie is trapped between your skin and the fabric.
The initially greedy mozzie, and then trapped and panicked little buzzer, tried to bite its way out!
Some things I discovered:
- Any buzzing should be heeded
- Mozzie repellent shirts work best if buttoned to the neck – cuffs need to be buttoned, too.
- Always apply Deet insect repellent
Luckily for me I got to learn these lessons before we went in to the jungle! Because in the jungle the mozzies don’t come at you one at a time – they feed in swarms.