Luang Nam Tha
The local bus takes us to Luang Nam Tha, sans air con but boasting sliding windows that have to be pushed back open after every jolt over the dirt road. The bus guide, wearing a yellow Laos football shirt, asks me about my book and tells me he wants to watch football. I wonder if he means on t.v. or in a stadium. I share my sugary fried coconut. For half an hour in the stifling heat. It launches over potholes and my bum leaves the seat on several occasions, returning with a jolt to my coccyx. I feel that the fresher air, with the smells of wild flowers and mint is even more welcome than usual.
This is a huge market and has enough trinkets and trifles to keep even the least enthusiastic shopper engrossed. From locally made handicrafts, jewelry, lanterns, textiles, clothing, quilts, statues, housewares, and more, you can spend hours floating from shop to shop. Buying is merely one of the things to do here. Just walking around the market, lit up at night with a medley of sounds, smells and sights is an experience unto itself. To make sure your experience doesn't turn awry, carry along your hotel's business card so that a tuk-tuk or taxi driver can understand where you want to go to. Walking around, trying to find your hotel in the dark, though an adventure in its own right can be vaguely unsettling.