February 25, 2007

191206 Luang Namtha morning market

First of many beautiful but cold misty mornings to come:


In Chiang Khong, the slider of the zipper on the cat's thickest jacket broke. Great start to a trip that would run right smack into a cold wave sweeping across the mountains of North Lao. Faithful old ~SGD50 jacket was bought way back in 1999 & still going strong after the cold + wind + snow + hail + ice + rain + mountains + rocks in national parks & forests of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Mt Lassen, Mt Shasta, Tasmania, Nikko, Kyoto, Chiangrai & Mt Kinabalu...until hours before entering Lao!

But just as well, since Lao is a place where people know how to extend the shelf life of any non-living thing by several incarnations. Lacking the wasteful buy-use-&-throw culture of developed nations, everything from buses to bomb casings are repaired, reused & finally recycled when beyond repair. & so the cat was off to the market to hunt for a new zipper slider...

Luang Namtha market from balcony of Keosouphone guesthouse:


Big fat white-roofed structure at upper right houses the 'dry goods' section - everything from cooking oil to clothes to (not sure if legal) currency exchange (stacks & stacks of kip in glass cabinets) to chalk (for writing).

Songthaew central:


Fresh produce section:


Vegetables section with plenty of Akha & other hilltribe ladies selling rattan stems with all thorns intact:


To the cat, rattan has always been something to sit on (chairs, mats), to carry (baskets), to avoid while trekking in jungles (thorns), & to avoid when parents are angry (cane). Never knew that the insides could be eaten!

Nice to be able to walk through here without attracting any attention, unlike Caucasian tourists who tower head & shoulders (sometimes even elbows) above everyone else & stand out with their different hair colour, hairstyles (no local has dreadlocks =P), features & dressing. But the cat had to keep its camera well-hidden, sometimes literally 'shooting from the hip' (something that luthien also does), hence many photos with poor focus, exposure, etc.

Meat section, where you can buy buffalo/pig face (skin + intact whiskers & eyelashes), on top of the usual meat + bones, organs, entrails, fresh or coagulated blood, skin (for making แจ่วบอง jaew bong), ears, etc:


Catfood section - fish:


Netted in the Nam Tha river & transported here in open basins tied to the back of motorcycles & bicycles - amazing how the basins get here with so much water still left inside!

After a bit of asking around, the cat was directed to the 'repairs section', 3 tables beneath a makeshift shelter, each specialising in a different category of repairs - footwear, watches & clothing. One quick look at the slider-less zipper & they knew exactly what to do...but then the workhorse of the clothing repair stall, the sewing machine, was itself under repair - what irony =P No problem, as the girl turned around & hauled another sewing machine out from a wooden crate behind her. 5 minutes, 3000 kip & plenty of free smiles later, the cat's jacket was reincarnated & ready to last for the rest of the cat's 9 lives =)

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