I've just put up a blog entry regarding my experiences of the last two days trekking in the Nam Ha NPA in northern Laos. Excuse any typos, I've a sprained wrist!
You can read the blog entry here
Comments, as always, are welcome!
Sounds like you put the best face possible on a not so fantastic trek.
It's too bad your guide didn't facilitate conversation. His language, Tai Lue, is the lingua franca for the entire region, everyone can speak some to one degree or another. Most older Akha males can carry on detailed conversations in Lue.
That guy who was instrumental in establishing Luang Namtha as a center of trekking mentioned communication and the wish to make a connection as one of the most vexing problems in the trekking experience. Your local guide, was probably an ethnic minority, that's part of the reason they are hired is to help bridge the gap. There are other ways also to attempt to facilitate an exchange which the guide should have initiated. Many of the techniques are those worked out by the Thai programs where many Lao guides have gone for training.
I like to go alone despite the added cost. Most upland villages are of only one ethnicity, and one falang and one Tai Lue wandering in is not so different from a couple of Hmong guys wandering in, or a couple of Kamu soldiers from the government as also sometimes happens.
Thanks for the enjoyable read, I've been following and learning about twitter also. If this is how guidebooks were written I'd buy one in a heartbeat. I liked the part about people insisting LP was paid off, too funny.
Interesting report. Its a real shame that there was no possibility of communication between the group and the villagers. I found this aspect of my trek to be the most rewarding. We could ask our guide questions and, if he didn't know, he could find out the answer. We were also fed snippets of conversation by the guide when there was some joking going on or something relevant to what he had told us etc
This was especially helpful as it was teachers day when we were staying in the village; everyone was ruinously drunk and had no fears about giving us some lighthearted abuse about our lack of stomach for lao-lao. In the morning, after breakfast, one guy said "the foreigners, they eat so little rice i don't know how they stand" which everyone found pretty funny - including us, thanks to translation!