After an entire day of mud-surfing our way through the jungle we finally reached our destination: aÂ large, remoteÂ Akha village deep in the middle of nowhere.Â And we arrived just in time. The entire village was gearing up for aÂ massive party. A party that could rival any full moon rage fest on any beach in South East Asia.Â The villageÂ was just wired withÂ electricty and this made everyone very, very excited. It was time to celebrate.
The village was in a state of mass preparation. Pigs, chickens and naked children ran around unattended while men stood at large caludrons, stirring bubbling vats of fatty meat. The women, some topless, watched from the windows of their houses. Even the little girls were in on the excitement. They huddled around small huts watching an Akha village dance on the brand new TV and practiced for their upcoming performance.
I joined in.
It seemed like the only people not getting ready were the village teenagers; they had something more important to prepare for -Â impressing each other.Â Akha peopleÂ have a very progressive way of encouraging reproduction.Â Every night teenage boys and girls meet at the designated ‘flirting area’Â to chat and get it on. The ‘get it on’ part is highly encouraged.Â Boys ofÂ ‘getting it on’ age build love shacks where they can wisk away theÂ girl (or boy) of their choice and enjoy aÂ sexy evening full of pre-marital baby making.
If a baby is made, the couple marry.Â If, after some time, there is no baby, the girl and boy break up and hit the loveshack with someone else.
In our Akha village there were dozens of love shacks, and the teenagers were clearly dressed to impress.
The next morning Vinnie and I started out early.Â The rest of our group was hesitant to explore the town but we wanted to mingle. Within minutes Vinnie and IÂ found ourselvesÂ at the village chief’s houseÂ right as he was sitting down for breakfast. He invited usÂ in.
Chief saw us deliberating andÂ took matters into his own hands. He spooned up a chunk of red meat, motioned for us to open our mouth and spooned it in.Â We chewed slowly, trying to process the texture, the flavor, the temperature of the meat. It was RAW.
It was at that moment when I noticed the giant skinned buffalo head in the corner of the room. We were eating him. RAW.
It was NOT a good idea to befriend the villagers.Â Just as the Lao-lao was wearing off, the party wasÂ starting toÂ begin; our new friends wanted to make sure that we had an amazing time.
The men who had spent the morningÂ cooking buffaloÂ and setting up for the party were now seated and ready to be served. Bowls of meat were placed in the middle of every table, alongsideÂ them sat a huge bottles of Lao-lao.Â We knew the party began when dozens of colorfully clad young women entered the tent.Â Everyone applauded and the drinking began.
The girls each carried their own bottle of Lao-lao and a small plastic cup.Â They began at the head of the table, filling the cup with clear whiskeyÂ and handing it to someone, encouraging him to quickly drink the shot. At first we all took theÂ glass, shot it back and smiled. But the shots continued and the girls woudn’t take no for an answer.Â The only revenge was have each girl take a reciropcal shot, which she would spit onto the ground.
The world started to spin. Chief fed us more meat. We drank more lao-lao.
We clearly were not in any shape to manage a jungle trek back to Luang Namta. When we were sober it took us ove six hours through difficult, slippery terrain to reach the village. Happily (because he was also drunk), our guide confessed there was a shortcut – a bumpy, unpaved dirtÂ road that would take justÂ four hours to hike down.
By the time we reached town the lao-lao had worn off, but the hangover from hell was just beginning. It was 4:00pm.