Current Location : Melbourne, Australia
Last entry date : 28/Mar/09
A young girl cleaning the ear lobe of her grandma outside their home in the Laos countryside.
From 25/Jan/09 to 28/Jan/09
First thing first in Laos : drive on the right side of the road, unlike Thailand or Malaysia. I found this out when the scooters and minivans were coming straight at me. Next, its handy to have small notes of US$ or Thai baht for meals, etc as these were preferred compared to the local currency KIP (even the custom officer that asked for his “overtime” and cigarette money preferred it. The KIP is worthless outside Laos).
I spent an evening at the small border town of Huay Xai, so did a large number of other foreign tourists at this more or less one street border town. Most are here to renew their visas so they may return to Thailand, and the rest to continue their tracks on a 2 day leisure slowboat trip down the Mekong River to the inland city of Luang Prabang. I had both options (boat ride or by road), tossed a coin and took the road.
As I rode into Laos interior, its like a flashback of roads up in northern India – winding roads (quite often not maintained) and hours of ride over unending hills. The main road in Laos takes me through local villages usually located by the roadside. Here, the houses are small, made of wood with treaded rattan wall and atap roofs. Many villages out in the countryside are without electricity, piped-in water, let alone any sanitary system. Its difficult to tell how these folks make their living as life seemed so rude ie the men are attending to small plots of land; while women and children are seen carrying water, collecting wood to take back to their homes, etc. The Northern Laos got its charm, but it is poor.
Meantime up in the hills, the bike began to experience springy back suspension problems, despite no visible signs of damage or oil leak – the fatigue from the heavy luggage weight and touring grounds must have sank in early. Not a good sign, but hopefully it does not give way in the middle of nowhere – at least until I get back into Thailand.
On top of that, I somehow managed to find a small hotel out in the middle of nowhere on the eve of Chinese New Year (25/Feb), while I had family members waiting for me to celebrate such in Malaysia !! I am still amazed with my miscalculations of time and kms of this Indochina loop. It looked quite simple and “fast” on the map.
When I got into former capital Luang Prabang in the dark the next day, I was happy I had a good glimpse of Northern Laos as is – from the ground. Luang Prabang is very touristy. The Laos I’ve just seen is so different.