Writing this from bed in a hotel room in northern Laos, the town is called Oodoumxiay or Muang Xai, or any one of a few different versions of either of those. Most towns in Laos have more than one name, makes finding them interesting sometimes.
The most important thing that happened today is that we eventually ate something that was not pho. It was chinese fried fish, barely an improvement actually, but when it came time to pay, the bill was several times what we were expecting… cue mexican style standoff, with both sides threatening to call the police (i still dont have their number or a phone to call on…), and eventually we settled for something inbetween.
They were not happy though and swore in several different languages as we left. I’m pretty glad Betsy is parked in reception tonight!
The last few days have been spent eating pho. Oh and we rode the bike around a bit, but mostly we just ate pho. pho for breakfast, pho for lunch and pho for dinner. For two whole days.
In between feasting on our favourite combination of boiled beef strips, beef stock, noodles and a tiny bit of spring onion (sounds delicious doesnt it?!), we left Luang Prabang, home to the most beautiful waterfall we’ve seen here, and headed to Pnosavan, to see the Plain of Jars. Never heard of it? No I’m not surprised. Suffice to say, it is a plain, dotted with large stone Jars, 1m high and wide, that date back to 500BC. No one really knows where they came from, or what they were used for. A bit like stone henge, except stone henge is not shit.
An interesting thing about the plain of jars is that it was one of the centres of the US bombing campaign in Laos in the Vietnam war. Sadly Laos has the ignomy of being the most heavily bombed country in the world, 2,000,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped in this little country, which is the same as the total tonnage dropped by ALL of the allied forces in WW2. Pretty crazy given that Laos was not officially in the Vietnam war at all!!
But the most remarkable part of northern laos, once you leave the tourist trail, is just how friendly the people are. The smiles and waves we’re gtting from the kids on the road is almost overwhelming. It feels like i’m chauffering the queen in London!
The towns we ride through are basically just a row of rickety wooden houses on each side of the road, sometimes just a few, and othertimes they go on for a kilometer. Life for the people the these villages seems to play out on the road in full view, they wash at a hand pump somewhere along the road, they cook their meals outside on the ‘footpath’, the kids play on the road, and their amimals roam across the road at will. We see women weaving on ancient wooden looms, we see kids bringing firewood back to the centre of town in baskets hung on their backs from a strap that’s stretched across their foreheads and we see women feeding babies.
All manner of animals roam the road. Passing any village I’ll need to brake hard to miss chickens, ducks, dogs, cows, pigs, turkey and buffalo, and it seems they all have babies at the moment so chicks, puppies and piglets are everywhere! So far I’ve only hit one chicken, which was very sad.
The scenery has been mountainous, we’ve been climbing and decending for the past three days, as high as 1600m and down to 300m, but always going up and down, and continually turning corners. The road has ranged from new tar to horribly broken up, but usually ok, and Betsy is really in her element, I wont bang on about it, but I’ve really been enjoying the ride.
Tomorrow we expect to reach the Thai border, and the next day with a bif of luck we’ll be in Chiang Mai.
Cant wait not to eat Pho ever again.