Asia | South East Asia | Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) | Far North | Muang Sing – Getting out of Laos – the long way
Well, I’m finally back in Thailand… and what an adventure to get here!
After leaving Vang Vieng I took a bus up to Luang Prangban – a long windy road up through the mountains. Luang Prangban was a bit disappointing after the fabulous time I had in Vang Vieng. It was a lovely place but lacked the vibe I was expecting. I hung around for a couple of days, trying to figure out what to do next. 2 days on a slow boat up the Mekong to Huay Xai (on the boarder of Thailand), 6 hours on a speed boat or to carry on father north in Laos. All journeys were going to be hard work! Inspiration hit when I met two fab ladies from New Zealand – they were planning to go further north, so I decided to join them. Linda and Dagma – real characters! – originally from the States, they had left their husbands back home while they have sometime off in S E Asia.
So it was back on the bus… landslides did not deter us! It was pretty hair-raising – each time we had to get out of the bus and walk across the landslide while the bus did the journey on it’s own. At one point we had to wait as a fork lift cleared the road. 6 hours later we made it to a town called Udomxai – we were keen to get on to Luang Nam Tha. There were 8 other travellers and we all had the same plan… but the bus was not prepared to leave until it was either full or we paid double the fare. Not a problem for us – it was a matter of an extra USD 2 – but three travellers caused a scene, accusing the bus driver of trying to rip us off etc. oooohhhh I got soooo pissed off. So we spent a night in Udomxai – a really good idea in retrospect.
The next day we made it to Luang Nam Tha(5 hours in a bus), had a look and decided to go on to Muang Sing (nearly 3 hours in the back of a truck) on the Chinese boarder. Here we found a fantastic guest house called Adima, comprising of rustic cottages, out in the middle of no where. Although there was only electricity for 3 hours each day, it was a great place to unwind, drink Beer Laos and admire the spectacular view. From Adima it was a short trek to 3 hill tribe villages – amazing costumes and customs, we had to make sure not to touch anything in case it was sacred! Linda then decided she wanted to go and check out the border to China – 2 km away, Dagma and I decided to give it a miss. Three hours later it was dark and we were getting really worried – Linda appeared! Apparently there is no border between Laos and China, there is a check point on the Laos side, but nothing on the Chinese side. Linda, not knowing this, had ended up walking about 15 km in to China, the fact that she had arrived at a town that had all the signs in Chinese had not been a clue that she had gone too far!!! She ended up having to hitch a ride back and was told off by the driver of the car, who spoke reasonable English, ’cause she could have been arrested for illegally entering China. So fortunately we did not have to rescue Linda from some Chinese prison….!
The next journey was to Xieng Kok (forever now known as Singing Cock – don’t ask me why!), on the Burma boarder. In typical Laos style, we arrived at the bus station to be told that the bus was leaving at 10 am, which meant a 3 hour wait, but that didn’t mean anything as buses leave when they are full – this time at 8.30am. Good thing we hung around! The trip on the bus ended when we arrived at a point where a bridge had been washed away… we had to walk across the river and managed to find a truck to take us the rest of the way. At one point the truck got really stuck in the mud – so we all got out and pushed. Arriving in Xieng Kok, we then had to get a speed boat down the Mekong to Huay Xai. Now try to picture this… a very small boat, low in the water, with a great engine on the back, the Mekong during the rainy season and seats made for children…!!! There were not enough life jackets, but 6 of us squeezed on with our backpacks and zoomed off down the Mekong. To say that we were concerned for our safety is an understatement…. but the captain seemed to know what he was doing. We had no protection from the rain, which was needle sharp, but we did have ear plugs – thank you Charlotte Ritter! The scenery was spectacular which did slightly make up for the fact that I had completely lost all feeling in the lower half of my body. 4 hours later we were in Huay Xai…!!!
One night in Huay Xai, celebrating the fact that we had actually made it, and I said goodbye to my travel companions – very sad! It was then a very short boat ride across the river and I was back in Thailand – Yeeehah!