Thursday, June 11, 2009

North of Laos

Just a quick idea of north Laos very little internet here!!

Wow its crazy how different one country can be to another with just a 5 minute boat journey across a river! Immeditially poor looking and underdeveloped...i realise i had gotten very used to Thailand which was pretty luxurious after India! Sorting the visa was no problem, i had no plan at all what to do next though! It seemed like every other tourist there was taking a slow boat down to Luang Phabang which takes 2 days, 2 days on a boat on a wooden bench! I didnt want to do what every other tourist was doing so instead i hopped onto a bus to Luang Namptha about 6 hours north east and decided to spend a week or two up north in the mountains.

The boat from Chiang Kong in Thailand to Laos

All there was out the window the whole way to Luang Namptha were little bamboo hut villages and green jungle nothing else! Really rural stuff i hadn't really prepared myself for it! The houses were all bamboo huts with roofs made of leaves, people washing in the rivers or knee deep in water working in rice fields and pot-bellied pigs and chickens running about all over the place.

I rented a bike that day, the road was just a dirt track, so bumpy that i could hardly see where i was going when i went downhill! I felt quite uncomfortable actually, like a big rich american tourist, there was just too huge a gap between myself and the locals here. Instead of all the little kids running out to say Hallo!! they ran back into their house or just stared thinking what is this big white person!
Its crazy to think that most likely the folks here have no idea how the developed world is that this is their life! Its one thing when you see extreme poverty but i found this much harder to get my head around that these guys live like this! I could just imagine trying to explain stuff like internet cafe's, metros, plastic surgery...sure its a million miles away from them!

The next day i headed a bit more north to a little village called Muang sing. I was starting to relax a bit with feeling like the big tourist and just saying 'Sabadi!' to people regardless if they said hi back or ran/stared! This town was like the hole in a doenut surrounded by mountains and all the way up to the mountains there were rice fields shining with the reflection of the clouds.

Seems that in India i became really aware of sunrise and sunsets, here as the rainy season is really kicking in its clouds, and they hung very low in the sky covering half the mountains...never saw clouds like that before...beautiful stuff. It was just unbelieveable relaxing and peaceful here. As a crazy french guy i met in Chiang Mai said ..'violently relaxing'! Meaning it really forces you to relax! I hadn't realised it but i had been rushing around like crazy the last few weeks and i was actually quite hyper despite thinking i was relaxed, this was just the place for that!

Love it!!!

There really is 'nothing' to do here tourist-wise, no temples or sights to see just a calm, friendly village and amazing scenery. I really loved this so much, i walked for hours down little muddy lanes which ended in rice fields, met nobody, took pictures of cows and ducks, went to a smelly market selling all types of animal body parts and insects...mmm maybe later!

Oh dear two fattened up pot-bellied pigs just having a snooze.....beside the market....sweet dreams guys!!

Next i went East to Nong Kiaw which i was told has the best scenery in northern laos! It was a long old journey so i stopped off for the night at a town called Oudxami which is apparently a big chinese sex-tourism town! Well i loved the place, ok my hotel room was incredibly seedy with more than enough packets of condoms on the table!!! Had a nice wander, enjoyed the sunset, spied on the monks and slept well.

This is a penthouse size bamboo hut...or else many, many people live in there.

Look at this big fellow i found in my room!

The mountains are very different in every country i've been to and here is no exception, i've never seen mountains like them! Tall and narrow, pointy ones covered in thick, green jungle.

Sunrise on the river, view from my bamboo hut.

Little cloud wrapping itself around the mountain

I went for long walks here but i never came across anything. The roads just go on and on for miles through the forest. When i came across some old ladies walking the same direction i was going (and i had been walking about 2 hours already and found no trace of civilisation!) i had to wonder just how far do they walk everyday, i was ready to turn back! They where so sweet, grabbing my hand and very happy to say hallo, times like this i wish i had learn't a few more words of laos.

I've never seen a wild scorpion before unfortunately this guy was the flattened type!

Indian-style spelling on the it!

Took me ages to figure out what the hell this one was about! Toilet surfing? noooo!

And this is the little fellow i adopted while i was there, so cute when i threw a stone for her she'd go really hyper running around in circles through noodle stalls and under cars. Dogs here are just dogs not pets (maybe dinner i don't know yet!) so the locals found it very funny when i was playing with my little friend!

Sure butter wouldnt melt!

The icing on the cake for north laos for me was a little place called Muong Ngoi 1 hour on a boat from Nong Kiaw. Its not PUBLIC transport in Laos its more like SHARED transport, meaning that the driver wont leave until there's enough people to make a profit...and there was me turning up almost an hour early for the boat!

On the boat.... its strange to me that in India the women wear traditional sari's doing the most modern things like walking the dog in a posh area of Delhi, whereas here the guys wear Adidas while working in the rice fields...strange for me!

Just look at this place! It felt like your own private bay, surrounded by gorgeous mountains at either side. Got myself another lovely room for pennies. Electricty here just 6-10pm, no phone signal, no internet...i loved being totally cut off from the world this is the life!

More long walks here, boy it was so humid, just like holding your body over the steam from a pot of boiling water, it was really tropical! It amazes me how different climates can be around the world! I like tropical but the humidity can be a killer! this place had areas FULL of butterflies, black, red and yellow ones, maybe attacking me, but certainly fluttering all over amazing!

This little fellow started puffing himself up when i was taking the photo.

That evening i joined in the villagers cooking a pig! It was more fat than meat but quite tasty! I met some friendly people from England, USA and Switzerland and we had great chats over Lao Beer and the rather potent home-brewn Lao Lao - rice whiskey- aka paint stripper! One of the guys there had been to India and bought a sitar so he played away at that...i LOVE the sound of the sitar. Had big plans to go fishing the next day but i realised i had just enough money to get me to the nearest Luang Phabang....1 hour on a boat, 5 hours on the back of a truck and 30 mins in a tuc-tuc away!


Heavy clouds in the morning

I spent a few days in Luang Phabang, probably the country's 2nd biggest city, its a very pretty place, you feel like you are in a pretty little village in the south of France. It was SO good to eat well for very cheap at the night market....and i layed off the noodle soup for a few days!

Next stop a touristy place called Viang Vieng....maybe i wont ask this tuc-tuc driver to bring me there!

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