I had intended to ride into town on Sunday afternoon and then head for the landing stage to take the slow boat to Luang Prabang, a 'must do' according to many people. I wasn't sure about spending two days on a boat watching jungle sliding past but as it was only about 6 hours each day I decided to immerse myself in the 'Asian Experience' a little more. Plans changed though when I reached town and ran into Paulo, a Brazilian cyclist that I had met a few days earlier. We had a chat and agreed to ride together to Luang Namtha instead. This was a different route altogether for me as it was heading north east instead of south east, but everyone kept talking about how beautiful the jungle was so I decided to take a look.
I must admit though that jungle is jungle. It all looks the same to me when you are cycling through it. This was the first time that I had cycled with anyone else on this trip apart from day trips with my hosts Robert and Kung from Chiang Mai and with Martin from Pa Sang.
I had kept trying to stay off the beaten track but here in Laos there is very little else that is navigable. There is only one road from Huay Xai, the border town, to Luang Namtha. 180 kms over mountains and through jungle with over 2000 metres climbing and in 35 degrees of heat. We got as far as Vieng Phoukha, the only town with accommodation between the two points and found a nice collection of bamboo huts. It was the second guest house we found. The first was 100 metres up a hill, which I refused to do considering the bamboo huts were next to the road we were on. It turned out to be a good decision as they were, according to some others that joined us later, the cheapest and also the best places in town. A peaceful rest day followed, but only one. I was itching to get going again but Paulo decided to stay one more day. His plan is to chill out for a while in north Laos before he heads for the Chinese border. He already has his visa and is just using up his visa time in Laos. I, on the other hand, have about 1500 kms of Loas to ride until I come to the southern border with Cambodia.
Luang Nanmtha is nothing to blog home about. One main street, a few back streets and an airport that doesn't look as if it gets much use. As I took a walk around town earlier I came across a group of guys playing Petanque (or boules), one thing left by the French when they left. As I watched them playing and listened to them whooping and hollering I realised why they were having so much fun. The women were continually plying them with small glasses of iced BeerLao. I had heard that this is a favourite with many travelers so when they pushed one into my hand I thought I had better give it a try. I can understand why westerners like it as it tastes just like beer from home. Not being a drinker myself I was done after about 6 glasses (they are small ones) and wobbled off to find a restaurant that was open. I just hope I don't wobble too much on the bike tomorrow.


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