From Huay Xai, the border town entering Laos, it is a two day slow boat ride to Luang Prabang, the largest city in northern Laos. I had intended to make the trip the first morning after arrival here. That means that I would have got here on Monday last week. Instead it took me until Sunday afternoon before I finally put my feet ashore at the landing stage.
A ride to Luang Namtha, another to Udomxay and then the bad mountain jungle road over to Pak Mong followed by a ride in the back of a tuk-tuk van with a couple of Dutch travellers to Nong Kiau and a slow boat from there to Luang Prabang. Chance meetings make a huge impact here. It's the people you meet along the way that make the difference.
First there was Paulo the Brazilian cyclist that I headed to Luang Namtha with. Then there were Maaika and Roger that persuaded me that a trip to Nong kiau in the back of a tuk-tuk would be worth making, although it was already a possibility in my book. Now there is Emma, Sylvia and Graham that I met on the boat to Luang Prabang. The four of us have spent three days here in LP riding scooters, visiting waterfalls, walking in the jungle, checking out lots of food and also trying to avoid the hoardes of tourists wandering the streets of this Unesco World heritage site.
It's been a blast but time is moving on and so are we. Graham is heading back to Thailand to hook up with his girlfriend and travel overland to the UK. Emma has two weeks left to travel down through Laos before flying home and Sylvia is waiting for friends to arrive here before continuing her own adventure. I shall be leaving in the morning after spending four nights here. Laos is the kind of place where everything takes longer than you expect, where relaxation is taken to extremes. The sights have been as good as the company though so there are no complaints here.
The waterfalls at Kouang Si were amazing. A long drop followed by countless small pools and terraces of cascading water. The guide books called it "impossibly beautiful and photogenic" and I have to agree. The limestone gives the water a unique colour. We spent some of the day soaking in the water pools, had free wheeling competions down the hill on scooters to see who could go furthest, Sat on the river bank and watched the sun set over the mountains and generally had a good time enjoying the unexpected circumstances that brought us together for a fleeting moment of time. Everyone has their own journey to complete though, so today sees us sorting our gear out and packing up for our respective next legs.
It's a three day ride for me to Phonsovan and the plain of jars, Laos' very own Stonehenge type of mystical landscape, where hundreds of stone jars are littered across the area. No-one knows exactly who built them, placed them there, or even what they are for but the atmosphere and countryside are supposed to be great so that is my next destination before heading south towards the 4000 islands area prior to Cambodia, a couple of weeks away.
 





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