Jan 14, 2007

A couple days in Northern Laos

I didn’t know it but New Years is some sort of big holiday in Luang Prabang. I don’t mean Pi Mai but regular New Years. I arrived two days before at around 5:30 in the evening.

I knew something was up when a quick walk down one of the small streets headed to the Mekong revealed seven full guest houses. At the bottom of the street a tout was trying to talk two women into looking into a guest house on another side of town that might have rooms. The women were uninterested. I jumped at the chance.

It turns out that the tout only had a motorcycle to drive around with anyway, not good for three people. We headed back out towards the southern bus station. Dem layowwww, dem layowww, and dem layow. Every place was full. We circled back towards Wat Wisoun and we split up asking at alternate guest houses. I asked him how much commission he wanted assuming that he might be shy to ask a guest house owner in front of me. He said twenty thousand, and I told him thirty was fine. Didn’t want money to be an issue.

By now we were seeing a lot of people in tuk tuks doing the same thing as well as a farang couple on a dirt bike. Finally out by the airport we found a place and I gave him a fifty K note. The room was double priced for the occasion, which I paid with a genuine smile.

I certainly don’t pity the guest house owners as being impoverished Laotians, I know what land in Luang Prabang costs per meter and they had recently bought their place. I just don’t begrudge people making as much as the market will bear. I’d do the same. It was seven o’clock when I finally got that room, I was considering trying a wat, or a bench at the bus station without a blanket.

Flame style routered pickets at Luang Prabang Bus Station

The next morning I left well before daylight with intentions of getting on the very first thing moving towards Pongsali. The guidebook lists a direct bus, I’d recently bought a guidebook, but of course there are none and the connection in Udomxai doesn’t work. Takes two days.

I got this message from an anonymous commentator after posting"The direct bus to Phongsali comes from Vientiane and is caught at Luang Prabang's Southern Bus station. It probably leaves in the afternoon. " Sounds similar to the night bus from Luang Namtha. Makes a stop in the afternoon in the at the southern terminal and that's it. Sounds like a good way to get there in one push. Bet it's a 22 hr ride at least. And thank you again Anon.

I was happy enough to spend an afternoon in Udomxai, I’ve only stayed there before to make bus connections and I wondered about the town from my last trip. it’s surrounded by lots of mountains and I had a suspicion there might be more to it than what’s said in the Lonely Planet. Sure enough there quite a few guest houses and I’m not talking about Chinese short time places, but regular Lao owned but empty guest houses. There’s also a bike touring company and a travel company offering treks. More to the point until the airport at Luang Namtha is finished with it’s upgrade it has the only operating airstrip north of Luang Prabang besides Boon Neua which is in the middle of nowhere.

Market Oudomxai

I stopped by the market and bought a knit hat and logged into the slow email connection for a last online fix for a while. At the market was this sign.

Human Trafficker

“Go to work….Do you want to live in a foreign country? Very good job. Easy. High Salary. I will be responsible for everything.
Think carefully…. Your life will be safer. Don’t become food for the human trafficker.
Be careful with people who approach you. Selling women and children is against the law.”

I’m at a loss for a witty comment.

Sticky rice cooking at bus station

I woke up at my usual hour, before dawn and went out and had breakfast at one of the shacks next to the bus station. It seems as if every town in northern Laos is socked in with heavy fog for at least a couple hours every morning. Like pea soup.

Bus Station Oudomxai

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The direct bus to Phongsali comes from Vientiane and is caught at Luang Prabang's Southern Bus station. It probably leaves in the afternoon.