It is Tuesday the 15th of march and it is time to leave Thailand. Laos, the country of the sticky rice, lays ahead, just a three hours bus ride away. We will pass the border at Chiang Kong by driving over the friendship bridge to Huay Xai on the other side of the Mekong.
Helen feels sick but tough like always she takes her backpack and we are leaving the guest house in Chiang Rai. Finding a Tuk Tuk to the new bus station ten kilometer south is easy and we enter the bus on time. A nice and modern one with AC and comfortable leather seats. The ride begins. Surprisingly we get bottled water and some food in the bus. It is a little like in a plane and reminds me on the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
After around two and a half hour the Thai checkpoint in front of the bridge is reached. Everyone has to leave the bus and needs to pass the immigration check point. A quick stamp in the passport and another photo with their webcam and we are out of Thailand. The bus is waiting behind the checkpoint and it goes over the bridge to the Laotian one. Here everything takes a little longer. We have to provide the visa fee 30$, a photograph and the filled immigration card. We leave all the stuff at one counter and then it takes around ten minutes until the another counter on the other side opens and we get our Passports with a nice 30 days Lao visa back. In the meantime I catch some money and now I have 500.000 Laotian Kip (LAK) in my pocket, 10.000 LAK ~ 1,10 EUR. What an amount of money 🙂 The last few kilometers to the bus station are a piece of cake.
A Tuk Tuk takes us the ten kilometer to our stop over guest house (Phonetip 60.000 LAK) and finally we put our stuff relieved into the clean and basic room. Helen got more sick while the ride. She really needs some rest. I go out to organize food and a Sim card. The Sim card is no problem. There is a Unitel shop near and I get a card with 1.5 GB data for 60.000 LAK (10 Sim + 50 data). The highlight on my trip is the sandwich they sell everywhere in the street. It’s a real baguette with salad, tomato, cucumber, mayonnaise and whatever you like on it. After nearly six months of Asian food it is a mercy! Helen is a little sad that she cannot have one too. Diarrhoea again.
Next day we take the VIP bus to Luang Namtha to finally reach Muang Sing close to the Chinese and Myanmar border. To my surprise the bus doesn’t have seats, it’s more like sleeping compartments. Double beds left and right from the aisle on the bottom and around 1.5 meter above. Upholstered in red leather and quite cozy. Even a bed sheet and pillows are available. The ride is bumpy and sitting is more or less impossible, so we are laying around in our floor berth. At least unable to write another blog post.
After around four and a half hours we arrive in Luang Namtha. We don’t see much of the town, because we just change to the next bus. This time it is a real local bus. Old vehicle, very run down and again no space for my legs. Fortunately it is only 1.5 hours and the tour is astonishing. We are driving through nice waves of green hills covered with deep forest. But the closer we get to Muang Sing the more often we see fields of gum trees instead of the forest and my heart is bleeding. It seems that the people have to sacrifice a lot for their daily income.
Muang Sing is like a chess board. A criss cross of dusty roads. It is dry and hot. Simple one or two floor houses were build side by side. We are happy to take a Tuk Tuk to our guest house seven kilometer east of the town.
The Tuk Tuk is following the highway and its getting dark. We take a dirt road to the right. Banana fields are surrounding us and the road is getting worse and worse. I’m not sure if the Tuk Tuk driver knows where to go but several hundred meters later the gate of Adina Guest House welcomes us. Happy to be arrived we get some dinner and fall asleep early.
Adima guesthouse is really nice and 60.000 KIP absolutely worth the price. Helen needs two days to get fine again so we enjoy the time in our bungalow with balcony. Then we start to explore our environment. First tour leads us to the tribal villages around. We check out the internet and the information papers provided by the guesthouse staff. There are different tribes like Akha, Yao, Hmong and some more. Eventually the villages turn out a lot different than we expected. Only the old woman are wearing the traditional clothes and they immediately try to sell their handmade crafts as soon as they see us. SUVs and satellite bowls are all over the place. The culture is slowly replaced by something really sad.
The next day we take a walk through the hills. The tour starts really wired. There are a lots of men with guns walking in the streets. At the first village a guy with a AK47 gives us a hand sign that we should return. An army officer don’t reacts to our questions. It is quite strange and we choose another route. it’s hot and I’m sweating but it is worth it. OK, again gum trees everywhere but at least we have a great view at a small hut and there we see our first handmade bamboo opium water pipe. Maybe some Lao people are likely having opium while making a break.
After all this unexpected experiences it’s time to leave. We want to take a boat ride down the Nam Ou. Therefore we take the bus to Luang Nam Tha, the next bigger city near Muang Sing and our hub for the next bus down south. We find a comfortable budget room in one of the guest houses. Luang Namtha has a golden stupa on the west side hill and there send to be an amazing temple on the way to the stupa. Surprisingly it turns out that only the roof is ready and all the other parts are under construction. The stupa is open. Curious we enter it and there is a Buddha shrine. A perfect place for short meditation.
We end the day with some food from the night market. My choice turns out to be not that wise….