We decided that we were going to press on through Laos and try to get to Louang Prabang, a UNESCO world heritage site and town. We were told that there would be many beautiful sights and temples there. It was going to be another long and tiring bus journey but what we (or I for that instance) encountered was like something out of a nightmare. The bus was an old 1970's Hyundai and to say that it was overladen was an understatement. There were a good a good 60+ people (at least 15 people had nop seats and sat on stools in the aisles) crammed on board with all the luggage being carried on top of the bus. This was not the worst of it. The road for the first 200km was a combination of dirt track, bad tarmac, collapsed roads and muddly wet slop. There was a good number of occassions where the bus could have slipped down a ravine or cliff and I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best.
Laos truck stuck in mud
Poor Alex really wanted to just get out and was not a happy camper. By the time we got to Oudomxai (3 hours) where the bus stopped for an 1/2 hour break, we all spilled out dying for (the scarily rough and ready) bathroom. The food on offer was the two extremes on one hand gorgeous sweet churros style pastries and baguettes being sold by a lovely French speaking lady and her child to BBQ's of intenstines, lungs and skin covered with hair....mmmm!
Then it was back on the bus for another 5 hours.
The scenery in Laos was beautiful and inspiring - we were thinking about Christian Bale in Rescue Dawn and how he survived in this beautiful but totally inhospitable terrain (75% of the country is wild and uncultivated). Scattered along the way were numerous villages of bamboo huts on stilts (still loads of vicious landslides).
The poverty is hard to describe - so many people living very simple and subsistance lives - so far from civilization as we know it, yet all smiling and going about their daily chores - even the littlest kids had work to do. The children, many totally naked except for a little medallion were ridiculously cute and adorable playinng and running around.
We pulled into Louang Prabang 7 hours later, squabbled over a tuk tuk price - finally agreed at 10,000 Kip per person to take us 6 kms into town and eventually found a nice guesthouse for 80,000 Kip per room. We went through the night market like zombies to the nearest restaurant with local Laos food (loads just had burgers and pizza). Turns out we picked a great place. Not only did they have great food but after dinner we all indulged in a wonderful traditional Laos body massage (45K Kip). We then floated back to our guesthouse and off to dreamland.