Written by markiemark on 27 Oct, 2002
My second day in Laos and my first experience of the infamously awful Lao roads and what a trip to choose for the first! The boat trip to Xieng Kok by the Burmese border wasn't possible from Huay Xai unless I sat around and tried to rustle up…Read More
My second day in Laos and my first experience of the infamously awful Lao roads and what a trip to choose for the first! The boat trip to Xieng Kok by the Burmese border wasn't possible from Huay Xai unless I sat around and tried to rustle up some people to share the boat with and I wanted to get moving. The lady at the BAP Guesthouse told me that transport left from the speedboat jetty 4kms south of town at 9am. Having then walked there to arrive in good time, I found out that the actual departure time was 11am!
The pick-ups making the journey take three passengers in the cab behind the driver and his assistant and an infinite number ("comfortably" 10 but usually 15+) on two rows of seat in the back. Room is then made in the middle for cargo, extra passengers picked up on the way and sundry bags of fruit vegetables and animals rendering the journey cramped and not too comfy. Two of these pick-ups left for Luang Nam Tha together with ample room for the six of us in each. We hardly had time to enjoy this spacious luxury before we stopped at a warehouse and had 6 50kg bags of rice loaded into the space in the middle of the rows of seats! We didn't realise how lucky we were as we set off again because, 45 minutes later, the first pick-up broke down and all it's passengers then piled into ours! So, squashed together on a wooden bench, feet on rice sacks, knees under our chins we set off for only another seven hours on a road resembling the face of an acned teenager! We stopped every two hours so we could get out and oil our rusty limbs and get some circulation going in our nether regions! Five minutes later and we were bumping and rolling on our way again. In the wet season, a lot of these unpaved roads become impassable for small vehicles and landslides and treefall can block the roads completely for days.
In the dry season, dust is a huge problem. Luckily, there are few vehicles on the road to stir it up but something to clamp over ones mouth and nose when the need arises is a distinctly good idea. If you end up stuck behind another vehicle well, you can forget about the views and just start thinking about the shower you are so looking forward to when you get to your destination! You'll be enveloped in a huge dust cloud while the driver tries to manoeuvre a way round the culprit- not very easy on narrow, bumpy, windy, hilly roads when you can see only as far as your own windscreen!
Certainly it takes a bit of roughing it and stamina to make these journeys that even the locals find tough but, this is Laos and the scenery along the way; traditional villages, rivers, mountains, forest, etc. is worth the effort and there becomes a sort of cameraderie with the local on the vehicle as you start to squirm to try and find a bit of your bum you haven't used yet to sit on! The ever-smiling, waving kids at roadside help take your mind off the discomfort and, hey, you're ready for the next leg of your journey next day!
Arriving in Pak Tha on a very hot afternoon after a day and a half on a boat from Luang Nam Tha, I wondered what on Earth there was in Pak Tha except for the boat landing, police checkpoint, small guesthouse, three tiny shops and about 20 houses.…Read More
Arriving in Pak Tha on a very hot afternoon after a day and a half on a boat from Luang Nam Tha, I wondered what on Earth there was in Pak Tha except for the boat landing, police checkpoint, small guesthouse, three tiny shops and about 20 houses. It took a little walking around to realise that Pak Tha was actually about half a km further down the Mekong on the opposite side of the junction with the Nam Tha river.
The following morning, as the boat me and the French couple wanted to catch to Pakbeng didn't pass until around 1pm, we took a wooden canoe across the Nam tha to Pak Tha village. Down on the banks of the Mekong, there was so much activity that morning. No wonder the village itself was so quiet! There were people bathing, kids playing but the principal activity was fishing; circular nets hurled into the water from boats on the river; from the banks with rod and line and many women were catching tiny fish using a net at the bottom of a bamboo pyramid frame that they dipped in and out of the water. All three of us took a lot of photos and all this activity was back dropped by the mist slowly clearing to reveal the green mountains on the opposite bank. The people were very friendly and didn't seem to mind us taking pictures and it was well worth the overnight stop in Pak Tha.