The Road to Phongsali
Trip Start Jan 26, 2005
45Trip End Jul 29, 2005
Day One: The first leg of our journey involved chartering a longtail boat north up the Nam Ou (about 5 hrs). Along the way, we stopped in a lovely little village, a smaller and much quieter version of Muang Ngoi Neua. The locals were very surprised to see foreigners. I suspect that most people that do head up this way don't bother to stop. It actually felt a bit uncomfortable, intrusive - almost like we shouldn't be there.
We reached the first town we had to pass through where we ate at the worst restaurant I have been to yet. Along with my iced lemon juice I received a bonus - ants swimming at the bottom of my glass
Day Two: we hopped on a sawngthaew to Phongsali. A journey that we were told would take 4 hours ended up taking us 8. But, it was certainly an interesting ride. Highlights were:
1) very long, very bumby and incredibly dusty ride. It was so bad at times that you couldn't even breathe and everything was coated with a layer of dust
2) a very large, black spider with white and orange markings (Jo and I swore it had to be poisonous) climbing directly above our heads.
3) a guy sitting across from us who was carrying a dead chicken in his backpack. The feet sticking out of the top weren't really all that exciting. What did shock us was the fact that the guy proceeded to break off one of the claws so that he could use it as a knife to cut apart a vegetable which he then ate. Yum!
4) we broke down three times. At one point, our driver/mechanic dressed in a golf shirt and very short white shorts (a la John McEnroe) was using his mouth and a hose to siphon some sort of fluid (I assume oil) out of the vehicle to execute our repairs.
Finally, we arrive in Phongsali. Thinking that it is the big city of northern Lao we were looking forward to at least a few small luxuries. Nope - no internet; international phone calls only available from 9am-3pm, Monday to Friday. Not quite what we expected. But it was definitely a quiet place to hang out for a couple of days. Our original plan was to go trekking but Jo, Mark and I backed out. With the rainy season in full force we were a bit worried - the paths would be muddy, slippery and treacherous, there would be loads of leeches, and I didn't have a lot of confidence in the guide. Turns out this was a good decision (the guide actually got lost) but the trip there was still a blast!