Bumpy Roads

Trip Start Aug 22, 2012
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47
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Trip End Jun 16, 2013


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bumpy roads - literally. No, this is not some metaphor for a stage in our travel or the state of our marriage. This leg of our trip was characterized by long, hot, and very bumpy journeys.  It was one after the other and even when we expressly requested air conditioned transportation, open windows was the vendors' interpretation of AC.  And when we made assumptions about what kind of travel we were going on, boy, were we surprised!  I guess that is what happens when you make assumptions (assume = make an ass out of u and me). Surprises go with Asia and less-travelled areas.  In this part of northwestern Laos, not only is the infrastructure not here, the vehicles are more basic and you need to pay a lot if you want something better. Which we don’t do.

Ever since we were in Cambodia, we had heard so much about people travelling on a multi-day slow boat trip along the Mekong River.  We had intended on going up to Huay Xai near the Laos/Thailand border and taking the 2-day trip but others had recommended going to Nong Khiaw and travelling for a day through more beautiful country along the Ou River, which joins up with the Mekong. When we arrived at the ferry terminal in Nong Khiaw, I expected us to be on a boat with big seats; we had heard that some of the boats were equipped with old bus or airplane seats.  Not ours!  Eighteen of us were jammed into two wooden benches facing each other that were about 6 inches high and maybe 3 feet apart, leaving very little room for our legs.  Oh how our butts hurt!  To add to the discomfort the very loud engine droned in our ears for the 7-hour journey. 

After hours of this torture, the boat pulled up to a sand bar, we disembarked and were told we had to go up to the road to catch a 'bus’ as this part of the river was too shallow to navigate with so many of us in the boat.  We trudged up to the road, thankful to be walking although it was during the worst heat of the day.  When our ‘bus’ pulled up, we all stood in disbelief.  It was a truck.  We climbed into the open back of the truck, herded in like cattle, muckled onto the sides of it as we took off driving 80km/hour for about 20 minutes.  Jim said, ‘we are going on a picnic’.  If you remember our post of November 10, Billy Brown the sheep farmer in New Zealand used this phrase as his explanation to his lambs when he herded them onto the truck to go to the slaughterhouse!

What a sight we must have been as the locals stared at the truckload of tourists.  We returned to the water’s edge and waited for about 30 minutes only to find out that the boat had passed by before we had got there.  Another truck was found, we herded into it and off we went again until we had gone far enough to meet up with our boat.  This is not luxury travel.  And it is part of the mystery and surprise of travel in South East Asia.

The post-concussion syndrome I have had since I hit my head on Dec. 30/2010 still plagues me. I noticed an increase in the frequency, duration and intensity of my headaches during this time of rough travel which reminded me of the need to be a bit more careful about pacing our travel and choice of transportation.  My niece, who has had this, wisely tells me that it will go away after awhile (years), to be patient and not to let it become your life. I guess I am not allowing it to shape my life too much or I wouldn’t be travelling but I still wish it would go away.  Enough already!

We visited some ethnic minority villages north of Luang Num Tha and Muang Sing, learning about the uniqueness of each group.  The ragamuffin children were either thrilled, afraid or appeared resentful of our visit. Our lunch, as we gathered on the floor in the home of Pia accompanied by her two sisters-in-law, was delightful.  With more sticky rice than one could possibly eat, some rice whiskey and bowls of fish soup, morning glory and other treats, we ate and communicated through a combination of sign language and our guide’s interpreting.  

Laos people are kind and very laid back.  Although we only saw the northern part of the country, we were taken by the beauty and rawness of this sparsely populated place.  We highly recommend it as a destination.
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Comments

Sue Walker on

Another adventure, How incredible, Donna I am sorry to hear that your concussion sometimes haunts you. Just take it easy, and give it time. You have been doing Great throughout your travels. just stay away from the bumps, and hopefully things will settle down. Thanks for the update Love you
Sue xo

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