I wanted to explore the surrounding area so I went off to the tourism office. I went too far down the side road and ended up in a nice part of town near a school, that was nice so I wondered round there until I found the tourist office again. Nam Tha is really a base for trekking and if you didn't know that you'd wonder why there were the pockets of tourists along the main road in town - there isn't much to offer there!
I ended up hiring a bike and grabbing a local map before setting off
. My first destination was about 9km south west to see a stupa (still not really sure what a stupa is - sort of a religious monument) called the That Phum Phuk. As I turned west after about 6km I was joined by a Canadian guy from Montreal called Pascal - he had seen me and caught me up. We both wandered up to the stupa and caught some great views of the surrounding area. Pascal had his onward route all planned out so I decided to join him for the remainder. Next stop was the Boat Landing Guesthouse, that is where the boats pick up and drop off passengers unsurprisingly so I was curious to see some routes and prices. Laos has no trains at all, and the roads can be really bad so boats are a viable alternative to cars and buses. The restaurant here is also regarded as one of the top 5 in Laos so we stopped for lunch of fried rice and mint fruit shakes. The ride got more interesting after that - lots of villages and a disused rubber factory (lots of young plants around so maybe it starts up again later in the year) and finally a nice waterfall to see. Pascal had done that already so he left me as I began the 5km detour alone, that road was a bumpy gravel track through another 3 villages, the waterfall was a bit of a let down but the extra cycling did me good. In total we had been out for 6 hours so I headed back to my room for some rest.
Back at the guesthouse I had some drama with the shower, I had finished and was turning the shower tap off when it came off in my hand
! A jet of cold water (it gets heated in a console closer to the shower head) was now blasting across the bathroom and hitting the wall on the other side. I wished the pressure could have been this good during the shower! Anyway, I realised I needed to screw it back in but the jet was making it very difficult. On one attempt I lost my footing and hit the deck but I didn't land awkwardly so was ok to continue. After 10 minutes of trying I gave up, closed the door to the bathroom with the water still blasting out and went into the bedroom to get dry. It was one of those all-in-one shower toilet bathrooms where the loo gets a soaking along with everything else and the water all drains away in the corner. I took the tap out the front of the guesthouse to show the owner and he ran past me with it to sort it out. His job was made easier by turning the water supply off and in no time things were back as they should be.
I'd arranged to meet Pascal for dinner at 7pm and while I was waiting for him to finish on the internet next door I met two new Dutch people - Bjorn and Susan. Like the Swedes on the trans-siberian, China and Laos was beginning to throw up a disproportionate amount of Dutch! They are a nice couple who were thinking of heading south to Loang Prabang via a more interesting route than Pascal and I had discussed. They were proposing to get the bus for 6 hours South to Pak Mong then transfer by car to Nong Khiaw where they would spend the night then get a slow boat to Louang Prabang in the morning. That was something for me to mull over as I wanted to do a nice boat trip somewhere in Laos.
I got up this morning and changed guesthouse. The first place was pretty miserable with a small room and shower and loo downstairs. I switched to the Zuela guesthouse where I'd met the Dutch couple Patrick and Samantha the night before. They were leaving to head off somewhere new as I checked in.