Sunday, March 25, 2007

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang was the best part of this trip to Laos. Very old city. Kept secret for much too long because of the revolutionary war. Fantastic classy place, cosy as well.

  1. Brunch. Oklam (somekind of stew with traditional ingredients. It had a type of root that was pungent and kick in the arse like garlic & ginger), lao beer, lao coffee, mekong river on the side.... fan-bloody-tastic.

Monument to the great Sisavangvong. A great king in the ancient times.
Previously the "government"tried to erase all symbols and evidence of the royal monarchs of days past, but due to overwhelming tourist interest and subsequent revenue, "they " decided to hype things up a bit A little "too little too late"? or a "better late then never"?
Whatever it is, he looks solid.

The Ho Kam museum. Plenty of relics from the past kingdoms, weapons of recent wars, presents from other countries and of course, buddhist relics.

The mighty Mekong

Can never get enough of it. THE MIGHTY MEKONG. The legendary trade route, source of life more like.

School. Worn out & in shambles.

The temples are pristine.

In fact, there are more monks in the temles than children in school. A long chat with the group of understudy's in the pic here revealed that they study up 16 subjects. They are always eager to chat with tourists to improve on their english.

Banyan trees at Wat Aham.

Luang Prabang's main street. There is a seasonal night market. There so much splendid items to be had. trinkets, pottery, weaves, cutlery, jewellery, parts for weapons (found parts, and mostly in advanced state of disintegration... like bullets, magazines, helmets, aircraft wing guns...etc)

Wat Phousi. The most prominent landmark in LP. Bannister of stone snakes, & a shrine to lord Buddha in a cave. Nice.
Wat Phousi at night. Just a lit temp[le floating in the sky.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Luang Namtha thru Oudomxai to Luang Prabang.

Woke up to a surprising chill morning. Surprising for me only. This are pics of the @ in the courtyard if the motel. Its called the Motel Lousymatress&nohotwater.

Belly full.

Luang Namtha main street. Plenty of not much going on. This town is more famous for its natural whatchacallit..uh wonders? anyway this place had a certain vibe... come to think of it..the whole of Lao had a certain vibe. I liked it. I heard that if you misbehave, they shoot you. My kind of place.

On the throttle and headed to Luang Prabang.

Sign ahead says Boten left, Vientienne right. Boten is 18 clicks from the junction at this bridge, the border town to China. haissshhhh.. so close yet so far... next time though.

View from the bridge

The villages along the way. Can see adults and children beside the road, carrying forage stuff from the jungle, ferrying buckets of water, working. Everyone worked. Except the men. All they do is play that game with the big metal balls. Like an extreme version of lawn bowl. And some of the mothers and fathers looked like they were still adolescents them selves..

Somewhere in one of these villages, I stopped to take a pic of the small little children (they are very tiny, like 8 inches tall only) beside the road, doing their thing...they took one look at the big full black from top to bottom monster like machine with all these things stuck to it plus this black suited furry man waving at them to come closer, they promptly ran off in tears.. poor things.

I stopped here to take a call from mother earth. When i came back i saw this vehicle parked behind my bike. Check it out, a mini harvester turned into a hilux. Can drift arh?

Was having lunch here in Oudomxai, when two old beemers pulled up. An older australian gent and his wife. He said he saw the @ and decided to stop to say hello. They had been travelling in the opposite direction as me. He & his wife had been on the road for 6 MONTHS! Started in Australia, island hopped in Indonesia, Rode around in Malaysia, couldnt get into Singapore wiith their Aussie reg bikes (??!) rode thru souththai into cambodia and vietnam and would be soon heading into NEPAL! I fumbled and burbled like a fool. They looked to be in their forties, real uncle and auntie type. Respect mannnn. I still remember he said he rode a 23 year old beemer. And when they fall, they have to help each other up, If they both fall they have to unload their luggage before attempting. I was amazed at them and realised how much of a chicken shit i was in comparison. wish them luck.

Taking a breather here, about 2 hours away from Oudomxai, in the middle of nowhere, not a soul along the way, when I heard this voice say "hello" turned around and theres this caucasian fellow on a frickin bicycle!. I remember his name. Sebastian from France. Had been riding from bangkok. Wished him well. Afterwards noticed quite a few bicyclists... solo, group, young, old. I remember also seeing this other chap....walking for heaven sake! holy buffalo balls! that, is an adventure.

Criss crossed these rivers, tributaries of Nam Mekong, Nam Ou & Nam Xuang.

The Mekong just before Vientienne

Crossing into Laos.

Always seemed to wake later than usual, cos of the chilly weather which makes you want to stay in bed. Which makes you lose precious hours of daylight time for riding and enjoying scenery. Road heading to Chiang Khong.

The immigration checkpoint at Chiang Khong was easy. Also didnt have to pay a cent.

The barge for vehicles. Pedestrians take half inflated inner tubes and float across. No, actually they go on little boats. I had to pay 500B for the bike. However i noticed that the lorry driver didnt pay anything. Maybe he had a season pass. Maybe I should get a $ sign tattooed on my head.

Chiang Khong immigration checkpoint in the background.

Barges are driven by boats attached by a pivot. The boats swing the barge around like tugs manouvering larger vessels. Very ingenious. Simple and efficient.

Heading upstream to the vehicular checkpoint. Immigration from this point on becomes very interesting. Took me an hour to clear, even though I was the only person there.

On the road from Huay Xai heading northeast towards Luang Namtha. Gravel was good and solid....

The roads were still under construction the time this pic was taken. This red earth was like powder. Couldnt power on through these parts. Didnt matter anyway. Look at those hills..

Dirt roads hugging mountainsides. These parts, the 250 plus kms from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha was most memorable stretch of the journey.

Had to wait more than an hour for them to complete. Road building before your very eyes.

Bike taking a 5 minute break...ahem.

Me taking a 5 minute break. Trying to stand the bike up was like powerlifting a cow.

Took a break in Vieng Phukha. The neighbourhood inspectors checking me out.

Apparently they love snooker here.

Nightfalling. Still in the middle of nowhere, with a spoilt compass (melted stuck from the heat), no phone reception and no more water. Then only did I get that happy feeling that "yes, this might be an adventure after all, I dont know where I am, nobody else does, I dont know where im going, I cant call anyone, anywhere, if I fell into a ravine and died nobody would ever know, I might as well be abducted by aliens" ...........bliss...i tell you...pure bliss.....

Neutral & engine light. Nothing else.

With the flash on. Ok, so theres the bike, now,...wheres everything else?

Reached Luang Namtha and checked into a run down hotel with a courtyard so could keep an eye on the @. Always based my preference on two things, secure place for @ and cheap rates. Ok so im lying. I like hot showers, queen sized beds, and killer views. But then that would be cheating. Anyway after washing up, i headed into town looking for a meal and had my first encounter with Lao beer, coffee and cigarettes. First rate for all three. Highly recommended. The beer is refreshing, like heineken only cheaper and not as pretentious. And the coffee, is impressive. Rich and buttery, have it at every meal, always neat, no milk or sugar. The ciggies were smooth, not as as stale as S'porean cigs but not as good as M'sian ciggies, but still good cos they were so cheap. A big brew cost USD 0.70~1.0, pack of 20's USD 0.3~0.45 and kopi 0.05~0.3 (depending upon how farang infested the area was) And surprisingly it was quite infested. But mostly hippie or eco-adventure-tourist crowd. They are ok compared to the country-tight-arse-club type.