This is a very short post. After my one night in Phongsali, I was supposed to spend the following two nights in the northern town of Luang Namtha. Alas, I did not make it due to some bad luck and unknown factors. First, as I mentioned previously, China is super close to Phonsali, so much so that it turns out that the 3 hour direct southwest bus route to Luang Namtha crosses through a chunk of China. As a result, unless you have a visa (and acquiring a Chinese visa is no picnic), you can’t go through that route. The indirect route to Luang Namtha is a 7 hour bus ride south to Oudomxay, and a further 3 hours northwest to Luang Namtha. And strangely enough, the last bus to Luang Namtha from Oudomxay is at 3:30 pm. Since the bus from Phongsali leaves at 8:00 am, that only leaves 30 minutes of leeway to catch the last bus. But hey, positive thinking right? Wrong, if something can go wrong it will go wrong.
Our bus was going slow as hell for most of the way, and then it broke something half-way through which resulted in a 20 minute stop. Now, common sense would dictate that when you’re running late, maybe you cut the one rest stop short? You’d be totally wrong, we still stopped for the better part of 40 minutes for lunch. In fairness neither of those things would have made a difference, I still arrived 1.5 hours too late to catch the next bus. Bummer because I’d prepaid my hotel in Luang Namtha, but not exactly a tragedy at $26 a night. And for a further $16 bucks I got a killer room in Oudomxay. The real pity is that Oudomxay kind of sucks whereas Luang Namtha turned out to be pretty awesome. Oudomxay is an odd town in particular because all the good restaurants and bars are on the outskirts of town, yet there are literally no public transportation options past 6:00 pm.
I still made the best of it–my time on the two buses was actually quite lovely and I tried my best to take some shots along the way, but most of them were terrible. Here are the only shots that turned out at all well:
This is what a lot of the bus rest stops in Lao look like, unfortunately terrible food options:
I realised that I have not yet posted any photos of tuk tuks in Lao. I’ll leave you with a shot of tuks tuks, as you can see they are considerably larger than those in India and Sri Lanka. And you pay for the difference, more often than not you ride-share with 3-6 people: