Jinghong China to Luang Namtha, Laos By bus, $14 each, 250km approx. 10:40AM to 4PM.
Breakfast at Mei Mei Café. We picked up 20 days of Michelle's hypertension drug so we have a chance to linger in Laos before we have to be in Bangkok. We decided to give up on the Fed-ex package with prescriptions from home. It is still held by Chinese Customs. Actually, the Chinese made Lotensen seems to be working. Perhaps it is authentic after all!
After staying a week in Jinghong we bought seats on the public bus to Luang Namtha in Laos. The hard part was getting the taxi to get to the bus station. It was rush hour. After waiting in front of Mei Mei in vain, we walked over to a busy intersection and spotted an empty taxi waiting for the signal to change. We weaved through the gridlock and jumped in in the middle of the lanes. After that, it was smooth sailing.
The bus stopped in Mengla for a half hour. We got to the border and the crossing went smooth enough. We were able to leave our luggage on our bus and step off for China exit proceedings and get back on, ride less than a kilometer to the Laotian customs point and step off to buy our Laos Visa. They asked for $37 each for the visa instead of the official rate of $32. We paid it without arguing. A passport photo is required. We had ours but a group of Spanish girls who traveled on our bus didn't. The official let them through without any problem. After 20 minutes, our whole bus completed the proceedings and we again boarded our same bus and it took us to the bus station 6 kilometers south of the small town of Luang Namtha. We jumped in the back of a songthaew
for the final 6km. A songthaew is a small pick-up truck with a cover and benches in the back for passengers. They are used as buses and taxies.
The songthaew stopped on the main street in front of the ATM. I got a million kip, the Laotian currency. A million sounds like a lot but it is just $125US. We looked up and saw the familiar Many Chan Guesthouse, the simple place where we stayed 4 years ago. Christmas time 2007, we visited northern Laos for a month and had a great time. We had such a great time that we did NOT want to try to recreate the experience. We are going to pass through and make our way south to new territory. We posted our short trip report of that trip as a separated blog. You can check out by going back to our main page. I remembered Many Chan Guesthouse from before. I remembered the rooms were well worn then but the restaurant below was nice. We decided to just stay there for old times’ sake. Later, we discovered that Luang Namtha has added many nice accommodations since our prior visit and we could have stayed in a nicer room around the corner for $1.25 more. Next time……
We love Laoshian food: the sticky rice, roasted meats, young bamboo shoots, thin rice pancakes with vegetables or noodles rolled in them and dipping sauces. And no more food floating in cups of oil .... soooo much healthier. First night, we perused the night market. The rest of the time we ate at Many Chan’s.
The Lao people are noticeably more friendly, hospitable and polite. They actually show that they appreciate your business!! A rarity in China.
Everything is a lot cheaper here; lovely guest houses for US $15, exotic fruit shakes at market 75 cents. Here is a comparison of one day in Laos vs. our last full day in China, eating all meals in restaurants. It is only 15 percent less costly in this example but this was actually one of our cheapest hotels in China.
Hotel: $20.32 $ 7.55
Meals: $24.60 $21.77
Bus: $22.22 $27.68
Internet access is a lot better in Laos than China. The great Chinese firewall blocks all social media sites and the process really slows the data transmission on the uncensored sites. We ended up spending much of our first days in Laos looking at travel blogs from other travelers we have met along our journey. We now can get to them!
It felt good to be in Laos.