A slight breakdown and detour...

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Jan 22, 2013

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, Luang Namtha,
Sunday, March 31, 2013

Yesterday, I successfully boarded a bus out of Nong Khiaw. Due to a small group of people (7), we were charged an extra $.75
I took a 4-hour ride to a transport hub of Oudomxay. Let me just say the ride was rough! The road was in terrible condition, with countless potholes and gravel roads - this was on top of the mountainous roads we were driving through, with sharp curves throughout the journey. It literally felt like a never-ending roller coaster ride. Good thing I had light breakfast!

In the morning, I had read on Wikitravel that I can book a trekking trip from Oudomxay to a recently discovered caves of an enormous size (I don't recall the exact measurement), with a scenic hike along rice paddies on the way. It sounded interesting, so I wanted to check it out. When we arrived in town, the town was just filthy. There was so much smoke, dirt, and dust in the air. There was nothing in town except a strip of run-down guesthouses and hardware stores. After I hopped off the bus, I walked straight to the tourism office.
I arrived 15 minutes later, with my T-shirt drenched in sweat from my backpacks, and my face dripping in sweat. And what do you know...
the office was closed!!
I couldn't believe it. It was Saturday and the office was closed until Monday. There were a group of middle-aged men sitting in front of the office, eating watermelon. Feeling deflated, I sat down and tried to ask them if they knew another tourism company around. They didn't speak English, but offered me some watermelon. It was a sweet gesture but I was distracted from this setback. I was hot, tired and had to pee. I found a large hotel next door, and walked in to see if they can help me find a tour company. The manager was extremely nice and sympathetic to my situation but couldn't help me - he didn't know of any tours in town. But he kindly offered me their restroom facility.
After a brief break, I decided to head back to the bus station. I only had 3 days left before I had to return to Luang Prabang to catch a flight out of Laos. I needed to keep moving. By the time I got to the bus station at 4pm, the buses were done for the day. I was told to come back the next morning. I needed to find a bed for the night. Ugh. What a crappy day it's been!

I found a room across the road from the bus station for $8. The room was quite despicable. The walls were stained with god-knows-what, the sheet had a cigarette burn on it, the bathroom smelled like sewer, and the toilet tank was missing a lid and Mosquitos were flying all around it. I kept telling myself it was only for a night! I distracted myself by playing games in my iPad all night. When I tried to go to sleep, I noticed the mattress was rock-hard. I kept turning every hour or so, to keep from getting numb on a side of my body.
I think that was just about the worst night I had on this trip so far!
The morning finally came and I practically ran to the bus stop. When I arrived, I hopped on a bus headed to Luang Namtha. It's a city bordering China, and I read that it's an off-the-beaten-path destination for most travelers. I had a few days to kill anyway so why not!
This local bus was a whole another experience. First of all, they pack on everybody and their grandmother on the bus, even after all the seats are taken! People are forced to sit on the floor in the aisle, or worse, stand on the steps by the door. Just when you think no one else can fit on the bus, they pack on one more! Crazy.
The road condition to Luang Namtha was much better, but the curves were still quite brutal through the mountains. A few adults and children were using the barf bags provided. A mom and daughter duo was puking next to me, and while I felt bad, it was highly unpleasant having to witness that for hours!

We made a brief stop as the driver checked around the tires - there were women selling bags of produce, and a few passengers were buying cucumbers, including a man next to me. I was wondering what was up with the cucumbers, and saw that people started crunching on them! Ha. Interesting! It must be a snack for them? The man next to me offered one to me and I initially declined. But he kept pushing it towards me so I accepted.
I love the people in Laos. So kind and friendly.

4 hours later, we finally arrived in Luang Namtha. I didn't walk around too long, and took a room for $9 - I probably could have kept looking for something a bit cheaper, but this guesthouse was really nice. After last night, I was happy to pay an extra dollar for a better night of sleep!
I'm hoping that I can book a trekking trip in the next couple of days here. It's my last days in the mountains before heading down south of Thailand for the beach scene.
I hope I have a better luck here than I did in Nong Khiaw! Wish me luck :)
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stacy argoudelis on

Like any challenge in life I suppose the toughest part is to not get stuck in feeling upset or worked up and just keep moving. That's obviously even more important in a journey such as yours. I bet it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Glad you made it past your difficult night and onto better things!

Shana on

Please keep us posted on you next few days... sleep well!

Jake on

I think the cucumber was meant as a dowry. You are now husband and wife - ha!

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