Monday, February 9, 2009

Get Your Lao On!

This post is far belated it's almost embarrassing. My only excuse is that we were so busy adventuring that using the computer was confined to 30 minute Facebook/email/traveling cram sessions.
We entered Lao by land from the south of China and the north of Lao. It was such an experience going from the highly supervised borders of China to the dirt road, make sure you pay before you keep walking border that envelops Lao. (It's LAO not LAOS, the damn french added the S on because they couldn't say it right) Not surprisingly Mufasa had no problem entering the country on their 'don't ask, don't tell policy'. It's said that the further south you go in Lao, the lower your blood pressure drops and I can assure you, that's all very true.
In a country that less than a decade ago was discovered as both stunning and affordable, finding spots that have not yet been invaded by tourists is becoming increasingly difficult. Which is why we wanted to head as far north as possible. The roads are atrocious and the buses that wind up the steep mountains must have been sold at huge discount prices during the 60's. Not much repair work has been done to them since either. Soo, to break us in, our first bus ride was around 20 hours long....on this....
The amount of luggage per one Lao person is enough to give any flight attendant a heart attack. This picture doesn't include the overcrowded seats, the chickens, goats, and pigs that follow the endless precession of locals. Aside from the dust, vomit, and stares......I kind of like the bus rides. I think it's because I've already paid my dues on their buses during my last visit to Lao.
So here is Mufasa and I....chillen during a pee-break.
Riding this tricked out buses is made worth it when you get to see this...the ENTIRE way there....don't be a hater.
Another reason I risk nausea and well being is to observe hill-tribe life as we roll by.....on 22' Sooo...the shot below isn't that great but it's one of the few I was able to catch. Tiny Asian women scaling mountains whilst carrying ungainly loads on their backs. And I thought pulling weeds were bad.
Most Lao build their homes above the ground. Since they do live in the rain forest, rain is to be expected. It's a shame that many Lao are ditching the thatched roofs and showing off their new found wealth in the form of a rusty tin roof.
It also serves as a lower level floor for all their barn-yard guests. Have you ever chased a baby pig around a rural hill-tribe village and then hold it squealing in your hands in order to take a picture, then find out your memory card is full. Only now you have the entire village looking on thinking that some crazy white woman is about to steal their pig. Most of the sight seeing is done during your trip to Phongsali as opposed to in Phongsali. So, after saving Mufasa's life no less than ten times from rapid packs of dogs. We spent our days walking through the town. Until we met a spawn of Satan, in the form of a dirt bike. It should have been taken as a sign that it was dirt cheap. It should have been waving red flags that it took a day of repair to even get it started. But being the eager beaver, risk takers we are....we rented it. Now we have a grown man, me, our dog, and backpack going up and down mountains on a 10cc motorbike. Something was bound to happen. The flat happened halfway down the mountain. We had two choices, push the bike back UP to town, or send Mike by himself DOWN the mountain to fix it. We chose down. That left me trying to hitch a ride with a local to meet up with him at the next town. So after being ripped off on a tire repair we headed out of the Popsicle stand and up the steep hills. It made it about 1/3 of the way up before the motor smoke and all. So now we are mountains away from town with a dead motorbike. We decide to try pushing our way up the 100 degree the jungle....with a 10cc bike from the 60's. What felt like miles was really on a few hundred feet. So, plan B was to sit and wait for the next bus. After nearly killing ourselves to squeezing the bike through the twin doors of the bus, we made it back to town on our broke down bike. We have never been happier for a cold shower and a change of clothes.
Here we are....broke down on the side of the road with our 10cc.


jeannette stgermain said...

Wow, a trip full of adventures - I love the little house on pillars - no building codes or zoning codes. You just build it! I also liked the chasing pig story :)
Bytheway, please do me a favor, and go to my blog to slick on the "follow me" sign - because when I post the paintings of those kids you photographed, I'll refer to your blog, and people may want to look for yours - thanks!
cheers, Jeannette- have a good week

Anonymous said...

you guys are crazy, it's official. I can't belive mufasa has survived all of these adventures, you should have bought a pit bull or something.