July 31, 2007
Well if you remember back to the crossing from Vietnam, Sam and I had got ourselves completely isolated and away from the tourist trail.
We had stayed a day in very remote village of Muang Khua. There was people sleeping in rickety wooden huts with tin roofs. We hopped aboard the local bus to connect to Muang La. The bus stopped at every hamlet and people with sacks of rice, live chickens and ducks would cram aboard.They would be surprised to see us foreigners, but they would not stare very long. It was all very relaxed, people didn’t seem in any rush. No one spoke any English either.
The bus negotiated its way over fiords, the water would be higher than the axles. But no-one seemed too concerned. Then at last we came to a river that was impassable. It was Muang La. There was no bridge, just two long boats ferrying people to and fro between the banks. These are the depicted above in the pictures. Even when we overpaid the ferryman, we received a smile and got change. It was a welcome relief compared to the rip-offs of Vietnam!
We had missed the connecting bus to Udon Xai, but no matter. We were so over these rural buses, so we paid a minivan driver $10US each to take us. It was worth it, although we thought he was going to fall asleep being the wheel. We bought him a Red Bull; he seemed to like that.
When we arrived in Udon Xai, it was a relief to see fellow tourists. That signifies that there is something worth seeing, and that accommodation would be better than what we endured the first night in Laos. Unfortunately I picked a bad hotel to stay at. It was cheap, but when I lifted the mattress to discover cockroaches and spider on the bed boards, we slept on the floor with mosquito nets up, and skin lathered in insect repellant.
There was actually nothing really to see in Udon Xai. There was a track to go see an minority village and a nearby waterfall. But if you remember back to only three days ago, we had seen all that and more in Vietnam. We took a local bus to Pak Beng and left Udon Xai.