Walk around Phongsali
Posted Date: 7/12/20139:33 AM

A lot of plans running through my head, Namtha…Muang Sing…MuangLueng..Vian… But finally there was no plan as “no bus today to Namtha” was heard this morning at the bus station. I really don’t want to hang around in China for another day, so I brought the one available for Laos, heading to MuangSai, no idea where it is. But was told I can switch bus to Phongsali from there, why not then. We rolled out of Mengla in time, road to Mohan was smooth and there actually another more better highway under construction nearby. We arrived the border in an hour. Together with a Danish man, a Spanish woman and a girl from Dali, we heading for immigration. The China side was smooth and fast. And before cross over the no man land, women surrounded us with block of paper money for exchanged, openly we swapped yuan to kip in front of the officer eyes! In the Laos side. A wooden Thai style house act as the Laos immigration office stood in front of us, saw the visa on arrival sign. Only me need it as all of them got the visa before hand.

It made thing easier and quicker. Same…straight forward, form filled, one photo and 30 dollar, no question asked and no delay, the only problem was my dollar bill was too old and the green color had been faded, and the guy forced me to renew to another bill. Of course not finish, go next window and do as the other do…wait! still…very fast and a 30 days visa granted! Back on the road we drove down the Laos motorway. The surrounding are so green and lush, no wonder we Chinese came and invaded the forest for wood. We passed many settlement, people still live in simple wooden or bamboo stilted houses, poor I would say compared with China. I didn’t mean we hadn’t this kind of villages in China, but at least we wouldn’t see it along the main road, or should I say…the Chinese will not let you see it…it is our face that matter, so all you will see is nice looking houses when you speed through China through the window.

Finally we arrived MuangSai after 5 hours, then I find out it was actually Oudomxay, I was here 10 years ago, of course a lot had been change.

The Dali and Spanish girl had jump off 100km further back at the junction for the Namtha connection. So I team up will the Dan, we share a room right next to the bus station, 50000/room, got most of the garget, clean but basic. Ok for just tonight. Soon…my old Oudomxay images came back as I walk the street, there is the temple on top of the small hill, and was it the family guesthouse I had been? or was it not? Now more new development in town. and the Chinese influence was immense. Walk inside the market place, just like any Chinese wholesale market, no difference, in fact, everyone in there are Chinese! Went with Eric the Dan for massage that was sponsored by the red-cross. We were the last customers as it should be closed by 7:30, “no problem, we will keep open when there is customers “the manager said. So…30000 for an hour massage, and we lay there rubbing by 2 Laos women. A long time I hadn’t try any massage, and it was great and comfortable. My stomach made noise and it made the womanlaughed so bad, “sorry, I am hungry” I told her, still she kept giggling until the end of the treatment every time my stomachs ring!

Incredible! A 240km trip took 12 hours. I really couldn’t believe or expected it. No, they wouldn’t sell you ticket the day before, so I need to be there earlier this morning, ticket office was open but no one there. While waiting some Chinese told me better put something inside the bus to secured your seat. “No seat number here in Laos” someone offered. Right…I gave up my first place in the line, heading to where the Phonsali bus standing, already people there labeling their space with bottle of water, pack of fruit or whatever in hand. I squeezed in and planted my jacket on the 7 rows. Got my ticket and said goodbye with Eric and ready for the 8 o’clock bus. People milling in, the compartment was packed, and also the top luggage rack of the bus, I could hear foot step from above. Perhaps it was weekend, there was so many people in the bus. It wouldn’t leave until

Once outside of town we began our climbing, the scene was actually very pretty outside, especially after we tee off from the motor road, then the beginning of our long climbing on a dirt track, we passed through many settlement with different hilltribe, here, every village you could still see women preparing cotton and weaving, I really didn’t expected the trip could be that long, everytime we stop in a bus station I thought we were arrived, still…driver said not yet. Place like Bountai and BounNeua also seem nice to check out, saw some note posted in those bus stations from local guide offered trekking tour. Rolled into Phonsali station at 9pm, still got 4km into town, no idea where to stay after got off the tuktuk as they told me here is the town market place, “bed, bed” a women calling me from across the street, a small store front with no sign. But upstair got couple of room, 50000 with bath and 40000 without. No mood to do any bargaining or walk around for searching. Took one and went out for food. Chinese just around the corner. Bad choice and I hate cold rice. If a Chinese restaurant offered you cold rice, they wouldn’t cook good food!

Met an Swedish back in the guesthouse and she said this GH is the best in town for this price. And they do offered hot water for shower. And tea as well. Still…will look around tomorrow for choice.

Yes…the Swedish was right, there wasn’t any other better choice than the guesthouse right next to the marriage that we are staying at after I made the surveying tour for the area yesterday, so I was happy to kept my room and did some laundry. Since it was Sunday, the tourist office not open, and we couldn’t got any info about hiking tour. So…another relaxing day. Actually Phonsali was composed by couple of small villages. The one call Phonsat and Sensali got all the guesthouse, and had a nice little small street with old wooden houses. I quite like it here, peacefully, again got the Laos speciality…sabaidee! I love it!
Yes, the chinese influence was immense, I like it and I dislike it. Yes, I can asked easily and understand more about many thing, and ordered food in the restaurant, since almost every places was run by Chinese, some from Sichuan, and many came from Hunan. But on the other hand, it lost the Laos identity, here is not China, I want to see Laos! But seem like it will get more worse in a few years time.

And today we sort out our trekking program, a 3 days trip and a last minute join in, totally 4 in our group, 11 dollar each per day. And today another easy day. Like Vietnam, Laos gave a lot of inspiration for photoing. So…took lot of abstract picture. Why not…digital cost nothing!

We set out for our trip, 4 of us with our guide Cham. A lovely morning with sea of cloud alongside. “you can see this almost everyday here” Cham said, waoh…what a luxury, we in Yuanyang could only catch it if you have luck! We followed the dirt track out of town, down down we go, then we switched to a small trail further down almost 800m, crossed coupled of stream, we stopped in a Phon-noy village for lunch, and finally we stopped and slept the night in a Lao-sang village. Phon-noy and Lao-sang are pretty much the same in dress and the way of life, but their language are different. I hadn’t seen any woman in full costume. most of them wear simple shalong like the Thai, actually they all brought it from the market, hadn’t seen any loom in their village. Old women sometimes still put on white legdress. The walk today was ok, not very scenic and most of the time we was inside primarily forest, but with more need for new agricultural land, more trees had been cut, and they all turn into tea plantation as the price for tea had gone up a lot this year.

“Vitamin C”, since yesterday, Cham always stop along the trail and pick up eatable plantation for us to tried, and said all are with vitamin C. So we kept trying whatever he gave us, actually most of them taste quite ok. And the 1st item this morning he find us after we left the Lao-sang village is a yellowish flower. Of course…with vitamin C! The food last night was again good, with a fresh chicken, more local wild vegetables and sticky rice, and of course wash down with a bottle of lao-lao, it set me right to bed after our meal, only eight o’clock.

But I was glad I did it, as since 11, there was noise everywhere, dogs barking, men running, later we was told someone had a serious stomach problem and need medical help. Then the rest of the night was malfunction rooster timer and dog call. And the 1st 3 hours of drunk slept really help. We passed through a Hor village, Hor mean Han as they are originate Chinese, they live in Bamboo or wooden hut that built on ground, not like all the other tribe that live on stilted house. And they all could speak Chinese although with little accent, but we could understand each other perfect. Anyway, they can only speak but not able to read and write Chinese. The village chief said they are used to live here, grew crops and raise fishes. “don’t want to relocated to lowland area as we know nothing but farming, all we want is a road access to here” he said. I wish him luck before we move on, and hope there would be a road if ever I came back to this area.

After Cham prepared our lovely picnic lunch with bamboo by the river, we began a long hike uphill to the Ahka village. It wasn’t the best time to do uphill walk…I mean…after lunch, especially lovely one! But slowly slowly we managed. Through more trees and ate more vitamins C and we heard “see…that the Ahka village”, followed the finger pointed we saw some thatch roof behind tree top, I rekon only 15 minutes walk. Great…I almost wanted to gave up the walk if not this encouraging SEE! The whole village was set on a greenless slope with yellow sand, they live in stilted houses like their Phon-noy neighborhood, but the Ahka house seem spacer, here almost every women kept to their costumes, long robe clothes which open on the left side under their armpit, sometimes knoted and decorated with huge silver disk engraved with figures. Many silver coins decorated the side of the lapel, and on the right chest was some colorful stitching work, there also color stripes on the end of their long sleeve. They wear baggy trousers, with square shape headdress also coated with silver coins, women with grow up child will have string of silver in spiral shape ornaments hanging from both side of their headdress.
I saw quite a few women just let their breast shoot out from their dress, local said” wealthy women do that, if she show both breast mean they are more rich”! Ha… Don’t know if he was teasing me or what? Anyways… Most of the Ahka here spoke Chinese, so I could easily talk to them. And once they knew I would send them back the photos I’d taken in the village, soon men and women came and asked for family portrait. Why not! I tried my limited Hani that was spoken in Yuanyang, and surprised me and them that they understood, so…”gi-ba-dor” all through our dinner!!!

Woke up with the promising sea of cloud as Cham had mention. The village already in full action. Carrying water from the bottom of the village(where the only water well located)seem like the morning ritual of this Ahka world, women balancing the buckets on both side of their shoulder, carefully move up the slope of the village, while I was lavishly washing my figure before our breakfast.

Today was our last day for this trip, an easy walk to BounNeua, another jungle walk with river crossing. This is the main trail for tribal out to get material and supplies. We met some Ahka women whose had went out this morning and coming back when we were heading down hill. By noon we saw a flat agricultural land and Cham said that was BounNeua. Hired horse-troop waiting to carry goods from town to the hill area, men was smoking and some just resting before cargo arrived. BounNeua not much a town, houses just spread out thinly along both side of the road until we got to the bus station, and you could see many Ahka women here. Part with Cham and the Ausis and the Swedish, me and John would stay here and carry on our market hunting trip. Check out couple of GH, finally unloaded our pack in the one next to the bus station, as it was the only one that got hot water for shower! Did the whole set of toilet thing right away after 3 days!!! Nice and clean 30 minutes later! No electricity in town, “no water”, the owner said as they use water power for the generator, and not sure if there will be power tonight, well…what can you do!?!?

Again…Chinese dominated the town as it was no more than 70km from the border to Mengla in China, how good if I could use that border for the crossing, save a lot of time! This period is the sugar cane harvest moment, so…a lot of Chinese from Yunnan came over to shipped back the goods , “no time for Chinese new year” one Chinese said, and there was 500 yuan extra for working through new year time. Since the plastic business earn more money, so all Chinese on the other side switch to grow gum tree, so the need the sugarcane from Laos to provide the brown sugar factory there.

Ate in a restaurant nearby, and the owner was from Guangxi, so we spoke to each other in Cantonese. “feel homey to speak in Bai-hua” he said, he had been here more than 3 years now, Wang was his name, and when asked why came here, as I said what kind of business can be has in this kind of poor place? “wild animal! “he said. Right, I was suddenly understood, the long mystery had been clear for me. He said every month there would be wild animal shipped back into China, he only acted as middle man, collected whatever they brought here from the mountain. “many bears and elephants up there” he said, and claimed that Guangdong is the main exit port from here. I told him don’t do the animal business, and he said yeah(don’t know what he mean by this yeah though), and said now he mostly trade wild herb and Linggee”, “by doing nothing, just kept whatever they bring here” he said, and dry it before storage, he could earn more than 30000/year by that. later he offered us wild animal for dinner, we declined, instead we tried some deer and wild pig meat, it was delicious. And with walk from the last few days, again we declined the lao-lao offered too. Electricity was still on so we better heading back with light on.

The only Laos dish I knew is the laap, and it was real good, otherwise I wouldn’t had remember it. And then…what else? Fried rice, omelette was the stuff you usually got when moving around in Laos, of course it was Laos at all, and something was missing, no snack here! As was today I wandering around in BounNeua, beside noodle there was grilled meat and fish, not the kind of snack I fancy. But then I saw a woman rolling up something look like rice pancake, was it? I went closer and yes…the rice roll I had in Laos 10 years ago.

Although this one here is far more bigger in size, but I order 5 pieces right away, “pan-nang” the woman said to me a thousand each. I told her no problem and she went away to prepared the fire instead of serve me the rice roll. She set the pen on the stove, painted a layer of grease on it, came the giizaa noise and beat up, she then laid 5 rolls into the heat up pen. Woah…it was different style, the one I used to had is serve with soft roll, wrapped with cabbage and dipped in mixed sauce. And this even better as it was hot and crispy, in between time the woman brought me shred peanut and all sort of ingredients which I had to mixed my own sauce. Soon the crispy brown rolls was under my dripping mouth. And its taste just as good as its promising look,inside was glass noodle and mincemeat,the juice together with mint and cabbage, I wish I didn’t had that bowl of noodle before it, otherwise I could’ve had more! “Tomorrow morning” I told the woman behind the stand.

Another lazy day, just pick whatever tee-off lead by my feet, passing couple of Phon-noy villages and eventually hit the airport runway through a back gate in the rice field. An airport! I was surprised, so I walk inside and saw a old German lady, said she was waiting for the 3 o’clock plane. The twice a week schedule didn’t attracted many passenger, I could only saw 2 other local people there. A very small airport, smaller than my guesthouse before.. look around I saw a poster in French, but I did made out most of the description by the photos, a handicraft shop for the local Ahka people, is a project by an NGO to, memorize the map and I should go check it out later.out the airport I just heading to the bus station direction, and it lead me back with no problem through the rice field. The handicraft shop was on the Phonsali road, how far away? No idea as I couldn’t read French. So I just walk, immediately I saw not the shop but the soft rice roll on the side of the street, the stream one that serve cold. No…my eye was already set on the crispy one, sorry!

Anyway…I find the handicraft shop no more than a km down the road, a small house got most of the product on display, actually more a stock room to keep the handcraft, as the manager inside told me they had regular order from within Laos and also from France. this project was sponsored by the phonsaly forest conservation and rural development project, kind of international NGO program I guess. Look at all their product, compareed with ours in Yuanyang, we had far more better variety and standard. it gave me hope, perhaps we just need more time to made our name I guess!

Came to Banyo yesterday waiting for the market, as market tended to start pretty early in Laos. The German woman I met in the airport join us, why? Her plane didn’t show up, said there wasn’t any passenger from Vientane, so they didn’t come!? can’t you believed that? What about those passengers here waiting to fly to Vientane? no point to wait for another one next Wednesday and they gave her back full refund. So 3 of us crashed into Banyo and became the center of attraction, the talk of the town.

“they really looking at us” John said to me, yes, what better than bore through a foreigner with eye when there was nothing better to do in a village! I like the town right away when we drove into Banyo, the surrounding was so pleasant, the overall setting look so harmony. After check in the only GH in town, we went exploring. Took any tee-off would somehow lead you to a village, most of them are Phon-noy, Thai-Lu, and Ahka in the area. We saw so many water power generator along the river as we walk, like many small dams, a great and clean way to obtained electricity. But still it wasn’t enough for those running business in town, so annoying noise from big generator could be heard until midnight.
Market did started early by 6 am this morning, not very big, and since this period most of the people are busy in harvesting sugar cane, so the crowd wasn’t that big. Same like market in China, vendor came and setup store, the usual stuffs. Here, the silver-ware stand are very popular for the Ahka women, the fake Indo-China coin look very real, and only cost 5000 per piece, the guy seem like had big supply, he took out 10 coins each time from his army-green bag whenever the table was empty.

And a new profession the 1st time I saw in market. A guy with a pc notebook, downloaded phone ringtone, mp3 or movie into people’s mobile phone, got a big crowded of follower around him too. Beside the Khamu and Phon-noy, the majority are Ahka in the market, many young Ahka women came with full silver decoration, silver coins piled their chest. Saw only one tribal woman I couldn’t identified today, the local said she is Oma, no idea what tribe they were, same kind of salong skirt like all the others, but the head dress was very colorful with many embroidery. for foods, beside noodle and grilled meat and fishes. A deep fried doughnut with sweet potato, taste ok at least they wasn’t too sweet like the one in Phonsali that stuffed with sugar. Market was almost finished by 9 am, the twice a month activity was over and the town back to its quietness as the truck load of people shipped out of town.

Rain. The dededada sound all through the night that I thought was my own invention in dream. Never expected rain. Anyway…I did planed for a day off already, just did more less then.

The farthest I went is the bakery shop but seem like they having their day off too. Then the bank, need to change more money. I accused myself for not fare to Vietnam, while there I bargained for each item, calculated for each price. But here, I never did bargained, and I spend money faster than I’d expected. I don’t know…I just didn’t feel like bargaining this time, although they might over charging me, but seem like they did it in the gentle way, the Laos sabaidee way, I just hadn’t the heart to bargained too much, yeah…was done by the smooth operator I guess! But then…I find myself never one lost any temper so far, I spend less time to walk around looking for cheapest GH and sweating less, and I feel good.
Anyway…1 bill of dollar note got me a block of kip in mo time, this bank had quick service. Another place I spend my time today is the market next to our GH.

This time I really going through what they got there, foods of course! Beside the standard vegetables , fruit and meat stand, the deep fried doughnut(too sweet), and also they got fried sticky-rice doughnut too, walked further I saw the purple rice baba, the bread popped up in the middle on hot grille, couldn’t resisted it and got one right away…hot! There also couple of stand sell kind of sweet desert, like banana with rice pudding, mixed with sugar and syrup, like in Vietnam, here they had different kind of fruit or vegetables in tiny pieces that you could choose and serve in bowl mixed with sweet ingredients. By noon there would be ready-to-take-home foods in some counter there, and I saw the rice-roll in one corner of the market, same deep fried, but here they rolled it with the dry rice paper like in Vietnam, they taste great too, but I still missed the shred peanut and the much more variety of sauce in BounNuea.
1 dollar to 9214 kip

Came down to Hatsa yesterday with Steve who I’d met in the guesthouse.
The new bus station for Hatsa was opened up to service for the 1st day, and it was almost 2km out of town instead of right opposite from our GH. “it cost me 4000kip just to come to catch this bus” the old woman set next to me in the bus complained about this. Yes, I always wonder why built the bus station too far out from the village? I could understand for the city, but not a small village like Phonsali?!?! An hour ride with the packed small bus we arrived in Hatsa. A small riverside village on 500 sea level live together with mixed ethic group. This is one of the arrival point through NanOu from MuangKhua. No other choice for accommodation, a boamboo hut with 3 room on the second floor offered bed for 20000 each in a bamboo sheet wall room, very basic with no toilet and no nothing. But they do offered good observation view from the small balcony to the market place. Not much we could or wanted to do. nor any people spoke Chinese here, so I couldn’t even spend the time by talking to them. the problem was the easy encountered by using Chinese since I started this journey, I was so lazy even trying to learn and reapplied my Thai language knowledge, bad! a short walk around the area then I got to the small temple behind the village.

They were about to had their lunch, meat I saw the old monk preparing, young novice was surprised to see me, “sabaidee” I greeting them, the old monk just smile and waved me away gently, so I just excused myself and retreat silently, before I left the I stole a glimpse inside the temple through the open door, beer bottles was all over the floor. Right…perhaps this secret better kept inside the family, farang shouldn’t see it! hahaaaa!
Same as every river village, life goes around the river, kids play in it with bamboo rafts, youngter wash their bike in there, women do the laundry, fishermen clean their catching, villgers extracted sand and everyone came bathing in it by late afternoon. We just spend most of our time sittiig in the small restaurant watch the river life go by. And before dark many vendors already arrived with their merchandise to setup stands for tomorrow market, and the small market place suddenly became the ideal hide and seek playground for the kids with all those goods piling randomly.

The not yet ready bi-monthly market had already brought live to this small village.
Couldn’t sleep well even with the help of a bottle of lao-lao that cost me 1000kip! I didn’t know was it psychological or what, my mind just reflected the word from Steve yesterday afternoon, “so fxxking smell and dirty on the river at both end of the village, shit everywhere! “, and also flash back the sight I saw by the bridge, where a woman help catching lice from the other woman hair. I was just itching the whole night, slept on and off, then the sound of truck rolling in, trolley or wheelbarrow rolling in, then foot steps and human voice, and the most usual sound was the drum of marching band went off…in this hour? Then of course the dog joining in and send the invitation to the rooster, hell…it was only 4am! Was it just my dream?…I was still scratching my arm and feet. When I opened my eye again it was almost 7am. The market was opened, not many people but action was there already.

Fed myself with bowl of noodle topped with 2 fried eggs, lovely! They said market will last until 12, plenty of time here. Most of the people here were Phon-noy or Thai-dam, Ahka not arrived until well after 9am from up river. They were a little different from the one I saw in BounNuea area, here their headdress with a plate set high up on the back of their head, kind of like the Hua-yao Yi in Shiping, Honghe in China, and corner with string of heavy beads, not only the spiral ring of silver decoration hanging from both side of the head gear, some women lengthened it with big solid rings which connected the spiral ring on both side. On their jacket there wasn’t that much of silver coins, bnt more embroidery patterns, and some decorated their lapel with the kind rectangular silver plaques like the Yao in Yunnan, same this Ahka wear long indigo tunic and baggy pant, but they added a back apron on behind. And all in all, you wouldn’t mistook them other tribe but Ahka. And for young women they wear round cotton cap that covered with silver coins and color beads, they dress similar to the adult but less silver decorated. suddenly I saw one woman dress just like the kind of Hani in Honghe, only that she wear long tunic with a front apron, also they had no embroidered tail.

“she is Han” someone told me, ok…the nicest looking Han I had ever seen! Boats piling the riverbank by 10, and the most busy business was the tree barks, tribal brought bundles after bundles here for the businessmen from China, no idea what it was for, sound like for producing certain cotton fabric. Patois and gasoline stands also the favoured for the local, container after container shipping back to their villages. Again…the silver ware stand attracted most of the Ahka, just stay behind the stand and clicked the shutter like hell. And yes…by 12 the market was almost deserted and the smalk village back to normally with the single street occupied mostly by dogs and ducks!
Hatsa market is on the date 15 and 30 every month.

Finally decided to made the effort to Outai, this is one of  those places that couldn’t find any information in any guidebook. A 5 hours trip on an unpaved road, passing through some scenic valley with paddy field.

Also you could see some Ahka village along the road, basically dressed same like the Ahka I’d seen yesterday in Hatsa, but some women I saw today even had the headdress almost fully covered with silver beads which had forming an “A” shape in front. And 2 rows of embroidery on both side of their front lapels on their tunic long dress, beautiful! And we also drove passed couple of Han village, where young women not just wearing full costume, but the headdress was decorated with silver flower and color stone. I swear we could never find any Han still dress like that! Because of the road, material could be obtained if they could afforded, and now most of the house in the villages were in corrugated-iron roof instead of thatch roof. Rolled into Outai by 1pm, the view from the small hill before descent to the valley was so pretty, the whole town was surrounded by paddy fields. “this is a place to stay and eat”, the driver recommended to me before we drove into the bus station.

Why not, I took the room for 30000, with bathroom but no hot water. After I surveyed the area and the driver did gave me a good advice. Like the man next door in another guesthouse told me when I asked why not installed the solar water heater, “we don’t even had enough water, not to mention electricity” he protested! 2 other guesthouse by the bus station run by Chinese and one further run by local Lao family, but the one I staying in had the best value and clean. Rain poured down after I got my backpack unloaded, not very heavy though, so I ventured out for a walk with no aim. Yao people could be seen in town, dress the same like the Nandian Yao in Yunnan, but here they wrapped themselves with more color cotton threads, even on around their waist. Hat for teenagers wasn’t the balloon style, only tied with few bunch of cotton threads. Adult women only covered their head with an indigo cloth as the headdress. Walk down the river and saw many rows of water generators, created a water staircase on the river, each connected with wire to each family, the fly-over creating a canopy, what a scene

A police check point before NgayNeua for identify paper.

Another rainy day. But I still made the effort to walk up the main road the the hill point where the electricity tower was, at least took some panorama picture for the area. That was all, mission completed. On my way back I same the same back I took yesterday that was coming back from China today, bit late as it was almost 4pm, then I remembered the GH owner commented about the road condition while raining, “drivers are too scare to drive on this road, very slippery” he said, no wondered it was 4 hours late today. The driver saw me and waved, bus speeded pass and splashed of mud all over me, hey…I didn’t need this kind of greeting! Looking back and heard the car engine sound like heheheh…!
Talk to many people, still no straight answer about share bus down to BanTha for market tomorrow morning. “most of traders go there today for the market”, a guy told me. Damit…if by the 10am bus, no chance I could see anything when I got there.

Anyways…there wouldn’t be any new tribe there to see. And the local said no more market up from Outai, so…that was it, think it was time to start visit the normal tourist trail in Laos, and see what I could learn for the project.
Outai at sea level about 750m

No rain but the road was still so muddy for travel. And because the China bus couldn’t made it to Jiangcheng last night, so there would be only one local bus drove out to BounNeua, mean…even I wanted to stop in BanTha for the market, there would be no other transportation afterward. So…no other option. Yes…most the road was a mess, in some point the car wouldn’t gave in, stuck, and everyone went outside like they had been trained before, and wait infront of the bus for the driver took out a heavy rope, and all of them pulling the bus forward, nothing needed to say or pre-arranged, seem like it was just normal and always happened, just like home cooking I gusss. Still…we got stuck quite often and sometimes need the local help. And finally the bus just stop dead refusd to go any further.

Driver investigated underneath the bus and after an hour he announced the bus dead, we need to wait for an rescue bus which he had just called, when??? He couldn’t tell, we just wait. Soon, everyone announced “kin-kao” eat they said and fished out package of rice and dried meat wrapped with banana leaf, they’d all prepared, seem like they knew or expected the delay. And each walk out in different direction for picnic. I dug in my rucksack…2 banana and mint chewing gum! We wait and wait, local ahka kids came to entertained themselves watching the dead bus and strangers. They just play with their only toy…wooden trolley with single wheel, their only wish was to able to got a ride from the trolley owner(the kid who own the wooden cart) one after one the rolling down the dirt track, most of the time they just got threw off the road with the unbalanced ride, which made us all laugh, but they had their fun and satisfied. Finally our rescued bus arrived after 4 hours. And suddenly the kids got more excited, then I knew why…as one of their parent got an errand to look after the bus while the driver came with us to town for components to fix his car, guess those kids would had fun to jump up an down the bus for adventure, some of them might never been on a bus before!

About the market in BanTha, even I didn’t actually spend much time there, as the driver only stop briefly for 5 mins. And it was almost over by 11am. Still I saw many Laos-Han tribe, seem like they were the majority there, and luckily I still saw one Ahka with heavy beads decorated her headdress, market was small and just few hours, and those merchants went straight to NgaiNeua to setting up for tomorrow market, which I think I will skip.
BounNeua altitude is about 1000m about sea level.

About time to say goodbye to Phonsali after more than 2 weeks in the region. No…not many tourist here compared with other places I’d heard. Here still reminded me of my Laos 10 years ago, the magical “sabaidee”, although now added an “OK” as a tail, still lovable! The throwing flip-flog game, the lacked of power supply, the smile, the friendliness…this Phonsali area are so lush with green, and at the same time so fragile to protect itself because of poor and lagging. What would it be like after another 10 years?
Got the ticket for the Oudomxay bus this morning, but it was already so packed when it arrived, changed my mind to stay behind, travel tomorrow then, I was in no hurry!

Source: 3xuok – Tamwai’ blog – Travelblog
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