Luang Namtha to Huay Xai, Part Two

Leaving Vieng Phoukay in the not too late morning, we espied something very exciting – another pair of bicycle tourers! These were the first we had met, two Thai men who were very friendly and gave us good information about a place to stay that night. If we hadn’t met them, we might have ended up camping by the road as the guesthouse was unmarked, hard to identify, and apparently the only one on the way to Huay Xai.

Our first packed lunch of samosas and mint sauce, eaten in the shade of a farmer’s bamboo hut had been a pleasant and delicious affair. The cold plain noodles and deep fried mystery fruit we had bought in the market at Vieng Phouka seemed a lot less palatable, and the steep mountain road afforded little in the way of shady picnic spots. We had been lugging around a stove and a fuel bottle filled at a Chinese petrol station for about a month, and decided it was time to bring them out and cook up some soup noodles (also from china) to supplement our market snacks. We hadn’t even tried out the stove before, so it took us a while to get it set up, with the aid of the instruction booklet. But sadly, nowhere in that booklet did it explain what to do if your fuel was not flammable. The stuff simply would not light, succeeding only in extinguishing flame. So after a frustrating half hour, we settled down to our original lunch. As expected, cold plain noodles and cold deep fried fruit (it might have been a sort of sweet potato) were not very good, and most of those were given to a very grateful passing stray dog, who thought they were in fact delicious.

It was a long, hard days cycle up and down a mountain, and we really struggled on some of the ascents. What should have been a glorious swooping descent in the afternoon was ruined by about 15 km of bad road. It was in the process of being resurfaced, and was mostly gravel, dust and rocks. No sooner had we pulled into our guesthouse, behind a grocery/fuel shop seemingly in the middle of nowhere, than two more bicycle tourers pulled up from the other direction. They were a Danish couple, who had been on the road since January, working their way slowly north from New Zealand.

Matthew only here for a second, it’s too confusing to write some things in the third person. The guesthouse was also the location of the only TV in the area, and easily fifteen children were crowded around enthralled in football (the Asian Games 2010 in Guangzhou just began), so Alison joined them. Having little interest in football, I brought out my PSP (a portable video game system) to pass the time waiting for dinner to be prepared. Many of the children quickly agreed that the PSP was indeed more interesting than football and so I became the center of a huddle as they crowded in to watch cartoon tanks and explosions on the tiny screen. I wanted to share, but was at a loss as to which game they could play (since it could very well be their first, and language would be a barrier to explanation). Alison reminded me that I recently purchased Burnout, a simple racing game that would be perfect. I expected them to grab excitedly at the controls as soon as they were offered, but all of them seemed too nervous to try. Eventually, after I demonstrated how easy it was, one brave boy decided to have go. The excitement they had in watching me blow up tanks tripled when they watched their friends haphazardly attempt to drive around a race track.. cheering when the car finally had enough and exploded magnificently.

The next day’s cycling was very tough, up two mountains in the baking sun, and even after our final descent into a gentle valley we still had 25 km to go. But we made it into Huay Xai before dark, and managed to get an ok room. It wasn’t as easy as we might have expected, as Huay Xai was stuffed full of foreigners. They were mostly Thai or European tourists who had recently crossed the border, and they came as a bit of a shock to us. However, Huay Xai was totally ready and set up for them, so for dinner we had delicious pizza and Beer Laos, in a cosy restaurant with checked table cloths and wall mounted antlers, and almost managed to watch the sunset over Thailand.

Pictures can be seen here

Other Pages Updated: Maps, Pictures, Statistics

~ by Elephants on November 15, 2010.

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