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NORTHERN LAOS: SUNNY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN! :-)

Laos | Thursday, 18 February 2016 | 19 photos

After 2 weeks of clouds, rain and rather bitter cold in northern Vietnam (yes 5 degrees Celsius or 40 Fahrenheit with no heat is not fun), we finally have blue skies! Besides the weather we love the food (a wonderful blend of Thai/Vietnamese that is much much better than we expected!) plus the incredibly relaxed setting. The joke is that Laos PDR (People's Democratic Republic) actually stands for Please Don't Rush! Lol. ;-) We couldn't plan the trip better, quiet slow Laos after the hectic pace of all the motorbike traffic in Hanoi.

TREKKING: LUANG NAMTHA & MUANG SING
We spent 2 days in Luang Namtha to relax and enjoy the nice weather before heading to Muang Sing to trek. Luang Namtha is a small town where people come mainly to trek in the surrounding mountains and ethnic villages. There is a great night market where we had dinner every night at the same food stand because the lady was so nice and her food was delicious. We didn't expect Laos food to be so good!

We took a 4h bus to Muang Sing where they fit 4 people into rows meant for 3 - not fun you know, your leg falls asleep, you have a seatbelt thing up your butt, the guy on the left spreads his legs and the guy on the right keeps dozing off on your shoulder. The roads in Laos are narrow, very winding and full of potholes and gravel sections so no surprise they can only make 30km/20miles per hour. Keep calm and carry on. ;-( Muang Sing is even a smaller than Luang Namtha and its main attraction is also trekking. It is much less touristy than Luang Namtha, so much so that there were no groups so a private tour was too expensive for us. So we spent just 1 night and walked 4-5 times up and down the main road, lol ;-) The only interesting thing was the morning local market where all the ladies from the different tribes of the mountains come to sell their fresh vegetables and meat. It was a very interesting experience, for example; squirrels, small birds, and some kind of big rat/marmot (see the photo), etc.

The day after, we took the same bus back to Luang Namtha where we found a group for a 2 day/1 night trek in the jungle and mountains. We did a homestay in a small ethnic Hmong village; so authentic that the only shower available was the river, but nobody in our group took a shower though. Lol ;-) Reminds us once again how lucky we are in the western world! They told us 33% of what we paid goes to improve the local school and health care - there is no doctor/nurse who visits and the closest one is 30-45 mins away by motorbike while the school recently was able to hire a teacher who visits a Mon-Fri.

ON THE ROAD ... TO LUANG PRABANG
From Luang Namtha, we took a 4hr bus to Oudomxai to break up the long bus ride. We quickly discovered there was nothing to do in Oudomxai though - we just walked the main road back and forth. The highlight of this little town was the hike up the main hill for an amazing sunset overlooking a Buddhist temple. The day after, we took a 6hr sleeping bus to Luang Prabang - but during the day. Yes, you read correctly - a sleeping bus during the day. That is, beds where you have to lie down ... so we just laid there eyes wide open. You can try half sitting up to read but the roads are really bad so you constantly risk being tossed from your 2nd floor bunk. :-( Of course since these classify as "VIP" buses you have to pay more. :-( :-( Btw, the pee breaks are quite a "sport". The bus driver announces them every 2-3 hours (only in Laotian of course) which you notice since all the locals run out the door, and the women of course have to compete and run for cover to find some privacy.


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Hawaii Nov. 2014

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