Published: June 30th 2005June 12th 2005
One of the few great views from the small hillside village
We managed to get a pickup from Nong Khiaw to a small remote village called Vieng Kham. We thought it would be interesting to spend some time in this remote village so found a guest house (one of only two) and headed out for a walk. Every person in town was keen to say "hello" to us, however we quickly learnt that nobody seemed to know any more English apart from one guy at our guest house.
The mountain and river views were nice and it was intriguing to see that people seemed to really enjoy life in such a small and remote place. It seems that by dark, every single person is gathered around a TV somewhere to watch movies with family, friends or the nearest neighbour who owns a television.
We wanted to move East towards the Vietnam border as soon as possible and were aware that there was only one bus that headed that way, our guest house said it should pass at roughly 2am and he would wake us when it was there. At 8pm we had just settled into bed for some rest in preparation for the night bus when we were rattled by
Vieng Kham Houses
Village Houses in Vieng Kham
a loud roar and looked out of the window to discover that the bus was already here and the guy from our guest house had to run down the road to stop it! We quickly gathered our stuff and jumped on the bus for a 6 hour journey (that somehow lasted 12 hours) to Sam Neua.
The large bus was half empty apart from a friendly Vietnamese family and loads of electrical goods. Steve amused the men when he got back on the bus after a toilet stop carrying a leach in each sandal. After much laughter and discussion in Laos someone was king enough to burn them off of his feet. Aside from this, the journey was comfortable and the views through the mountains, especially the low clouds at sunrise were amazing.
We turned up in Sam Neua at 8am, checked in to a guest house and thought we would check out the town and have some breakfast. Eventually, we found a restaurant that sold just omelette, rice or noodles and had no water or coffee - just energy drink. We opted for the omelette that turned up swimming in fish sauce with whole crushed garlic cloves embedded
Playing cards at the one table in our Guest House... shortly after this the sun went down and we had a power cut
in the egg. This is the nearest big town to the border that we intended on using and after looking around to find nothing of interest we knew that we didnt want to stay here any longer than one night. We still had a few days to kill before our Vietnam visas started, so got a bus the next morning a little closer to the border to Vieng Xai.
Vieng Xai turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip so far. Its a very small place with friendly locals and amazing scenery. For food we either had to order a meal in advance from our guest house or visit the local market to have noodle soup containing unknown meat (gristle and bone included). The market was interesting to see - however we didnt fancy buying pigs leg or pigs insides freshly bagged and awaiting an offer. On our first day we took a tour of the local caves that were converted to homes by the previous government as a hiding place during the war. It took 3 hours in all to see what is pretty much a whole town within different mountains including a large stone
We were glad our bus turned up early
concert hall. The area was also surrounded by bomb craters where the Americans had realised the government was here somewhere, however all they managed to kill were locals and guards.
At our guest house we met an nice American lady (Lana) who is currently teaching English in the town. Lana kindly invited us to assist at one of her classes the next day. The friendly students (of all ages and levels) were very keen to practice their English on us and at the same time, we were learning about local culture and customs.
At this point, it seemed that everybody in the town recognised us and bid us farewell as we walked up the road to the bus stop at 6am the next morning!
Our bus finally turned up at gone 7am and took us for a two hour journey to Na Meo for the border crossing.
There are more photos below