Published: July 4th 2012July 4th 2012
Last time I blogged I was in Gianshui, China waiting for the overnight bus to take me south to the small city of Jinghong, just a few hours north of the Laos border. The overnight bus took 12 hours which meant I arrived at 4.30am, so I watched a few videos on my computer outside a small shop until it got light and then walked into the centre of town where I found a good room for $8 a night. To me Jinghong has a thai feel to it, unlike any other place in China. The city is quite small, tree lined, people are smiling and relaxed, and it also has quite a few foreigner style cafes and restaurants, another thing I wasn't used to seeing in China. I took a couple of day trips to small towns an hour or so away from the city, and although the scenery was nice I didn't find the towns that interesting. Ideally it would be a very good place to trek in the remote areas but unfortunately there were not many tourists and it seemed like the start of the rainy season so I decided to give it a miss.
5 days in Jinghong I hopped on the bus to Luang Namtha in northern Laos, and was surprised after crossing the border and seeing the houses made from bamboo and wood that I felt really happy to be back in the country where I had spent a couple of months in at the start of the year. I guess I really like this country, the relaxed people, the green landscape, the low population, and the ruralness (is that a word) of it. Also I guess it is on the backtracker trail which means I can eat good cheap western and asian food at the farang restaurants and also have my fill of fruit shakes.
I only spent a couple of nights in Luang Namtha before heading to the small, pretty town of Nong Khiaw. I enjoyed staying a couple of nights in this town and having a little look around before getting on a boat for the hour trip to Muang Ngoi Neua, a little backpacker village on the banks of the Nam Ou river. On the second day I walked to Ban Na village with Nick from South Africa and Miki from Japan, both I had met in
Nong Khiaw. It was rice planting season so all the women from the village were in the field, including a couple of french girls who were paying for their board with work. Miki jumped in to help for a while before we made our way back to Muang Ngoi Neua. I was planning to leave after 3 nights but I had a bad case of diarrhea, so I thought it safer and less embarrasing to spend another night while I recovered.
From Muang Ngoi Neua I took the boat all the way to Luang Prabang, which was a first for me and a very pleasant 8 hour trip. This time I enjoyed the town more, maybe because there were fewer tourists seeing this was the low season, or perhaps it was I was just there to relax. I decided to go to the beautiful Kuang Si waterfall again just to be able to cool off in that beautiful setting. I caught up with Nick a couple of times but besides those occasions I pretty much kept to myself over the 4 days I was in town. The other notable thing I did was to volunteer at the library to
help locals with their english. I did this 2 days for 2 hours at a time and ended up helping the same lovely sisters, Tim and Nim each day. Although they were only 16 and 13 years of age I was very impressed with their eagerness and commitment to the language, and hopefully they will go a long way in the future. I actually got a real buzz out of these informal lessons and I highly recommend doing it whilst in town.
Next I was off to Vang Vieng, the place I had spent New Years Eve in at the start of the year. This time though there was no tubing, motorbike riding, or hot air ballooning I was just here to relax. And this where I am now, writing this blog and just about to think about packing for my long 17 hour overnight bus trip to Bangkok. To be honest I feel very tired after almost 19 months on the road, and have welcomed traveling through a country I have seen a fair bit of before where there is no pressure to see the sites and which means I can just take it easy and be lazy.
There are more photos below