The way to Laos


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Asia » Laos » North » Luang Namtha
February 16th 2006
Published: March 5th 2006
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Hi,

Already in Vietnam, when I received my visa to China, I have realized that I might need to exit the country after, the most, 30 days. I applied for 1 enrty, 60 days and instead, the travel agent gave me 2 entries, 30 days each. The most reasonable country (China has a border with around 10 contries or so) to cross by land from Yunam province seemed to be Laos. At the beginning, when I first saw the visa mistake I was really annoyed because exiting China was not on my plan but when the time passed and after I confirmed the fact that I will need to exit (or extend the first entry and cancel the second one) with the police, I started to like it. The weather in the mountains area of North Yunan and Sechuan where I intend to go next are cold right now and a short break of 2 weeks in the warm weather of Laos seemed like a good idea.
On my way south I stopped for a few days at Xishuabanna region in south Yunan which is a tropical area populated with a majority of minority people. Jinhong, the main city over there, looks quite strange after travelling in tropical countries such as Thailand and India. All over the city are bullevards of palm trees which is very nice but then, the concrete buildings are so ugly, big and very close to each other, it just does not seem to fit each other. The buildings in south India are small, have nice colours. With all palm trees around, it makes the atmosphere very tranquil and calm. But the Chinese people, they have no taste. Also, as I have heard, this city used to have old style wooden buildings of 2 floors at the most. But, in the last years, the Chinese just destoryed almost all old buildings (like they are doing all over China) and built ugly big buildings instead.
Many tourists in Jinhong , as many other touristic places in China, is full of young people who either work in China as English teachers or are students of Chinese. This is the new year’s holiday and all of them are travelling now.
On one hand, I meet so many English teachers. On the other hand, most of the young Chinese people cannot speak English. This is strange. The explanation that I got for this is that the Chinese teaching method is more grammer and writing and less talking. Even if they do conduct conversation at class is more repitition of the teacher sentences rather then actual conversation. The only Chinese people that I have met who could speak good English are people that need to use English in their work.
But, as it seems by the rapid growth of the Chinese economic, soon we would need to learn English rather then the Chinese people would need to know English.
The Chinese new year vacation lasts for 5 weeks (at least for students and school's puipls). In that time the tranportation rates increased by 30%. The managers of the train / bus companies know that since most of the Chinese people don't have their own car and since they need to travel to meet their family, they have to use the public transportation so they expolit this situation. This is a shame since most Chinese people are poor and it becomes a burdon for them but they cannot do anything. China is not a democracy.
The way from Jinhong to the Laos border was an experience. The woman sitting next to me was holding her 1 year baby girl. The woman had to vomit all the trip, the road was very curving over the mountains. It does seem to me, with my little experience with local bus travels so far, that the Chinese people (and espically the women) are not very tough when it comes to bus journies. Just a small curve and they vomit. The buses are well prepared for it and plastic bags are hanged all over the bus.
So, when the woman had to vomit, she just gave me her baby while she was vomitting. The baby did not seem to like the idea and she was crying when I was holding her, wanting her mother, for some reason. This happaned a few times. After that, when the baby did not stop crying for a while, her mother was so pissed of with her so she shouted at her, instead of comforting and pet her. Apparently, the shouting did not help and the baby kept crying. Then, the mother took stronger meassures and hit her baby. ‘Suprisngly’, this did not help either, and the baby kept crying louder and louder. This was very sad to watch. Eventually, the baby felt asleap, her mother handed her to me again for a while and she kept vomitting again, more comfortably this time, without her baby in her lap, until the end of the trip, for about ½ an hour more. This was an example for a good Chinese education.
Entering Laos, after China, this was hell of a change. They do have a border, but they are so different, like west and east. China, at least at the cities, is very western and modern. Laos is till, maybe, 30, 40 years behind, a real 3rd world country with unpaved roads, very poor infrastructure, etc.
The way from the border to Luang Nam Tha should have taken 2 hours but it took at least double. One reason is that the road was under construction and we had to wait long time until they let us pass, in several locations in our route. The other reason is that in the middle of the way we waited in a check point for about an hour. Since the truck that I went with brought goods from Laos to China, there was a need for some paperwork to be done. This took ages.
However, after China, Laos seems to be like a pleasent vacation. Travelling in China is more tough. Chinese people are very loud, pushi (in bus / train lines), a bit aggressive maybe while the Lao people are more relaxed and easy going. So far, it looks very easy to get along, easier then in China. Another change, comparing to China, is that here, in Luang Nam Tha, there are many tourists, many of them are Israelies. And this is not the most touristic place so I just wonder what is the situation in the more touristic places.
From here I wil head to Maung Sing for a several days. It is a small village, where you can hike to a remote minority villages.

BTW, the Internet is so expensive here (3$ per hour compare to 0.2$ per hour in China) so I won’t attach pictures.

Bye, Sharon


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18th February 2006

Keep It Going
Sharon, Started reading your blog a couple weeks ago. Enjoy it a lot. With a wife and kids who don't like roughing it, I get a vicarious thrill out of reading about your backroads adventures. I speak Mandarin fluently, lived in Taiwan, and resettled many refugees from Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia in America years ago. I've been to some good remote spots in Guangxi, but I've never been to any of the other countries you are going to. You're right about the general differences between Chinese and Lao people - the Lao are so much more gentle and sweet. I hope they don't change when modernization inevitably arrives.

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