Translated by: Agota Duro
We didn’t expect but we were sad to leave China. We really loved it. That was the first country where we spent nearly 3 months during our journey.
At the border crossing of MoHan-Boten they issued our 30-day tourist visas without any problem. We also received a map at the information desk. Compared to conditions we were greeted warmly.
What did we know about the country? We knew that they suffered a lot during history. After French colonization Laos became the country of different intentions. At last they became independent in the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately their history didn’t became better because they got involved into the Second Indochina War (the Vietnam War). They executed a lot of air raids above the country thus it became the most intensively bombed country in history. Plenty of unexploded bomb lays around the country causing a lot of damage and death.
Arriving to Laos was bittersweet. We were excited because of arriving to Southeast Asia, but we also had bad feelings.
We cycled through little villages where just a few tourist appears. Children were running to us shouting “Sabaiiiidiii!” (Welcome!) Adults were sitting in the dust in front of their huts. They were looking at us apathetically. Obviously we are the mirror for them: western faces, colourful clothes, packed bicycles… We wanted to be invisible in many times.
It was hard to find food in North Laos. In the little shops we only found cigarettes, beer and dish soap somewhere supplemented with expired, dusty biscuits and armpit sponges.
We found some “restaurant” huts where we bought gluey rice that we took with ourselves. We developed our daily menu to excellence: rice with cinnamon and sugar for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Unfortunately we noticed a lot of times that the salesmen counted or returned badly… For poor men the foreigners are “white, rich westerns”. After these happened in the shops regularly we had double feelings that accompanies us until the border crossing of Cambodia. We commiserated these people but also had bad feelings because of their behaviour.
Our journey in North Laos went through Oudomxay to Luang Prabang which is well-known by the tourists. During our ride we had difficulties in finding accommodation again. In Laos they are very strict if a tourist sleeps in a local house. It’s also the same for sleeping in a tent in their yard. The head of the village decides if you can accommodate a tourist or not. Later it became worst…but I’ll tell you later.
We were wild camping a plenty of times and because of the bombs it lifted up our also not so calm adrenalin state. Once we asked to sleep in a “Health Centre” which were only a regional office. We thought the “Centre” name was a bit of an exaggeration. Nevertheless we could wash ourselves. In most places there are no mains water. Having a bath is also just a “pour water into you” action, because you have to pour the water at yourself with a plate from a tub. If you have fortune, they poured fresh water into the barrel just a few days ago so there’s no mosquito larva or other bugs in it. The toilet works with the same principle – you have to pour the water from the same barrel.
Luang Prabang lays in the encounter of Nam Kham and Mekong and it is a very kind little city. There are green forests all around us like we are in the King Kong film. In the city there are a lot of Buddhist monasteries. Colourful lanterns are hanging around the streets that makes mysterious mood while walking at night. There are a lot of shops, bars, travel agencies both right and left of the streets. You can only find locals in the market. Everywhere else there are western tourists.
As in every tourist paradises you also feel like you’re on a conveyor belt. Eat, drink, rent motorcycle, and sleep in expensive hotels! We acquired bad experiences again. Sellers always wanted to cheat us in the shops and the market. (We didn’t let it!)
We were on our way to the Kuang Si Falls when suddenly I started to tremble and I got a serious headache. Firstly I thought that it is just because of the Sun, but it didn’t elapse. We had to turn around and pay two more days in our modest motel where I laid down. Probably I got dehydrated and exhausted. Because of it I traipsed for some days. I didn’t feel better after 2 days so we decided to catch a bus to Vientiane.
Our old-style bus took the 340 km-s in 11 hours. The first six hours were like hell. We took almost the half of the bus’s luggage rack with our cycles and packs. There weren’t too much space so some passenger’s luggage were taken to the cabin. Thus the bus’s corridor were full of luggages so the passengers had to step over rice bags to take their seats. It was weirder because of the scooter at the back of the bus. In the bus’s corridor after the rice bags there really were a scooter!
The first six hour was an unforgettable experience. The driver made no bones. There were so much windings through the serpentine path that some passenger’s stomach didn’t stand. There were some guys in the bus who were walking (better pitching) around distributing green bags. Some couldn’t aim in the bag. But the bus driver were strict in pressing the throttle. There were some windings were the bus’s back didn’t came out from the previous winding, but the front was in the next one. I’m not a person who vomits a lot, but after an hour I was staring at the floor with white face holding a green bag. And it was the same for five more hours. It was the longest bus ride for both of us.
We arrived to the “picturesque” Vientiane at 1 am. Lengyeltóti has a bigger nightlife this time. We got off the bus at the north station where dust, stray dogs and a few people welcomed us. We booked accommodation in the bus with our notebook so after assembling our bikes we went to our accommodation at half past two. After 45 minutes of cycling we arrived to our hostel. We packed down and laid down in our moderately comfortable 8-bed-room. In these situations I’m always the only girl in the room. Which means that I have to listen to the snores. But this time I didn’t care because I was so tired.
We didn’t care of being tourists. We didn’t look around Vientiane. But we enriched a next conveyor belt experience. Thus we realized that if you go Easter and Easter than Hungary getting a visa becomes easier.
What happens in the Vientiane Thai Embassy? You only can arrange your things with “Fast track” administration. But it written, underlined, coloured everywhere that this kind of arrangement is not allowed from the embassy. Furthermore they gently ask you to only have resort to it at your peril. Thus I didn’t want to use this option because I don’t like to cheat in official cases. So we asked where to sign in “normally” for Thai visa. – In the yard! – came the answer. Super. This is the only way. We stood in the queue until an old lady took the papers and the passports. In exchange she gave something like a certificate while throwing our official papers into a basket. Balázs tried to calm me down but truly I wasn’t calm. The old lady and the basket wasn’t reassuring. But there were nothing to do so we walked out of the yard and waited. Much of the delight of both of us next day we both get our colourful, smelly visas for 1000 BAT.
2nd of December were approaching. No one were better waiting for the 40th anniversary of establishing the Lao People's Democratic Republic than us. Why? You can read it in our next blogpost.