Monday, March 28, 2005
Passing thru the Lao side was seamless and I walked on until I reached a dusty parking lot filled (filled meaning there were vehicles in the lot) with 2 buses and a couple pick-up type transports (pick-ups with a cover and all that. They have a name but I can't say it and don't have my book so I can't spell it either). I yelled out: "Luang Namtha!" One of the saganthaws (maybe that's what the PUs are called? Something like that) yelled back so I mounted up and sat down. And waited. 2 hours later we had enough people to set out. And over the next couple/few hours (I forget how long I rode. 4 hours maybe?) we dropped a couple people but picked up many. Enough so that there were 4 people standing up on the back rack hanging on thru the cascading dust. And it was a dusty ride. The road was construction broken almost the entire way, and being the dry season the dust was high. It's also the slash/burn time of year so the air is further filled with smoke. But a beautiful drive. Green mountains stretching out across the horizon until we made it down into the plains. There the bright green fields stretched out, dotted with raised platformed huts and criss-crossed with irrigation ditches. The plants along the side of the road were a nice brown color thanks to the dust, but otherwise it was lush scenery the entire way.
You couldn'ta wire-brushed the smile off my face. It was warm, I was moving again, and was happy.
Luang Namtha is not a bad little town. A main road and a couple smaller roads make up the town. Slow, quiet, a very nice change from the chaos that is China. After jumping down off the saginthaw I found a guest house and checked in then walked around town in the intense heat to see what there was to see (not much).
Walking back up to my guest house, I was greeted with a "Holy shit! He's alive!". Two friends I made while in Kunming, China (J and C) also made the trip down with me. Since they didn't insert a bicycle trip into the mix they were a day ahead of me. Seems while they trucked down the road I biked, they got worried that I wouldn't survive because of the hills and length. Ha! They don't know how determined (stubborn) I am! We chatted a while, them in awe and me laughing at their surprise. Nice kids. (yes, I can call them kids since they are only 24ish and I am not anymore).
Parting ways, I headed for a nap but instead came back down 30 minutes later to have some curry, spring rolls and my first BeerLao (in Lao). As I sat there on the main street, I allowed the quiet and tranquility of the town wash over me. Very little traffic, not too many people. BUT, check this out. Lao is 'known' for producing opium and marijuana. And the LP mentions that you get offered some in the bigger cities. Well, Luang Namtha, though it is the capital of the region, is not a large city. But it was overrun with women from the local tribes selling their handicrafts. And pot and opium. An almost constant stream of these women passed by and they ALL pulled out baggies of pot or little plugs of opium. It was crazy!
Later I met J and C for dinner (only 2 hours later) and another beer. Since my guesthouse decided that they need to lock the doors at 10PM I headed back. And ended up sitting in the common area talking to other backpackers for a while. However, we did get cussed out. Some dude came out of his room and told us to stop talking because it was after hours and even pointed at the sign that said: "No talking after 10pm". It was 10:15 when he popped his nappy head out. The guesthouse and the people running it were not all that impressive. Talking with others (many people stay there), we've decided that they are running off the positive review they got in the Lonely Planet and aren't really trying anymore. Ah well.
The strange thing was, there were 4 Americans in town that I knew of. Four! I hadn't seen so many in one place in a long time! Isn't that thrilling?
So that was day one. Not all too exciting, but a nice start.