I am typing this as the sun is setting above a small lake, next to the main A13 road. We are just less than 100km north of Luang Prabang, and well on our way to our next destination, Nong Khiaw, which we should reach tomorrow. It has been an easy day to navigate – we joined the A13 in Luang Prabang and stayed on the same road all day. This is the same road we took on the bus to get to Luang Prabang 3 days ago, but we travelled in the dark across all of this section and so the scenery was all new to us.
The road out of the city of Luang Prabang was typical for this part of the world – ribbon development along the road and loads of sheds occupied by car parts dealers, shops selling beds, light fittings, ornaments and and just about anything else you might want to buy. Loads of motorbikes and poor air quality.
It all improved as we left the city and the road took us north roughly following the banks of the Mekong, but frustratingly we were rarely able to see the mighty and beautiful river as it was always a few hundred metres away (or more).
After about 20km the road diverted away from the Mekong and followed the Nam Ou River, a substantial river itself which feeds into the Mekong (as appears to be the case with all rivers in Laos).
The Nam Oh was recently dammed (very impressive engineering and more Chinese investment), so the road followed a lake about half a mile wide for the next 20km. There are a series of dams up the Nam Ou, all generating substantial amounts of hydroelectric power for Laos. The dams are hugely controversial as they displace people living in land that is flooded, prevent the river being navigable and change the eco-systems so that fish cannot swim up the rivers and there is species change from a river to a lake environment. However, the “clean” energy and tourism benefits are also substantial.
Our only comment was that, given the huge cost of the railway and the dams, it seems a shame that the road is still in such a poor condition – but to be fair, there were not as many mega pot holes or sections without tarmac as the road from Luang Nampha (which killed off my derailleur of course).
As the heat of the day developed, we noticed that it was hotter and far more humid than we had experienced to date. The road was also undulating and, whilst we did not do any mega climbs, we clocked up nearly 1000m of climbing across the day. All that in the heat and humidity was a real trial and, by midday, we were pretty desperate to find somewhere to hide from the sun. Village after village appeared to have nowhere with food on offer, but we heard some music and stopped – but it was coming from a temple. However, as we were stopped, a young chap on a motorbike, Ya, stopped and chatted to us in pretty good English. He proudly told us he learned English whilst he was a buddhist monk and, after leaving, had worked at the “international airport” at Luang Prabang for the last 4 years. It is correct that this is an “international” airport (flights to Thailand) but it is not quite Heathrow. I would wager that there are no flights to Europe from Luang Prabang.
He was on the way back to his home village and told us about a restaurant 8km further on – but said it could be 10km or might be 6km. Useful if slightly frustrating information. However about 1km further on he flagged us down and said that a building with no sign was, in fact, a new restaurant. We were relieved and even better he negotiated a meal (and a price) for us! So we had lovely green vegetables, a mixed stew, glass noodles (you will have to look them up) and sticky rice, all for less than £5.
Fortified by that we resumed in the heat and gradually climbed out of the river valley. The scenery was fantastic and the road mostly quiet and not too potholed. We ambled along, enjoying the scenery, the villages and the interaction with a constant line of children who wanted to wave and call out to us. I should record that, contrary to the experience of some travellers, no child has ever asked us for money – they are just excited to see foreigners (at least in our experience foreigners on trikes) and want to call out to them. The boys are more forward than the girls of course but our experience is that Lao children and adults are all so welcoming.
We were pretty tired by the time we got to the basic guest house we had identified on googlemaps. This is a “hit and miss” affair but this one was basic but clean, and had hot water. We don’t need much more, although we did chuckle at the contrast with our lovely hotel last night. But that’s one of the aspects we like – being content with basic but also enjoying the odd bit of luxury!
5 thoughts on “Day 32: Sunday 5 February : Luang Prabang to Nasiengdy : 98km and 980m of climbing”
I’m so glad you’re on your way again, you are both so resourceful and stoic. The one dish I remember from Laos was Morning Glory – not to be confused with the plant we call that – which was a kind of spinach/watercress and was always delicious, even when everything else was fairly dour. Safe and happy travels, Jayne
Thanks Jane. Will look out for it.
So nice to meet you today!! Maybe we run into eachoter again tonight – the town is small!
We will follow your adventures – amazing blog!
Our Instagram is http://www.instragram.com/Tri.to.travel
Josien & Franklin
Thanks. Great to meet you too. We are settled in sunrise guest house just south of bridge. Love to meet for drinks/dinner this evening. Shall we say a time to meet on Bridge to watch sunset, then go from there. Maybe around 6.15?
Our Laos phone is +856 20 96 762 742.