And into Laos
27.07.2009 - 28.08.2009
At 5am, the time I had confirmed the night before, I turned up at Dien Bien Phu station with my backpack on and sleep dust in my eyes. "No bus today" "Yesterday you said there was" "No bus today." "Right." As my visa ran out that day, I didn't have much choice, I had to get to the border. Luckily I met a couple who were also headed that way & shared an overpriced taxi with them to the border. The Vietnamese border that is. By the time we cleared immigration it became apparent that the Laos border was not in the same place. We asked. It was 6 kilometers that way. Right. Off we went, six of us now, shuffling along like racing snails towards the distant yellow dot that was the Laos border. It felt a lot like the opening of a horror movie, but then I was getting quite used to that sensation.
When we had been processed by the Laos officials we inquired after the bus to take us to the nearest village "No bus." Ah. Luckily for us (as the nearest village really stretched the use of the word 'nearest') there was a construction worker lazing in a nearby tent, a bright blue pick up truck gleaming with potential beside him. After some tricky negotiation in which I took no part, we hired the truck to take us down to the river port, where we could catch our onward transport. As we bumped down the 'road' the mountains of Laos spread out below us. Covered in light, bright green, branches that trailed like vines gave the impression of a sea of writhing snakes coating the mountains side, in outher places only a few such branches showed; camoflaged elephants peaking through the canopy.
The road deteriorated into a muddy ditch and we stopped moving. The engine was pushed until the creamy brown mud under the wheels turned black, but we were getting nowhere. The guys all got out and pushed, but we still couldn't get out of the holes the truck had dug for itself. Shovels were bout out to help create a ramp, stones and twigs put down to make a more solid surface to push against & once more we were on our way. Passing villages of bamboo huts & and engineers working to electrify the border post, we crossed fords that looked too river-like to pass and bridges that looked to pedestrian to hold the wait of a truck, 8 people and 6 backpacks. Three hours and a very sore bottom later we jolted our way to the river port, a dirty outpost town in a spectacular setting.
Mong Noi is a village that can only be reached by the river and its isolated spot seemed to me to be a perfect place to rest after a long week on the road. There were a few of us heading there, so we hired a speed-longtail to take us there. once our backpacks and bodies were safely packed into the tiny boast we set off. The boat fairly flew across the water, sliding as if on ice through direction changes, the beatiful cliffs on either side and the beaches below them zipping past us. And then we arrived. And the village was everything I could have hoped; my very own bamboo hut & a hammock outside to watch the sun go down. Bliss.