Although our surroundings were pristine and magnificent, it was a less than stellar night’s sleep with the constant rush of the waterfall, lights left on in the restaurant and dining area all night and local people coming at all hours of the night and morning chatting and checking out our tent as they passed and disappeared into the Forrest.
We only had a short ride today into Luang Prabang, so we wanted a late start to the day….but any real attempt at a lay in was relatively short lived, and we found ourselves up and about by 8.00am. Between the 4 of us (Mike, Aad, Vince and I) we had a cooked breakfast of creamed rice (Mike) and fried bananas (Me) and Vince boiled water for the drinks of Ovaltine, Coffee and my last lone tea bag…or was it Diet Coke (called Coke Light here)?
We were finishing the remnants of breakfast when a couple came out of the Forrest and rested a short distance away from us, at the bottom of the hill ( this seemed to be a natural stop for all the foragers as they descended). I made eye contact with the the woman and she returned my smile. I sang out the local greeting to her which she also returned….so I grabbed my camera and headed over for some closer interaction. She spoke no English but it was soon made clear she wanted me to try out lifting her basket…very heavy! In fact with the head strap in place I couldn’t lift it, if I just used the arm straps I could but it was filled with turnip looking vegetables and very heavy! Vince and Aad tried in turn and had the same difficulty….in fact Vince looked like he was going to blow a fluffer valve and Aad looked like he was fixing to give birth…..so that made me feel much better about my poor attempts! We have seen many people all over Asia carrying these baskets….they start them young….children really…so I guess their neck muscles must be very well developed. We all praised the woman’s strength…flexing our biceps at her and she just laughed. The man with her joined in the interaction and it was very special to share with them.
We slowly started to dismantle our camp and drya out the inevitable condensation and dew from out tent and fly…thankfully all I broke this time was a nail not an arm!
Before we knew it lunch time had arrived and we ordered the same meals as last night…..we thought it safe as at least we knew what to expect….the menu board was in Laotian with only a few items in English and some of these simply said “Fried”…. No indication of what! Can’t remember what dinner/lunch cost us but it was reasonable…maybe 30,000 Kip/LAK.
There were quite reasonable toilets available but no showers or hot water. Vince had stayed in some cabins last time but these were not available so we just camped this time.
We finished the last few bits of packing on our bikes and were all soon back on the road after lunch for the 40km journey to Luang Prabang. The trip there was picturesque some of the way and a bit hectic in traffic at others…..just on the road into the town a scooter from a side road wasn’t watching and just shot out directly at us …….almost crashing into our right hand side but Vince managed to avoid him and I did a bit of vocalising and shaking my camera at him in disgust. Mike led us via the GPS to our original accommodation but it was fully booked out….Aad and I checked out two others nearby but they were also booked out! Vince took us to the Luang Prabang Bakery, just around the corner from where he stayed last time he was here, to use their Wifi. It had moved upmarket and was now very expensive …a Coke was 15,000 kip (usually 5,000)….but at least it let us use their wifi to try to find alternative accommodation….Vince and Mike walked to where Vince had stayed last time, but it too was booked out. We eventually found somewhere and headed a few Km out of town……it was difficult to find even from the coordinates we had…..we saw another place and stopped to check it out….they had rooms available but it was more expensive and very basic….we decided to backtrack down the road again in search of somewhere and eventually found the right one (120,000 kip/LAK per night).
After unpacking the bikes we freshened up with a hot shower…..pressure not great but it’s the first proper hot water we have had in weeks! Vince even helped me wash my hair! We even had sheets that we could use…..for weeks we have had to use our sleeping bags as the hotels have either not had sheets or towels or they have been too disgusting to use.
Dinner was at the Indian place…we road the bikes due to the distance and the traffic was manic…it reminded us of being in India…as Vince parked the bike he broke my minion but it was only his leg so we can glue that back on. It was very stressful having dinner….people kept touching the bike even after we asked them not to….again like India….we decided won’t ride in again…..both Vince and I had a really bad feeling on the road that night but luckily we were all OK.