Around hour three, we noticed our hands were cramping up from constantly gripping the ‘oh shit’ handles for dear life. Around hour five, our asses were beyond sore from flying up and slamming down with each pothole. Between the potholes and the mudslides, I honestly don’t know how our old bus made this trip, or how it makes this trip day after day after day. Eventually we pulled into Udomxai’s bus station, bringing the heavy rains with us.
“Nord du Laos est une région montagneuse du Laos . Il partage des frontières avec la Thaïlande , le Myanmar , la Chine et le Vietnam . La région comprend les provinces de (du nord au sud) Phongsali , Udomxai , Luang Namtha , Bokeo et Sainyabuli .”
We ran around the main strip of Udomxai looking for a decent guesthouse in the pouring rain. Eventually, we gave up on finding a nice guesthouse and checked into the first one that had hot water. Catering mainly to gross Chinese truck drivers, we did not choose well – but a bed is a bed, and the hot water shower was a life changing experience. The bus to Luang Nam Tha was scheduled to leave at 8:00 in the morning, and we would be the first in line to buy tickets.
This is what a bus-terminal breakfast looks like. Waking at the crack of dawn we watched the only english program – ‘Gone With the Wind’ – before leaving our gross hotel. It was still raining. At the bus terminal, we saw our companions from the day before eating these coconut sticky rice concoctions, and we decided to join them. The broken piece of bamboo tube functions as a spoon - which you’ll need because this rice is oh-so-sticky-sweet.
To our surprise, after the worst bus ride to date, the next leg of our journey north was smooth sailing. The road was a dream, and Amanda even caught some shuteye. As we climbed further into the mountains, we caught our first glimpse of someone in traditional ethnic garb. We watched a Tai Dam woman buy bagged snakes or lungfish or something from a Tai Lu woman at a roadside market.
Western health standards aren’t really a thing here. You just have to trust the cook to buy fresh ingredients and to wash everything down occasionally. Still, most of these restaurants would fail any health inspection back home. Near our guesthouse, Minority Restaurant was really worth a visit, despite the number of critters running around. We had a fried young bamboo and noodle dish that knocked our socks off.