Touring Luang Namtha & Muang Sing Area

This is a lovely area of Laos, with lots of Tribal Ethnic Villages (this is what the Locals call the area).

We had 3 days of touring with a great local guide. His name is Ped ( Luang Namtha Discovery Tours ).

We stayed overnight in Muang Sing at a lovely guesthouse. While we were having dinner a Laos volunteer English teacher asked if we would come to the makeshift class room and let his 4 student practice English. We went in and spent a lovely part of the evening helping these 10 and 12 year old girls practice English.

We went to the Chinese boarder but could not cross as it was a non-tourist border.

Sugar cane exports from Laos to China. We saw dozens of truck loads heading to the border.

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Loading a sugar cane truck.

Here are some of the shots from the various villages.

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We were invited to a lovely stitch n bitch session.

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Crossing one of the shaky bridges with many missing slats. The rewards on the other side are usually worth it.

Bike on another shaky bridge.

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A young villager.

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Take a gander at this.

Rice noodles being processed and sold at the market.

Our guide having some fun with a villager.

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Morning shopper.

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While it is an amazing country to tour, there are some issues with Laos. They do not tolerate freedom of religion, and if you are caught trying to spread your beliefs it could be fatal. As tourists, we feel extremely safe. There are few hospitals and clinics. If you get sick you go to a shaman.

Otherwise you go to the market and buys some herbs. For westerers we exit as quickly as possible to Thailand if we need care. Below is a picture from the market, where vegetables, fruit, meat (including all kinds of wired forest animals) and herbs from the forest.

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Janis cycling through a banana plantation being run by a village on behalf of a Chinese interest.

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One village was making sugar cane candy. The process includes squeezing the liquid frome the cane stock. Next they boil it down for about 4 hours (a process similar to the maple syrup process). Next they pour it and cut it and it looks similar to a block of fudge.

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Signing off
Janis and David

Na Mor to Luang Namtha

Another hilly but great ride. It was 69 km’s with no major pass, but many ups and downs. Today we did 691 meters of total ascent and 734 meters of total decent.

We had perfect road and little traffic until we hit Nateuy. At that point we could head north to China or go south towards Thailand. We went south. This was a good road (not as good as the road we were on this morning.

There were more big trucks and buses on this road.

We arrived at Luang Namtha and got a good guesthouse for $10 per night. The plan is to stay here a few days and visit some minority villages.

This area was heavily into poppy growing and opium production. They have since replaced this with other crops (bamboo, broom grass etc.).

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Snack time part way up one of our climbs.

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This is how far north we are in Laos. We are starting to see and hear of more Chinese influence in this region.

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Here are a few water buffalo at play. I have been eating water buffalo quite a bit, while Janis sticks to tofu and chicken dishes.

J and D

Oudamsay to Na Mor

Another great riding day. It was only 53 km, but included a 16 km pass. Basically, get on your bike at East City IGA and ride up Armour hill for about 16 km. Whoever built this road made it with an acceptable slope (not as steep as Armour Hill).

This pass started at the 17km mark and there was a few km of up and down plateau near the top. This pass rose 550 meters.

Total assent ror the day 798 meters, and total decent of 812 meters.

The road was in excellent shape, with no potholes.

Last night we went for dinner at a small cafe. The owner was alone so when she cooked, she asked Janis to hold her 11 month old daughter.

It included passing through some rubber plantations.

We averaged about 6 km per hour on the uphill, so you can Imagine it is more than 2 hours to cycle up a pass like this. Due to the great gears on our bikes, there is no lactic acid build up in the legs. It is best not to think of the bigger picture when climbing a pass, but rather enjoy the moment (maybe a good life lesson as well.

At the top of the mountain there were several small and dirt poor villages. The children in each village cheered us on, a very motivating moment.

Until next time.
Janis and David

Muang Khoua to Oudomsay

This may have been the greatest biking day for us ever. It was 100 km with a total assent of about 1,100 meters and a total descent of about 980 meters.

The scenery was striking. The road was in excellent shape, and very little traffic. It was about 35 degrees C but we had a cloud cover most of the day.

We followed the Nam Phak river the whole way, which ment no major ascent of descent. Many of the villages have abandoned both slash and burn techniques as well as harvesting Opium. They are replacing it with bamboo production as well as broom grass (this is the grass that they band together to make brooms.

Many of the small towns we passed were composed of people who use to travel around planting, harvesting and after a few years, slash and burn the fields and then move on. They are now banded together and are transforming into communities. We assume there are issues as they evolve but many people appear busy with the crops, as well as harvesting river weed and fishing the river.

One thing you see a lot of are intact families, with both the mother and father present. The father’s appear to take an active role. Grand parents are also active when they are around. It leads to a nice atmosphere. They may not have much education, but they appear to have great community.

So far Laos is our most favorite country on this South East Asia Trip.

Early in our ride we came around a corner to a bridge and market and came upon the Akha Women at market.

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There were also other women at the market from the Khamu Village.

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Janis had purchased some Lao to English books and gave one to this washroom attendant who was 12 years old. He immediately started to devour the book. When Janis went to pay to use the washroom he waived the ten cent fee as a thank you.

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Bye for now.
Janis and David

Nong Khiag to Muang Khoua by boat

We took an amazing 5 hour boat ride up the Nam Ou river. They placed our bikes on the boat along with the luggage. There was a slight charge for each bike.

At this time of year,there are many rapids and our 45 foot long by 4 foot wide long-boat took them head on. There were a few hairy moments but the driver appeared to know what he was doing. There were about 6 tourists on the boat and about 12 local people.

Our first stop was one hour up the river at Muang Ngoi. We decided not to stay here, even though it looked like a nice stop. Many years ago, one could live there for $1 per day and all the Opium you could consume. They have upgraded the village and eliminated the Opium dens.

Next we carried on for 4 more hours up river, stopping at various villages. The locals disembarked with handbags full of supplies and trekked up the hill to their huts. Life along this river is wholesome and vibrant. Children were swimming and playing all along the route. Water buffalo frolicked in the waters at every turn.

Along the way there were many people searching the river for river weed. We have eaten this at lunch and dinner (especially in soups).

Bikes on a boat.

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One of the passengers on the boat with us. He was so excited when he got to his remote village along the way.

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Collecting river weed for resteraunts, an important industry for the locals.

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Laos version of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer.

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Fishing the river.

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Home made bamboo raft.

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A lovely couple on the river.

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Shooting the rapids. Quite a thrill.

Pakmong to Nong Khiaw

This was a lovely little ride up and down the rolling hills. It was 32 Km to the guest house we chose right across from the bus station.

We took a bit of R&R and enjoyed this sleepy little town. Again we were overwhelmed with the nice slow pace the Laos people follow. This town had a great atmosphere, with both Lao food and some western choices.

We went to a set of caves outside of town, where the village and surrounding villages spent several years living during the USA Bombing of Laos. It is too bad, as Laos declared itself neutral in the cold war conflicts. Even so, the VC trained in the hills of Laos and the USA bombed the hell out of it. They say for the first little while, the Laos people were in the caves, unaware of who was bombing them, as they had no enemies.

If you use THE GOOGLE (as George Bush so gracefully coined it) and search US Bombing of Laos, you will read a lot about secret army and CIA and how the people of Laos were bombed for nearly 10 years and it was not their battle.

Here is a photo of the entrance to one of the caves.

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Young kids heading to school.

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A video along the way.

Luang Prabang to Pakmong

This was a lovely ride. It was 115 km in total we decided to get a tuk tuk out of Luang Prabang and biked about 85 km into Pakmong.

There are lots of hills and a large assent at the 70 km mark. The road is in great shape with a few small broken stretches. Traffic was quite lite. The people are so laid back, polite and kind. We passed small villages along the way.

If parents saw us coming, they would often get the children out on the street to wave and say hello. It is quite a welcoming experience. It appears that these roadside villages sprung up from the presence of the paved road. They use to live further up in the mountains.

Some shots from the day.

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People collecting river weed (we have eaten this in soups along the way.

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In Pakmong we sayed at a $6 a night room behind the old bus station. You get what you pay for, but we had no choice. A lovely elderly couple owned it.

Sign at the bus station, near our room.

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Sleeping with one eye open.
Janis and David

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