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Northern Lao: Muang Sing & co

January 17, 2012

On 13th January, I took a bus from Luang Nam Tha to Muang Sing, North West of it. It is a small village very close to the China border and surrounded by many ethnies villages.

When I got there, it was really cloudy, and it was the first time I was wearing my 2 jumpers, I had not used my warmest one yet, but I was really happy to have kept it in my bag for 2 months finally! There, I got a room in the main street, and tried the wifi in front but it didn’t work. I met Daigo, a Japanese guy who had been here for a week and we looked at each other photos.

Then I went in the only internet café in town to check emails etc and met Caroline and Marc, from Switzerland and we chatted a bit. Then I looked for a cheap place to get some food and asked nearby my guest house, but it was a kind of event actually. However, they invited me to seat and eat with them, for free. Laid back funny people. Here I was, in Muang Sing, welcomed by Lao people to share their meal and getting my glass filled again and again with BeerLao by a young Lao girl drinking it in one go. Pretty cool. I was quite tired and went for a nap. No photos that day, too tired. Then I went in front and met Caroline and Marc again. We discussed about cycling.

On 14th January, I upgraded myself to an hotel with hot shower (8 dollars instead of 4 dollars). With this cold weather, I couldn’t get myself to take cold showers anymore as I had got used to for the last 2 months. Then I met Marc and Caroline at the morning market. I had a very good connection that day with the women selling stuff there and enjoyed taking a lot of photos and portraits.

Market

Then we rented some bikes and went cycling. Here is the map where you can see what we did on this first day, and the next 2 days of cycling.

Muang Sing map

That day was really cold, dark and rainy. The cycling was hard in the small path as they were really muddy and our not so good bikes got stuck many times in the mud. We still managed to do a nice loop. At lunch time, we ate in an Akha village where the woman serving us taught us a few words in Akha, that was great! During the lunch, we had 30 pair of eyes watching us! J

The rain gave us some night photos of children and people playing with umbrellas. I especially liked the way this little girl poses with her pink umbrella.

Little Girl

We went back around 3pm and I spent 2 hours doing some laundry. Then we had some early evening soup, and then Caroline and Marc taught me to play the long version of Yatse while we drunk some lao beer.

On 15th January, we met around 8am, went for morning breakfast at the market (soup) where we ate the evening before and which became our cantine (5,000 kips the soup, about 0.75 dollars and so good!)

Canteen

Lao soup has been my breakfast, lunch and dinner for the 3 days there. This is how it looks:

Lao Soup

You can add some lettuce, pea leaves, mint, coriander and a few other green stuff in it.

After Lao soup breakfast, we hired some bikes for a second biking day. We were joined by Mario, an Italian guy from Piemont in his late fifties who spoke really good French.  We started cycling around 9.20am and did a new loop of tribal villages. Here is how tribe villages look, with their wood houses on piles. This is a photo if an Akha village.

Akha village

This time the road was really tough, and I had my bike wheels stuck in mud many times. I even broke the front “pare-boue” at some point, and was really lucky that a Lao guy on his motorbike happened to pass right when I needed a screw driver and he helped me take the broken piece of “pare-boue” off.

Broken bike

We ate in an Akha village again, but more quiet than the day before and kept cycling around, under this enjoyable blue sky. We passed some rubber plantations, but also sugar canes ones and banana ones. Apparently, banana fields are owned by Chinese, and all bananas are exported to China, that’s why we can’t find any bananas in Muang Sing! Here is how they look under their blue plastic protection:

Banana plantations

The landscape during this cycling was really gorgeous. Here is a glimpse of the fields with the hills in the background

landscape

In the evening, we had soup at our cantine and then chilled out, played some yams while drinking, beers and freezing, with 2 jumpers on.

Today, 16th January, we went for a third day of cycling.  It was very cold and foggy in the morning, which created a ghostly landscape, really beautiful.

Fog

Luckily, it warmed up afterwards. We were cycling North, hoping to go West and cross the river after, but this road was closed. We went back to Muang Sing, had a soup at the morning market, and finished our cycling trip by a Hmong village. Hmong villages are a bit different, as the houses are not built on piles, but straight on the floor like on this picture:

Hmong village

After that, we came back, enjoyed the last rays of sun and celebrated our 3 days cycling roadtrip by drinking a lot of lao beer and chilling out.

Today (17th January), we left Muang Sing early morning, changed bus in Luang Nam Tha and stopped in Udomxai for the night. I will head to Phongsali tomorrow, it is a 9 to 15 hours bus ride apparently and in the North, there is no internet and no ATM, wooo… 🙂

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