The main reason of our come back to Laos (we visited the country while passing from China to Vietnam in 2013) was the Nam Ou river. We had 2 packrafts stashed at the Polish Embassy in Bangkok during our India/Nepal off-trip and we wanted to make use of them before continuing South. As we had learnt during our first visit to Nong Khiaw and Luang Prabang the previous year, the Lao government have been planing to build 7 dams on this amazing river. We found the idea ridiculous, as it meant the total disturbance of both the environment and the traditional lifestyle of the people living along the river for generations. We knew, that it might be the last moment to visit the river, before it got totally spoiled by the power plants, so we did not need much time to make the decision.
The river winds all the way from the north of Laos, runs through jungles and hills to join the Mekong not far from Luang Prabang. It is more than 400 kilometres long and it is the second most important Lao river. We had decided to start as far North as possible and that meant that we had to spend days in the local buses, to get to the country’s northern frontiers – the town of Gnot Ou (Muang Ou Tai).
We were not aware of the conditions of the public buses in Laos. We have never had to travel by bus in South East Asia before – our bikes were good enough, but this time we had no other choice than to rely on something else. We did not need much time to miss our two wheelers. The roads were bumpy, the drivers careless and the buses were always full to the roof. Quite a lot of the passengers seemed to suffer from car sickness, throwing up to plastic bags and loud, chaotic Thai/Lao music did not make the journey easier.
During many stops (either for bus reparations or toilet and shopping) we had the chance to enjoy local food with the bus driver and other passengers. Sticky rice is the food number one in Laos and we enjoyed it a lot.
The more North we went, the more variety in faces and clothes we could witness. Members of different hilltribes still wear their traditional clothes.
We love the local cultures – you probably know that if you followed our blog for a while. But the modern clothes and haircuts were not less fascinating on the rural roads of Laos!
Laos is definitely a country, where time runs at its own pace! Marks, Engels, Lenin and even Stalin on the wall of a guesthouse? Why not?!
We loved the slow lifestyle of the Lao people and enjoyed the river life a lot!
It was a long and tiring journey to arrive at the starting point of our packrafting adventure. How we finally got into the water and paddled down the Nam Ou river you will read in the next post…