We get to the Laos border just before it closes. Paperwork is simple, $37 on the spot visa, 10 minutes, $4 insurance, $3 temporary import docs, done. Its starting to get dark but you can immediately see the living standard has dropped through the floor and into the mud. Real povery with people in dusty roadside dwellings, bathing in the streams and seemingly without a penny to their name. Really sad. Guilt twists its knife in my back as I ride past and away. Some of these people have absolutely nothing. There are worse places to live, it’s warm and they all look pretty healthy but christ, what a life. This time next week I’ll be back in the UK. No escape for them though. We’ve got some nice bamboo bungalows tonight. $35 a night. I don’t know what the average wage is out here but I doubt its much. Go out to the night market to eat and it’s full of young travelers doing their thing. Why some of them insist on like such dirty raster haired munters is beyond me. Bloody yoofs!
Today it’s time to split and run south alone. The others are spending a couple of weeks in Laos and Thailand but I’ve got to be back at work so I’m expediting. Going to Luang Perbang tonight, a UNESCO world heritage site. GPS says 300km and I ask a local “how long? 3 Hours?” “10 hours” is his reply. That’s not what I was expecting, or wanted to hear. If I can give one piece of travel advice it would be “always listen to the locals”. He says the road is very very rough. The first 100km is lovely and smooth through the mountains but it’s like a 100km piece of ribbon squashed into a 40km space. So incredibly tight and twisty it takes 3 hours.
Get up and out with one simple aim and a simple route. Part one. Go to take a fast boat out to see a feck off huge Buddha carved out of the rock. Pretty impressive, though the smog is still distilling the experience under a blanket. Just as we’re about to leave, the guide gets a big bag of spanners out and throws them in the works. The original destination is pretty close and it’s still quite early so we’re going somewhere else a bit further out. “Don’t, whatever you do, take the 307. Military road, big trouble, keep away”. Pardon? Blah blah blah…confusion…lost in translation.. off we go… Ok. My satnav chooses this exact moment to fail. Won’t turn on. Was ok this morning… Fuckidy bollocks. Some people have the gamin cards and some have the open street maps loaded. They’re disagreeing, coupled with the fact that the same road number is used for at least 5 different roads, and the disaster recipe is almost complete. Time to stir.
My roomie is still not good. I think his red glowing ring resulted in another midnight emergency air drop of loo roles. This morning the toilet looked like it’s full of spent artillery shells. Empty rolls everywhere and a ferocious fart fog hanging in the air. Tonight though he is feeling well enough to clip his toenails. I have a phobia about nail clippings. Ever since I found a fingernail clipping in a curry… He is merrily clipping away and pieces are flying around the room like shrapnel. Shit, there goes a mirror. Bugger, that was close. There’s a big toenail embedded in my headboard. Ping, bollocks, there’s the TV now. This is going to cost us a fortune.
China has been really monotonous so far and it’s really getting to me. That and the hawking. Dirty fuckers. They all walk about sounding like they’re preparing snot cappuccinos before putting a finger on one nostril and launching huge bogie bombs onto the pavement. Dirty dirty feckers. Anyway – we saw some more of the wall yesterday along side the road, playing hide and seek suddenly running away into the distance and disappearing then later reappearing peaking over a mountain before disappearing again. The word is there are big sections near here so I enter into negotiations with the guide to go off piste and hunt it out.