Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
We just spent two full days on multiple bus rides in order to get down to Luang Prabang, Laos. It was quite an amazing feat, actually... long, hot, sweaty, hungry... but once we set our mind to it, there was no stopping us.
We left Jinghong for Mengla (China) in the morning. We were simply going to enjoy the five hour bus ride south through the beautiful jungle mountains of southern China. Real Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sort of scenery... up and down mountain roads, in and out of valleys.. very cool. And we did enjoy the ride... in a rickety old mini bus with the local Dia minorty villagers awing at us. The older women rubbed my skin and played with Pam's red hair. The younger villagers had a field day with the guitar and our other little musical instruments. I tell you, we were a hit. It was really something special.
We hopped off the bus in Mengla, and decided to go for it... all the way to the border. We caught a bicycle-wagon taxi to the other "bus station" and immediately caught a mini van down to the border of China/Laos. We did not use the bathroom, we did not eat, we did not pass go OR collect $200. We were on a mission.
Three hours later we were dropped off RIGHT at the border, Chinese military guards and all. Luckily, there was a string of new guest houses lining the road and we easily got a beautiful room for only $5.00 per night (for both of us) and ate a magnificent meal with the Chinese family that ran the hotel. No one could speak a lick of English and all we knew was "please" and "thank you" in Chinese, but somehow, we ended up with one of the MOST magnificent meals ever with (believe it or not) darn funny conversation!!! This family spoke really good exaggerated body language. It was kinda like a good game of charades. Nobody else (no other tourists... no one, actually) was around so we got all the attention.
*SIDENOTE - Man, I am going to miss Chinese food. It's nothing like what you get in the States. Sauted tofu with garlic, tomatoes, onions, in the most wonderful sweet and sour sauce. There was also a yummy pork dish with cabbage, peppers, etc. Eggplant (green eggplant... yum!). And the obligatory big bowl of rice. Fried fish, wonderful pork dishes, the way they fry up flowers and plants... crazy yum!
Anyway, we woke up early the next morning, watched the Chinese military do their flag raising ceremony, and crossed. Funny how (no matter where you are coming from and where you are going) when you cross a border it is immediately evident that you are in a completely different country. We crossed the border to Laos and even the trees and the bushes looked poorer. Maybe because of all the dust, I just don't know.
We caught a long, bumpy, dusty five hour mini bus ride to a city called Oudumxay... got off the bus and IMMEDIATELY got on a huge and way overcrowded seven hour bus here to Luang Prabang. We were in such a hurry that we (again) did not use the bathroom, we did not eat, and we didn't buy a ticket, which was to be the source of a bit of hardship later.
Like I said, the bus was WAY overcrowded.... almost like they sold too many tickets for the number of seats.... humm????.... OOPS!
Actually, it was no big deal, we simply paid the bus driver guy and a few people got off at villages that were close by anyway.
Another seven hour bus ride with having had no food, not having had gone to the bathroom (I'm actually currently fighting a some weird stomach bug and I think I'm really dehydrated, which was a blessing in this case because I didn't have to pee so bad). BUT, the bus ride started REALLY getting to me. I simply kept telling myself that we were on a mission and we were tough as nails. Props to Pamela who actually initiated the whole thing. I see her in a whole new, tough-girl-sort-of light.
The bus blew a tire at one point, but it only took about an hour to fix. We were at least in a village where, even though pigs and chickens were running around at our feet, we were able to get something cold to drink.
We arrived in Luang Prabang late... tired, hungry, thirsty, dirty, cross-eyed, etc. BUT, we made it... and the reward of being here in this beautiful city made the entire two days worth it!!! This is a city of Buddist Temples on the Mekong River. Every street you walk down has some magnificent temple on it. There are waterfalls that you can swim in, intertube trips down the Mekong, cheap massages, and a general overall relaxed atmosphere. I love it and we will be staying here for a few days (maybe even a week) before taking a boat back into the north part of Thailand.
Posted by Erin
on February 19, 2005 06:59 AM
Category: 15 China