Over the mountains …
The trip over the mountains to Vang Vieng was intense! It was scary, fast and stunning views! We saw the Houy Kom river, riding besides it at times. We passed through a high town called Kassi with lots of unexpected houses of all sizes and types, cows wandering the road on their own in groups, dogs wandering across the van’s path, and people walking along! A group of goals, all ages, chickens around the homes, pigs in trucks and bikes too.
I just didn’t expect this high in the mountain forests you can see below, from the Mekong river!
The drivers are confident and fast, not much slows them and patience is definitely not a virtue! I did feel safe with our driver though, and he actually stopped at one point to pick up an old woman, her adult daughter and grandson as they sat on the roadside. He stopped, got out and spoke to them, and then brought them to van and fitted them in – gran in the front with him, mum and son next to me behind him. I loved it! How lovely of him to help people, and I got to engage with the locals too! I took a picture on my iPad of him and mum and showed him, then showed him photos of animals I’d taken. He enjoyed it and mum grateful for keeping him occupied. They felt uncomfortable but clearly needed the help (unsure if he knew them or not).
On the way down the other side of the mountains, the valleys were deep and the view was amazing – looking out over ranges of mountains below us (yes, below us!) and you could see for miles! The sun shining on them, around each corner a new view or no view; at one point a sudden slowing because of a rock/soil fall into the road! Workers on the road higher up and lower down too!
My ears popped we were so high up, and coming down steeply (and again, quickly! Arrgh)
There were ‘misty mountains’ too – one of my favourite dramatic sights where I’ve travelled! Looking out over the landscapes, mist collects in the mountain crevices and scoops, with the peak showing over the top; sometimes it just trails off at the mountain side, others it covers part of the mountain between foot and peak! Always dramatic though!
One thing I notice is that dad’s love their babies! Mum’s seem less keen to engage or take care of them other than the need to feed and sort of ensure safety! Dad’s carry them, play with them, love them as showing in their face and attention! It’s quite fascinating really.
We came across market places, football games, carry on bikes for public transport, and new routes all the time! There are workers of both sexes, all ages, all dress; rice fields (not padi fields!), village life in the fields and houses as we pass on trains or vans, taxi or walking. There are working quarries, herding cows on bikes, a park we pass and many pot holes we bump over and through on the roads!
There is a health centre, silhouettes as the sun sets, red and yellow glows at sunset and so many wats we pass on street corners or larger on the village sites. Such pretty ones, with pretty colours – bright and clashing or some with muted colours, but all so interesting!
Strolling cow herds fascinated me! Who took care of them? No one fenced them in, so how did they use them for milk or meat? Are they wild or owned and left to wander until someone goes out to get them? Goats too – wild and free, or owned even when untethered! It was all new to me – I loved this sort of learning and unanswered questions too!
There were blue clouds against a red sky one night! Watching as lights turned on as dusk starts to fall, a Kia showroom at the top of the mountain city too! Wow! So unexpected!
No-one hurries, life goes on and around, there is oriental music rising from somewhere as we drive by, my mood is high but my nerves are shot by the time we arrive in Luang Prabang …but I loved all the journey and more! The vans are not the most comfortable transport at times – hard, cold or hot, fast and swerving around corners, Asian swearing or it sounds like it, and impatient sighs or breath drawn!
It’s nice to get there even after such highlights on this trip, and then just hoping your hostel is good enough – or better, great!