Departed the city debating whether to follow the paper map along a “back road” to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars, or to believe Pocket Earth, which showed roads were not connected from the south to north of the reservoir. It looked as though the road was planned but not completed when the map was produced in 2010 - but alas taking the fork in the road (the philosophy of our mate Rick), led to a 40km trip to a new dam (which more than likely had flooded the old road!) Oh well, it was a pleasant drive, and we bought vegies from an old couple who were happy to see us. We had a nice view over Naoi Ngum reservoir for our morning tea cuppa.
It’s the Labour Day holiday in Laos too today, and as we negotiated the roads we added our observations to the email sent by Miles’ mate stationed here: “Driving in Lao is not too bad. They are all hopeless drivers, so expect them to do the wrong thing at all times, but they are generally slow and not fast and dangerous! They also think the mirrors on their scooters/cars are for checking their appearance and never use them to check behind or beside themselves..” So true! We have lost count of the number of drivers who turn into a road without checking, who drive on the wrong side because it’s convenient to what they want to do (buy food, pick-ups etc), or who stop in middle of road with traffic piling up behind, like the girl on motorbike plucking her eyebrows in compact mirror! We hear it said often that Laos people are laid back – well they must have undying patience as well because they don’t seem to get mad or use the horn much, just go around. In observing subsistence life in the rural areas, it appears many drivers in Laos must be first generation drivers, and obviously kids who once shared roads as playgrounds with wagons, bicycles and bikes are having to become street smart very quickly now there is so much car and truck traffic.
The switchback turns in the mountains kept us wide awake as we passed utterly spectacular karsts, three layers of blue mountains against vivid green dense foliage, huge boulders, rivers with shallow rapids, mini waterfalls from recent rain. People here live life on edge - literally - on the mountain ridges (how do toddlers and livestock not fall over the cliffs?)
With relief at the end of our vigilance we pulled into a quarry with a spectacular view - just as an enveloping mist came down over mountains and all became prematurely dark. We rushed dinner to beat the mist coming into house through fly screens, and a light rain. So nice to be cool enough to snuggle into a cotton blanket for a good read.