Dave: In to the Jungle
It seemed like no time at all and yet like we’d been there forever, but we’ve finally made it through China. It’s another country that I can say that I’ll definitely be back to one day. As Chris has said, the food was fantastic, and like the country, incredibly varied. It’s all fascinating – from over in the north west, where the people have most in common with the Mongolians, and the countryside is hot and dusty right through to the south east where the land turns in to hills covered in tropical jungle and the people share looks and traditions with the Thai and Lao people.
We are already missing our guide Linda. She’s a city girl from Chengdu and it was her first overland trip too – but she managed to help us find our way 8000 kilometres across China, making the most of the sites and food along the way. She helped to mostly avoid the ‘terrible’ food (not that there was much!) and despite the joking threats, she didn’t managed to kill us with ‘hot and spicy’! Having Linda along was more like having a good mate than a guide – we wouldn’t have chosen to have a guide unless we had to, but now we’re very glad that we did! Thanks too to Karen from NAVO (our Chinese tour company) for doing all the work behind the scenes – we started to take for granted rocking up in to town and already having a great value hotel booked (never mind getting us in and out of the country)!
Laos has been a very pleasant suprise. Before leaving China, the research I’d done had made me think that the roads in Laos were going to be appalling. I was expecting long days bumping over potholed dirt roads to painfully cover only a few hundred kilometres. In reality, the opposite has been true, and I think today was possibly one of the best driving days of the trip. We had a leisurely drive through the Lao jungle on excellent roads (by Asian standards!) with the windows down and the roof open – enjoying the steamy heat and watching the bamboo and banana trees along with all the baby pigs, chickens, ducks and geese as we cruised past. The longest delay we had was stopping to buy delicious fresh bananas from the side of the road. Lao drivers, unlike those from China and Pakistan, don’t seem to be trying to kill themselves and everybody around them, which is also a refreshing change! We finished off the afternoon with a drive out to ‘The Waterfall’ near Luang Prabang for a swim in the turquoise water amongst the limestone formations. If the next few days in Laos are like this, we’ll be pretty happy!