“Are you from Catalonia in Spain?” I approach a guy with dreadlocks. I hesitated for some moments whether it wasn’t the guy from last night in a bar. “No I’m from Germany, why do you ask?” I tell him about my adventure, the previous evening. I met a French guy and later a French couple. We had a drink at a bar along the river. Later in the evening I met a Spanish guy with dreadlocks.
He suddenly disappeared that night.
The last week from Dali in China I only had just one conversation, a forced one with a Chinese police officer. I had so much need for social contact that I was starting to talk to all the backpackers around here. And there were quite a few here in Luang Namtha.
Maybe the Spanish guy disappeared because he was annoyed that I talked the ears of his head after all those solo days on my bicycle.
“What do you want to see? A video or photos?” I sat down at the table of the German guy. He had just ordered his supper, vegetables with curry and rice. Dustin, that’s his name, had just returned from a trek in the area. The small town is full of travel agencies. For a day or more, you can kayak in the jungle or, as Dustin did, a trek from village to village and spend the night in the jungle. “I do not know, let’s go for the video,” I say enthusiastically. Dustin starts to chuckle and let me see a short video where he and a local old lady are smoking a large pipe with opium. I don’t believe my eyes. “Local discovery?” I ask him, laughing. He glances around and leans across the table towards me: “If you want, we can smoke some in my room.” I thank him for the offer. Tomorrow I get back on my bicycle and I like to do that in a healthy state.
Where everything is controlled in China and most people neatly comply with the rules, Laos is slightly different. Here things are just possible. Here it is much more relaxed. I also feel a little freer, though I let the opium in the country for what it is.
“Sabai-dee!! Sabai-dee!!” I just left Luang Namtha and in every village I am greeted by the children. It surprises me how friendly the people are here. The parents they smile politely. When I get closer, they are often a little bit shy.
Market females in the next town of Luang Prabang know exactly how to deal with tourists: “Come, come! Fruit shake? Sandwich? Only 10,000 kip!!” And yes, no matter how tempting they appear so attractive is the price, just over one euro. Also the food at the night markets is really cheap.
Five broken spokes and don’t ask me how. Just before the town Luang Prabang they all broke all. I’ve been searching for two days for replacement 28-inch spokes. Again, nowhere to be found. The same story continues as in China. I have heard that in Thailand it seems to be better, but 500 kilometers with five missing spokes may be a bit too risky. On the day that I nevertheless want to venture out without having fix them, I get some advice from an Israeli cycle fanatic. A little later I’m meeting a nice American with his shop Tiger Trails. He fortunately can help me with the correct spokes. He even helps me with getting the whole thing correctly back together. And all for just three Lao beers. I only have to buy them myself on the corner of the street.
32 kilometers south of the town seems to be one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Laos. It’s called the ‘Tat Kuang Si.’ I had seen some pictures of the people in the hostel. Really stunning. A beautiful blue-yellow delicious looking waterfall where you can take a bath in. It seems that there are a lot of tourists coming to see it but nonetheless I decide to visit the place the next day. In the morning I’ll treat myself there with a nice shower.
With that thought in my mind I leave that afternoon the town Luang Prabang.
The next morning when I actually arrive at the place I start to wonder whether I have found the right one. No tourist in sight here. A large sign with “Kacham waterfall’ tells me definitively that this is probably the wrong waterfall. I still decide to give it a try. The place looks deserted. Local kids are running around to collect wood. They look surprised at my appearance.
I order a papaya salad at the small restaurant. The female goes outside and uses a long bamboo pole to collect a papaya from a tree.
Moments later I take a bath under the waterfall. The local kids just throw their bag of woods next to them and run excited up the waterfall to show me their skills. At that moment I realize that this is probably not the wrong waterfall. It might not be as pretty as the other one but it’s quiet here.
It might be the right one for me.