Wednesday, December 26, 2007

261206 Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang bus

Previous 2 days' route in grey, today's route in blue:


Together with three of the Sunset Guesthouse kids, Mr Belgian 2 & the cat made their way through the thick fog & across the bridge, the kids on their way to school, & us to catch the morning bus (32,000kip, approx 3h) to Luang Prabang.

There are always parts that used to work a long time ago, & holes where there used to be parts a long time ago:


The cat cannot recall seeing any of the speedometer or fuel tank gauge needles it saw in on Lao buses ever moving beyond zero. Front seat passengers must take care not to let their legs interfere with vehicle function:


The upper left part (above) is always functioning. When resources are limited, the Lao have to prioritise, & a constant source of mor lam music must never be compromised ;)

Vehicle insurance in the form of white baci string tied around the steering wheel:


& photostated copies of 'yan' (ยันต์ charm/spell diagrams, from the Sanskrit word yantra?) stuck above the windscreen:


Anyone who wants the original size version of these images to print out for their own vehicles, feel free to contact the cat ;)

Such 'designs' also appear in tattoos, on 'seua yan' (เสื้อยันต์) shirts worn by Lanna men in ancient times for protection in battle & during hunting, Lanna 'phaa yan' (ผ้ายันต์) cloth talismans, & on mulberry paper that is rolled around the wick of beeswax 'thien yan' (เทียนผ้ายันต์) candles that Lanna people burnt when they needed 'supernatural' help.

To ensure coverage from all possible angles, an Assurance General du Laos decal on the windshield behind the rearview mirror:


Throughout its two weeks in northern Laos, public transport never failed to get the cat to its destination, & at an average speed comparable to that of public buses in Singapore - strange but true.

Along the way, part of the route ran alongside a beautiful stretch of the Nam Ou. At some point the bus was stopped at some sort of barrier, & the driver had to hand over some kip to a bunch of uniformed guys (no idea for what). As the bus drew closer to Luang Prabang, the distances separating individual villages decreased as the scale of the Hmong New Year celebrations we passed by increased. Not long after the turn-off to the construction site of the Korean-sponsored new campus for Souphanouvong University (presently housed in an old secondary school in Luang Prabang), the bus pulled into the northern bus station.

The cat had arrived in Luang Prabang...exactly one year before this travelog post would be written =P

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