To Phou Khoun and Namxa Noy village: the secret’s out at Bor Nam Oon

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Cycle touring Rte 13 Northern Laos 2008
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Friday November 14, 2008, 75 km (47 miles) – Total so far: 393 km (244 miles)

In keeping with it’s dingy reputation, breakfast at the Dung Rabbit consisted of yesterday’s or worse, microwaved baguettes stuffed with raw vegetables which were harder than my handle bar grips. Expecting Laung Prabang standards was probably too much to ask, so we left easily without any regrets.

At this altitude, our ride started a little foggy but it was hard to complain with an immediate downhill where we had to take it easy with about 10 meters of visibility. We join groups of school children on their commute, some cycling dangerously while texting on their cell phones.

It’s a roller coaster 50 kms to Muang Phou Khoun and the painful truth is that the coaster dips more heading south. You don’t really see the climb’s summiting as the road switches back and forth behind blind corners with thick vegetation.

Looking back I see, power lines and pylons indicating where the road leads up, skywards with a distant gap toothed pass back to Phou Khoun.

sucking it in before the climbs

Phou Khoun is the largest town after Luang Prabang as it’s also the junction for Route 7 veering east to Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars. Like most of northern Laos, the Chinese influence here is overwhelming. If you get stuck here, it’s street stall upon street stall of the same fake sundry goods spilling onto the street. We spot a black goat’s head on a table next to some vegetables. It’s gross and fresh and the eyes are fully opened. It reminded me of what some illegal loan sharks do back home. Hang a fresh pig’s head outside your house, as a friendly reminder when $$$ plus 200 % interest, per week is due.

Legal loan sharks have nice svelte girls working in cool, carpeted places called banks.

This stretch of Route 13 between Muang Phou Khoun used to be Hmong rebel territory. Looking at the terrain, even well fed and equipped government forces would loath to quell any insurgency here. I can’t find the Time magazine article in which a rebel attack on a public bus in 2003 left a about a dozen people dead, including 2 Swiss or Swedish cycle tourists, shot in the back as they stumbled upon the attack and tried to cycle off. The bullet riddled bus was left on the road side for some time, it’s parts and fixtures ripped off, er, recycled till an empty shell was left.

The rebels blamed the attack on government forces, and another popular theory was that a French resident with $40,000 cash on him, on the bus was the target.

It was on this stretch that we rode by some very basic army camps, they looked more like open spaces for a scouting jamboree, and they only give away signs of any military were the ageing trucks and jeeps parked haphazardly. One time I stopped to arrange the insides of my handlebar bag and before I knew it, I heard “No photo!” coming from a road side bath, opposite well, a fenceless clutch of wooden green buildings.

On our ride today the greatest threat to us cyclists must have been the speeding and reckless driving, especially around blind corners by traffic that looked like they were escaping a rebel attack.

There are some gruesome perspectives on the insurgency from Rebecca Sommer at,

http://rebeccasommer.org/documentaries/Hmong/index.php

Amazing karst scenery near Bor Nam Oun on Rt 13

The 5 room ‘resort’ of Bor Nam Oon is a great little oasis at the bottom of some really spectacular karst scenery. Heading south on Route 13, it’s on the right side of the road, a steep kilometer out of Namxa Noy village. We took three rooms on a hillside set among some very verdant jungle, overlooking a pool of supposedly hot springs. More like warm actually.

We recorded 24 kms after Phou Khoun and 22 kms before Kasi, whose main street is about 2 kms long.

We did not see our Belgian friends all day and thought they had stopped at Phou Khoun for the night, but were pleasantly surprised when they showed up a while later in the dark. Having made a promise to reserve for them a room at ‘the Ritz’, I felt bad that the last room was booked by a heavily tatooed falang and his ladyboy girlfriend. Not so much if it was just the ladyboy her/himself.

This place will get popular for cyclists on Route 13, but fret not. The original Bor Nam Oon has 4 more rooms down by the spring fed pool, 2 without bedding, all without ensuite bathrooms, but you do get to sleep to the sounds of the small stream outside and wake up to the cacophony of hawking and coughing of teeth brushing truck drivers. Engine noise available without request too, but things pretty much quieten down after dinner. I wouldn’t mind another night here. The restaurant has real bacon. It has to, backpacker central Vang Vieng is just down the road.

A big THANK YOU too, to the following for sharing and showing the way here,

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Frank2008Laos Doing it in the hot season

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/weirdwayhome Surlying in the rainy season

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/4338 Sadistically heading North

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Salsa Damien passed through 10 days after I did. This is the very beaten cycling path !

Team Belgium arrives

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