Laos welcomed us with a big thunderstorm. While we were filling out our visa application and later had our passports checked & stamped at immigration, the first thunder roared. And soon, the skies came open… Somebody waved us into a “jumbo”, a big tuk-tuk with a roof. We jumped on it and off we went, not really knowing where we were going and actually how much it would cost… Gilles was sure it would take us to the next town to catch a bus for the two hour ride to Luang Nam Tha, Heidi had her doubts.
First of all, since we “only” paid 2 Euros, we assumed it would be a short trip. The other reason was rather wishful thinking, since we could not imagine being so exposed in this heavy rain for long. Well, we were! There was an elderly Lao couple traveling with us. The man tried to make a kind of shield against the rain from carton that covered the floor of the truck. In vain, soon it was so soaked that it flapped sadly in the wind. After a while, the sun reappeared. The couple fed us with sweet bread and in no time we pulled into Luang Nam Tha.
When crossing this border, it is most impressive to see the building activities that are underway on both sides. Buildings pop up like mushrooms, right in the middle of nowhere. The new highway from Jinghong to the Lao border is just receiving its last touches. It has not been officially been opened, but is used nevertheless, often in a rather unorthodox way.
On the Lao side, roads have been greatly improved, all financed by the Chinese government. These large investments in infrastructure on behalf of the Chinese are not pure charity, but a very smart long term plan. These roads, connecting the southwest of China with the north of Laos and Thailand, are the “silk roads” of the 21st century!