April 15, 2007

201206 Muang Sing - Luang Namtha

Today's route - back to Luang Namtha by songthaew, & then bus on to Udomxai:

Plan was to catch the first songthaew out of Muang Sing, which leaves at 0800AM. However at 0745AM the cat was still hunting high & low for someone to return its guesthouse room key to. By the time it got to the 'bus' station, the songthaew was packed to the gills - even by Lao standards.

& then Miss Bus Station lady found out that the cat was aiming to reach Udomxai by today, & decided that the next songthaew might leave too late for the cat to catch (or squeeze onto) the earlier(st) bus to Udomxai that would reach before nightfall. She called out to Mr Songthaew driver, who peeked down from the roof where he was tying down cargo, took a look at the cat, & told it to throw its backpack up to him. They had decided that there was still space that the cat could fit into =)

The place where songthaews plying the Luang Namtha-Muang Sing route make their toilet stop:


View of Nam Ha NBCA from toilet stop place:


A few of the passengers who were crammed into the back:


The rest had yet to climb back on after getting off to stretch their legs, spit, smoke & pee. There were at least 16 of them in the back plus sacks of stuff, plus 3 men in the 2 front passenger seats beside the driver, & the cat. 4 more would get on nearer to Luang Namtha, hanging off the rear.

Cat's seat - the space behind the driver & front passengers' heads:


Cat's knees are in the foreground. On all other songthaew rides that the cat took, this space was used for bags, babies or toddlers. The cat couldn't straighten its neck without banging its head on the ceiling, & so it couldn't raise its head high enough to look out of the window & see any of the passing scenery. But it had ample space to stretch its short legs, unlike anyone else in the songthaew apart from the driver =P & it figured out from the honking, bang, & yelling that the songthaew had mowed down a dog in one of the villages it zoomed through, with passengers shouting at the driver to drive off before any villager realised what had happened & came out to demand compensation! The guys in front kept saying, 'Peep peep baw4 pai1' (didn't go away despite the 'peep peep' sounding of the songthaew's horn), trying to make the driver feel less at fault.

The songthaew - interesting disparity in size of front & rear wheels:


The 3 guys sharing the front passenger seats laughed each time the cat had to move back into its space. It had to climb in bum first, with chest on thighs & chin on knees. Wushu stretching really pays off in unexpected ways.

Nearing Luang Namtha, the songthaew stopped in the middle of nowhere for the driver to collect payment from passengers who had yet to pay up. Apparently this is the standard practice to prevent anyone from running off without paying when we arrive at the final destination.

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