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vancouver, canada

(updated: april 2018)



     Arriving in Oudomxay (on a hell of a shaky road from Luang Prabang - luckily the man sitting next to me on the bus worked at a hotel in Luang Prabang and helped me buy pills for carsickness at the bus station, just in case), I found that I'd just missed the last bus to Mong La and was forced to spend the night there. Exhausted and dispirited, I found myself stuck in a city that, according to my Lonely Planet book, was the ugliest place in Laos. With no idea of where to spend the night, I trudged out from the bus station and walked aimlessly around the deserted-looking town. After visiting a few hostels that proved to be way over my budget, I broke down and decided to find an internet cafe in order to figure out how to get out of the place asap. I quickly found that virtually no one in Oudomxay spoke Lao, let alone English, and let's be honest - my mandarin is shit. And, of course, the computers at the only internet cafe I came across where programmed in this language. Frustrated, I even stopped some tuktuk drivers to ask the price to getting to Muang La that evening, but it simply wasn't realistic. This was probably one of the lowest points in my trip. I felt like I was wasting time but, in retrospect, it was quality time spent learning to cope with the inevitable surprises that travel brings.

     Fortunately for my depressed self, I came across a little lao restaurant in a sidestreet, the patrons of which comforted and fed me until I got my spirits up. After my meal, I found myself walking down the street, looking for a place to stay still, and someone with a germanic accent starting calling out from one of the hotel windows above me: "hey! hey, girl! You! Are you looking for a room too?" Coupling up with this overly excited Hungarian woman, we managed to find the cheapest room in town at Vilavong Guesthouse*, for which we payed 20000kp each (around 3USD). As it turned out, she had intentionally come to Oudomxay to find out why exactly it was described so poorly in guidebooks. I was appalled (and her quirkiness did get a little on my nerves, especially in my emotionally-drained state), but it was eye-opening to meet someone who decided to make the best from the worst. Highlight of Oudomxay? These little treats (pictured) sold at the bus station the next morning. I dream of these. I believe it's coconut sticky rice in bamboo.
     Intermittent rain showers were becoming more frequent, and it was always significantly cooler in the mornings after a night of rain (early May). I needed to find a sweater to buy somewhere, especially seeing as I was heading northbound to chillier Sapa, with its highly seasonal climate. 

*Where to stay in Oudomxay: Vilavong Guesthouse offered the best deal of 40 000 kip for a double room. It is clean and the owners are friendly, although they do not speak English and there is only one bathroom. The phone rang in the reception all night long though, so it was hard to sleep, but I'm sure they'd have fixed that by now. Good location. Close to...the bus station so you can get out of there asap? Everywhere else that I checked was overpriced - Lithavixay Guesthouse, just across the street from Vilavong, was listed in my guidebook, but in my opinion it was overrated and expensive. The internet as well was overpriced at 5 000 kip/ half hour (the most expensive I'd encountered in a while), while a place just down the road and towards the bus station charged 3 000 kip per half hour.

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