28th October – Out of China into Laos

29 Oct

We arrived at Mohan after a short 50km drive on excellent roads. Mohan is very smart and clean with lots of nice flowers and plants. We stopped outside an hotel to wait for Spring to sort out the exit paperwork. It is a good place to change money but make sure that you know the exchange rates and be prepared to haggle. One of the money changes tried to con us with a poor rate, finally agreed a better rate and then folded the notes so that if we had not separated them to count would have lost 20 % of the value …. be aware!! We told her to go away in no uncertain terms and left her struggling to put the screwed up bundle of notes back into her stack!

 

 

After filling up our tank with water at the hotel and changing the money, we headed on to the border for immigration and customs. All went well and within an hour we were driving out of the Chinese side.

 

 

We drove along a few hundred metres to the Loas side, where you could immediately see that we were in a different country. It felt good.

First step was to thoroughly decontaminate our vehicle (agricultural quarantine) by hosing down the wheels. It appears that any contamination is only on the near side wheels as they only bother with the ones on their side! Once finished they smiled and said ‘pay money” but they were smiling and expected my smile and shake of the head.

Next we went to park next to immigration where we filled in a visa form and then an entry form for the police. They ask for a passport photo and so make sure you have some spares. The cost was $37 each …. not sure if that is right, and afterwards thought that we should have asked for a receipt for reasons you will understand after the next step!

When I told them I had a car, they wanted the carnet to stamp on the back of the first page. They asked for a payment of 20000 kip for this stage (about 140 pence so not a fortune) confused about this step I asked for a receipt. The man then said “OK 10000 then” and handed me a receipt for this amount.

We then went to another booth in a small building and bought 3rd party motor insurance (I think and hope!). This was 110000 kip which is about ( 7.70 pounds). Sounds a bit cheap so I guess the cover is limited!!

 

 

With this step complete we drove off. I was a little concerned about the carnet not being stamped properly but could not remember which countries I needed it for …. bad I know, but we had rushed on the last few days and forgot to check.

A few km later we got to another customs check point and although they waved us through, I backtracked and went in an office to check the carnet issue. They seemed to know what they were doing and stamped and signed the carnet and ripped off the bottom section. We had not used it before and the sample form from the RAC was printed so small we could not see what it said at all. Must be getting old … its your parents that always complain how small the print is, not us ….

Laos

  • 19400 km from home!
  • Money : Currency is the Kip (chicken in dutch!?). 1000 Kip is about 7 pence.
  • Diesel in this area about 9500 Kip
  • First time we’ve been to the ATM and withdrawn one million!

Immediately the scenery changes, there are no vegetables growing on the roadside and the houses are lovely bamboo sided structures on stilts. There was a sudden feeling of being free to take our time …. daily life here should be much cheaper, distances shorter and lovely smiles to send you on your way.

 

 

We bought some fruit …. or are they vegetables?!

 

 

Further along the road there was a group using machinery to separate the maize from the husks. In China we always saw this being done by hand.

 

 

It is a really good road, put in by the Chinese. As it is in good condition it is easy to look around as you drive. There is loads to see and the scenery is fantastic.

 

 

They look like pot bellied pigs as the older ones we saw have bellies that almost touch the ground … really low slung!

Next was a man weaving a split cane basket.

 

At one point we stopped for a drink thinking that a beer sign meant that beer was for sale with other drinks. In fact it was only beer. We had one large bottle and four more for the fridge. This cost 20000 kip or 140 pence for the five!!

Outside the bar there were bananas growing.

 

 

We carried on to a town called Muang Xay as we wanted to sort out a 3G card for the phone and to see if we could get WordPress here in Laos. We did not want to distract Ben from his uni work for too long with the web posting! We found a really nice hotel (the only one with wifi) for about 14 pounds including two breakfasts. It is called the Villa KeoSeumsack and is a lovely building with really friendly staff and owners. They do not allow camping in the carpark which was our first request.

Once we had settled in we went to a nice little Laos restaurant around the corner and met Ashley, who is working in the town as a consultant. She lives in Cambodia at the moment … maybe our paths will cross again?

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