Luang Namtha and abandoned casinos….
Archive for the 12/3/2013
After our usual breakfast it was sad to say goodbye to our host Lak and Luang Phrabang….
We had to go the long way around to get out of town because the moterbike bridge we rode on yesterday would be to narrow to get the bike through now we had our luggage boxes on….
It didnt take long before we had left the town and were following the Mekong through green valleys and mountains, but as soon as the road started to climb the road suddenly turned to a really rough road….
Pot holes, gravel, sand it was relentless for a good 75 klms, i spent all the way stood up on the foot pegs to get a better balance and try to see and navagate the best way through, which meant constantly switching sides of the road…..luckily the road was quiet, with not much traffic….
When i did have time to look at the scenery, it was breathtaking ……
We eventually got to Xoundxsai Town in good time and the road got a lot better, we sat down at a little roadside shop and shared a coke, the old lady that ran the shop made us sit down on small plastic chairs and she peeled a cucumber for us!
She gave us half each!….being too polite to refuse we took a few bites (Chris does not like cucumber at all!) when the lady wasn’t looking we hid the rest in our trouser pockets to ditch later…
We were originally going to stay a night in this town but it was still early and if the road stayed good we could easily make it to Luang Namtha before dark…..
Well just outside town the road turned to the best we had probably been on, it was superb …….
Flat bitumen, with long twisties, i was in heaven….
With the Ipod cranked up we got to Luang Namtha in no time and secured a hotel secure parking, right next to a Pizza place with a real Pizza oven….
After a shower and change of clothes we ventured in the pizza place to be told there would be about a 45 min wait for the pizza to be ready, fine we could live with that, we’d just have a few more beers…
A hour and a half later they produced a sorry state of a dish trying to pass off as a pizza , it literally had nothing on it but sauce and cheese, it was meant to be chicken!……there were only a few feeble offerings of chicken no bigger than my thumb nail……
On leaving, they asked us how are meal was and we told them straight, and their reply was it was a ‘authentic Italian Pizza’….yeah right….
The next day we decided to go up to the Chinese border which was about 60 klms away to have a look at the abandoned Casino Town…Boten.
Riding to Boten Town we came across another overlander on a Africa twin, Leo and his girlfriend Nati.
We both stopped and had a long chat…..what travellers do……and arranged to meet up later that evening in town…
Today the main casino, inside a three-star hotel, lies abandoned, its Backgammon tables thick with dust.
The trouble started in December, when Chinese gamblers found that the operators refused to let them leave until they had coughed up for betting losses. Officials from Hubei province apparently negotiated the release of several “hostages”, but many more continued to be held against their will. Accounts in the Chinese media say that casino recruiters lured gamblers with offers of free travel and hotel rooms, only to be kept captive and beaten when their credit ran out. Lao villagers swap grisly tales of corpses dumped in the river…….
We walked around, even though it was day time , it had a eerie feel about it… a ghost town!
We tried to enter the casino but the guard that was on duty refused us entry…but we could see it was all going to waste……
Inside the hotel they still had brand new escalators…..
It definitely was a weird place to visit….Some investors have lost some serious money here…..
We came back and checked out the golden Wat that dominates the town on a hill.
Later that evening we met up with Leo and his girlfriend Nati and over a few beers exchanged some good information on some countries we will be visiting, they were heading south and making their way to Australia……good to meet you guys….
We got up early the next morning and had a great omelette baguette from the cafe across the road from our hotel, we wanted to get away early to cross the border at Chiang Klong which is a ferry crossing, the ride to the border took about hour and a half and was a great road for motorbikes……
We wern’t ready for the cold temperature……
The road was great…….
We came across a couple of accidents…..there’s some very steep bends…..
And we stopped off at a scenic point and met these ragamuffin kids…….
We rode up to the ferry crossing and was told that the Immigration office was back into town a couple of KLMS!….so back into town to get that sorted….
Then back to the ferry crossing to be told that the ferry wont be running until 1pm…it was now 10.30am….so much for our early start…..plus customs wasn’t open until 12.30……so we just sat it out and watched all the backpackers climb aboard the slow boats that travel down the Mekong to Luang Phrabang….
Getting on to the ferry was easy enough, but the ferrys deck was covered in Diesel oil and water, not a good mix when trying to balance a heavily laden bike……
Some of the other passengers could see my predicament and helped me manoeuvre the bike back and forwards to the satisfaction of the ferry operator!!!!……the less say about that the better……
The price of the ferry to get across for moterbike was 500 BHT, which is steep, i think they are trying to get much money in as possible before they have to shut down because of the new bridge being built….
The Mekong took about 10 minutes to cross, then up the ramp, turn right for 200m, then back towards the river, to the Immigration office to get our free 15 day visa and customs office to get our Temp import for the bike into Thailand……