Phong Sa Ly

Sitting at the bus station at Dien Bien Phu at 7am after my day of exploration, I had a little decision to make. Only two more busses would leave on this day, and both in the next thirty minutes, one to Phong Sa Ly and the other Luang Prabang. Without too much thought about it, and very little information to go on I decided I would get the ticket to Phong Sa Ly.

After the border crossing at Tay Tang, there were about fifteen hours of windy mountain roads through northern Laos, including stopping for an hour behind a crash on the road and unloading cement bricks for an hour at a random town along the way. By the time I was dropped off at the bus station it was dark, foggy and there wasn't another person in sight, I walked with my backpack along the road for about thirty minutes before finding a restaurant that was open for business. I was able to order noodles by pointing, but my cell phone was not working in Laos and nobody understood a word of English, I decided to try my luck with Chinese, and before I knew it the people next to me were helping to describe exactly where I could find a hotel and offering their help to get me there.

Tay Tang border crossing
View out the bus window in Laos
I'm not really positive what was going on here

When I awoke the next day, I found myself in a strange place, over the next couple days this mysterious place slowly began to make a bit more sense to me. This town is close enough to the Chinese border that the culture and language have bled over the border and infected the people here. The center of town has an area designated as China Town, and it is difficult to get what feels like a truly Laotian meal without avoiding this zone, all around the city everyone uses a couple Chinese words in every sentence. At one point I joined a couple people on the street to drink what I thought would be the locally made liquor, Lao Lao, instead, I found out after a couple shots that we were just drinking good old Chinese Baijiu!

Baijiu party
There isn't really very much to do here except use the town as a base for trekking to minority villages or visit the top of Phou Fa which overlooks the town. I do have to say though that this is really a peaceful anti-touristy destination, and the locals here are about as nice as could be to any visitor. One thing to be aware of before coming is that there are both scheduled and unscheduled power outages on a regular basis and thunderstorms are quite frequent, so there might be a day where you're stuck inside the hotel unable to do anything, it might be best to bring a deck of cards just in case.

View from Phou Fa
A Buddhist thing at Phou Fa

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