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20060114_P_0072
Saville Row, Phonsavan
20060114_P_0075
Laos has a legacy of unexploded bombs to cope with, and a gaggle of well-meaning humanitarian organisations

We had both felt much better last night but whatever bug it is that we have picked up decided to wake me up at five this morning and keep me running to the bathroom for the next few hours. Fortunately by the time we left the hotel for our flight to Phonsovan I was feeling much better.

A taxi took us the short distance to the airport. For some bizarre reason they ask you to check in ninety minutes before the flight. It is a bit excessive because in all the time we were at the airport there was one international flight and one domestic flight, ours. Here we found out that our flight to Phonsovan was not the short thirty minute hop we were expecting. It goes first to Luang Prabang and then on to Phonsovan so it is just under two hours in total. Even so, we still got to Phonsovan much faster than we would have done on the bus, which is about nine hours!

The flights were pretty uneventful. Behind us to our left a young woman had a huge Winnie the Pooh cuddly toy with her, so big that he happily had a seat to himself for the first leg of the trip. Flying back up to Luang Prabang gave us another chance to see the green tropical hills that stretch for miles ahead of you. It was a strange feeling to go back to somewhere we had left a few days ago, never expecting to see it again. The second leg to Phonsavon was a quick twenty minutes. Here the landscape started to change though as the hills were brown and seemed to be bare of vegetation.

When we landed at the airport the plane taxied off the runway and came to rest in a small turning point which was an untarmaced surface. At Vientiane as I walked onto the plane I thought the tyres looked a little on the flat side but I decided not to look here. We had got here safely and that was all I was bothered about. For about the next fifteen minutes I watched them doing stuff with the luggage, driving the luggage van to various bits of the plane before they obviously decided they had taken off everything they needed to. I was fully prepared for our bags to have gone astray somewhere en route but all was OK.

While we were waiting for the bags Stef had gone to check on the state of play for getting into town. Tuk tuks were on hand as always and before long we were off. It was a short drive in to Phonsovan and to the Maly Hotel, our chosen bed for the next two nights. The Maly is a Lonely Planet recommendation and seems to be the best option in town, not just for the room but its restaurant is rated as well as its associated tour company for trips to the local sights. We were met with a warm and friendly welcome and checked into our large and airy room with views out over the rice fields behind us.

The hotel also runs Sousath Travel, an agency offering tours around the local area to the Hmong villages and to the Plain of Jars. We signed up for trips for the next two days tomorrow and then ambled up and into town. We took a bit of a back route in and just one street off the main road we were walking along a dust track. Even the main road into town has dirt strips either side as wide as the tarmac down the middle. All the local people we passed along the way smiled and we exchanged sabaidee’s while also getting some good photo’s.

To call Phonsovan a town is probably stretching the definition based on our normal set of standards. It is really just where a couple of roads come to meet each other and there is a market on site too. The roads have a few shops, quite a few of which seem to be car repair shops, and on the main street there are a few guesthouses and places to eat. Before long though we had walked pretty much through the length of the town and both agreed that we had made a good call staying at the Maly.

We headed back to the hotel first making our way through the market. Most of the stalls were under cover, some under a high corrugated steel roof but more under a covering made of empty rice sacks propped up on bamboo poles. We both had to crouch down a bit to stop our heads peeking out through the holes in the bags. As well as the usual food type stalls you could buy here everything you need from clothes to toiletries to household hardware. A few food stalls lined one side offering tempting morsels to the locals.

It was starting to get dark as we headed back out to our hotel. Here we relaxed for a while in our room before heading down for dinner. We had opted not to order in advance, a Lonely Planet suggestion which means you get a special dish cooked for you rather than choosing off the already quite lengthy menu. The food was pretty good but the service was incredibly slow, even for Laos, something that everyone experienced every time they had a meal at this hotel. We were soon tucked up in bed in anticipation of what our trip tomorrow would hold.