1 December 2011
Overcast start to the day. I'm still feeling a little full, so I defer food. This turns out to be a good strategy, as my breakfast, taken after 27km in Na Mor, hits my system just as I get stuck into the day's main climb. I reckon I'm just going to rattle into places and speak a few words of Thai, as it seems to be understood. For breakfast, I lead with a kin khao (eat rice), and get a kin pho (eat noodles) suggestion in reply - job's a good un. Got a salad of mint, green beans, watercress and other unidentified greens on the side too.
Shortly after starting, I get passed by vehicles from alternative package companies Green Discovery and Stray Travel. I laugh. I also get passed by two Kunming to Luang Prabang buses - one in each direction.
Today the air got beyond sweating, and it rained properly. Not too heavy, but enough to make the descents treacherous and chilly. I was up above 1000m again. I found myself thanking the Chinese road engineers who put this road in - manageable gradients, brand new surface. A sign in Na Tuey said it was completed October 2011. I was able to maintain a speed in double figures, which is significantly better for the morale than ponding about around seven or eight km/h. I passed a work crew putting in yellow lines down the middle of the road.
I chase down the Dutch couple with 11km to go. We have a quick chat and then I leave them to it. Oudomxai/Muang Xai has grown - it took me a stroll around to orient myself. There seems to be a greater Chinese presence than last year. Night falls early which probably means an early start is in order tomorrow as the roads are reported to be rough and hilly.
80km, 20.3km/h, 3hr57min, c.e.g. 1187m, 1197km