We ended up staying in Luang Prabang much longer than planned because both Matt and I got sick and weren't able to travel. When we were feeling better we headed to Phonsavan, home of the Plain of Jars. This time we were smart and bypassed the tour agencies and went straight to the local bus station and bought a ticket there (at a fraction of the price). No more expensive horror minivans for us! We did experience some excitement when our regular bus got a flat tire. It was obvious this happens a lot since they had a spare and changed it in no time- we didn't even get behind schedule!
Phonsavan is a really small place. So small that when we arrived at the bus station there were the regular tuk tuk drivers and guys trying to get you to stay at their guesthouse but here they seemed a little more sincere. One guy said that he would drive us into town for free (necessary since it was about 4 kms) and show us his guesthouse but if we didn't like it, we didn't have to stay there. We were both skeptical but decided to take the chance. As it turned out, he was totally sincere. He drove us into the heart of town, gave us our bags and pointed to a couple of places we should check out and left us alone. Odd.
Phonsavan was also a good deal colder than anywhere else we'd traveled. This was ironic since we had just ditched our warmer clothes (sent them home in a package with other stuff) so I had to resort to wandering around with one of my sarongs draped over me. I'm glad that we went to Phonsavan since I feel like I got to see Laos more like it is for most of its people- isolated, poor and really devastated by leftover bombs. We watched an excellent documentary here at the local MAG office called “Bombies” and everywhere you looked you saw old bomb casings lying around or being used in the decor.
I was glad to go to Phonsavan but it was also the scariest time on the trip. This place is really isolated, people don't speak English well and there are no medical services. Of course this meant that this was the place where I was the sickest. It was really scary, sitting in my freezing guesthouse room and thinking about my options if I were to seriously need medical treatment. My appetite had vanished and I was really dizzy and weak most of the time with serious bathroom troubles. We ended up researching some antibiotics to take and we even found and purchased them (for less than a dollar) but were afraid to take them in case they weren't what I needed. Don't worry, we already know that this story has a happy ending- I'm totally fine now and we ended up seeing a doctor in Hanoi who basically said “take the antibiotics you bought in Laos” but it was an eye opening experience sitting in that cold room and knowing that my medical options were really limited (the building pictured is the town hospital). It makes sense why you don't see many senior citizens in Laos. Laos is a third world country and I really saw that in Phonsavan. For most of the day the water and electricity are completely turned off. If you don't get bread in the morning, there isn't any until the next day. I feel fortunate that I was only visiting that world and that I wasn't born into it.