6. Riding The Rails: Muang Xai - Vang Vieng
High-speed train arriving at Muang Xai station.
The next day we set out for our by-now-standard now standard Lao breakfast of baguettes and coffee.
Once that was accomplished we discussed our plans for the umpteenth time as David had to be at the railroad station before 12.00.
Tim suggested visiting Muang La’s 2,000-year-old Vat Phachao Singkham Temple, but it was 28 km away and the air quality was like soup…
We asked a tuk-tuk driver who admitted having no idea where it was but offered to bring us there for a suspiciously large amount of kip…
Instead, David came up with checking out the local museum and some weird imaginative Tree of Life in town.
And I suggested cutting our visit here shorter as well and taking the same train as David but getting off one stop later, at Vang Vieng.
This was well received although Ray grumbled a tiny bit about missing out on interstellar wormholes in the Plain of Jars.
We pacified him by promising that for a future trip, we’d go straight to the Plain of Jars!
It seemed to make sense to get train tickets first so we hopped on a tuk-tuk only to be disappointed as ticket sales started from 09.00 onwards only…
Screw it, we went back and got dropped off at the foot of Phouxay Hill and from there climbed up the stairs towards the museum.
Usually, we keep our expectations extremely low, stay very flexible, and as a result, the Oudomxay Provincial Museum visit was not halfway bad!
After some confusion between the front and back doors, we paid the entrance fees and started wandering around.
As expected lots of displays with photos of local dignitaries and texts only in Lao...
But also some haphazardly distributed old stuff, such as projectors and printing equipment.
As well as assorted guns...
Upstairs featured a much better display of the various hill tribes with texts in Lao and English, well done!
Only for the hill tribe costumes they used modern mannequins which gave it a rather unreal appearance…
Next was the 1997 manmade concrete tree which is supposed to act like a massive wind charm due to its metal leaves!
The imaginative Tree of Life, or Manycot Tree, grows in the mythical Hinmapan Forest in Buddhist lore and features animal sculptures dangling from the limbs.
We guessed that years ago it might have been impressive but by now most of the metal leaves had ‘fused’ to the concrete and the animals weren’t that recognizable either.
All that remained was Vat Ban Cheng and its small school which didn’t take much time…
By then it was time for another coffee (Lao boraan!) and a snack at a nearby restaurant, check out and once again go to the railway station.
Locals must have been wondering why we went so often to and from that station!
This time the ticket counter was open and I joined the queue while the others drank beer, who said life is fair?!
Some of the passengers seemed to spend a lot of time making up their minds about what kind of tickets they needed, which made me grumble a bit.
Therefore even more embarrassing that I caused a similar delay as I discovered too late that my kips had dwindled once again.
Tim had arrived just in time before to check if I had enough money on me!
Unfortunately, he got confused as well with all the different currencies in his wallet and it took a while to sort out the right amount.
At last, we had our tickets and I could drink my beer!
We walked up the platform only to discover that it was even better organized than the Vientiane Station, as the carriage numbers were already indicated!
All we had to do was wait at No. 7 and say goodbye to David.
A little later the train arrived and we boarded, bye-bye Muang Xai!
Freight train passing by
To be continued: https://www.art58koen.net/single-post/7-riding-the-rails-vang-vieng