Made it to Ban Pangsalao. A tiny village of about half a dozen houses. One of the toughest days of the trip so far. Over 1000m climbing and similar descending. On the road at 0900 short 10 minute ride to border post. No problems, short wait, got exit stamp - still 4 days left on visa. Skinny long boats make the short trip across the Mekong to Laos (there's a bridge under construction which is due to be completed December 2012)  I didn't want to unpack panniers and then refit so took the vehicle ferry instead. Met 3 local motorcycle tourists who were doing a one week ride around Laos and Thailand. We had to wait till 1000, when 4 big petrol tankers arrived so ferry was full. Huay Xai - is the border town on the Laos side. It is similar to Chiang Khong (on thai side) - has all the usual tourist facilities. Rode about 1km east to get my Laos entry stamp. Again no issues. You can get a visa on arrival here - which most tourists were doing. Me, I already had my Lao visa (got in Bangkok) so I avoided the line up and just had to fill out an entry/exit card. There's a bank here too which exchanges money at a good rate so got some local currency as well (kip). It was 1100 by the time I had taken care of business, so didn't hang around and hit the road. The chinese border is only about 220km from here, so will be a short, one week or so stint through Laos. People noticabely poorer here than in Thailand. Cars have dissapeared (the ones I saw all had thai numberplates) replaced with rattly motorbikes and bicycles. Houses are basic thatched affairs built of timber and straw bail roofs, with the odd concrete footing but most are on timber stilts.They all have power though and big satelite dishes for TV. All roads are dirt apart from the main road I'm on (highway 3) Great twisty smooth bitumen road (freshy laid in places) no shoulders but no traffic either. Superb mountain scenery, impossibly steep tracks leading up to villages in the hills - most only accessible by foot. During the first 40km there were a few villages with stalls where you can  pickup water and light snacks (crisps, biscuits, 2 minute noodles, sweet drinks if you're lucky, not much else), after that nothing much. My first meal in Laos was some rice noodles over which the locals pour a tea like liquid and spice it up with chilli - pretty plain and tasteless. All villages have bottled water though even if you can't see it - so just ask if you're desperate. At 55km mark the motorcyclists I met on the ferry passed me, they must have hung around the border for a while (they were on their way to Luang Prabang) I was starting to stuggle at 68km mark - mainly due to lack of food - no restaraunts along the way, and by this time I had come up and over 2 big 1000m passes at 10% grades I was glad to roll in to Ban Pangsalao around 1800 with the sun going down - even though there was no guesthouse here the locals invited me in. Apparently there was a guesthouse 3km back, but when I asked the locals there they told me to come here? In any case the locals are happy to see you, not many tourists stop in these villages - most catch the bus to Luang Nam Tha. I got alot of hellos and waves as I rode through the villages. I got a room in a simple block rendered house with metal roof. A straw mat and thin mattress on the floor was supplied. I setup my mosquito net over the top and cleaned up (back to good old squat toilet and horse trough and bucket for bathing) A restaraunt was next door so they prepared some fresh rice and a greasy omelette for my dinner. No internet here - the locals entertain themselves with karaoke, the music belching out of massive speakers. Beer Lao is the choice drink here, with both men and women getting into it. Crashed at 2015, I was totally exhausted, the ongoing music didn't bother me. I was offered a woman for the night which I kindly refused as I simply didn't have the energy.

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