in Luang Prabang i visit the Vietnamese Consulate like a well seasoned traveler. that means i hire a bike from the guest house, ask directions and pedal away, ask someone else for directions and pedal in the direction they are point. everyone is helpful and i don't get lost or 'off trail' as we say in Colorado. i'm in luck because the consulate is open and in just a few minutes i'm back on my bike to keep exploring. i pay $45US for a three day service on the visa.
the next morning i get up early - that's 5AM here - to watch the monks collecting alms from the people of Luang Prabang. after morning prayer the monks walk in a procession around a small part of town with their bowls collecting food and money from the citizens. it is a symbiotic relationship and in return the monks include the intentions of the people in their prayers.
then i'm off to Phonsavan to see the Plain of Jars. i opt for the travel agent run minivan [5 hours] instead of the public bus [10 hours]. this was a good choice since we are only 30 minutes outside of town before we see the first public bus [VIP in big letters on the side] pulled over and locals and westerners standing outside. we travel for a while and i think the road is good for a secondary road then after looking at the map i find this is not a secondary road but Route 13, the superhighway of Laos. there is not a 100 meters of it that is straight as it is winding through the mountains. we see at least two more public buses broken down along the way which i understand is the norm.