As we left the Nam Tha valley we found that the rains had cleared away at least part of the smoke, and left the rice fields as green as any we had seen in all of Asia. We were shooting for Oudomxai where we felt relatively sure we could find lodging. It wasn't all that far, but what info we had led us to believe it would be slow traveling. We were beginning to see a pattern in places where the roads were bad. When you asked a local how the roads are, if he said "...it's a good road", it usually meant there were no parts missing. If he said "...it's OK", it meant you and your vehicle would probably survive it.

The first thirty kilometers from Luang Namtha were passable road, but it quickly turned into badly potholed blacktop. At about the half way point we came upon this local roadside market near a local bus stop the women above are selling bamboo shoots.

If you needed more variety there were also lotus root that could be flavored with a tasty rodent (left), or you could choose from a basket of live frogs.

Some villagers busied themselves with needlework, while others were content to gawk at the weird tourists. It was obvious that this village had been the subject of a recent outreach, as many of the children, like this young man, proudly clutched health leaflets as if they were treasure.

Oudomxai has a tiny tourism office with an eager young staff with modest english skills who diligently try to promote their nascent tourism industry. But it remains that the majority of foreigners here are Chinese like these road workers seen here admiring our bikes. There are an even larger number of Chinese who work on plantations. Some of the hotels in fact are inexpensive Chinese operations that cater strictly to Chinese men. We spent one night in Oudomxai and, with assurances that the road improved, in the morning we continued to Luang Prabang.

As we climbed  once again out of Oudomxai we saw another classic display of the spirit of community. Watch them WORK.

The past few days rains had left the higher passes shrouded under a dense layer of fog. On the badly potholed section between Oudomxai and Luang Prabang it proved to be a potent mix. Moments after I took this picture we entered a patch of this fog. I underestimated just how wet it had made the road. At that early our there had been little traffic, and I had been, for the most part, able to dodge the bigger potholes. Suddenly I came upon a deep hole that was hard to see just as a small scooter was approaching from the other way. With no room to go around the hole, I hit the brakes and lost it on the slick pavement. I went down about eight feet before the hole and slid all the way over it with the bike on top of me. I took the brunt of the fall on the same hip I had fallen on at the beginning of our trip in the Himalayas. The bike was rideable and I was able to continue, but it left us holed up in Luang Prabang for over a week, and questioning much of our intended route.