After 5 breakdowns, the cat lost count:
2 years after the projected date of completion, China & Thailand have yet to finish constructing the highway. Think they started 10 years ago? But this is Lao PDR (Please Don't Rush) after all. The entire 190+ km stretch has been dug up, & is being paved bit by bit, leaving huge sections subject to heavy erosion & landslides. Hence the cat's initial impression of Lao:
Lao in a four-letter word = DUST
Lao in one colour = BROWN
Trees & plants along the unpaved sections probably survive by a unique mechanism whereby they photosynthesise only during the wet season, when rain helps them shed their thick opaque coating of dust.
Passing through villages along the way, the cat wondered why people had chosen to build their houses right next to the super dusty road. Until it realised that the houses were there long before the highway, which was constructed such that it tears right through the centre of many villages, splitting them apart...a sign of neighbouring countries' impatience to access (& strip bare) the coal & lumber resources of Bokeo province?
Mr Sichuan & Mr Yunnan would point out which sections were paved by China, in between endless '老挝人啊' (Lao people ah!) complaints about biased Lao officials & how undeveloped Lao is, & rants about how in China, buses like the one we were travelling in would long have been deemed un-roadworthy & scrapped. Funny how the cat once listened to people complaining about biased PRC officials & how undeveloped China was. & the cat thought Singaporeans were the ones who complained the most. Maybe it is a habit of most ethnic Chinese?
Mr Sichuan & Mr Yunnan also pointed out a huge 'lake' - a gigantic quarry abandoned after it flooded - as we passed by huge trucks laden with coal making their way towards the Thai border. When they heard that the cat's ancestors were from Fujian & Guangdong, they showed the cat their entry permits & said that China herself bans her own nationals from the 3 provinces most well-known for human trafficking (Fujian, Zhejiang & forgot-what-else) from crossing the China-Lao border (or any land crossings for that matter), in a bid to stem the outflow of illegal PRC immigrants to Western countries.