Slid downhill on freshly eroded soil that the tyres couldn't grip, so everyone got off & trudged uphill to the top of the slope. Some slid downhill while trying to walk uphill. & then what else but another breakdown:
This time not involving a tyre change, which would have meant round #4 of replacing the most-punctured tyre with the second flattest one.
HWY 3 literally dissolves in the rainy season (above), & whatever doesn't dissolve simply slips away into the valley below:
Here the PRC guys who weren't allowed to board our bus caught up with us. They'd hired 2 motorbikes with riders willing to take them the entire distance to the Lao-China border crossing at Boten. Got moving again, only to have soil raining on us. An excavator on a hillside to our right was dumping its diggings onto the road & anything that passed by. Metres later we stopped to wait for the road to be made right before our eyes, as a bulldozer created a path for the bus. Fresh instant road on demand =)
Surreal as we neared Luang Namtha & abruptly found ourselves travelling on good quality paved road with gleaming traffic signs & painted lane markings. Mr Sichuan & Mr Yunnan proudly chirped '这是中国建的!' (this was built by China!), & pointed out the wooden structure that was Luang Namtha airport (under renovation, so not in use). Quick farewells at Luang Namtha bus station before they caught the last songthaew to Boten in order to reach Mohan by tonight:
The 190+ km of HWY 3 conquered in a record 7.5 hours =) Was told it usually takes upwards of 8 hours in the dry season, & 13 hours to 2 days during the rainy season!
 UPDATE: Many many people have landed here while searching for info on the Huay Xai-Luang Namtha bus journey. The cat made this journey back in December 2006. As of October 2007 there have been reports of much shorter journey times of 3.5+ hours as construction work has been completed on most sections of HWY 3. The cat expects that in time to come, vehicle breakdowns will become the main limiting factor on travelling speed =P For more up-to-date info, check the Laos section of the Southeast Asia Mainland branch of the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum.