This morning on the road from Boun Neua to Phongsali I fended off an armed attack by two lowlife who, I believe, had followed me from Boun Neua.
They set a trap where one hid and the other set his bike up like he had a problem with it. As I approached, he waved me down asking for help. As I slowed to a stop ( but luckily didn't turn off engine) the hidden guy ran outand tried to attack me with the butt of an AK47 but I was able to fight him off with my helmet (which I'd removed) and escape on my bike.
The whole thing was over in five seconds -- my hands stopped shaking about five very-high-speed km later.
There's more to this but I'll save it for when I can find a decent internet cafe.
Just to be clear this wasn't a polite "please give me your money" style robbery, rather I believe they planned to disable me, clear me out and take my bike. Given it isa very remote area (happened just past the viewpoint for those familiar with the road)
Obviously it was a very harrowing experience and one I have never before heard of happenming in Laos.
Have made report to police and tourist office here in Phongsali -- all have been exceptionally helpful and apologetic. They all say they have never heard of something like this happening before.
Sole travellers on bike and bicycle should exercise extreme caution. They had set themselves up like a bike with problems and waved me down asking for assistance -- then attacked me.
Obviously I'm reconsidering someof my Phongsali plans.
All that said, I think this may be a one-off aberation and it shouldn't deter people from travelling here.
Cheers and sorryfor arather gloomy post.
glad to know that you're safe now.
& good to know that the police were helpful.
freakish thinking that i'd walked along that road alone, though only the first couple of KMs starting from Boun Neua .
were you planning to head to Ou Tai & beyond from PSL town? if so, perhaps you could still do PSL-Boun Neua-Ou Tai, but by bus (though can't imagine bike on roof of small bus, esp if you've rented a huge one). not sure if buses from PSL reach Boun Neua in time for connecting to Boun Neua-Ou Tai bus, but seems like people do call Boun Neua bus station & ask them to tell certain buses (esp the Mengla-bound bus) to wait for them. maybe PSL tourist info office can help. Boun Neua bus station contact no.s: 088-210784, 020-5688078, 020-5787314 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/straycat/4259637212/ - could also call Sivienkham GH since they run the bus station)
go eat some panfried spring rolls (filled with vermicelli & vege) from PSL market fresh food section (innermost 'tables' away from the market 'driveway') to cheer up. take care & sok dii.
Good thing you are safe. Think about what they were planning if they started off with a beating.
Without going into details, armed robbery and mugging aren't unheard of, a lot of people carry a folding carbine in the vehical for a reason. Unusual and brazen in that you are a foreigner.
Where I was staying 12km outside Vientiae they were stretching a wire across the road and giving beatings with the butt stock and robbing. (same deal) At night. It was on the back way to the Kaysone monument. But that was nightime, and Lao people.
I'd bet money that someone gets caught and punished, this is probably a real big deal. Hush it up in public but I'd think they're looking for someone.
Hope the rest of your trip is extremely boring, wife and kids and all.
This was happening between Phou Khoun and Kasi when I first went to Laos. Shame that it has reared its ugly head again. Let's hope it is, as you say, a one-off abberation.
Glad that only your nerves got rattled, Somtam. Could have been much worse. Hope that it doesn't effect you, your trip, or your work, and that you've been able to shake it off.
Best to you!
At this stage I'm planning on a couple of days walking just on the standarda trails out of PSL, then I'll ride down to Hat Sa and ship the bike down to Muang Khua and ride back to Udomxai then maybe Nong Kiaow from there. I'm done exploring remoter stretches for now.
For those who are interested, it is now possible to rent motorbikes in Phongsali town - 115,000 kip iper da from the travel agent near the police box.
Now al they need is a decent internet cafe.
Separeately continue to hear reports of thefts in Muang Ngoi - I'll update that section down the track when I have a better connection. I'd seariously suggest giving it a miss.
I wouldn't normally post a rumour like this, but my experience lends some credence to this. I heard via another travel writer in Luang Prabang that talk there was two westerners were shot in the same area as where my attempted robbery took place, about two months ago.
I've spend the last few days on my way out of Laos talking to tourism people in Nong Kiaow, Udomxai, Luang Nam Tha and Huay Xai trying to get more information and all say the rumour is rubbish, but then they're all saying they've never heard of something like what happened to me happen.
So pretty please with a cherry on top exercise caution, and don't ride alone, in this area of Laos.
For those who are interested in a bit more detail, I've just done a post on the Travelfish blog recounting in a bit more detail what happened.
I m speechless. Its horrible, Those are not thieves, they are violent individuals with bad intentions. Its not just an ordinary robbery.
Good for you for being alert,.. but I presume luck was on your side too, really. Thank god.