When travelling in the very north of Laos, on the way up to Phongsali, there is a village with a bus station as a regular stop: Boun Neua. It's just a tiny place inmiddle of the Laotian mountains. From here it's roughtly another 40km to Phongsali and some 40km to the Chinese border in the west, where the road leads further on to Mengla in Yunnan Province. This border point was in 2010 not open for international travellers but for Chinese and Laotians only. That could change or might has changed already. Factually the road connection between Mengla and Phongsali is in a better shape than the road which splits up in Boun Neua towards Oudomxai in inner Laos. By the way: some travellers leave the bus mistakenly in Boun Neua for they think they were already in Phongsali.
Boun Neua's bus station, fresh market and central square, seen from the balcony of the guesthouse. Image by Asienreisender, 12/2010
On the first glance Boun Neua looks very Chinese, because many of the shops are in Chinese hands and there are plenty of Chinese signs around. However, despite this kind of Chinese dominance Boun Neua is actually a Tai Lue village.
The whole place isn't much bigger than the bus station itself, what marks the central part of the village. Further on there is only the roadsplit and a couple of buildings along the both streets. No pubs, nothing touristic or anyhow western-like is to find here. Nevertheless there is (at least) one guesthouse in Boun Neua, directly at the bus station. At the bus station are also some very basic foodstalls and the village's integrated fresh market as well, where one can buy some vegetables, meat and some simple tools.
The reason to stay here for a night or a couple of days is the remoteness of the place, the absence of other tourists, the interest in watching rural village life and, maybe, the intention to do trekking in the surroundings. One get's here an insight in the life of the rural people in the mountainous surroundings of north Laos and south China; it's certainly so that the landscapes and the people are pretty similar as in nearby China.
Remarkably there is a small airstripe here what is actually 'Phongsali Airport'. Boun Neua is part of Phongsali Province. However, in my time being there I didn't see a trace of a plane.
Boun Neua's bus station at sunset. The verylast shops are closing, not much happens anymore here. Rural life starts early in the morning and ends early in the evening.
Image by Asienreisender, 12/2010