TravellingStrom

Riding to the end of the world, and beyond!

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A Brand New Ghost Town – Boten, Northern Laos

Posted by TravellingStrom on November 9, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

After a lazy morning(just to make sure I had no lingering wog after effects), I went and grabbed myself a rental bike. They are cheap, around $7 a day, the biggest you can get is a 125cc, but it will do. After looking at the selection, I chose the Chinese bike, mainly because it had racks for my tank bag and crash bars for me 🙂 It was gutless and had drum brakes, but I could live with that, the bonus being I could actually touch the ground 🙂

After Andree saw me riding it he said to swap it for the red Honda, it would be a lot better power wise, so I did, but when I took it for a test ride, it kept cutting out 😦 It needed a carby service I think, so I swapped again and was told by the young owner of the shop that this one was a better bike, it even had a front disc brake, so that was a bonus and the racing colours meant it ‘looked’ like it could go fast 🙂

I headed off around lunchtime, I had the girls from the Forest Retreat make me some sangers, I grabbed a couple of cold drinks and was away, looking for a nice place to stop, enjoy the view and have a bite. My goal today is the Chinese border area to the north and a place called Boten, it is only 56km away, well within the range of this gutless machine 🙂 They give you the bikes totally empty of fuel, so the most expensive part of the hire was filling the tank, it is not cheap here. The bike seemed to run OK, a couple of misses from the engine occasionally, but the brakes worked. It was a pleasant ride through the rice fields towards the hilly areas and before long I was finding out that the hire tyres are not as sticky as I would like. Doing a max speed of around 70kmh and having to slow way down for the corners was annoying, but I had all arvo, so no worries.

I ended up having my lunch where there was no view 😦 It had started to rain and although it was not that heavy, I had not brought my riding gear, so I got soaked and I finally found a place to share some shelter, this chap probably did so because his racing slicks would have no grip in the wet on the hills and corners!!!

Once the rain stopped I headed off again taking extreme care on the slippery roads. The only protection I had was helmet and gloves, probably not a smart move, but having the full riding gear on in this heat on a slow bike would be unbearable. The road was in good condition for the most part, the tar snakes were annoying, but it was a fun ride with all the small villages every few km and the hills to climb and ride around.

After about an hour I came to the customs point, this seemed to be open and I went right through. This is about 5km from the border and if you need to cross into China, this is where you would need to stop and stamp out your vehicle. My original journey through China, would have been through this border point if it had gone ahead.

Then just up the road is the economic zone which is between the two countries and within the customs zone, but no the actual border zone, that is another 1km away. This area was going to be a casino and gambling area for Chinese tourists, because gambling is illegal in China: Taken from here

HANOI: Laos is ending gambling in the former casino enclave of Boten on the Chinese border because of worries about crime, state media said Wednesday.

“There has been speculation over criminal activity in the gambling town, which forced the government to close the casino,” the Vientiane Times reported, without saying when the business was shut.

Laos plans to take greater control of security at the site and strip the Boten management of some powers, reclassifying the area as a “special economic zone,” the report said.

Boten emerged as a gambling hub over recent years, with the casino and a number of garishly-coloured hotels springing up to cater exclusively for Chinese clientele, often working on infrastructure projects in the area.

Gambling is illegal in China, except in Macau.

The Laos government decided to act when the project’s developer began looking into selling the venture to another Chinese investor, the Vientiane Times said.

The new investors will not operate a casino in the area, the report said, but will instead develop the area into “a tourism destination,” it said.

“The government will not allow any more special economic zones to contain casinos, after finding such operations created serious problems for Laos, especially in regard to security,” the report said.

The decision will not affect another casino in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone, which is on the border between Laos, Myanmar and Thailand.

– AFP/wk

What is left is a large area covered with new buildings either never or hardly used. They just stopped building and left them as is, some of the buildings are boarded up, some aren’t.

Most of the buildings had rows of small shops under them, each with a roller door which is covered in the yellow protective shipping material, which has mostly fallen off by now. I spotted a side building with some lions at the entrance and when I pulled up I saw that the main entrance had been blocked off(well the bottom half anyway) by sheeting. But there was an entrance made up out of a metal detector security screen which looked open and so I ventured inside 🙂

It turns out this is a casino, that is not quite finished. The chandeliers are in place, along with the carpet. Some of the gaming tables are stacked up in the centre of this extremely large room, along with some video projectors and other bits and pieces, all gathering dust!

It was nearly pitch black away from the front entrance and there were side openings which were blacker than black. I was not game to enter as I had no torch, but I did take some photos using my camera flash and saw on my return what was actually in there. Side gaming rooms, one room had all the black jack tables set out ready to go, the other had cables coming up from the floor ready for who knows what?

I had seen enough in here, it was a bit weird, but all the way back there on the left hand side of the entrance looked to be a snack bar, so I went for a Dorrie.

And it was a snack bar, and the products were still on display, the glass was covered in dust, but inside it was like they were just placed in there recently!! The first one was a turtle shell, I am not sure if it was a display item, or the flesh had decayed!

The next ones I have no idea about, the round containers contained crunchy looking red things, probably spicy while the packets on the right were vacuum packed sliced ?????, mushrooms maybe, who knows.

The next ones on the left looked to be a similar thing as the other sliced thingys, just in a different package, but the long boxes on the right at first seemed to be antlers, but after looking closely, they could be dried dicks of some sort, I should have taken some close up photos at the time.

Just as I left the building a bloke drove up and got out with a small puppy, I only knew he had a puppy because I stepped on him as he rolled around my feet looking for a tummy rub, he was not hurt. The bloke reckons this is his office and I did see a desk with a TV and other personal stuff in the opposite corner to the snack bar, but had stayed away from it. I went looking for some other interesting places to poke around in, but the stair way access to the top levels were boarded up.

The only activity I saw were in some of the buildings people were living, and then across the road from the resort area there was construction going, on in what must be the head office that administers this special economic area.

After seeing that I headed up to the border itself where there is a huge golden gate, very pretty, but because I was looking at that I failed to see the stop sign and was flagged down by the guards. I mean it was a pissy little thing, about the size of my hand, how am I supposed to see that, what about using a barrier system?
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I headed back after this, the roads were a lot more enjoyable without the rain, although the tyres were still not up to scratch. As I got near to Luang Namtha, the rice fields looked real nice and the mountains in the distance made for a great backdrop 🙂

I finished the day with a toasted cheesy baguette and beer at the usual hangout 🙂

It was not a late night, apparently the rules have been changed. It used to be an 11.30 curfew but because there is an economic summit happening around here(even our ranga leader is over here), they(the government) have changed the closing time for alcohol to 10.30, which just means another takeaway and then sit outside by the road 🙂

All in all it was an interesting if not quirky day, but at least I was out riding with not a twinge from the nether regions 🙂

Cheers from Luang Namtha
TravellingStrom

10 Responses to “A Brand New Ghost Town – Boten, Northern Laos”

  1. GrahamD said

    Very Interesting TS.

    You would think that something that was 95% finished would actually be used for something.

    Housing for the poor or something?

    Bizare.

  2. very bizare Rich,will take a ganda ourselfs i think if we get up that way,just going through the fun of getting the bike shipped at the moment,any tips?.
    looking at the picture you took in mongolia,thats what were sort of aiming for,managed to get a crate from Harley Davidson,with a little modification it should work
    cheers Clive

    • My only tip is to do a roll on roll off but sometimes that is not possible

      Once the volumetric weight goes over 300kg then there is no point in carrying baggage, stuff as much as you can in the crate even all riding gear

  3. Bob Sumner said

    I see by your Spot you’re in Muang Xai now. Can’t wait to see the pics. Thinking of heading back over mid January and vacillating between Chiang Mai and Vientiane to rent a bike. Rock on Richard!

    • Hmmm. Not sure where that place is I will have to look in the map. I am in Udoumoxi or something like that but heading to Luang Prabang today

      • Bob Sumner said

        Same place, different name. You’re going to have a great ride today! After you cross the Nam Oo, almost to Luang Prabang, there’s a great cafe on your right with tables overlooking the Mekong. Wish I was there.

  4. Arnold said

    Spooky ghost town!
    Bit like Chernobyl….

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