21-Jul-2005 -- With a wish to conquer an international confluence, Vietnam GPS club decide and determine to mark 19N102E as the first non-Vietnam one. 19N102E nestles in a less touched and dense forest in Luang Prabang. Acutely aware of the difficulties upon reaching that point, we make thorough and detailed preparation. Maps from all source are distilled. Discontent with the old NASA satellie photo, we exploit the invaluable Google Map source. Beside free maps, also we buy 2 topo maps of the targeted area with the scale of 1/50. Good shoes, sleeping bags are fully equipped for all confluence-hunters. Schedule is tightly planned. In order to guarentee good health for the journey, we all do our best to refrain ourselves from daily pleasure such as alcohol, beer and so on… Our spirit are all geared toward 19N102E. Ironically, there is one focal thing we can not prepare. That is the weather – the act of God. And you know, we make the trip in July, a rainy month.
From Hanoi, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh city, we gather in Vientiane at 5pm 20th July after spending 2 days on bus and being squashed together like sardines. Having chosen Vang Vieng as the base approaching 19N102E, we change the bus and head North on Route 13 to Vang Vieng right away. Though being informed of the presence of a solider with AK rifle for security on all bus to Northern Laos, we can not help being a little bit surprised when noticing him on the bus. We reach Vang Vieng safely at 10pm that day.
Vang Vieng is a small town reputed with unexplored tunnels and caves. It is densely foggy and bleak in the morning. We hurriedly arrange a 15-seat coach and Mr.Veo - a trekking guide. Then weather seems to support us. Sunlight comes and stays for a while. Eight of us set off at 9.30AM. National Route 13 is fairly smooth. 30kms far from Vang Vieng, we turn left to a small road which is unknown of its status. Fortunately, it is good enough to run through. Tribe villages scatter along the way. Stilt houses with a big parabol on the roofs are very popular here.
We stop at Huay Toum village and start trekking, following the route we have made. The more we go, the worse the path gets. The path corresponds to the maps we have. However, the maps were made long time ago. So the path was broken and turn into a muddy one and even disappears Veo is really a responsible and nice guide. He always pioneers and make the way for us. Then soon it starts raining. We are still 9kms far from the target. The road seems to lead to infinitve. Not being able to resist the monsoon, we sadly decide to come back. We fail.
19N102E is an extremely daunting confluence. But still do we strongly believe that we will manage to conquer it in the dry season.
Surely we will come back.