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After three days of travel up the Nam Ou river, we made it to Hat Sa, a tiny village with just a few houses at the very northernmost tip of Laos, near the border with China. The gain in latitude and elevation meant that it was now very cold, and had started to rain. On arrival at Hat Sa we waited for two hours for the next truck to leave for Phongsali, about an hours' drive away on one of the roughest roads I have ever been on. Phongsali is a larger town and the capital of the province, but seemed utterly deserted; on arrival it was raining badly, so we checked into the nearest hotel and stayed indoors to keep warm and dry. This is one of the old cobbled roads in Phongsali.