Published: November 3rd 2008September 4th 2008
This was supposed to be the garden from our hostel, as you can see the MeKong has took over it!!
As we crossed into Laos the battle stations were up and the sand bags were stacked as the local police,
army and civilians prepared themselves for the mighty Mekong to rise again... Trucks loaded with sand were being dumped along the river shore as the locals bagged it into sand bags and stacked the already 5 bag wall even higher. We knew the next 3 weeks was going to be interesting...
Vientiane is a city on the change... Over the last 2 years since we were last here new hotels, cafes, and bars have opened, obviously aimed at the tourist and many of the roads have been tarmaced within the city!!! We also couldn't believe the amount of tourists. Ferretsville!!
We spent a couple of days investigating the sites, the ever increasing flood barrier and the 'Arch de Triumph' (The Lao government built this instead of a new airport back in the 60's & 70's and never fully finished it!!! )
We left Vientiane and headed due north with the sun shining bright and clear blue skies everywhere. After leaving the mayhem of Vientiane the traffic soon disappeared and the green lush paddy fields spread
around us with the mountains looming closer with every peddle stroke we took. Evidence of the flooding was everywhere as we crossed swollen rivers and flooded fields. We took a back road towards the mountains to avoid the main highway, which evidently was the only flat section of the 500-600 miles that we did in Lao.
We then hit the main highway (well quiet) and travelled along the same road that we did 2 years ago, but in reverse. We were heading northwards to Luang Prabang and then onwards on a even quieter roads onto the newly opened Lao/Vietnamese border.
We still agreed that this is one of the most scenic and friendliest roads we have ever cycled on, as the local children shout "Sabadee" and hi-5 us as we cycled pass them. We were blessed with fantastic weather along the way, which emphasised the lush greeness of the surrounding mountains.
We arrived in Luang Prabang for a couple of days rest, however little did we know, this was going to develop into 8 days worth of messing.... This included a day trip kayaking, with myself falling in 3 times as I pratted around
trying to do stunts... 2 different lots of waterfalls and swimming; The annual town market, where all the local villages turn out in force to sell their products. However, this was nothing compared to the annual long boat race, which involved around 20 different villages competing for the glory and honour, with between 40 & 60 people in each boat. The crowds were massive, the beer was flowing, the heat was rising and everyone was up for a good time!!! We were also spoilt to some of the best food in SE Asia, as we breakfast on sweet sticky rice and mango, lunched on overfilling baguettes and dinnered on Luang Praband BBQ, which is a noodle, chicken, egg and vegatable dish that you cook yourself on your mini BBQ in the middle of the table...MMMMmmmmmm. All of this food cost absolutely nothing!!!
As we set of north with full tummy's and pleanty of rest we knew we had a big section coming up, all the way to Hanoi. The countryside was still just as stunning as we followed valleys and crossed mountain ranges. The further we went north the more hill-tribes we saw walking along the roads carrying
Locals working hard
This view was seen all along the river line of Vientiane
there baskets by a stap across their fore-head. As we neared the border to China we saw the Chinese influences within the shops, signs, TV and their facial features.
The last section of Laos took us in a north-east direction, as we had a couple of river crossings and the road turned into track for the last 50 miles. It was along here we cycled past stuck buses and trucks with mud over their wheels!!! Some had been there for 2 days...!! This was an amazing section and you could really feel the remoteness, especially as we stayed in some local villages that only had electricity for 4 hours a day (6-10pm) from the village generator.
The last section did catch us out as it included two 1000m passes (track). We arrived at the Lao border at 5ish. We stamped out of Lao and then saw that the road still went uphill to the Vietnamese border, which we were told would be shut!!! This left us no other option, especially with the large thunderstorm that was gathering to take shelter and spend the night technically in "no man's land"... With very little food among us, and
no winter gear we had to sleep with all our clothes on and wrap ourselves in our ponchos as we settled into our comfortable mattress i.e. a nice hard wooden bench!!!!!
There are more photos below