The Journey to Phonsovan

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Asia » Laos » East » Phonsavan
August 13th 2010
Published: August 15th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Little Rice GirlLittle Rice GirlLittle Rice Girl

She was walking and munching on a big handful of sticky rice
So it wasn't quite one day. Nobody had expected what the roads would be like. We should have known better really. I mean the steep and winding road from the border to Xam Nuea made for an interesting ride, but this. This was something different altogether.

It was a beautiful day for riding. Sunny, with a bit of cloud cover. We started relatively early and it was already warm enough that you didn't need a jacket. It has been quite cold at night and in the mornings the last few days as we are high up in the mountains. I would love to tell the exact elevation, but we have not even been able to get a map of Laos yet. We probably should have bought on in Vietnam, but we didn't really think about it. I guess it is good that there is really only one road choice most of the time in Laos. We practically drove on the same road all the way to Phonsovan.

About 20 minutes into the ride Chuck start's looking down at his bike a lot. I know what this means. Soon he will be telling me something is fucked and we need
Thom PaThom PaThom Pa

Buddah Cave
to stop. About 5 minutes later as we pass through a little village he pulls off. His tire is rubbing on his fork. It needs to be adjusted. Luckily we happen to stop right in front of a hardware hut (hey that's a great name. I might start those in America, way better than home depot) and there is a mechanic across the street. We have learned these bikes pretty well by know, and if we had been in the middle of nowhere (well we were, but in the middle of nowhere without a hardware hut) we would have just fixed it ourselves. On the other hand when there is a mechanic here and it costs $0.65 not to get our hands dirty sometimes it is just nice to watch.

We are back on the road in 10 minutes. Good to go. It is a great curving road that weaves through the mountains. We pass a beautiful waterfall along the way and take the dirt track to out left in pursuit. We splash across a small stream and it is not long before we are at the falls. We purchased a pineapple a ways back in a market. This seems like a perfect place for it.

After thirty minutes or so we are back on the road. After all we are hoping for 200Km today. It is not long before we start to do some serious climbing. The last winding road was nice. This can make you dizzy and seasick all at the same time. Just up and down and round and round. Not to mention blind curves after blind curve with the periodic semi or passenger bus flying around the corner in the middle of the road. Most of the time we are keeping under 20mph. After about 4 hours or riding we get to a little village at the first cross road we have come upon. We stock up on gas as we are a bit low and have just dipped into the reserve tank we carry. Here we have to make our first decision about which way to go. We figure that we need to get south, so we just take the south road. No problem.

We had read that there was a truck stop along the way that had a guesthouse if we could not make it to Phonsovan in one day. Not far from the crossroad village we come upon a little village with two guesthouses, a small market and a few restaurants. This must be the truck stop as most of the other villages we had passed were just a collection of huts. This had some concrete buildings mixed in. We decide to stop for lunch and a break from riding for a bit. We are not sitting down for more than twenty minutes before the rain comes. This stop is only half way and as we wait out the rain we realize that we will are running out of time unless we want to be driving at night again. We set ourselves on the fact that we are sleeping here tonight as the neither of us feels like driving in the rain again. That is forced upon us often enough there is no reason to choose to do it.

The guesthouse are pretty bare minimum. As we are looking at the rooms Chuck mentions to me to watch my foot.I look down and there is a giant freaking spider next to my foot. Holy Shit man! This fucking thing was like an inch away from my bare foot. He was pretty calm with that watch your foot. Anyways not really any other choice so we gave the guy the thumbs up (no english of course) We drop our stuff and go for a walk around. Chuck finds a guy a mechanic that has new tires our size so he buys one and gets it put on as his tire got rubbed town pretty bad.

The family is outside feeding a baby deer at the restaurant we decided to have dinner in. It is cool becaue after dinner he came walking up to us and we were both petting it. The dog was following it around the whole time, pretty cute. Chuck mentions motions to the people that the deer is going to be big someday as he states the same in English.

"Yeah right man," I reply. "This deer ain't never going to be big." My words prove to be quite true as on our way out of town in the morning we see the deer hanging by its back legs in a man's hand as he walks down the street.

The guesthouse is funny as the fan is stuck and not rotating. We show the owner and he basically gestures that it is no problem. Okay I guess just one of us gets a fan tonight. We are in the rooms for all of 5 minutes before we hear the generator cut out and we are in pitch black. Okay nobody gets a fan I guess. Good thing we both have flashlights handy so we can actually see to get our mosquito nets down and into place. Throughout the night overnight buses can heard right outside the window every other hour or so. Needless to say we are up and on the road pretty early. We are riding in and out of the clouds for the first hour or so and it is quite chilly.

We arrive in Phonsovan early afternoon. We are once again surprised at how small of a city it is. For some stupid reason we kept expecting it to be a real city. After all it is a provinicial capital and a major tourist attraction as the Plain of Jars there. It turns out the city is just one major road and two or three side roads. Surprisingly there is actually an airport there. Albiet one that looked like it hadn't been used in years and something I might even think twice about flying in or out of.

The Plain of Jars is actually roughly 30 or so areas (dont quote the number) where there are large stones carved into the shapes of jars, of which some even have tops. They were built like 2500 hundred years ago and that is basically all they know. There are three main areas that they take tourists too, the rest have less of a concentration and as a result basically no tourism. We went t site one and two on our motorcycles. They were semi-interesting, more intersting was the fact that there were giant craters from old US bomb strikes right near some of the Jars and they some how survived. Also you are walking along a path with red and white markers from MAG (a UXO clearing company) that marked which areas of the path were found to be free of UXOs but the areas out side the red was just visually cleared so anything underground was not searched for.

We were on the road the next day towards Loung Prabhang. Along the way we went looking for the Buddah
Leaving the MountainsLeaving the MountainsLeaving the Mountains

Heading into the plains
Cave. A cave with a giant buddah that looked to actually be carved from the cave itself. Of course we got a little lost along the way to the cave and wondup in a village trying to ask for directions. That is always interesting. You suddenly become a focal point for a whole village. Inside another cave we went wandering into things got a little tight inside and then suddenly opened into a larger area. I was able to thank Buddah a little bit further on as the cave ended pretty soon and I was able to get the hell out of the ground.

We spent another night in a truck stop as the rain struck while riding again. And with we soggy shoes we called it a day around 3pm. This was to be night spent listening to dogs, cats, and rossters, while slaping mosquitos and listening to overnight busses again. We really gotta find a way to stop sleeping at truck stops. ...

Additional photos below
Photos: 15, Displayed: 15


Baby DeerBaby Deer
Baby Deer

Babby was somebodys food the next day
Bomb CraterBomb Crater
Bomb Crater

Can you find Chuck?
Jars Site 1 (3)Jars Site 1 (3)
Jars Site 1 (3)

Ripe peanuts fresh, still on the green vine.

The kids in the truck stop guesthouse had a good time playing with my camera.
The Owner The Owner
The Owner

and mother of 5

15th August 2010

good picture!
As aunt Lannie and I look at your story we are finally glad to see you in a picture...we now believe you are there and not just telling us a story about Chucks trip....very cute kids! The area is beautiful and it looks great.....glad to see you are having a good time and exploring....have a great time ..we love you mom and Aunt Lannie XXXXX
18th August 2010

UXO indeed...
We here in The Land of Not Quite Right are musing on the meaning of UXO? Unusually Xenophobic Orifices? Unused Xanax Overhead? Ubiquitous X-rated Onions? We also are at a loss about your deer ingestion? Did you ingest any? Have heart, french bread of suprior quality is coming...
19th August 2010

Your Adventure
I don't know how you two are surviving this journey. You must have cast iron stomaches and have been able to sleep in the awful places. I am so greatful that I'm not along for the ride. Love you, Mom P.S. Be safe and be careful.

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