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Published: August 31st 2005
Ron and I rode 70 km roundtrip on frail bikes to get here. It was possible to climb all the way to the top and look down over the falls. Amazing.
Clouds abound on my way out of Vang Vieng, both in my head and in the sky. We have been racing the monsoon season for the last few weeks, a losing battle. The trip out of town left the group scattered, everyone peeling off at different times. The lack of sleep and lack of sense kept a few of us back.
To Culture! Luang Prabang has over 30 temples and is a charming and romantic city surrounded by two rivers. French tourists are here in droves as direct flights from Bangkok allow the absence of road travel for the wealthy. With the ipod blaring Ron and I rode 70 Ks to the most spectacular waterfall I've seen yet and I've seen plenty so far. Still in a bit of a haze from my fall I chatted up a French Canadian girl thinking she was someone I'd met on the river only to see the real one later on that night. I asked the latter one what she thought of the waterfall, got the 'what the hell you talking about look' and realized too late my mistake. Smooth Sean. This town was to be the last with our entire group, Rich
Bus ride to Luang Prabang
Is that an AK-47 or are you just happy to see me?
had a flight to catch to Santiago, Chile. We sent him off in style/hangover, very sad to see him leave. You know you are a good guy when you are half a world away and you are the center of sappy toasts. My passport has more flying time than I do, I nervously waited to pick it up because the ASEAN summit prevented me from getting my Chinese visa in the capital. Is it smart to mail a passport from city to city in Laos? I thought so because the same day I had to send it back down to the capital for a visa extension, new plans for one last ride with the crew.
Or maybe not, Jen, Ron and I headed to tiny Nong Kauai with the idea of doing a loop through the Northeastern country. Shot down on two counts, no bikes, no road. Ah those landslides. Matt and Lily had plans to meet us along the way, in the opposite direction but with no Internet or cell phones we had to post a huge note on the bus shack. Way too spoiled and helpless when it comes to communication. Nong Kauai was gorgeous, bungalows by
the river, fishing in the Mekong, watching locals gather drift wood, rats chewing though your power cords - all part of the fun. With our plans changed I called the travel agency and had our passports diverted again, this time to Luang Nam Tha in the extreme north, playing with fire at this point. We had a stop over in Udomaxi, (sounds cool if you say it out load) a nice, dull town, I think we stayed in the local love hotel. On every floor, there were several cheesy posters of young Laotian couples giving their toothiest grin and giving the old thumbs up pose the only phase in English is "Number One" Ah right, Number One Brand Condoms, the first room I've ever walked in with free prophylactics. Not a bad time to use the sleeping sheet.
The road to Luang Nam Tha is where the country gets its reputation, 36ks shouldn't take 3 hours right? Running into a ditch and an after dark breakdown will do the trick. But there are bikes! Well mopeds but good enough. By the time we arrived we received emails from Matt and Lily asking not so politely about the whereabouts of
I think this is pretty late at night in Luang Prabang. We got yelled at for being too loud in the courtyard. I think a sleepy German guy told to us to go swimming?
the passports. Air America style we rode out to the dirt airfield with the only plane in a week coming in over our heads, with five passports on board, lucky. Jen suggested the three of us dress up in our finest clothes and take a 'taxi' to the finest restaurant and order the finest meals. With no decent shoes, she said I looked like a gym teacher in my trainers. Damn. What a meal, very decent wine, duck - Lao style, seaweed chips, papaya salad and roasted beef with local spices I cant even describe. A bit better than the last dinner I wrote about. A special evening.
To the bike, a problem more often than not Petrol stations in Laos don't have Petrol. They have attendants but nothing to attend to. So yes I ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere. We rode northwest in the direction of the Myanmar border, the main source of income is opium, less and less these days though. I thought I saw poppy fields but my imagination was working better than my eyesight. We did drive through many culturally intact villages, at the village entrance many had thin sticks weaved
Jen, Lily and Ron
I saw Ron cutting rug twice, this time and in a Laos disco that had the look and feel of your high school freshman dancehall. But a French girl dragged him out, how can you say no?
into a honeycomb pattern indicating they were closed off to foreigners. Enter and the water buffalo gets it. Muang Sing and Muang Long were two villages we stayed at, the latter had a jumping Laos disco. They actually line dance to Thai pop music, it just has to be seen and tried.
After running out of gas again, (Jen saved me both times) we were surprised to see Matt and Lily, they arrived to Luang Nam Tha the day before I was supposed to leave. In all I guess I spent a little more than 6 weeks with them, being with each other almost 24 hours a day accelerates a friendship, having one last night out with everyone was amazing, I didn't sleep a bit and I'll always remember it. Thanks guys for the great time through Laos and North Vietnam!
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