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Published: March 6th 2008
We are in Vang Vieng again, after about 1000kms of riding up and back from Xam Nua in the north east of Laos on roads that consist of 25km corner, after 25km corner, after 25km corner, after 25km corner. Its like the Parapara road north of Wanganui gone wrong. Tomorrow we ride south to Vientiane, then catch the night train down to Bangkok, then the night bus/boat to Koh Tao to meet Trace on the 6th (yeah!).
During our trip I have had three punctures. THREE PUNCTURES!!!! and one mechanical failure. Jeremy has had.... nothing go wrong.... mechanically, although he did land on his face (helmeted) after using a little too much front brake in the wet, but the roads are so devoid of grip that he just slid on the wet tar and suffered little but a bruised ego. After my second puncture we bought the gear needed to fix a tyre, which was a bloody good idea because the third one consisted of four... FOUR!... holes, and happened on a dirt road a long way from the nearest Lao puncture fixer.
We stayed at Vieng Xai for two nights, 25km east of Xam Nua, which served as
On the road Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang
In the hills south of the turnoff to Phonsavan (Rte7) I got my second puncture. Well it was really just one big hole that existed before I hired the bike, but until we got to Phonsavan there was no one with a big enough tube for the Baja, so we had to just patch it. Jeremy rode back to a village with a photo of the flat tire on the digital camera so we could explain what we needed help with. He found someone who came with him to help. A few guys also stopped as the tire was being fixed to have a yarn. I think they were government militia guarding the road.
the nerve center of the Pathet Lao communist revolution in Laos (they came to power in 1973). There are many caves in the area where the revolution was run from, but the majority of the 470 caves were used by the locals who hid in them from 1964 - 1969 from 5am to 7pm while the Americans HAMMERED them from the air. (Laos is the most heavily bombed country on earth, with the Americans unofficially spending 2.2 million dollars a day (thats 1970s dollars) on bombing Laos). As in Cambodia, I have no doubt the killing of large amounts of local people by American bombs did nothing but drum up support for the anti-monarchical government revolution - rather than quell the communist uprising. And the same kind of nonsense is happening again today with Iraq etc. Not that I think the American administration is stupid (unlike a large proportion of the American population who gave Bush a second term), I just think that they have an agenda which is contrary to the world good.
In Vieng Xai we realized that we each thought that the other fella had more money than they actually did. 650km of Laos roads from
the nearest ATM we found that after scraping together ALL our money (baht, US dollars, kip), we had US$100. We figured that we needed $60 petrol to get back to VTE so that left us with $20 each for four days of food, accommodation, emergencies etc. To our dismay we realized that our nightly Beerlao sessions would have to go. So we settled for a 70 cent bottle of Black Horse whiskey and a large bowl of fried rice to console ourselves.
There are massive craters and unexploded ordinance all over the place up in Vieng Xai. In some ways they were lucky because they had the natural defence of the caves unlike the Laos people in Phonsavan further south who had little to hide in. Last night we visited the Plan of Jars in Ponsavan which I thought was amazing. Massive jars that were likely used as part of a burial ritual (no one is 100% sure) 4000 to 1500 years ago, set amongst craters that scar the landscape from the American bombing 30+ years ago. It's ironic that in areas such as Phonsavan where the Americans tried hardest to suppress the communist uprising, that the anti-capitalist anti-American
Plain of Jars.
Note the 35-year-old bomb craters in the background.
sentiment is strongest (its bizzare to see a hammer and sickle flag flying proudly outside the local service station). And what was the point of all the suffering inflicted by the Americans... the "critical" South East Asian communist domino fell, along with its neighbour Vietnam... so what.
Oh well, at least I have one half of an American cluster bomb as an ashtray now...
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