Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Loving Laos (and Lao)

Total kilometres: 1315.8
Punctures: 1

Over the past two days, we have cycled from Vientiane to Vang Vien, with an overnight in Thalat. The cycling has been very much up and down (we are in the mountains now) and the scenery absolutely spectacular! Yesterday we cycled through lush, thick jungle, along-side stunningly beautiful and crystal-clear rivers, and past fantastic karst peaks. We couldn't ask for anything more!

Cycling to Thalat, we had a bit of a sleepy start, thanks to a late-ish night (for us anyway) at a martini bar the night before. We had a great night chatting to a couple of guys (Chris and John), who were based in Bangkok but on a brief holiday in Laos. We met them at the Thai-Lao border crossing and kept bumping into them in town - Vieniane really is a small but perfectly formed little city. Nice guys with some exciting and crazy plans up their sleeves!

Not to worry because following a healthy breakfast, and a bit of traffic exiting Vientane, we were able to enjoy a quiet side-road all the way. Lovely rural scenes and really kind people riding along side us on their motorbikes asking "where you go?" "where you from" "you very strong (!)". Almost every kid we cycle past screechjes "sabadee" at us, and we always give a wave back. The kids are sooo cute!

Thalat is near a hydroelectric dam (the Lao sell most of the power to Chinese and it seems to be doing their country very well, economically), and about 10km out of the town, we came across a fabulous river (downstream from the dam). It was like the rivers around Huka falls - lots of rapids and absolutely clear and pure. It was just beautiful to be able to cycle along the rushing water and banana tree lined road on our way into town ; )

It was a long but beautiful cycle from Thalat to Vang Vien. We met two couples cycle touring in the opposite direction - one Belgium and the other Australian. Both were much older than us (midlate fifties) but were good to talk to and ask about their holiday so far.

We were sure glad to get to Vang Vien and get some lunch into us around 2:30pm ; ) We had a roam about the town, and went out to dinner - it sure is a strange little place with lots of the restaurants\bars converting their seats to lounge-style seats, that all face a couple of TVs, which either play Friends or Family Guy. A bit strange to me, but popular with the other backpackers, apparently. It really is a purpose-built tourist town in the middle of some of the most spectacular natural scenery!

There is rafting, kayaking, and (of course) tubing on offer, and a lot of people walking and hobbling around with slings and bandages - there are bars all along the river, and people just hop from one to the next while bobbing down the river. Needless to say, there have been a few deaths, but mostly just stupid injuries.

The local hospital seems to be doing quite well out of the madness, though - They just got a new x-ray machine and I suspect that they fleece insurance companies for all they can, and pour the money back into good health care for the local Lao. Smart!

We are off to Kasi tomorrow, then another stop-over before arriving in Luang Prabang, so will be out of touch for the next few days.

E & V xoxoxox

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