In Luang Prabang we have some relaxed days after our trip through the jungle. We wander through the nice streets and along the Mekong and enjoy a French bread with real camembert.
In the evening you can find us at the night market where the Lao food is fantastic and wandering along the stands is great. We find a new cycle computer in a sport store, because my old one stopped working when we were in the jungle. After three days we are ready to continue our trip in Laos.
The first kilometers after Luang Prabang go up and down through the mountains. The tarmac is smooth so we can look around again and the whole day we wave to the enthusiastic kids along the road. We spend the night in Kiou Ka Cham where the owner gives us a bucket of hot water for the shower. This is nice because the evenings get quit cold at this altitude. We need our sleeping bags and the next morning we wake up early to leave. After a long ascent there is a long descent waiting for us and we have a great view at the rocks around us.
The mountainous landscape disappears and around Kasi the views get wider which is nice after all the hills and mountains we had the last time. In Vang Vieng we find ourselves a small bamboo hut along the river. The owner of the guesthouse is a Norwegian man who tells us about the live in this village. He tells us about the ‘TV Street’ in Vang Vieng. When we walk later on to the village we see this with our own eyes. There are big pillows on which tourists are hanging while they are watching Friends. It appears that you can watch television the whole day with a happy shake besides you. We are in for some more action and we hire a kayak for the next morning.
During the day Vang Vieng seems quit peaceful but it changes during the night into a party place. Our bamboo hut is shaking all night due to the music and the yelling people outside. We have to laugh about it and decide to pack our things and leave the next day. But first we go kayaking. Together with a guide we put our kayak into the clear water of the river. At first I think I have to paddle but the current takes us through the water and the work isn’t very hard. The first rapids are exciting and we cannot keep it dry but we enjoy it very much.
After the first part with beautiful nature we come along the next phenomenon of Vang Vieng: tubing. The first tourists are already in their tubes on their way to one of the pubs along the river where the beer is cold. We take a refreshing dive into the water at a peaceful spot. In the village the first ladies are already sunbathing. We don’t think it’s very appropriate in this country and we leave Vang Vieng behind us to find the Laos we enjoy so much. After 25 km we arrive at a lake where we find a place to sleep. By sunset we see the children playing and the fishermen of the village doing their work.
It is incredible how many cyclist we encounter from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. We meet people from Belgium, Germany, New Zealand and the Netherlands. During our whole trip we have not seen many cyclists and they all seem to be in Laos. It’s nice talking to other cyclists and to listen to their stories. Vientiane is getting closer and we like to cycle the last 136 km in one day. When an Englishman tells us the last part is as flat as a pancake we look at each other and we decide to go for it.
The pancake is not entirely flat but Vientiane is getting closer. To find a guesthouse is not that easy in the capital city. Most of the rooms are full, other ones don’t have a window or are just very dirty. After quit some visits we do find a place to sleep near the mekong.
After Rome, Athens, Istanbul, Tehran, Delhi and Kathmandu the capital of Laos is something different. With only 300.000 inhabitants Vientiane is not really a world city and it feels more like a cozy village. We arrange a visa for Cambodia and we extend our visa of Laos with two weeks. We also apply for a visa for Australia by internet. Here we are confronted with the western rules, because we have to take a health test. We spent more than three months in Nepal and China and we have to prove we don’t have TB. We visit the Australian clinic where a doctor tells us our longs are very clean.
We spend New Year’s Eve in a restaurant in Vientiane together with many people from different countries and the best rock band of Laos.
We look forward to cycling to the south after a week staying in Vientiane. We cycle through the Arc de Triomphe, which looks more impressive from a distance. When you get nearby, the simple gray cement doesn’t look that nice. It doesn’t matter because we have something else to celebrate: 20.000 km!
The landscape is nice, but not very exciting. The perfect tarmac keeps surprising us and the kilometers go fast. Sometimes we see the Mekong, which is getting bigger every time. We see cattle with cows and goats and sometimes we are accompanied by the youth on their bicycles heading to school.
In Savannakhet we stay for a day and we meet two men from Australia. They are by bike as well, but their travels have come to an end. The nice thing of Australian people we meet is that when they hear about our plans they do invite us to visit them.
After the fast and easy kilometers we leave Highway 13 and we go east in the direction of the Bolaven Plateau. This area is known for its beautiful nature and the coffee plantations. We drive on the red sand and the dust is everywhere when a vehicle is passing us. We see the coffee drying in the villages and when we cycle on we see the plantations with coffee. The people we encounter put their thumbs up. The children are looking at us with big eyes when we pass their wooden huts. Carefully they wave to us and a smile appears on their faces. When we have passed we hear them giggle.
In the forest around Tadlo the people are used to foreigners again. The children greet us with: “Hello schoolpen?!” and the prices are higher. We find a nice hut to sleep in at the riverside. We can see the waterfalls and enjoy watching the people of the village who are busy near the river. We clean our bicycles and we jump from rock to rock at the fast going river.
* Luang Prabang – Kiou Ka Cham: 79 km
* Kiou Ka Cham – Kasi: 96 km
* Kasi – Vang Vieng: 59 km
* Vang Vieng – Thahua: 26 km
* Thahua – Vientiane: 137 km
* Vientiane – Tha Bok : 97 km
* Tha Bok – Paksan: 56 km
* Paksan – Nam Thone: 92 km
* Nam Thone – Tha Kek: 110 km
* Tha Kek – Savannakhet: 138 km
* Savannakhet – Pakxong: 76 km
* Pakxong – Khong Xedon: 109 km
* Khong Xedon – Tadlo: 68 km