Laos, part 2

24.02. – 02.03.2013

Sunday:
Laos border – Thakhek (Laos)

At Laos border my first thing was to visit “Visa on arrival” counter. Few minutes and $30 later I got brand new visa on my passport :). Funny thing is how these Laos Visa prices vary, here $30, Laos – Cambodia border $36 and in Phnom Penh $40…

Immigration did their work fast and also without any payments, NICE! This is really good and not corrupted border!
To get my Carnet stamped took a bit work, but after instructing customs guys where they should stamp and what they should write all my paperwork was ok.

From the border I decided to ride straight to the town, but actually I needed to stop once to take outer layer off from my riding suit. Almost immediately after I crossed the border, temperature got up over 10 degrees! Oh, it was so nice to have warm weather again after wet weather in Vietnam :).

Once I got to the town, I went to the same hotel as last time and decided to wash my riding suit.
It was actually bigger task than I expected… I had to wash it twice and rinse three before normal color appeared.

I loved morning glory/water spinach in Thailand and now I decided to order one in a nearby restaurant.
OMG this morning glory was spicy! My face was red, sweat was running down my head and back, lips were on fire, mouth totally numb and stomach was screaming in horrible agony… Unfortunately I could not finish this portion :(…

Monday:
Thakhek – Vientiane:

Rooster woke me up at some time in the morning, ignoring this ancient alarm clock I decided to sleep a bit more. Finally I got up at nine.
Hotel did not have breakfast, so this time my breakfast consisted from three Oreo-cookies and a can of Pepsi… Blood-sugar skyrocketed high up in the morning so now I could ride really far :).

Riding suit was still a bit damp from the wash, but I knew that it would get dry really fast.
I carried all my stuff to the lobby, paid my room and rode my bike in front of the lobby. While moving my bike, I noticed that steering felt heavy. After parking I checked the front tire and noticed that there was one nail sticking out…

A bit later tire was patched, bags loaded and I was heading towards Viantiane along the road #13.

Few kilometers from Thakhek I saw a real miracle! I saw Laos policemen checking papers next to the road :). They were checking papers only from car drivers because I was waved to continue. This was the only time I saw policemen working in Laos :).

I had 350km ride in front of me to the capital of Laos, Vientiane. Road was in good condition so I could keep the speed at around 100km/h. Scenery was quite boring, just fields, Mekong and few small hills.

I arrived in Vientiane around 4pm. Temperature got up to 38 degrees and I started to feel quite hot inside my riding suit.

First thing in Vientiane was to find tourist information center to get a list of cheap hotels/motels/hostels. I found several options and decided just to stop by in different locations. Prices varied between $5-90 and I settled in a midrange hotel costing $20/night.

I was happy with the room, I even had a window, but the scenery did not offer view I could brag about… Next door building´s wall was 30cm away from my window, so I decided to keep curtains closed :).

At this point my belly started to notify me that my breakfast has been long gone and would need something more before night.
After walking a bit I got really excited, I found a restaurant where I could get Chinese dumplings!!!
Dinner plan was now clear, I walked in and selected several different kinds of dumplings.
I cannot tell how good they were, but I have smile still on my face now because dumplings were excellent :).

Tuesday:
Vientiane:

I had agreed to have a breakfast with Vlad from Moscow. Vlad was one of the customers in Halong Bay cruise.
After the breakfast we walked around a bit and agreed to meet for dinner too.

I decided to do a bit touristic sightseeing and searched Laos national museum.
Museum building looked really old and poorly maintained, so bad that I actually needed to check from locals that it really was a official museum for Laos.

I spent few hours going around this museum.
I do not recommend to visit this museum, because Viantiane has much more interesting places to see. Museum had a bit ceramic, few traditional clothes and lot of photos of the war, but nothing really interesting to see.

After the museum I returned to the hotel to write postcards and just to relax.

Around seven in the evening I met Vlad again and we decided to go and eat in the same dumpling restaurant where I had excellent dinner in the previous evening.
After a nice dinner and few cold and tasty beers, I had to get back to the hotel to catch some sleep so that in next morning I could continue towards north.

Wednesday:
Vientiane – Luang Prabang:

Got up at six in the morning. Hotel offered breakfast from eight onwards, so again I started my day with empty stomach…

I had route to Luang Prabang in my GPS, which guided me towards north via road #10.
I was surprised how small this road was and how many villages there were. After 90km of riding I reached bigger road, which was the main road to Luang Prabang. So, it seemed like I had been riding smaller roads and because of this I rode 30km extra…

Temperature was around 36C even on a hilly section. Road was in surprisingly good shape, it just looked quite slippery.
Temperature caused my ABS to fail all the time and this was not a good thing here. Every time when it failed my speedo stopped working and lights started flashing in instrument cluster but luckily breaks still worked reasonably well.

At one point one guy with a red Ducati Monster came from the opposite direction. I quickly turned around and caught this guy. I was surprised because he was Chinese guy from Shanghai. He did not speak any English, so our discussion was really short :).

Roughly 10km later I met 3 other riders. They were coming from Singapore. These guys were riding F800GS, R1150GS and Triumh Tiger and they were planning to ride to Myanmar before heading back to Singapore!

Ride to Luang Prabang was quite nice because of the nice curvy road on these hills.


Second time I met these Singaporean guys was in Luang Prabang, there we decided to stay in same hotel, because we found one with reasonable price.
At the hotel I also met few other bikers who were there with Thai bikes.

I was surprised how widely spread town Luang Prabang was, I had expected it to be much smaller.

During dinner time I sat at the shore of Mekong river enjoying really red sunset coloring the sky and river :). Wow, it was gorgeous!

Thursday:
Luang Prabang:

After the breakfast I met with Singaporean guys because we had planned to visit one of the most famous waterfalls in the area, Kuang Si –waterfalls.

These waterfalls are 26km from Luang Prabang, so you will need some sort of transportation. Bikes, scooters, taxis, busses and tuk tuks are all available, we decided to use our own bikes.

On our way to the falls, I saw a herd of water buffalos down next to the river. I decided that on my way back I would stop there and take some photos if buffalos would still be there (I know, it was a mistake to make this decision…).

Once we arrived I immediately saw that this was a popular place with parking area full of all sorts of booths selling touristic stuff.
Entrance fee to the area was 20000KIP ($2) and well worth it.
Luckily we were in the area quite early in the morning, because there were not too many people yet and temperature was still quite cool.

I spent a lot of time walking around and snapping photos of this beautiful area. Small turquoise colored pools and waterfalls were just screaming “take a photo” and I took :).
There was also some sort of protected area for bears. I saw several small (black?) bears in the area (they must be boiling during the midday under all that fur!).

When I rode back to Luang Prabang, I stopped to check if buffaloes were still next to the river. Well, they were not there anymore, so I missed this opportunity to get nice photos of water buffaloes :(.

Next on my list to visit was TAEC-museum (Traditional Arts & Ethnology Center).
I walked and walked around the town, asked several times direction from locals, but the only museum they seemed to know was national museum.
After one hour I gave up and decided to return to the Guesthouse because day was really hot.

After the dinner I spent some time at the guesthouse chatting with one Australian guy. We had few drinks and at this point I had a clear plan for the next day. Get up early and head towards Thailand.



Friday:
Luang Prabang:

Plans changed in the morning. I was tired and had slight headache, so I continued sleeping. Around ten in the morning I got up, watched how Singaporean guys continued their journey towards north, booked room for one more night and headed for breakfast.

After the breakfast I decided to find TAEC and after some time I found it! This museum was quite small but interesting, much better than the museum in Viantiane.

Later in the day three British bikers arrived at the guesthouse. They were on a two week riding holiday with their rental bikes.
I got some good information from them regarding the roads ahead, so my route plan was now clear for the next day.

Saturday:
Luang Prabang – Thailand border:

A bit after eight in the morning I had a last glimpse at this nice place via my bike´s mirror.
Luang Prabang is a nice, relaxing place and I could have easily stayed there few days more.

I rode 20km towards south and then I turned to the road #4.
I knew that part of this road was under construction, so there would be some dust in the air.
Actually most of this road was wide, hard and good gravel road where I could easily keep the same speed as on paved road.

Every now and then I ran in to a wall of dust. Usually there was road construction ongoing, lot of soft sand and a truck in front. Couple of times I got scared a bit because I suddenly saw the back of a truck just few meters in front of me (dust was so thick)!

My earlier plan was to take even smaller roads, but Australian rider few days earlier recommended this route to me.


From Sayabour I headed to a narrow paved road towards north.
On this road I saw few snakes and also several lizards. One of the lizards was around 40cm long and ran strangely by keeping it´s head high up in the air! 🙂

Few kilometers before the border is construction site for huge power plant and also few gas stations. I stopped to fill the tank to get rid of my Laos currency.
At the border everything went really fast and smoothly, so now I was free to enter Thai border :).

Feelings about Laos:
I love Laos. People are great and food is delicious.
I could have easily spent more time in Laos, but I was a bit in a hurry, so I had to leave this wonderful country too soon.
Roads condition varies from gravel to good pavement. There are also lot of roads with really poor pavement, but if you are not in a hurry, then this is not a problem.
Some day I want to go back to Laos and explore the areas where I could not go this time.

5 thoughts on “Laos, part 2

  1. Hi Marko,
    Great to see you’re healing well, you young people bounce back so quickly!
    I guess with the lovely weather we’re having you won’t want to head south until the winter?
    Nick.

    • Hi Nick,

      Well, quickly… I would like to be on top of the bike already 🙂
      But, yes, hand is getting better (still cannot bent my wrist upwards, but I think it is getting good enough to ride).
      We will know as soon as my bike is in one piece 🙂

      -Marko

  2. Hi Marko,

    what a wonderful relaxed part of your journey – i can feel the mood in your soul. Laos is one of my top 3 “must-go-destinations” in SEA. Spectacular pictures – i love the expressions in the posing pics – eyes straight into the lens. Splendid mate!

    cheers
    Joachim
    ….just back from 1 week ride through the Austrian Alps with my best friend

    • Hi Joachim,

      Yes, Laos is really a nice place. People are nice, food is good and there are amazing places, so well worth the visit!
      This time I took much more people pictures than normally. For some reason it was easier to take pictures of people in Laos than in many other places.

      Less than a week and I fly back to Indonesia…

      -Marko

      • Hey, nice to hear you are able to continue your trip.
        So you get all the shipping/transport of the spare parts organized well?
        If i can be of assistance in future time drop me a line.
        Good luck on your journey!
        best wishes – cheerio
        Joachim

        PS Still a lot of writing to get your blog up to date.
        March and April still missing- don’t be lazy – I am so curious 😉 and love to follow you – guess i have to make the decision to register on facebook hmmm

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