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LAOS 

 (635km -  10days)

 

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17 Ė 20 August Vientiane, Laos

It was a pleasure walking the streets of Vientiane with its ancient temples, silk shops and baguette vendors. The following day, I handed in my visa application for Thailand. Vientiane is a popular place for visa runs as they donít ask many questions. No bank statements or flight ticket. You just fill in the form, hand it in with two photos and collect the following day. The cost is 1 000TB which is cheaper than most other places. The queue, therefore, is long, and I was no. 366 in the collection row. I had no patience for such a long queue and instead went to the restaurant across the road and returned an hour and a half later. By then the line was much shorter, and I just slotted in and collected my visa.

 

I also met up with Christian, a warmshowers host in Vientiane where I have stayed on two previous occasions, and decided to move to his place the following day. Christian hails from Germany but has been living and working in Laos for the past six years. I love staying at his place as it is relaxed and comfortable and most of all, he knows all the best restaurants and pubs in town.

 

I made use of my comfortable surroundings to finish all my ESCAPE tour stuff, for Tania who was arriving in September, Marguerite who was coming in December, and Amanda who was planning to come over next year April.  

 

When all my stuff was done, it was time to head back across the border to Bangkok and meet Tania for a new route I have planned for us. I call it Taniaís Tour from Bangkok to Hanoi.

 

21 August - Vientiane, Lao Ė Udon Tani - 87 km

I left Christianís place, dropped the key at his work and cycled to the immigration. Seeing that I already had the Thai visa, it was just a stamp, and I was on my way. No sooner had I crossed the border, and the rain caught up with me. It rained hard for a while but it soon cleared, and it was easy cycling to Udon Tani where I could find inexpensive accommodation at the Kings Hotel. At 270TB ($8) it was a bargain for an air-con room with hot water. I did not go much off the road as the heavy rains from the past few weeks left most back roads muddy or washed away. The few times that I did find better ways, it was a pleasure as always. There are few things I enjoy as much as cycling down a country road in the company of locals on their fixies. The rain also left all the ponds and dams full to the brim and people were busy fishing and harvesting lotus flowers.  

 

22 Udon Tani Ė Namphongkao Ė 105 km

I could not find any decent back road and landed up on the main road again. Itís boring on the main road, and I will hopefully find a smaller road tomorrow. I found a room in the small village of Namphongkao, and had plenty of time to do all I had to do. I even did my laundry. The problem with stopping early is I eat non-stop! LOL.

 

23 Namphongkao Ė Kaeng Khro police station - 120 km

Not a bad day on the road. I mostly followed a small road through the tiniest of villages to land up at Kaeng Khro, where I camped at the police station.

 

24 Kaeng Khro Ė Chatturat 85 km

I packed up my tent under the watchful eyes of the locals and the police. LOL, they found the entire process quite intriguing. I think Iím becoming a recluse; all I want to do is be out of the public eye. I felt sluggish: maybe it had to do with the fact that I was riding into a headwind. I called it a day in Chatturat, as there's no point for me in cycling if Iím not enjoying it. I treated myself to a room at the Ratchanee Place Hotel; rather expensive at 500TB, but I was desperate for a shower and to charge my devices. Iím a working girl now, and I need to be online, hahaha.

 

Two weird facts for the day. (1) I hate having a destination. I canít seem to enjoy myself if I know that Iím heading for a specific place. That's just odd! (2) After being a vegetarian for 35 years, I started eating meat again about four years ago and had no problems. I do, however, find it extremely difficult to eat a piece of meat or chicken on its own. If there is meat in the dish, Iím fine with it.  I was hungry today, and I bought two pieces of chicken from the market. I took one bite and nearly vomited. How very odd. But tonight, I'll have a bowl of noodle soup - there will be meat in it, and I will have no problem eating it. So, all in all, today I realised that Iím not only becoming a recluse but also an eccentric.

 

25 August Chatturat Ė Tha Luang Ė 128 km

I was up surprising early, packed up, and cycled out of Chatturat. At first, I followed the 201, but that turned out to be a big boring road. After turning off, I was straight into a headwind as well as going uphill, a sure recipe for going slow. I even cycled past a wind farm, not something one often encounters in Southeast Asia; itís just not windy enough. Iím always surprised at the size of these turbines (if that is the right word) as they are so much larger than they look from a distance.

 

Not long after that I started the descend and it was easy riding to Tha Luang. It was hard work into the wind and uphill, and I was starving by the time I reached Tha Luang. I went to the market, bought two meals (a green curry and a stir-fried rice), a piece of cake, a packet of crisps, a Pepsi and a beer!!  With all that hanging from my handlebars, I settled for a roadside room and spent the remainder of the evening devouring my stock.

 

26 August Tha Luang Ė Nong Khae Ė 110km

Not much happening along the road, as it was head down and heading in the direction of Bangkok. The hilly parts are always the nicest and once on the flat there was not much of interest. I could have turned off for Lopburi or Ayuttaya but seeing that I have been there a few times I stuck to the more direct route to the capital. I was happy to spot a roadside motel and did not argue about the 300TB. This was where I wanted to turn off onto smaller roads in order to try and miss the heavy traffic into Bangkok the following morning.

 

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