Yesterday we had our last stretch of riding through rural Laos to get us to the border. Started off with a walk to the market in Sepon to get some brekki before hitting the road. Struggled to find anything to eat that wasn’t still alive or was dead with fur and eyes still attached!!! No wastage in this country.
We were loading up and Bugger noticed our first flattie of the trip. Not a bad effort as our first puncture with a combined total of over 4000km both bikes. Andy worked his magic and we were on the road in no time. Absolutely stunning ride through incredibly remote villages and quiet rolling hills. Arrived at the border town of Dansavan where we got a dive of a room for the night and no wifi but hey you don’t expect much more at border towns. Other Laotian guests and their child spent the afternoon with us practising their English with their school English work book.
Dansavan, Laos – Dong Ha Vietnam 86km
Up at 6am and got our last bit of kip changed to Vietnamese Dong as once out of Laos nobody will touch it. Rode 1.5km to the border and wow another incredibly easy border crossing with no bribes required.
A big day riding up into the Vietnam mountains and then great fun coming down then undulating the rest of the way. Once again scenery lovely in the mountains and many rural villages. Roads so much busier than Laos and oh we had so forgotten from 10 years ago when we were last in Vietnam how much they love their horns. Toot, Toot, airhorns blowing and how about one more blast just as they pass just in case we didn’t hear it 500m back.
Arrived Dong Ha which is a bit of a crappy Vietnamese town but it is a one nighter before Hue but we have found great digs at the Golden Hotel.
A lovely leisurely ride today through more remote settlements amongst rolling hills and bush. Arrived Xepon for breakfast at 10.30am just in time for noodle soup for a late brekki. Checked out 3 guesthouses and none had wifi and then found the Viengxay Hotel and for $21nz we have aircon, fridge great big bed and big bathroom and wifi so here we are.
Xepon is another small dusty Laos village only 45km from the Vietnam border. We know we are close to Vietnam with many signs written in Vietnamese. Just had a walk around the local markets and you have no idea how excited we were to find an ice cream!!! It felt like Christmas. Amazing the things you miss when you don’t have access to them.
The little pigglets being sold at the market was a classic. Still alive all bundled up in their cane basket with a carry handle for 15000kip – $2.50nz.
So here we are hanging in Muang Phin as our Vietnam visa doesn’t allow us to enter until August 3rd. We will remember this small village as we clicked over 2000km exploring this morning. Incredibly remote, no English spoken whatsoever, finding edible food is a battle but beer Laos is everywhere. We assume the only tourists that would ever stay here would be cycle tourists as we are certainly a novelty.
Discovered that a helicopter was shot down in this village during the Vietnam War. An amazing amount of history with Laos still being the most heavily bombed country in history per capita. Over 2 million tonnes of ordnance was dropped on the country with up to 30% failing to explode. Approximately 25% of the country’s villages are contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO), hence we are not wandering too far off the road for a pee!
For the second biggest city in Laos, Savannakhet is on slow mo sleepy time. We loved exploring the beautiful old buildings and chilling out in this laid back town but knew we had to keep the pedals turning or we would never leave this chilled out place on the MeKong.
29th July farewell to Savannakhet and we are hitting rural Laos making our way East towards the Vietnam border. What set off to be a 30km day turned into 107!!!
Savannahket – Muang Phalanxy 107km
We blew through Seno at the 30km mark when we saw it was just a dusty junction town. What a difference to Savannakhet with the rural village people so friendly. For 6 hours we were waving left/right, Sabaidee, Hello, Goodbye, Good morning and welcomed with friendly faces and smiles we will never forget. The scenery was amazing seeing the rural village lifestyle.
We saw scooters on the top of buses, people on the top of minivans, live chickens on the back of scooters, scooter on the back of a scooter. We dodged goats, cows and buffalos and the odd wandering pig. Oh and I ran over a snake. I saw it but not wanting to swerve into traffic I raised my feet off the pedals, closed my eyes and let out a wee squeal and hoped that when I opened he wasn’t wrapped around my pedals. Phew safe and one less snake in Laos to worry about now. We saw the village people in their everyday lives with all but nothing but so happy. Showering by bucket in the front of their shack, kids doing number two’s in the trough by their house and still managing a wave and smile as we bike by.
The next town we got to was Donghen at 67km and the heavens opened. We checked out a guesthouse and it was dump (but a palace compared to their abodes) but I kind of drew the line at a hole in the ground loo. So we had a feed and made the call to push through to the next town when the rain stopped. As we had got off to a late start (as we were only planning on a 30km day) the sun was starting to fall behind us. Was perfect riding temps and so lovely and peaceful on quiet roads as we approached Muang Phalan at 5pm. Hmmm no guesthouse! We pushed through another 3km and still no guesthouse. At this stage we were thinking of every possible option as to where we could spend the night. Maybe we could sleep at the school and take turns about catching a few zzzs, or just drink beers at a restaurant until closing and then crash on the floor! With a bit of charades we were pointed to keep going so going we did and it was the best sight seeing this road side guesthouse 3km further on. Kind of what I imagine Lee Child to call his ‘no tell motels’. Who cares it was a bed with a fan, cold beer and water sold out the front and a sit down toilet with a bucket and after 107km in the heat and pondering what our alternative options may have been we were so excited. We crashed in no time.
Muang Phalanxy-Muang Phin – 58km
Up early and hit the road this morning. Once again lovely scenery over undulating terrain and overcast pleasant conditions. Arrived Muang Phin which is such a quiet and remote town and found ourselves a guesthouse and can’t believe that it even has wifi! Found a place for lunch and ordered fried rice and omelette. A handful of dining options we know how to order in Laos language which is really similar to Thai language. Chilling out now after two great days riding.
1800km on the clock and Goodbye to Thailand and ‘Sabaidee’ Laos!
Wow what an incredible 48 hours we have had. Departing the absolutely delightful town of That Phanom 2 days ago and cycling 57km to Mukdahan our final town in Thailand. The first 30km of that ride was possibly our least enjoyable being chased yet again by dogs, no shoulder on the road and a head wind. That’s all part of the fun though and the last 27km into Mukdahan was a breeze.
Found a great new hotel in Mukdahan ‘Bird Day Boutique’ and it was awesome with a great brekki, even had KFC next door. Oh the excitement of being able to have a break from rice and noodles. This was short lived when we went to order our up sized zinger burger meal deal only to be told. ‘No more burger……all gone’. They were however serving rice and corn in a bowl with chicken. What would the Colnel think of that?
Today we hit the pedals from Mukdahan 7km to the Laos border and received the Thailand exit stamp no sweat. As you can’t bicycle over the Friendship Bridge our next task was to wave down a ute to get our bikes and us through to Laos. 8.15am waiting, waiting, waiting. This border is so quiet it’s crazy. 9.45am we were in action and a ute pulled up to immigration and we loaded the bikes on the back and squeezed into the ute and got the ride across to Laos immigration. Loaded with US money for our visa and a further bunch of US $1 bills (as we had been informed the price can vary depending on how they feel on the day and the bribe money they may want to take). We were in action getting our Laos Visa for US $30 and no additional money required. Yahoo we are in Laos and that was a breeze! Cycled out of immigration now biking on the right hand side of the road biking a further 10km to Savannakhet. Such a slower place of life it’s like we have stepped back in time.
Straight to the Vietnam Consulate to apply for our visa we will need in 10 or so days time. Got there 5 minutes before it closed for lunch break and pick it up tomorrow, we are on a roll. Everything going to plan checked into our great little guesthouse and biked around Savannakhet getting a feel for this sleepy town. Here we will be for a couple of nights before making our way across rural Central Laos to the Vietnam border. Changed our money and we are instant millionaires with the Laos kip.
Now that we have had to say goodbye to our friend Leo we will have to try and hunt down a Beer Laos tonight as crikey it’s hot!