04 September 2009

CYCLING LAO - Vieng Kham to Vientiane

26 August 2009 - Vieng Kham – Pakxan - 92km - day 881

I was as happy as the proverbial pig!! My bike ran like a dream, now it’s just Ernest still struggling along with limited gears. If we can just make it to Vientiane (the capital) which is only 150km away, we can have everything fixed there, or at least so we are lead to believe.

The scenery was again absolutely sublime! No wonder it’s such a popular travelling area. We also spotted some motorbikes out on the road, moving a bit faster than us. This is part of the very famous "Golden Triangle Route”. So for al those keen bikers out there look up www.GT-riders.com. Pack your bags and head for the hills. On this day we also cycled along the Kading river (a large tributary of the Mekong), and crossed it at the confluence of the two rivers.

27 August 2009 - Pakxan – Pak Ngum - 90km - day 882

A real lazy day on the road, we did not have to go far, so we just ambled along, enjoying the scenery and the flat road. Scores of “sapadee falang” came from the children along the road. There were small villages and Buddhist temples jutting out of the forest around every corner.

At times the road ran next to the Mekong River where villagers sell smoked fish along the way. Ernest did some shopping and got himself some dried/smoked catfish and some or other kind of meat delicacy wrapped in a banana leaf, which he thoroughly enjoyed once we were settled in for the night.

28-31 August 2009 - Pak Ngum – Vientiane - 70 km - day 883

It didn’t take long to reach the capital city of Laos, and first thing we went straight to the bike shop to enquire about the all important spare parts - only to find the shop all locked up. The neighbours told us that the owner was away in Thailand, and that he would only be back in a few days time after the weekend. After that we shopped around for a cheap room, but Vientiane has typical capital city syndrome, ie. you pay more for most things.

First thing Monday morning we were at the doorstep of the shop again, but still we found it all locked up. This time the neighbours told us that the owner would only be back the next day.

It was, however, a pleasure walking the streets of Vientiane, no rip-offs or touts, just a Buddhist temple and fruit sellers on every corner. The river frontage comes alive after sunset while thousands of food stalls line the street, and the aroma of barbequed meat filled the air.

There were also quite a few touristy shops, selling the most beautiful handmade jewelry and silk items, o, if I could only buy some of these things I would fill my bags.

1 - 4 September 2009 - Vientiane - day 887

We did find the bike shop open on Tuesday, and I bought a new hub which Ernest again fitted. The chain ring which Ernest needed for his bike would, however, need to be ordered from Thailand – which would take a few days (later we discovered that the order would take too long, but they gave a second-hand chain ring which seems to be working). I also handed my bike in for a service.

Ernest still had his sights set on China, so we went to the consulate where we both applied for visa’s. It all seemed far too easy as we only had to fill in a simple little application form, and were told to come back in 3 days to pick up the visas (and pay). Amazingly we now have visas for China, but I feel a bit like a dog with a bone – not quite sure what to do with it.

In the mean time we were able to look around for a cheaper room, as it appeared that we would still have to hang around for a few days. While wandering around the city I found this great place the “Blue Banana”, pub/restaurant, with air-con and Wi-Fi. Here one can sit all day drink a cold beer (over ice, the strange things people do!) and watch the world go by.

Vientiane must be the worlds most laidback capital. In fact its so laidback that there seems to be quite a few Western bums around the place. Looking like old time hippies, stuck in time and out of luck, bumming from travelers with sad stories of money stolen from their room and late pension payments. Spot the bum, obviously not the one with the shirt and watch!

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