We awoke in Laos on June 14th with a beautiful view across the river into Thailand and we were feeling the miles from the day before so opted to hire transportation to get us to Vieng Phou Kha. We arrive at the bus station with some understanding of what to expect, yet knowing full well that transport in this region comes with some wild cards. We’re able to secure a spot on the ‘VIP’ bus and hand the driver cash for the bikes to be transported. Bikes would be hoisted on top of the bus, as we came to learn. Sleeping on a sleeper bus with weak air conditioning is not possible.
We arrive with bikes in one piece and scope out a much smaller town than we were expecting. One guest house and one restaurant that we could find are all we need. The restaurant made a marvelous dish with fried broad beans and egg that was incredible! We explore a bit to find some cold springs we had read about, turns out they’re more of a local bathing pool, uncomfortable, we head back into town. We end up meeting a couple of wonderful friends from Denmark who’ve been touring the world by bicycle for the past year and aren’t stopping anytime soon.
June 15th would bring a 75KM ride to Luang Namtha. The roads in Laos certainly aren’t as well maintained as those in Thailand, with paved roads turning to dirt for sections without warning, but it was a beautiful ride. The children here are so excited when we roll through their villages! There was a cave on our route that we tried to stop and see, but sadly it was gated off without explanation. We get into town, secure a room and head out to explore. The waterfall in town was a big disappointment and the handmade broom at the pavilion proved to be more entertaining.
We get back into town, have some dinner and decide to stop in the “Bamboo Lounge” for desert and a night cap. We end up meeting Koly, who worked there, and she invited us to join her and her friends for beer. It’s important to understand what we didn’t then: in Laos, it’s considered rude to let a guests glass go empty. Every effort to finish the beer remaining in our glass to make an exit was met with a prompt refilling of our glass. We finally made it out against much resistance.
Surprisingly, we slept in a bit on June 16th. We enjoyed a wonderful breakfast at the “Bamboo Lounge” which consisted of a breakfast “burrito” wrapped in flat bread then began our 40KM ride to Natery Village. The ride was nice and we got our first views of what I’ve dubbed as “war-ducks” because of the red coloring around their eyes. We roll into what wasn’t much of anything with a guest house that fell in line with the village.
June 17th would have us enjoying a 82KM ride into Muang Xai. The first 40k being rolling and beautiful then the terrain kicked up without a punchline. It was an amazing ride and saw us crossing the 1000k mark for the trip. When we got into town we booked a stay at the “Oudomphet Guesthouse” and found a wonderful vegetarian Lao restaurant. On top of wonderful food, we got the entertainment of an energetic little girl that drew us many pictures on envelopes. It continues to be an amazing experience.