28 November -
Jing Hong, China – Na Teuy Laos (by bus)
I was still not
well, and as I’d previously cycled the route on the way North I
decided to take the bus further to Laos (Ernest cycled on
alone). So, that morning I set off for the regional bus station
in search of a bus heading to the Laos border. This time I was
lucky again and easily found a bus that would take me and the
bike. It was another long and tiring day on the bus.
As things go,
border rules change all the time. As I approached the visa
office I noticed a new sign on the window listing all the
countries that cannot get visas at the border any more (these
were mostly African countries). It was with sigh of relief that
I did not spot South Africa’s name amongst them. (what a time to
tell you, as by now you have already been stamped out of China
but can not enter Laos, what do they want you to do? Camp in no
mans land for the rest of your life?). It reminded me of how
important it is to always check the border crossing details
before I head out. The crossing into Laos was, however, very
easy, just a case of filling in a form, presenting them with a
mug shot, paying your money and a few minutes later you had your
visa. I only arrived at the first small town in Laos at 17h00.
It was good to be
back in Laos, the difference was immediately visible. Chickens
were sold next to the road in woven baskets. Wooden houses on
stilts, children, ducks and goats wandering across the road. In
general things are just a lot less organized than in China. I
found a room and prepared myself for the long cycle south to
29 November -
Na Teuy – Luang Nam Tha - 38km
It was a cool
misty morning as I left. I took route 3, which is a fairly new
road and was in a good condition. It was mostly downhill to
Luang Nam Tha and much closer than what I had expected.
friendly kids come running as soon as they spot a foreigner,
constantly shouting “Sabai Dee, falang” and waving – or they
just stare in amazement at the crazy woman on a bike.
I arrived early in
Luang Nam Tha. As I wanted to do a short walk in the Nam Ha
National Park I took a room and booked myself on a one-day trek
into the park for the following day.
Luang Nam Tha is a
real sleepy village with a handful of shops, loads of
back-packer type guesthouses and restaurants, a bank and post
office. The night market, as usual, sold cheap eats and was a
good place to pick up a bite before going to bed.
30 November -
Luang Nam Tha
The 3-day hike
would have been rather nice but it was a bit pricy and I settled
for the 1-day walk. It was a small group of 4 who set off in a
tuk-tuk to the start of the hike.
It was wonderful
to walk in the forest with steep downs and steep ups, past
waterfalls and through thick indigenous forests. We were even
given a traditional lunch of sticky rice and vegetables. The
hike ended in a small hilltop village where we had some tea and
some of the famous Lao Whiskey (moonshine) - it truly took your
1 December -
Luang Nam Tha – Vieng Phoukha - 61km
The morning mist
lay thick in the valley as I left. It was a short but scenic
road with mountains on both sides of the road, covered in thick
dense forest. Most of the way was downhill so all in all a very
enjoyable ride. Along the way a met another female cyclist on a
2 month cycling holiday in South East Asia. After a short chat
we went our separate ways again.
Along the way I
spotted a cave and decided to explore a bit, the cave had a
“Keeper” who collected a fee for guiding me through the cave.
Good thing as well, as it was black as night in there and at
least the keeper had a torch (albeit a bit weak).
I arrived in Vieng
Phoukha at around lunch time and found a wonderful Guest House
right on the river with wooden bungalows on stilts overlooking
the river. It was so peaceful and the landlady was so friendly
that I decided to stay for the night.
I ordered a
vegetable soup from her humble kitchen and what a meal that
was! That evening I ordered more food, this time vegetables
(mostly water spinach fried in a wok with soy bean sauce, garlic
and chillies) and sticky rice. Now sticky rice is the main
stable in Lao and eaten with virtually anything. It is so sticky
that one has to tear it apart, roll it in a ball and then dip it
in your food. It’s served in a woven basket or wrapped in a
banana leaf, very filling and very chewy.
2 December -
Vieng Phouka to Houei Xai - 122km
I knew it was
going to be a long slow day so I got going fairly early, at
least by my standards. First I was given breakfast and then I
was on my way. After the early morning mist burnt off, it became
the most beautiful sunny day. There were a few nasty hills along
the way and the road deteriorated and became gravel in parts,
making it rather dusty. I pushed on regardless as I wanted to
reach the border town of Houei Xai that afternoon.
I met 3 more
cyclist heading north, we chatted for a while and then, after
wishing each other Godspeed, we went our respective ways. The
road was scenic again (like all of Lao) and it was a pleasure to
be out on the bike. I cycled past numerous villages, rivers and
valleys. Rivers are the main bathing spot in villages and in
early afternoon it’s a noisy affair with kids laughing and
squealing as the whole village is there to take their daily
I arrived in Houei
Xai at around 17h00, sweaty and dusty and found the fist room
available. I was fairly tired and did little else but get some
food, shower and relax on the bed.
3 December -
Houei Xai is a
rather small village with just about one street, filled with
guest houses and street food stalls. I handed in my laundry and
spent the day strolling along the Mekong River. That evening
Ernest eventually caught up to me - hot, dusty and sweaty after
a long day on the bike.
4 December -
Another day in
little Houei Xai, not much to do but watch the sun set over the