I awoke to a coolish morning of 14 degrees with fog. This is the first time Winston has had condensation on him since Australia.
I was on the road at 8 and wanted to get through the Thai and Loas immigration and customs before they close at 5pm.
I headed south east winding my way through some lovely roads; they reminded me of a rhythmic gymnast's ribbon in action. I passed through steep limestone hills. The border I first arrived at didn’t have Immigration or customs, they were only letting food and supplies through so I headed toward Nan and then to Huai Kon and arrived at 2:20pm. The Immigration officer was a stern sort of guy and he noticed that I didn’t have an entry stamp into Thailand. I explained I obviously came in on the 14th December the same time my carnet and other paperwork was stamped. Immigration must have forgotten to stamp it at the time customs had my passport. He told me to wait. I waited and waited until he got his supervisor on the phone. I spoke to his supervisor who said they would cancel my visa and stamp me out. I then went to customs where I waited 40 minutes for the guy to do my carnet and paperwork. I finally got everything completed and was on my way at 4:45pm.
Lao drive on the right so this is the first time on my trip I have to ride on the wrong side of the road. I headed for Hongsa. The road was a lovely road and, on the way, down into the town I went past the new Lignite Power plant. Most of the equipment in the plant is Chinese. Most of the power generated gets fed back into Thailand. I know this because I had dinner with the chief Electrical Engineer who is here from Thailand to commission the site. He was not happy with the lack of drawings from the Chinese company.
It was getting late in the day and the long shadows were appearing making visibility difficult in some places. At this time-of-day dogs tend to lie on the road. The road retains the heat as the day cools.
My things seem to be breaking or failing to work. My sunglasses fell to bits this afternoon and my accessory temperature gauge sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. The screws in my laptop have vibrated loose. I found them in my laptop bag. Trials and tribulations of being on the road!
It was the coldest morning yet at 12 degrees. We were engulfed in a heavy fog. Winston was soaked so I used a towel to dry him off. I must say sorry to the hotel owners about the filthy towel I left in the room. It was nice to look through a spotless windscreen though.
I headed south east to Sayabouri heading high into the hills and through the fog to a sunny day.
The roads were twisty with great views of the hills and valleys. You have to keep your wits about you as the roads have big potholes in many obscured places as well as pigs, goats, cows, chickens and dogs ambling around. As I ascended and descended the hills my ears popped and the beautiful tone of the triple cylinder Tiger could be heard again… Music to anyone’s ears!
I went through many farming villages. It reminded me of Indonesia. People here haven’t seen many large motorcycles and as I rode by the children waved and said wow!!, just like they did in East Timor and Indonesia.
I visited the UXO Laos Visitor centre which houses exhibits of many of the bombs and chemicals that were dropped on Laos by the US during the Vietnam War.
It was a sobering read. More bombs were dropped on Laos than all the bombs dropped in the Second World War. On average Laos was bombed every two minutes for the entirety of the war. Half the Laos civilian population was killed.
It is estimated that there are 80,000 unexploded bombs in Laos, tragically one person every day is killed by one.
In the afternoon I strolled around the old town. They had dozens of market stalls. It looks very French. I suppose that’s because Laos was once a French Colony.
A cool start to the morning again, no fog and no sun either. I made my way to Nong Khiaw it was a one road in and the same road out trip.
As it was cool in the morning, I decided to switch on my heated grips………oh, NO, no heat. That’s something else I need to look at. I grinned and bared it and carried on.
The road runs parallel to the Mekong River and every now and then you get a good view of it. Only quick glimpses because the road has pot holes, gravel and rock and whooped out sections. I was going up and down like a frog on heat.
They should call this road Truckers death road because I saw two written off lorries, four broken down, one of those had the engine dropped out on the side of the road.
The last third of the trip is quite scenic, with big limestone cliffs and mountains. I had lunch at Nong Khiaw at a restaurant. Lunch cost me $4 and I had a view of the town next to the river.
Tomorrow, I head to Phonsavan where the Plain of Jars lye
Day 149 Wednesday 28th January 2015
It was a 7:30 start and heading up into the hills into the cloud. Visibility at times was only 10 metres. I kept climbing until I broke through the cloud. As I went higher, I could look down on the cloud and see the hills poking through. It was very tranquil.
It was pretty much a full day's riding as the road were very twisty. I arrived at Phonsavan at 3pm and then headed to the Plain of Jars.
The jars are carved from calcified river sediment and were transported to the current site where they are a centre piece of a burial site. Bones, beads and other artefacts have been found in and around the jars. There could have been up to two and a half thousand people buried here.
I left Phonosavan and the goal today was to get to Vientiane which is the Laos capital. It is only 380 km but with all the twisting roads and obstacles to negotiate it took me all day
I left at 8am and by the time I’d found somewhere to stay it was 6pm. The whole of Laos is covered in dust. All I could see heading into Vientiane was a a cloud of dust stirred up by all the cars and trucks hitting the powdery dirt on the side of the road and the filler for the pot holes.
The highlight of the day and probably the Laos trip so far was the huge limestone hills / mountains. They were massive and each one had a distinctive shape; it was difficult not to keep looking at them. For safety I pulled over a couple of times just to take it all in. Laos is a very scenic country.
Last night I went a couple of doors down the road for dinner. Dinner was fish, and most tasty it was too. In the middle of the night the dreaded stomach cramps started and the fish wanted out. It’s ironic that a couple of days ago I got an e-mail from someone following my blog asking if I’d had any type of food poisoning. I replied back only a touch in East Timor (that was fish also.). He must be psychic.
I was good for nothing so I decided to stay and extra night here in Vientiane.
I woke this morning and my fish surprise was luring me to the toilet yet again. I decided as I needed to ride today that I’d try to clog myself up. Next door they have a street vendor that sells baguettes. There are lots of these, a relic from the old French colonial days. I ordered an egg one and one for lunch on the way to Thakhek which is 340km south east of Vientiane. I had the egg one for breakfast washed down with a banana smoothie and thought if that doesn’t do it nothing will.
I was thankful that the road on the way was in good condition very straight and not too much traffic. I stopped half way for lunch and sat next to the Mekong River looking at Thailand on the other side. I was feeling a bit better.
I headed off and the fish surprise demanded a stop urgently. I was lucky; a petrol station appeared with toilets. I was drawn in like a moth to light. The relief, ahhh!!! Of course, there was no toilet paper, but never fear I always carry my own.
I was riding along averaging about 110km/h watching things like herds of cow's amble across the road. I had time to take in the scenery and ponder other important questions like, how many million plastic bags and drink bottles are in ditches in South East Asia? Why when you buy a bottle of water they give you a plastic straw, in a protective plastic wrapper and put the bottle and the straw in a plastic bag? And how common is common sense? I thought this as I rode past branches on the road (the locals normally do this to indicate a truck or car broken down in the lane) to see one car parked in the only lane heading south and about a car length in front of that another car. The thing that really amazed me, in between the two cars was a mat laid on the road with a family having a picnic!!!!
The entire traffic flow south had to head into oncoming traffic so this family could have a picnic.
I arrived in Thakhek and found a guest house. And you guessed the fish surprise wanted to try out the facilities.
Here’s hoping tomorrow has no surprises.
I awoke feeling good, in fact I felt so good there could have been two of me. I headed south to Pakse along similar roads to yesterday. I passed through many small villages. The weather here has been dry and all the vegetation and grasses are brown and dusty.
I’m now used of cars and trucks coming at me head on in my lane, today I had a car pull out to overtake a mere 50 metres away, the mental capacity of some people is beyond belief. It’s the common-sense thing again, it isn’t that common!
I checked in to a Guest House in Pakse. There were a few hours of daylight left so I decided to see what the problem with the heated grips was. The conclusion is the controller is knackered. This means I will have to buy a new one.
When I went into the room after packing the bike up there was an infestation of ants and mosquitoes. One of the things I have learnt on this trip is to carry toilet paper and a can of insect spray. Steve 1, insects nil.
It was quick trip to the supermarket to buy a new can of insect spray and then up the hill to the Golden Buddha. The Golden Buddha can be seen from every vantage point in Pakse. You can either walk 800 steps or take the more sedate route, which is the one I took and drive 4.2 km by road to the top. From the top you get a great view of Pakse.
Then it was a ride to the border, through immigration and customs and into Cambodia.