One hour late, the night train arrives in Nong Khai. We take our bikes and head towards the border to Laos. Suddenly it crashes and Andi’s saddle is broken! Andi has no choice but to continue cycling. In Vientiane we stay overnight on the monks’ ground at Phat That Luang Park. In the morning, we will go to the China Consulate with carefully compiled documents. The documents are briefly studied and after a short nod, we will be sent back with the order to deposit US 64$ at a Chinese bank. In addition, we are assured that we can pick up the passports again on Monday. Wow, that was not five minutes and only half price than in Bangkok. We can not quite trust the thing yet and are prepared for everything. In the meantime, we cycle a tour to Vang Vieng, so we do not have to sit around for 4 days.
After cycling for 1 hour, Andi’s bottom hurts a lot, it does not seem to work with the broken saddle. What now? We try to get back to Vientiane by hitchhiking. Since it is already getting dark, we give up and decide to camp here. At the sleeping place, Judith finds a packaging material, which is perfect support for Andi’s saddle and with Eris adhesive tape we stick the cracked spot together again. So we try to continue our planned tour. For once, we are grateful to the Laotians for simply throwing the garbage on the roadside.
Early in the morning we are heading towards Naxay. At noon we enjoy our lunch break by the river at the village square. Of course, we are quickly surrounded by an interested group of children. The girls enjoy Judith and sing two simple international English children songs, that Judith can sing, too.
When it has cooled, we continue. The road gets bad to our surprise and Judith makes the painful experience after more than 9500 kilometers of pedaling, that braking with the front brake on gravel is taboo. Luckily, she comes away with a few bruises and small abrasions.
We are moving forward slowly and again and again we are dusted by passing trucks. Just before it darkens, we ask a truck driver for water, as washing the grazes has strained our supplies a bit. This evening, there is only a catlick 🐈.
A probos cat the next morning hangs on a stand at the roadside a wildcat, which is sold well immediately. Even the squirrels find buyers. Now we also know, why the Laotians are working with the shotgun in the fields. Hunting time is here year in year out.
We are lucky, that it rained during the night and therefore the road is not so dusty. Thus, the occasionally passing trucks are okay. A steep climb leads to a large reservoir and construction site. The hydropower is expanded here in large stems. At the market in Namngon we try to find out if there is a ferry, that will take us over the reservoir and save some altitude. Until the end we do not know if there is the ferry to Laksaosy and drive the 20km gravel road down to the lake. We breathe, when we reach the jetty and do not have to go back, even if the next ferry leaves again the next day. (They drive only once a day and only in one direction!) We like the place at the jetty and have no problem to stay over night.
The crossing takes almost three hours. In the evening we arrive in Vang Vieng. We try to rent a motorcycle, to get our passports and the China Visa in Vientiane. However, without passes, no one gives us a motorcycle 🙁 Thus, we are at 6:00 o’clock the next morning on the road and stop a minivan, which brings us in 3.5 hours on a bumpy and winding road to Vientiane. The same route we take back in the afternoon in only 3 hours. Exhausted and happy with our China Visa in hand, we enjoy the beautiful. but very touristy town of Vang Vieng. So, we managed to get the China Visa, on caravanistan.com we read about some failures in various countries.
The next day we continue to Luang Prabang. After only a few kilometers we are surprised by a strong rain shower. Luckily we can stand in time. After 15 minutes it is over again and we continue cycling with an improvised mudguard on Judith’s bike. Thanks again to the Laotians for decorating all their streets with plastic. The landscape with the rocks is very beautiful. At Kasi we decide to drive the new road Route 4, which is less traveled because of the steep road and should have a better view. Wow, yes the pass has it! It is extremely steep! 😅 But it was worth to take this road. On the pass we treat ourselves to a fresh coconut 🥥 and look forward to the racy descent.
When dimming, we find a nice place to sleep in a terrace rice field. Suddenly a buffalo herd stomps out. The bull comes towards us with its big horns. We are not feeling well anymore and we are retreating. After a while, they are no longer interested in us and move on again😅 and we can go back to our bikes and campground. A little later, the cattle-keeper comes with his three boys equipped with flashlights and baskets. They show us, how they collect frogs. Frog legs are probably also such a legacy, from the French colonial era, as the baguette, which is found here on many places.
The next day at sunset, we arrive in Luang Prabang. We spend only one night in Luang Prapang and the next morning we go with the food filled bags on the adventurous stage to Hongsa. Adventurous because it is a very sparsely populated area and we do not know exactly the condition of the road.
On the Openstreetmap it is marked as unpaved. With the ferry it goes over the Mekong.
At the beginning the road is well paved. However, soon we drive on gravel. It is built diligently. Again and again we are fogged by passing trucks. The people in the villages and small settlements are very poor. The population is very young. We do not see a lot of old people. Rather, we see many pregnant and breastfeeding women and many children. These usually wave to us joyfully and laughing. Once again, communication is extremely difficult. Since a longer distance of 75 kilometers without village comes with many vertical meters, we want to fill up our drinking water at the last village. However, there is no shop in this village Nalai. The locals show us the village well, where we fill up our water supply, and we can wash ourselves. Judith is a bit sick the whole afternoon, as the soup was probably not fresh at breakfast in the hostel. So, after the shower, she had to vomit on the village square. This, of course, everything under the strict observation of the locals. The dogs quarreled over the vomit and thus the mishap was eliminated as well😂 Just after the village we see a nice sleeping place on the other side of the river.
The next day we fight bravely up the steep climbs and over the bumpy track. On top of a pass we stop. To Andi’s great joy promptly an ice cream-seller passes. 😋 In spite of 4 hours of pedaling we only get 25 kilometers on this day. The next morning it goes down for the majority and partly on super finished, new asphalt. This road connecting Chiang Mai and Luang Prabang is a dramatic project into the landscape. By felling the trees, it is now very barren. Today we are on the road for 8 months. The slope has it all. We are moving forward slowly. It is a big construction site. We have to cross rivers, be fogged by the truck’s dust, and Andi falls down a steep, dusty ramp. Luckily there is a waterfall just beside the road and Andi can wash off the dirt. Shortly after Hongsa it goes back to the Thai border. For Laos we got a free 15 days visa, which unfortunately is over.
Conclusion: Laos is a very poor, but also young country. The people are extremely friendly and you are always greeted with a laughing “Sabadii” (hello). The roads and infrastructure are a lot worse than in Thailand. This is particularly reflected by the schools and education. For simple bills, such as 1/4 of the kilo price, it requires special support from Judith. Touring Laos by bike is a lot more adventurous and we liked it a lot better than Thailand. We can highly recommend Laos. Tourism is bound to increase as the country is booming and the support of China, his big brother, is visible everywhere. We would have liked to see more of Laos, but unfortunately we had to skip the planned second visit.