Laos is beautiful, I feel really good here... with the Mekong and mountains and Islands and drylands and wet forests too... and not to mention kind locals, lots of smiles and the best yell-outs of SE Asia yet: "Sabaidee Falang!"
I had 600km of amazing riding and unforgettable encounters along the Mekong river from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Pakse, Laos. Here are my memories :) ...
After parting ways from Solidream, I rode towards the Cambodia-Laos border.
While day-dreaming through the 65km of no-mans-land north of Stoeng Treng, I met 51yr old Pascal. He rides in this region every year, making friends with locals, buying art and sending it home to France to sell there when he is not working in his amazing Garden.
|Pascal rides a $43 bike he bought in Phnom Penh and the shopping cart he carries on his rear rack is filled with paintings he will sell when back in France|
|Well seasoned cyclists who get more tired from taking frequent breaks than when they are flowing along pedaling :)|
I gave them my Cambodia flag, and a postcard I had forgotten to mail before crossing the border.
|At this point I felt my trip was pretty insignificant - only traveling SE Asia! ;)|
|Sunset over the 4000 Islands on Mekong river.|
|My first breakfast in Laos, which became my traditional breakfast, since.|
I asked around from ex-pats and locals to find the cheapest way to get to the big island of Don Khong by boat with my bike. I was advised the best way is to take a small boat between islands and island hop my way North. The next day - after a day of relaxing on Don Det and a morning of struggling to find what in my wheel was giving me so many flats over the last two days - I went exploring...
|I was searching my tire for this tiny sliver of metal while the tourists were swinging in hammocks and sipping smoothies|
...Somehow I could feel there is a different way I will go to Don Khong, but not sure how, I just rode around with my loaded bike.
On the bridge to the island south of Don Det, I met some other tourists riding around rental bikes who told me of the water fall and beaches to visit nearby...
|My bike traveling with some French tourists :)|
|I'm on a boat ... where's my flippy floppies?! ;)|
I slept at a Temple on Don Khong with a beautiful view of the moon over the Mekong. But I barely slept this night, as I didn't have the protection of four strong French men around me. The monks are very friendly and they continued to reassure me when I asked them if it's safe to sleep here. You see, the poor locals who have no home also sleep at the temples, so one worries when you're alone. But all is well, no bad experience yet and not anticipating any.. just being cautious.
... the next day I rised early to find my way to the West side of the Mekong, where google maps shows nothing but my German paper map showed a little road and many little villages. I confirmed this information with the old lady who served me breakfast in town, skyped with my mom and showed her the Mekong and the morning Alm of the monks, and I set out to find a boat to take me across to the West of the Mekong.
|My bike getting used to its new mode of travel...|
|I cried from happiness this day. I am lucky to be here.|
|Beautiful road along the Mekong .. the cows have passed before me|
|Sharing a break with water buffalos|
|This man in village called Saphang learned English on his own... he taught me how to count to 10 in Laotian - Neung, Seung, Sam, Si, Haa,... The locals laughed as I rode off practicing my new knowledge outloud :)|
And later in the day a test of my insticts where I had to realize that my road is ending in a river because I have to take a wooden boat operated by a rope on a pulley across, not go exploring in the surrounding barren fields for a road.
|Try this road for a bit ... nope doesn't feel right...|
|Go back to the last village for a noodle lunch spiced with ants ... try to ask the locals but can't really make sense why they tell me to cross the river.. I don't want the hwy, I want my little Mekong path!|
|Pully boat crossing the stream|
|Yay, back on track along my lovely Mekong path :)|
After riding over 500km on unpaved roads, I was rewarded with a newly constructed road from Champasak to Pakse sandwiched between the Mekong on the right and Mountains on the left (but with headwind of course).
But enough is enough, I didn't want any more flat roads, and I didn't want any more bumpy roads.. the day I left Pakse, I rode 10km and felt bored and uninterested in the road I was on. But I knew what I needed to feel better :) Mountains!!! yess.. I made a carboard sign and hitchhiked the past 600kms all the way to Vientiane.
On my way here, biking between hitch hike rides, I met 60yr old Italian Goffredo, who rides average 200km a day on his titanium bike with absolutely minimal gear. He rode through Iran 2 years ago and his favourite memory was walking at night in streets of Yazd (the city my mom was born in), where an old man came up to him to shake his hand and said nothing, but communicated a world of wisdom and understanding.
|Goffredo made me an Origami swan while riding his bike! :)|
|check out my new derralieure!|
|Top Cycle bike shop in Vientiane will find you the right components, but I didn't have a good experience with their mechanics' work.|
Now I'm about to set off on a 1,000km challenge in mountains through North of Laos and Vietnam over the next 10 days. Wish me luck! "Chok Dee" as the Lao and Thai would say ;)