Don’t really have time/energy to post a whole lot right now, but a brief update. I have biked 5 days so far and not biked 4, all of it has all been pretty great. i biked from Chiang Mai (Thailand) to the Laotian border over three days including beautiful scenery, no-tell motels, thai transvestites, thai breakdancing competitions, free massages and bananas. i’ll have to elaborate on that in a bit…

i crossed the Mekong into Laos and stayed a night in the little Border town (Huay Xai) from which I caught the ‘slow boat’ (as opposed to the deathtrap speedboats that do the trip in half the time…) down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos over 2 days. The boat ride was incredibly relaxing and beautiful and not the dodgy backpacker sardine-can i’d heard it could be. I met some very nice Dutch, Australian, American and Bulgarian folk and watched the mellow riverbank flow by.

I then spent 2 relaxing days in Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO Heritage city and very scenic and well-put-together. I happened into a guest house run by a Laotian who’d been evacuated with his family to the US when he was very young and had returned to run the business after 27 years in Madison, Wisconsin! Weird thing getting to talk to your Laotian host when he has a Wisconsin accent and quotes Judas Priest lyrics… Great guy and a really nice place if you’re visiting… I went to some stellar waterfalls with some of the Dutch folks I met and had 2 days supporting the Laos Red Cross by paying for massages and saunas at their facility there – tough work but someone’s got to do it…).

The ride from Luang Prabang to Vang Viene, where I am now, was nothing short of epic. The first day ended up being 130 km and something like 3000 m (2 miles) of climbing. The road is mostly in good shape, in absolutely amazing and beautiful terrain and quite remote – I’d say I saw another vehicle every 5-10 minutes on average! Brutal climbs with me riding 8 or 9 km/hour (~5-6 mph) for hours at a time and then descending a mountain range only to repeat the climb… I made a bad tactical move of pushing for a further town (they are pretty far apart, and most of them don’t have any place for a traveler to sleep…). Luckily for me, a slow-moving logging truck happened by just before the last set of ascents, and I skitched a ride for most of the next 30 km, arriving into the town just after dark – with legs pretty thoroughly toasted. Today’s ride was just incredible, with climbs and descents along-side massive limestone/karst cliffs and meandering rivers.

One of the best things in Laos has been the kids. In pretty much every little village (and these are generally just a clustering of bamboo and a few masonry buildings huddled along the road) there are anywhere from a few to dozens of the cutest little Lao kids yelling out to me, ‘Sah Bai Dee!’ (Hello) or various english phrases they’ve picked up (Hello! Bye Bye! Thank You! Okay! I love you!) and sometimes running along side and giving me high-fives. Adults show differing degrees of interest, from big smiles to blank stares, and the reaction varies from village to village. In some, I feel like I’ve just won the Tour d’ Lao. It’s pretty incredible. Today as I sat in the shade of a Restaurant sign on my way into this town, trying to figure out where I was going to stay, two little boys came over to check me out. They proceeded to chatter away at me for a good 10-15 minutes, uproarously laughing when I made funny elephant noises and posing for photos. Youthful ambassadors and examples to for us all.

Tomorrow I head further south towards the Mekong again and the Lao capital of Vientienne. I expect more heroes’ welcomes. I also think I’ll probably eat some rice noodles along the way…

I hope all are well and having a peaceful and happy holiday!

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