Day 190 to 196 – Laos Part 2

Day 190
11th October
Savannakat to Samboun
43 miles

Gary’s diary

We have 150 miles to cycle to the next point and place of interest Pakse so its a matter of winding down the miles. Our first stop was set for 43 miles as that was the first hotel on our map.

The ride was pretty dull in scenery and on a flattish main road which was fairly quiet.

Ginette – we both found the first 10 miles hard going, both mentally and physically but soon settled down into a rhythm

We stopped to take some photos on route including the stick houses with satellite dishes mentioned in our previous update. We also took some photos at a local food market, which included live frogs, eels, lizards, bunnies and birds and dead insects and a wombat. We bought some nuts, a sweet potato (which was purple on the inside and not sweet) and what we thought were baked bananas but turned out to be some type of root vegetable.

As we were nearing our destination we spotted a father with his two sons playing on a homemade wooden bike cart (flint stone style)

Our hotel was fairly basic and had no internet access. We took a stroll down to a local bar/cafe for a beer and a horrible veggie dish which had far too many chillies. We spent the afternoon reminiscing about our when we were kids and how easy it was to play out in the street. Although we see children outside they don’t appear to be playing games like we did.

Day 191
12th October
Samboun to Muang Khongxedon
73 miles

A long day on the same road counting down the miles. It wasn’t too hot high’s 30c so comfortable riding and even so after 50 miles it starts to tell on the body, sore bum, back and aching arms
Ginette – it was a long boring day I tried to break it up with music and podcasts but it seemed to go on and on…

We aimed at Muang as my phone maps showed 2 hotels in town however we could only find one it was fairly cheep at £10 and had limited wifi, this was in the reception area where they were spray painting without masks or any extraction system.
Day 192
13th October
Muang Khongexdon to Pakse

42 miles

Gary we decided to cycle 5 miles before breakfast but this ended up being 20 miles, we really struggled to find anywhere to cook Ginette a veggie dish,even though many places had eggs and rice.

I think I went to sleep too early last night and have overslept, woke feeling tired and a little emotional.

Although it was a shorter day it was still long and boring – I think I may be due another holiday from my holiday. I could do with a week with no bike and no agenda. Don’t get me wrong it is not that I am not enjoying the trip, but sometimes it just feels superficial, we are spectating on other peoples lives and making assumptions about them and we’re not able to change anything or add anything to their lives.

When we do long stretches on the bike everywhere starts to look similar and feel the same. When this happens the risk is that I simply ride and get absorbed in my podcast or music and don’t really take in what is going on around me.

Arrived in Pakse at lunch time and booked into a hotel.

There are more hotels and restaurants in Pakse but the area is still poor but on the up side there is a tourist information with some leaflets, the information is not great but at least it’s some information.

We had lunch in a cafe, we ordered a salad baguette, but when it arrived it was full of meat and a very spicy seafood sauce, I ended up emptying the contents and just eating the bread, I didn’t fair much better with my ice cold black coffee which arrived with cream. Gary enjoyed his and ended up drinking my coffee and the complimentary cold tea.

We faired a little better in the market and managed to restock our sun tan and mosquito lotions, I even managed to get a hair dye.

We spent the rest of the afternoon catching up on IT jobs and had dinner in the on site restaurant.

Day 193
14th October

i had hoped to wake up feeling refreshed but I still felt crap, I hadn’t slept well because the air conditioner kept drying out my blistered lips which meant they would crack and bleed. I also think the anti malaria tablets didn’t agree with me, I had stopped taking them but Gary persuaded me that I should continue with them until we got to Thailand but they made me feel really lethargic, upset my tummy and make me super sensitive to the sun, so I stopped taking them again.

We hired a motorbike for 3 days with the aim of cycling the Bolevan Plateau which included 4 sets of waterfalls. We managed to view 3 lots of them before the rain set in for the afternoon. They were very impressive and we took lots of photos. I felt like I was going through the motions, Gary was brilliant he had enough energy and enthusiasm for the both of us.

All three waterfalls were pretty impressive, I liked the rough round the edges tourist attractions, which came complete with dodgy steep slippery steps and ladders, wooden bridges over water with no hand holds. There was a minimum charge at each waterfall for the bike and us but no more than 40p each

We had checked the price of accommodation at one of the resorts by the waterfall but it was much higher than we had been paying and as I wasn’t feeling myself it seemed silly paying out a lot of money. So we ended up double back to a homestay we had seen earlier in the day it had a shared bathroom, I wasn’t over joyed by the prospect of staying there but it was pouring it down and the lady (homestay owner) was lovely.

The homestay was a bit sparse, dark room and a shared toilet, much to Ginette’s disgust but at 50,000 kips (£4) it was a good deal. There were other resorts by the waterfalls costing approx £20 and we did view one of the rooms but it was musty and didn’t have air conditioning so not much for your money.

We changed and had a beer under the shelter of the building. Two dutch girls arrived shortly afterwards also seeking a dry spot to avoid the rain. They were a real nice couple and we had an enjoyable hour with them. We hadn’t planned on meeting them later in the evening but were pleased to see them, we hadn’t been able to order anything we fancied for dinner in our homestay so had gone down to their resort for food. As we were finishing up they arrived freshly showered and encouraged us to stay for another drink. It was a very relaxed evening and just what I needed.

we were lucky to get a beer at the homestay, the landlady didn’t have any and had to shoot off on her motorbike in the rain to get some.

We ended up sleeping clothed under a mozzie net, we could hear the patter of rodents feet and chewing wood in the corner, it sounded like it was in our room, but I couldn’t see anything when I shone the light so they must have been in the wall or outside the wall. Ginette was great and surprisingly we both slept well.

Day 194
15th October
Padsong back to Pakse

As we were waking we could hear a tannoy outside broadcasting some information, it went on for about 1 hour and was coming from a mobile van. We later heard another (the same?) broadcast in another area of the plateau. There are no newspapers in the rural areas and we suspect this is the way they receive updates about the country as it is a communist country we can’t imagine it would be very impartial.

I woke feeling so much better, my lips were still sore but at least I’d been able to sleep and my tummy felt a lot better.

We continued on the Blaven Plateau, we did the shorter loop because of the weather, we had contemplated doing the longer route but the road was a dirt track and the local ex-pats said not to try the route if it was wet. It was still over 100 miles on the moped and we had sore numb bums and backache.

We visited 2 waterfall sights during the course of the day, I enjoyed both more than the ones the previous day, probably because I was in a better frame of mind. The previous day it felt like we drove up to a waterfall got off the bike, took some photos, made all the right noises and went to the next sight. Whereas for these waterfalls we had to walk part of the way which made the views more rewarding.

We stopped a coffee plantation/cafe on route, it was set in beautiful grounds and so different to everything else we’d experienced in Laos. It was like a posh cafe back home, even the coffee was served well presented.

The Bolevan Plateau had been an enjoyable ride but a little unsettling as there was so much poverty on route lots of families living in very worn, rundown wooden shacks on sticks. However they seemed happy, naked children played in puddles, women and men sat gossiping outside of houses or sleeping in hammocks or on rugs on the floor. There were animals everywhere including cows, goats, pigs, dogs and chicken even in and around the houses.

The experience was not as good on a motorbike, you feel even more secluded from the scene than you do on a push bike but once the locals realised you were a western couple you still got the Saibaidee called and waves.

As we were looking for a hotel in Pakse we bumped into an Australian guy we had seen in Savvankat, he was having a drink with some friends. They pointed us in the general direction for the nearest guest house and once we’d showered and changed invited us to join them for a drink. It was good to have some company but it was clear John was a little drunk, but not in an obnoxious way. His two friends were good company one was an Ozzy guy working in Cambodia and the other was a guy from an island off of Mauritius both had travelled a lot so we had lots of stories to

Just as we were leaving a big flying cockroach bombed my face, although it didn’t hurt it made my tummy turn.

The bugs in South East Asia are huge!

Day 195
16th October

I thought the bloody bike had been nicked, I’d parked it outside the homestay but when we returned from breakfast I noticed it had gone. We checked around the property and on the road but couldn’t see it anywhere. I went into the homestay to ask if anyone had seen it and was relieved when they told me they’d moved it to somewhere safe – Phew!!! If it had been stolen we would have had to replace the bike as you can not get insurance for them when you hire them

We used our final day on the bike to ride up to the Buddha on the hill, I had not expected much but it was an amazing statute and tourist sight. Before we drove up to the sight we walked to a lower statute and Gary nearly walked into a cobweb with a big black and red spider.

Gary – I nearly shit myself, if Ginette hadn’t warned me I would have walked straight into it and it was huge!

It was a long climb around the mountain to get to the Buddha (12% hill) at the top we had a fantastic view of the Mekong. The big buddha was impressive and there were lots of little golden buddhas line up and a temple with a buddha made from green glass. There were also some big drums and large gongs, which I may have had a little play on.

Our final stop for the day was Wat Phoo, this was an interesting historical sight, with a lot of stairs so Gary was happy. The leaflet describing the buildings was interesting rather than making up a story it simply said they didn’t know but ‘it has been said…’ you don’t often find that type of honesty.

On our way to Wat Phoo we rode through an Ancient city but there didn’t appear to be much there

On our way back to Pakse we stopped in a town for a sandwich but could not get anyone to serve us a similar thing had happened in the morning when we wanted a drink. We’re pretty sure it is not a nationality thing, the Laos people are just not business minded and if they’re doing something else including snoozing they simply will not serve you. It is most bizarre.

We managed to stop further out of town at a cafe situated on the Mekong whilst waiting for our dinner we spotted a dragon boat on the water, there was quite a flow on the river so they would have had a good workout.

There are big dragon boat festivals coming up but we will miss these. The dragon boat we saw on the Mekong was narrow and long, the drummer stood in the middle, no helm and the first and last four sats were single seats (Like China) and the rest of the crew sat two abreast. They were doing drills when we watched them so only the front half of the boat was paddling.

Managed to get back to Pakse in one piece and returned the motorbike in exchange for our bicycles and headed back to our hotel.

We really enjoyed being on the bike but we prefer cycling, the pace is naturally slower so rather than seeing lots you see less but have more quality sightings, more time to absorb what is going on. The locals are also friendlier when you’re on the bicycles than when you’re on a motorbike. On the upside on the motorbike we got to cuddle lots isn’t that sweet and it was cheap (£26 to rent the bike for 3 days and approx £8 for a tank of petrol).

Once back at the hotel we washed a few things and found a bar with free wifi to do some further research, unfortunately the wifi was down but we managed to write up our diaries and talk to an English man who was trying to cycle the Mekong without a lot of success. He was hot, sweaty and grumpy not very good company but it was good to talk to him. He left showered and returned to invite us to ride down the Mekong with him to 4000 Islands, we need to see if this fits with our plans but it was a lovely gesture.

Whilst we were waiting for the internet to work a big green flying bug landed on my chest it was like a grasshopper but 10 times the size, seriously yukkkkkk. I think it’s time I changed my perfume..

In the evening we had an Indian meal, we had been really looking forward to it but it wasn’t great perhaps a 5/10 maybe we’ll find a better one in Cambodia.
Day 196
Oct 18th
64 miles

We decided to take Steve up on his offer of travelling down the Mekong in a boat to Champasack. It meant a late start but we had wanted to travel on the Mekong so this was a good opportunity.

We met Steve and the boat at 11.00am, the ride down the river was great, we took lots of photos and Steve was more pleasant than he had been the night before.

Gary negotiated with the driver of the boat to drop us off on the opposite side of the river to Steve so that we could head down towards 4000 islands. Steve had kindly paid for the first half of the trip so we only had to pay £8 for the crossing to the other side.

By the time we got dropped off it had gone 1.00pm so we’d hoped to cover 30 or 40 miles and find a homestay to stop in. Unfortunately we didn’t find anywhere until 7.30pm, it was dark and we were really tired, covered in bugs and hungry and thirsty when we arrived in the first town that offered accommodation and even then the first place was full. There may have been more homestays on route but in the dark we didn’t see any. I hate cycling in the dark, especially in a strange country but the afternoon and dusk ride had been great fun as we passed houses and villages people especially the children ran to shout hello, we could hear them long after we had gone passed. I know we’ve said it before but unless you experience it, it is really hard to express how uplifting this is.

Fortunately once we booked into the hotel we were able to go to the end of the road for some food and drink. I was starving, I’d not eaten much for lunch on account of the fact it was way too spicy and added to this I had an iffy tummy in the afternoon so I had been cycling on empty. As soon as our food arrived I scoffed the lot, Gary looked on in amazement as he still had half a plate of food left.

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