Wednesday, 1 August 2018


It was no surprise to me that there were hills. I had been over this Northern Laos route a number of times, but only once before had I cycled the section over the biggest mountains, and that was a good 8 years ago! Lots of rain, sometimes rather cold at the high points. However, plenty of spectacular scenery.
This was the height of the rice-planting season, and I stopped to watch the workers on many occasions. By planting the previously sowed rice gleaned from the seed-beds, the eventual crop is multiplied many-fold. These people work hard in rain and hot humid conditions. But rice is their life.
And eventually, when I had reached the Laos Capital Vientiane, I managed to buy a 2-month Thailand visa without any hassle or fuss (so why did they give me so much trouble in Malaysia?). A sleep in a bed for 2 nights, proper laundry done, and hot showers - what luxury!
Rubber, freshly harvested from the bowls attached to the trees for trapping the rubber sap. This is an important lifeline for the mountain villages in Northern Laos. (Yes, there are tycoons raking in the money, but it provides a living for many of these isolated communities).
Then the well-known route through Laos to the South. Pakse city, and then West to the Thailand border. I crossed the border a day before my Laos visa expired. I was not in a healthy state. I had diarrhoea for a few weeks by this time, and I had festering sores all over myself. It felt as though I would rather hide myself instead of stopping at petrol station toilets where people could see me. I also felt somewhat embarrassed asking to stay at temples when it must have looked as though I was transmitting the "plague".
By the time I arrived in Pakse city, Southern Laos, the constant heavy rain had caused some serious flooding. By this time a dam further South had broken, causing disaster in that isolated region of Cambodia downstream along the Mekong river. The Watt in Pakse where I had stayed before (in the common area of this wooden stilted building) was now hardly clear of the water. Previously there had been a storage area with a paved walkway further down along the river. The big wooden river boat moored there was now at a level with the building, and the novice monks were rowing their boat around where people had previously been strolling around.
Daily distances cycled through Laos at this time are as follows:- Ban Don Chai 72 km; Vieng Phouka 58 km; Luang Namtha 58 km; Namo 66 km; Oudomxai 60 km; Pak Mong 82 km; Ban Pathung 75 km; Xieng Ngeun 55 km; Phoudam 54 km; Phachao 84 km; Vang Vieng 78 km; Phonhong 80 km; Houayang 59 km; Vientiane 35 km; Friendship Bridge 28 km; Somsavan 32 km; Ban Namlo 85 km; Pakxan 39 km; Vieng Kham 91 km; Hinboon 79 km; Ban Thung 65 km; Seno 65 km; Pakxong 63 km; Phounsavang 49 km; Don Muang 66 km; Pakse 70 km; Ban Dou 37 km; Chong Mek (Laos/Thai border) 20 km. (Total this leg in Laos is 1 705 km). Total cycled so far is 162 897 km.
So, there is some sort of legacy related to staying at Budhist Temples as often as I do. The strings tied to my wrists I received from monks praying for my safe travels (one in the South of Thailand, and one in Northern Laos).

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