Asia Pacific 2010 - 2011
Golden and brown leaves falling back home. Migratory birds are leaving. Time to take off for me too. The initial plan was to cycle from Hanoi to Kuala Lumpur, yet it went all different. And good. 6 months on the road, meeting great people, dwelling in great places, sharing great experiences.
- Category: Asia Pacific 2010 - 2011
I met Paul, the Australian cyclist, in the morning at the Indian Restaurant of Xam Nua. Decent Indian breakfast without Glutamates. We decide to go together towards Phongsavan through the mountains. The first night should be in Nam Neun, more than 80 miles away from here. Paul did that road already by bus, and make proper notes about long ascents with landmarks. So he'd know about that first heavy 10 mile uphill from here, and all the following ups and downs and switchbacks. We decide to take a Songthaew for the first 30 miles, a small truck with two rows of seats in the back, the usual local transport for small distances in remote areas. It takes the truck pretty much two hours to climb the steep road up. From there, its another 50 miles of ups and downs in the thick jungle. Cicada noises, barely traffic, small wooden hut settlements every once in a while, and breathtaking views.
No matter how hard we tried, we don't manage to reach Nam Neun before sunset. Hitching with a manic racing guy in the back of a brand new Hilux pickup. Squealing tyres in the switchbacks. The two of us trying to survive, holding the bicycles thight. When our Formula 1 driver sets us of a a junction, there's a final 7 mile steep downhill ride at sunset. What a feeling! Nam Neun is a sort of disappointing prospering junction towns with little comfort and few smiles and phantasie prices for food. No one would speak English. Anyway – it's Fullmoon and we reached our first target.
On the following day we do something similar for the the remaining distance to Phongsavan, riding the last 30 miles of pretty flat in the burning midday sun and reaching Phongsavan more dead than alive...
Phongsavan is famous for the Plain of Jars, that is about 2000 year old jars made of single pieces of sandstone, some as tall as a human. Bomb craters from the secret war the stories of cruel times here, and numberless of the so-called UXOs, undetonated boms of all sizes, are still out everywhere in the rice paddies and woods, causing severe injuries and many deads still nowadays. We'd see them every once in a while a garden fences in the villages, and in Phongsavan we'd watch some documentary movies on them. Phongsavan is a prospering town too, but with a much better feeling, and many guesthouses and restaurants with much better price-quality ratio than those small junction towns we passed by.
Two more days to go towards Vang Vieng, cycling in the morning and hitching small trucks after lunchtime to avoid the burning sun. Breathtaking views again, endless chains of mountains, sea of clouds, stone-age villages with good vibes. Last day – 70 miles left to go towards Vang Vieng. Heavy rain at night and thick mist in the early morning hours. Paul is gonna wait for better weather he says. I'm eager to leave that "prospering" junction town we're at. 13 miles downhill, 2 miles uphill. Coffee break with a cute red cat on my lap. I spot two German trucks on the road. Big "Servus", nice talking, a swim in the public hot spring pond just beside the road. They'd give me a lift, I'm very happy about this since the skin on my bottom has already gone...