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
Running short of remaining visa days and eager to spend a few lazy days in Southern Laos, I leave Vang Vieng by local bus for Vientiane, with my bicycle mounted to the roof of the old roaring bus. Just do a quick 7 mile ride on the bike through the kind of exploding, prospering Vietntiane City to the Souther Bus terminal, and luckily there's a VIP bus waiting already to bring me to Thakek. A long day on busses, yet quite pleasant after all. Aircon not to fierce, not rip-offs – perfect.
Thakek is, according to Lonely Planet, a nice town on the Mekong with lots of caves and a remarkable National park neighboring it. I arrive after sunset, find me a little appealing place to stay for the same price as my hotel in Vang Vieng. I decide to skip the marvelous caves and limestone rocks and cycle towards Xeno instead, 65 miles down towards Pakse. Flat area, a long straight road without shadow, and only a few trucks and cars passing by while I'm sweating in the burning sun, fighting the headwinds and my laziness. When the legs refuse the pedaling, I hitch and a Thai pickup gives me a lift for the last 10 miles to Xeno. A bus bound for Pakse is supposed to leave there at 6PM. 130 miles to go - I might be there by 10 PM I hope. Spend a beautiful sunset with Tai Chi, and with some small kids eager to imitate. Good vibes in this town. The bus arrives and departs in time, yet takes a different road at the junction. Al right, detour via Savanaketh. It comes worse then, as the bus stops every once in a while for no obvious reason. Enough cigarette breaks anyway. When I wake up at 4, everyone is sleeping in the bus that is just parked at a gas station. A little later, the engine starts and we arrive in Pakse at dawn. That is, we spent the night just half an hour away from the destination...
In a guided tour with two Dutch travelers, an English lady and a Swiss I get to visit the Bolovan plateau some 2 miles east of Pakse. Hiking through its Coffee plantations, its rocky pine forests and waterfalls below in the jungle. Swimming in the electrifying and cold water of the ponds underneath the first fall, having a gorgeous picnic on the rocky riverbank of one of the rivers on top of a second waterfall with the best Lao food I've had so far. Wading across rivers, climbing up and down rather invisible trails. Sunset, a marvelous red glowing sky. What was supposed to be an easy hike for a few hours turned into quite a challenge now. Luckily, everyone has a torch. Still a good hour to sneak through the jungle. Leeches on the legs, snakes in the trees. Me (stupid as usual) in Flipflops. Guides seem to be confused and lead us around in big circles as it appears. Everyone is happy when we reach the village with the Songtheaw to bring us back to Pakse.
Next station is Champasak, an easy half days ride away from Pakse down the Mekong. Champasak is known for its ancient Wat Phu Khmer settlement and temple ruins that are certainly worth stopping over for a day on the way down to the 4000 Islands. It's a rather small town stretching along the quiet main road with a few neat resorts on the Mekong, a perfect place to chill-out.
By chance, I met a few girls that share the same idea – going down the Mekong by boat. For 20 USD each we get a 7 hours boat ride to Don Det in a decent Longtail boats with sunroof, curtains and rattan chairs. The river flows. Terrace plantations, small wooden huts and great trees with eroded roots on the sandy riverbanks. Sarah’s Ukulele plays “The ring of fire”, and makes me stay on the island for 10 splendid and peaceful days. Wonderful sunrises and sunsets, followed by moonset and shooting stars. Dreams become true...