Link to our Laos route here.
Entering Laos from China at Mohan-Boten was remarkably easy. So much so that we doubted we'd actually entered Laos until the people we passed started smiling and chanting Sa-ba-di (hello).
A humid but average-distanced daily ride brought us to the town of Louang Namtha where we were planning to have a rest day. Our minds and bodies needed a rest from the pressures of crossing China, with its restrictions and its sheer size. The first thing to hit us was the number of foreign tourists compared to China, the second thing was a virus. It wiped us out for 10 days. This time was predominantly spent in our guest house room, which, mercifully, had air conditioning and even intermittent wifi. We also took a couple of wobbly and nervous visits to the provincial hospital (which was functional but crusty) for blood tests and a jab. We didn't have malaria or dengue, but the doctor, who was very supportive, couldn't put his finger on what we had. We just had to sit it out with some meds.
Eventually we rolled out of the guest house and, with trepidation, hit the road. Over the next few days, our health slowly improved and every time a packed and sticky looking bus passed us we thought about how privileged we are to be independent; go where we want to go, go when we want.
Laos Part 1 video
I could write about the wonders of touring Laos all day, so I'm going to go with some structure - the alphabet.
A- Amazon (Cafe) a tour cyclist's best friend. Few and far between but like an actual oasis on a hot highway.
B- Beer Lao. National Pride "of the wholehearted people".
C- Chilling the f out. Especially on Don Det.
D- Dogs. Laos changed the way I looked at and felt about them. They are everywhere but here they are no problem for cyclists in this laid back land.
E- Elephants. Endangered and soon to be extinct due to habitat loss and the overworking of females.
F- Falang - 'A person of the white race'. (mainly heard in a kids endearing but clear heckling from the roadside).
G- Gibbons. It was expensive but the Gibbon Experience lived up to our high hopes.
H- Hangry. Sometimes self inflicted as noodle soup for breakfast becomes a bit tiresome. In towns though, food options are good and delicious.
I- Islands. 4000 of them in the south by the border alone. Maximum chilling.
J- Jungle. Cycling through the sounds and smells of it.
K- Kids. Absolutely everywhere. Truly, it seemed that the entire country was populated by friendly roadside toddlers.
Laos Part 2 video
L- Laap. Traditional Lao food. Try it - once.
M- Mekong- this mighty river was like a guide south for us.
N- Noodle soup. The staple for cyclist. Roadside stalls sell it for less than $2 for breakfast lunch and dinner.
O- Open. Visa extension - no problem - 24 hour service. Overstay that- just a couple of US dollars a day.
P- Privileged. To be independent. (See main body of this blog.)
Q- Quality. Not the cheapest country in south east Asia but you get fresh ingredients, welcoming hosts and the tourism industry is not as brash as it is in other countries in the region.
R- River dolphins. Funny looking things. Clever, I imagine.
S- Singletracks. Loaded or not - flowing through turns on your bikes through rural scenes is one of life's true pleasures.
T - Tree House life in the jungle canopy.
U- Un'western'. A rather tenuous link to this letter but Laos has maintained its own culture rather than adopting big brand western ideology.
V- Variety. The hilly north, the plains and plateaus of the south.
W- Waterfalls, Wats & Water buffalo aplenty.
X- UXO's. Unexploded Ordnance. Mainly land mines. Another sick and twisted ingredient of war.
Y- Yes - we would visit again. It has something for everyone.
Z - Zip lining through the jungle canopy (see letter G - office in Huayxai )
A new adventure in Cambodia has begun!
Link to our Laos route here.