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Laos Daily Journal
Travel Writing, Blog, Travelogue
Boten, Laos to
(December 25, 2005 - January 23, 2006)
||Mohan, China - Na Maw, Laos 590 m (1935 feet) We decided to
leave China on Christmas day, since they do not celebrate Christmas
(officially) here in China everything was open. I had read in Lonely Planet that
there was a bank in Boten, Laos a border town.
Well we arrived in Boten and I asked where the bank was and was told by
three different people that there was no bank in town and we would have
to go to some other town 50 K away. Ut oh, I had made a slight
mistake in not getting any kip from the money changers in China. I
also planned to get some lunch in Boten and I did not see anything but a
small store open. Hmm. We had no choice but to ride on.
Luckily, I always carry food with me so I snacked some before heading
We rode the 18 km on dirt and it was a pleasant ride because the
roads were dry. If the road was wet like it was for Wayne and
Kristina it would have been a nightmare. Fifteen kilometers into
Laos Tim broke his chain, our bikes are getting worn out and upgrades
are needed soon. Tim fixed the chain and on we went. While
he was fixing the chain these boys stopped to watch.
These boys are going fishing for dinner. They stopped to watch Tim fix
his broken chain.
We arrived in Nateui and still could not find a bank. As we
were getting ready to stop and eat lunch we saw a foreign couple across
the street. We sat and ate lunch with them and lucky for us they
exchanged $10 for 20,000 kip. We now had money to eat lunch and find a
room. As we entered Laos we rode through many small villages.
These villages were primitive with grass thatched homes on stilts and
community wells. However, the people were a joy to met, especially the
children. The children would run up to the side of the road just
to wave and say hello. All day we said "sabajdee" hello in Lao. We rode
to Na Maw a small village with at least 4 guesthouses 4 basic
guesthouses. We took a room on a back street for 20,000 kip ($2).
We had a large bed with a mosquito net and the toilet was just down the
hall. Basic but clean. We went to bed just after dark, we
were both tired, it is stressful crossing an international border.
The ride - 3 k from Mohan to the Laos border check. The
first 18 k were dirt, then pavement started in the town of Nateui ( I
think that is the name) where hwy 3 goes towards Muang Sing. It was a
pleasant ride to Mag Naw.
||Mag Naw - Oudomxai 640 m (2100 feet) We woke to rain
this morning and were not sure if we would ride or not. We sat and
had our coffee and watched the village go by.
Photo of women walking through a market area in Laos.
We waited out the rain and left late, well we forgot we had a time
change and it was actually an hour earlier. We left after a bowl
of noodles. It was cloudy at first but not 5 km down the road it started
to rain. It rained and we decided to ride on. We continued
to climb with thick jungle all around us. It was humid and cool.
We again started to ride through small little villages and all the
locals greeted us with waves and hellos. We were riding through a
small village and suddenly a rock went flying by my head and then Tim
was hit in the hip by a rock. Lucky for Tim it did not hit hard.
He turned around to find the culprits and we heard little boys running
through the bushes. I guess they could not resist shooting at a
couple of foreigners on bikes. Lucky for me their aim was a little
off. I now keep my eye out for little boys with slingshots. That is when
I noticed they all had one. The people in these villages are
hunters and gatherers. They eat whatever they can catch. We
also saw a new house going up in the village.
The women are bringing the thatched grass roof pieces to the men who are
building a new home.
The ride - it was 20 k to the first pass at 1080 m (3554 feet) then
we rode along ridges through small villages and then down to a valley
that led to Oudomxai. The valley had larger villages and more
|Dec 27 - 29
||Oudomxai. While we were in Mengla China we met a
Malaysian man who had a brother in Oudomxai who ran a wood carving
factory. We decided to contact Mr. Yan Ko Kee and take a look at their
factory. When we called Mr. Yan Kok Kee he invited us over for dinner and a look at the
factory. Dinner was fantastic, a mix of Lao and Malaysian food.
The next day we met him in the morning and took a tour of the saw mill. We also met
Eric a photographer from Austria, he toured the facilities as well.
The mill is only a year old but it employs 25 Chinese and 75 Lao.
In addition to wood carvings wood veneer flooring and
wicker furniture are made at the factory. It addition they have an earthworm farm, fish
farm, pig farm and vegetable garden. The earthworms are protein
that is mixed with banana pulp used to feed the pigs and made into
pellets for fish food. I was really impressed at the use of local
resources, nothing is wasted. I was happy to see that they were
employing locals and lifting them out of poverty. They also had a
tea farm, more saw mills, hotels and resorts in Laos. They are certainly
making changes in Laos.
We met Eddie at a local restaurant he also
happens to be staying in our hotel. Eddie is an agricultural
marketing specialist another words he helps farmers find places to sell their products.
||Oudomxai - Pak Mong. We were up early and had
breakfast with Eddie before we headed out of town. I could have
chatted with Eddie for a long time. He had a lot of insight into
the way things are done in Laos. For example, if a farmer in Oudamaxi
wanted to sell their water buffalo in Luang Phrabang, he would have to
get permission and fill out many different forms. Another words, it is
not economically possible. The farmer is stuck selling his goods
where he lives.
We knew that we had a long day so we tried to keep
moving. Traffic was light and the scenery beautiful. I was
settling into riding up hill when I came around a corner and saw two men
hunting with sling shots. The difference here was that they were
army personal and they had their guns with them. They were AK-47s. It
startled me a bit and Tim had to come me down as I continued up the
road. He said, "They are here to protect us," Oh ok, yeah I might
believe that. Honestly, his explanation did not make me feel
I continued to ride and tried to forget about the guns, it was easy
because I had all kinds of distractions. It became obvious that it
was a game for the kids in the village to run over to the side of the
road and yell, Sa Bai Dee, hello in Lao. Some of these kids have
barely any clothes on or none at all. At times they were singing
to us. I could not help but enjoy all the attention and ride
slowly through the villages to wave at all the kids. My arm has never
been so sore. We kept moving knowing that we had a couple of
climbs and then a nice downhill into town. We arrived in Pak Mong
just before dark, it took us over 6 hours to peddle the 82 km.
When we arrived we immediately met Marcel a Swiss cyclist. He had
started in Oudamaxi in the morning and it had taken 4.5 hours to ride to
Pak Mong. Whoa, he was moving. We stayed in the guesthouse on the
corner of hwy 13 and the cost was 40,000 ($4). I was very impressed and
tired at the same time. He asked if we wanted to ride with him to
Luang Phrabang but we declined, he wanted to ride the 110 km in one day
and we were planning to stop after 81 km at the Vico resort near the Nam
Cindie pushing a grinding wheel, notice the pig under it looking for
One interesting note: I ordered a diet coke, I haven't seen a diet
coke in months. So I was excited to have one, well, it was terrible.
It was a fake, a fake diet coke, what is this world coming to. I
thought I left all the fake products behind in China but no they
followed me here. A sad day indeed.
The ride - 6 km to the beginning of the climb. It was cloudy
until about 10:30 am. Then it was warm. We reached the first pass
at 24 k at 1180 m (3870 feet). We rode into a valley with a base
of 815 m (2673 feet) then back up to the second pass at 1275 m (4182
feet) at 53 km. Then a 29 km mostly downhill (and steep in places)
to Pak Mong at an elevation of 370 m (1214 feet).
Ascend 1340 (4395 feet) Descend 1575 m (5166 feet)
||Pak Mong - Pac Ou Resort We knew that the day
would be a bit easier and it was. We passed through many villages
and began to see agricultural farming experiments. The locals also
weave their own clothes here and we saw many looms with women working
away in the shade. Thanks to Mark and Ju and Wayne and Kristina we
easily found the Vico Resort and got a bungalow for 50,000 kip ($5).
Ascend 555 (1820 feet) Descend 595 m (1952 feet)
|Jan. 1- 6, 2006
||Resort - Luang Phrabang. A short day. The
women are wearing their best today. The local villages are so fun
to ride through with all the screaming kids, sabaydee, and friendly
adults. They are poor but very friendly. Everyone is
celebrating new year. I was glad the ride went quickly. When
I arrived in Luang Phrabang I immediately started looking for a room.
I went to 6 or 7 guesthouses before I found an open room. I looked a 5
or 6 room ranging in price for $10 - 18 dollars a night. I decided
to go back to get Tim at a cafe and headed back in that direction.
When I came around the corner I checked one more guesthouse. The
family was having a celebration out front and a Swiss couple were having
a beer with them. The guest house was brand new and only open a
couple of days. I had a beer and chatted for a while. I went
back to get Tim and we came back and checked into a room for $15.
Later that evening we met up with the Swiss couple and their friend Alex
and went for a cruise on the Mekong. It was nice to get a look at Laos
from the water.
The ride - flatish, traffic picked up the closer we
got to Luang Phrabang.
||Luang Phrabang. Luang Phrabang is a nice city to
relax, meet other foreign tourists, eat western food, and visit the may
Wats in town. We met Goga, Alex and Alex from Switzerland and
Germany while looking for a hotel room. They were great fun to
visit with. I do not meet many women during our travels so it was
nice to sit and talk with Goga. I was sad to see them go.
They were heading to Vietnam. We have been emailing with
Elaine and Rachel from Scotland and England. We met them in China
6 months ago. We never see the same travelers again because we
travel so slow so we were lucky to met up with these two again.
They are heading to a small village north of Luang Phrabang to do some
volunteer work. An American guy (I think) is starting a textile
factory there where the young girls can earn a wage. It seems that
the area has a big problem with child trafficking. The young girls
from rural areas are sold to whom ever wants them, the family is usually
told for a job somewhere. But the girls leave never to be seen
again. Sad but true. I am interested to hear how things turn
out for this venture.
||Luang Phrabang - Xiang Ngeun. We had a late start
this morning because 4 of our AA rechargeable batteries came up missing,
they are expensive and hard to find here. We told the hotel that
they were missing and the first thing they
said to us was that they did not know how to use batteries. Geez
and lying to us too. Many locals in this city walk around with MP3
players, flashlights, and cameras. All these things use AA
batteries. We did not get much farther than that, we gave them an
opportunity to give them back but the batteries never showed up.
So we left town feeling ripped off and sad to start the day on such a
bad note. In addition to our batteries missing another couple had
a shirt bleached and ruined. The staff basically said that it was
impossible that they did that and the shirt came that way. The
funny thing was nothing else was bleached. So it was problems all
around. I do not think the other couple got compensated for this.
Ah well was the attitude. The employees of the guesthouse did not say
it but certainly implied that they could buy another shirt and we could
buy more batteries. Nothing like feeling like a walking money bag.
To compound the misery Tim had a flat on his rear wheel.
ride was short but we did meet one Swiss cyclist. He had a Rohloff
hub on his bike, the first I have seen. An internally geared hub
with 14 gear options. The hub is enclosed in the back and only one
chain ring in the front. We stopped in
the shade and chatted about the road ahead. He was an interesting
guy and would have been fun to chat with for a while. After we
left Tim declared it was Swiss month because we have met 5 Swiss in the
last week. All great fun. We rode to the town of Xiang Ngeun and stayed
at the Kanty Guesthouse for 30,000 K ($3) for the night. We had a
large bed with a mosquito net, a shower room and a clean squat toilet.
||Xiang Ngeun - Kiou Ka Cham. Neither one of us got
a very good night's sleep. There were mice running around the
ceiling. I feared they would come and chew holes in our bags. They
didn't. The market next door started early and we did too.
It was my turn to get a flat, I had a flat on my front tire. Our
tires are getting old. Tim fixed the flat and we were on the road.
We have the maps from Lonely Planet Cycling Laos so we knew our profile
for the day. It was going to be an all day climb. We did not
want to camp so we pushed on. We rode through a few villages, they
are all harvesting a type of flour and the entire village is out beating
the long grass on the ground. This throws all kinds of pollen into the
air. The first climb we quick, at the top we met an American
Cyclist who had been on the road for three years. He was heading
to Luang Phrabang we stopped and chatted for a bit before we moved on.
We have seen more cyclists in the last two days then our entire time in
China. We are on the beaten track. Nice.
We arrived in Kiou Ka
Cham early enough to find a room and take a shower. The best
guesthouse is the first one, and it costs 40,000 kip ($4). Prices
have gone up. The shower was hot, they gave me a five gallon
bucket half full of boiling hot water and I mixed cold water with it.
It was wonderful to get the sweat off. We sat down and ordered
dinner. As we were waiting for our dinner another cyclist, Andy
from London, England, showed up just before dark. He joined us for
dinner. Turns out he is going the same direction so we decided to
ride together. That evening the Karaoke started around 7 pm I
thought that it would end early but it blared on until 2 in the morning.
I barely got any sleep even with my ear plugs in.
The ride - first climb is about 700 m and the second climb is about
1000 m. Check lonely planet guide for details. For those in
Arizona, the elevation change is like riding from Tucson to Mt. Lemon or
Camp Verde to Snow Bowl.
Ascend 1805 (5920 feet) Descend 755 m (2476 feet)
||Kiou Ka Cham - Muang Phu Khun. We left a little
late but we figured we had plenty of time. We took our time
traveling through each village. Tim took video of Andy and I riding
through villages. He held the camera while he was riding. Amazing
The kids are all very friendly, they run out to the
street yelling sabaydee and waving. (A couple kids almost ran in front
of Tim while he was filming). When I think of Laos I will always
remember this little guy and his genuine greeting.
Smiling and waving Hmong child greets us in the mountains of Laos.
We arrived in Muang Phu Khun just before dark, opps.
I looked at both guesthouses and they were both dumpy. So I chose
the one where the other cyclists were staying. The cost was 40,000
($4) way to much for a small room and dirty sheets. We had dinner
next door and the sweet old lady who made us soup changed the prices on
us. This has happen many times now, I think the influx of tourists
have changed the way things are done. We met Jacob from Santa Fe,
New Mexico and Michel from Holland. They road from Vietnam on
route 7. Jacob was heading south and Michel was heading north. It
was quite a shock to me that Jacob left his bike and all his belongs
down stairs unlocked. Someday he will get the shock of his life
when everything is gone. I do have to give him a lot of credit for
going out on his own at the age of 19. I always enjoy meeting
Americans on the road.
It was a noisy night again, am I ever going to get some
The ride - ops, I forgot to turn on the log book today. I estimate
from the lonely planet profile that we climbed 800 m (2624 feet) and
descended 800 m.
||Muang Phu Khun - Kasi. We were up and according
to our profile from lonely planet, it was down hill for 44 k. Well we
had to climb a little at first. We all started down the hill,
traffic was light. However, we did come to a slow moving truck.
Jacob and Tim were up ahead. Tim waited and then went around the
truck on a curve. I then rode up to Jacob and was getting ready to
pass as well. He said Wait Wait let the car go first, I thought no
way the car is slower than me on these turns. So I went, then Andy went
then Jacob. Jacob was quite upset with Tim's reckless maneuver and
asked me if he always rode like that. I told him that Tim knows
how to ride, he has been doing this for years, and I don't tell Tim how
to ride his bike. I guess he went up to Tim and gave him a lecture
on reckless riding. Now Tim, you are never going to live down the
fact that you got a lecture from a 19-year old about how you ride. Tim
was beaming, I guess he was happy that a 19-year old considers him
fearless, he told me, "I still got it".
We were half way to Kasi when Andy got a flat. We were climbing
up a steep hill and he said, go ahead, I will catch up. 20 k
later, we are in Kasi, with no Andy. Jacob had gone ahead and we
found him in Kasi but he left because he wanted to get to Vang Vieng.
We waited for Andy. After we had all eaten it was getting late. We
decided to stay the night. I was tired and the thought of another
60 k was more than I could do. We stayed in the guesthouse next
door. It was nice enough again 40000 K ($4). The Karaoke
started about 8 pm and lasted until 2 pm. It was so loud I could
feel the base go right though me. Ear plugs did not work either.
Will I ever get some sleep.
The ride - I would not like to do this section in the other
direction. Long long climbs with some steep sections. For us, we
zipped down the other side and came to a rather long climb, the profile
was not very accurate. We met a German cyclist today. He was
heading up the hill at 1 pm I hope he makes it to town.
Ascend 430 (1410 feet) Descend
1330 m (4362 feet)
||Kasi - Vang Vieng. Ah a flat section, it was nice
to be on the flats again. The bad part was the wind was in our
face. We thought we would have a tailwind through here. The
wind slowed us down a bit. Also, we can only find noodle for food.
The noodles do not stay with us too long. We have to eat many
bowls to get filled up.
We rode into Vang Vieng and it does not seem to be as bad as the
lonely planet makes it out. We looked at a couple of rooms and
settled on a guest house for 40000 kip, ($4). We had a hot shower,
private bath and clean sheets. I knew the hotels in the mountains
|Jan 11 - 18
||Vang Vieng. Break time it wasn't all fun, I had to
estimate our taxes, Yuck. We did go tubing on the river one day.
It was fun and quite the party. All along the river bars are set
up to have a beer and a snack and ropes to swing into the river got more
elaborate as we floated down river. The river was clean enough
until we reached Vang Vieng itself, then it started to feel slimy.
Vang Vieng also has a strange phenomena that some people find annoying.
There are at least four bars that show the sitcom Friends none
stop. The restaurants provide a place to lounge and eat. The
places are packed with people from all over the world, not just
Americans, watching TV. I do not really care much but some people
get really upset about the whole thing.
||Vang Vieng - Thalat. We rode from one village to
the next and took our first break at 50 km. We met Harry a Dutch
cyclist along the way. I needed to stop and eat and he wanted to
stop in a town up ahead. We played leap frog the rest of the day.
the ride - We rode down highway 13 to Phonghong then turned left.
This road is not marked, then it was about 7 km to an intersection where
we turned left and then another 7 km or so to the town of Thalat. There
are a number of guesthouses, we stayed at a bungalow at the bottom of a
hill but we saw a nice one after the bridge the next day. The ride
is not as flat as the Lonely Planet Cycling guide shows. We
rolled up and down small hills for about 75 km and then it flatten out.
We had a tailwind for most of the day. The temperature definitely
went up today. I did not realize the sun was so strong and I
developed some blisters on my thighs. Time to cover up again.
||Thalat - Vientiane. We started earlier today
because of the increasing heat. The towns were spread out more.
People are more prosperous in this part of Laos, the houses are nicer
and they have electricity. Around 1pm we saw three bikes on the
side of the road and stopped to meet the riders. We met Denise,
Jennifer, and Fiona, all from Australia. They all were wearing
long sleeves and long bike shorts. They said that they have to
cover up from the sun in Australia. They were great fun to meet.
They planned to stop at a guesthouse along the way. We later saw
them at our guesthouse in Vientiane, they had ridden the entire way in
because they didn't find a guesthouse. What a long ride.
ride - We rode through Thalat and turned left on over the bridge.
We had a hard time finding the right turn heading south but finally
found it about 2.5 k from the bridge. Turn right at the sign for
zoo, then we climbed a very steep hill, the biggest of the day.
After the town of Ban Keun the road was flat and we had a tail wind.
13 km from Vientiane the road widen to a four lane highway with a bike
lane. Yeah. Vientiane was not too bad to ride into, quiet for a
|Jan 21 - 22
||Vientiane. We went to Australian embassy to start
our visa application. I was told to go to their web site. The web
site to apply for an Australian Visa is
www.immigration.gov.au Ah the
age of technology. While in Vientiane we did a walking tour of the
Wats (Buddhist temples) in town. We arrived a Wat just before
lunch time and it appeared that a party was going on. They were having a
festival and a monk invited us to have lunch with them. We had noodle
soup with a peanut sauce and chili peppers. Delicious. The
lunch was free however, we made a donation. We practiced English
with a few monks, it was a pleasant afternoon. Vientiane is an
interesting capital city. It has a French influence in
architecture and food yet the streets are dusty and the sidewalks have
gaping holes that could swallow a person. Still it has a charm to it.
Tim said he would take me out to a French dinner for some fine dining.
I picked Cote d'Azur down on the Mekong river. We ordered salad, beef steak
and an eggplant dish. The food was fantastic and the price
extremely reasonable at $17 for the entire dinner. I was thrilled to
have a fresh salad, something I have not had for over a year.
Sometimes the simplest pleasures in life are the best.
||Vientiane, Laos - Nong Khai, Thailand. Our 30-day
tourist Visa expired today so we have to go to Thailand. We
received an email yesterday from Ed and Gaye, an Australian couple who
started their bike tour in London. Their web site is
happened to find our web site while in China. We met them for
breakfast. They are riding through Laos to Vietnam, then Cambodia,
and on to Thailand. I predict that we will met them again in
We got our exit stamp from Laos and rode over the bridge, we thought
that we had to pay a toll of 5,000 kip (50 cents) each but they waved us
through. We have heard of other cyclists who have paid a toll,
very confusing. What was more confusing was switching to riding on
the left side. We will be riding on the left for at least the next
year. On the Thai side we filled out our paperwork and were
stamped with 60 days. Nong Khai is located about 2 km from the border
check. I was happy to see a clean organized city, however I felt
very disorientated because I was riding on the left. At one
intersection I got very confused because I saw traffic coming towards
me, as if it was a one way, I turned at the intersection and found
myself on the right side of the road. Opps. Luckily traffic was moving
slow. I quickly rode to the left side of the road. Our
friend Andy from Britain happened to witnessed the whole scene, how
embarrassing. I can not wait to get off the bike. We went to
the guest house Mut Mee but it was full. The Australian women we met on
the road to Vientiane were there and we met them for dinner. We
have been in Asia 13 months and have not met any cyclists on the road
except for Vince and Jessie in Chengdu. When we arrived in Laos we
immediately began meeting cyclists from all over the world. In
addition to the wonderful people of Laos we have thoroughly
enjoyed meeting cyclists. The guest house Ruan Thai, located along
the Mekong river was recommend and we like the guesthouse. The
rooms range from 100 - 400 baht. ($2.56 - 10.20)
The ride - From our hotel we went to the Mekong river and turned
left, at the first intersection we turned right. A few more
kilometers down the road we came to an intersection with a watch tower.
Turn left. Then we saw signs directing us to the Friendship
Bridge. The entrance to the bridge is through an archway on the
left, the bridge is about 21 km from Vientiane.
SE Asia / China
11-22-04 to 9-15-06
December 16- January 16, 2005
Cambodia and Angkor Wat
Poipet to Tien Bien, Cambodia
Best Place to see Pictures
Cambodia Thumbnail Pictures
(January 16 - February 17 , 2005)
Tinh Bien to Cau Ganh, Vietnam
Tim's Emailed Newsletters
Best Place to see Pictures
South Vietnam Thumbnails
May 22 - June 27, 2005
Guizhou and Hunan,
Zhangjiajie National Park China
Best Place to see Pictures
Pictures of Guizhou, China.
(July 16 - Sept. 3, 2005)
Inner Mongolia and Shanxi, China.
Beijing to Xian, Shaanxi, China
Best Place to see Pictures
Thumbnail pictures from Inner
Full size Picture
Beijing to Jining, Inner Mongolia.
Grasslands of Jining, to Wuchuan (near) Hohhot
to Bautou, Inner Mongolia, China
Bautou to Yulin, Shanxi, China with Photos from Genghis Khan's Mausoleum.
- Yulin to
Yanan, Shaanxi, China
Chairman Mao's Headquarters and Residence in Yanan, China.
- Yanan to
Xian, Shaanxi, China.
Terracotta Warriors #1
Terracotta Warriors #2.
(Sept. 4 - Oct. 29, 2005)
Chengdu, to Zongdian, China
Best Place to see Pictures
Sichuan Thumbnail Photos
Full size Picture
- Giant Panda
Breeding Center #1
- Red Panda
in Chengdu, Sichuan, China #2
Chengdu to Kangding.
Sichuan, located in Southwestern China.
Mugecuo Lake near Kangding, Sichuan, China.
Xinduqiao to Tibetan Home Stay.
Home Stay to 4718 meter (15,475 feet)
Litang, Sichuan, China.
Litang Lamasary Tibetan Buddhist Monk Monastery
to Sumdo, Tibet
- Sumdo to
Xiangcheng to Derong, Tibet.
Sichuan Province to Tibetan Shangri-La, (Zongdian)
(Oct. 30 - Dec. 24, 2005)
Zongdian to Mohan, China
Best Place to see Pictures
Yunnan thumbnail photos
(July - Sept. 15, 2006)
Malaysia #3 and Singapore.
Taiping, Malaysia to
Best Place to see Pictures
Malaysia #3 and Singapore
Tips & Advice
Tools and Spares
Pots and Pans
Preventing Flat Tires
Bike Touring Shorts
Have Learned On The Road
Injustice of Poverty
Much MORE Gear Here!
Cycle Touring Racks
Tents and ground