Monday, 20 June 2011

Week 33 Mengla to Huay Xai/Chiang Kong 238kms cycled

Highlights: Riding through quiet countryside
Low blows: None
Music of the week:  Cabin Fever – Les Voleurs

Very Lazy day. Did laundry. Internet and movies all day. Napped a bit. Only went out for food and to find out about tomorrows bus.
Mengla to Udomxai to border by bus then 96kms cycled
Woman at bus station trying to play games with me. Yesterday Id confirmed there was a bus at 8:30, but on arrival she told me no bus at this time, must wait till 10am. I spoke with her a bit, she had pointed to next ticket booth so I went to her to get a ticket for the 10am bus. She had heard what we were talking about so I just asked for a ticket for Mengla and pointed at other woman. She printed me a ticket – it was for a bus at 8:30! Very odd. Went into carpark and there it was with only 4 passengers so god knows why the other woman was being difficult. Not only that there was a bus going to LuangPrabang too, which I could’ve got on. Put bike on backseat of bus (driver seemed to think this easier than just chucking it on the roof rack), so lucky bus not full. Paid 10Y for bike after a bit of cajoling.
Glad I bussed this part of trip. Hopped off at border, through control once passport people had decided all was in order (think it was a new bloke), had to open bag for a traffic guard and then into Laos. Bit of a queue at passport control but at tail end so through fairly quick.
Cycling through Laos by 10:30 – hurrah!!  Stopped off for Foe at junction 20km up road. Then carried on road winding along through green hills on the brand new tarmaced road. Had this great road for about 60kms then caught up with unfinished bit, but at least theyd put on the base layer so it was fine riding. Went through a lot of poor looking villages but all kids friendly, waving and saying bye bye. Countryside looking very green now rains started. Had a snack of bananas and ovaltine in a market on way. Not that much traffic, took the buses Id passed at border ages for them to come past me – 3 hours. Heavy downpour in afternoon just as I was due for a break so found a large tree to duck under while it came down for 15mins then stopped. Sludged up section on top of a hill through village but ok after that.  The new road really makes the countryside look more beautiful, possibly cos youre gliding through it so can concentrate on that rather than thinking about potholes on the knackered road.
Getting tired by end of ride. Arrived UdomXai 5:30. Got room in same place as before 60K. Had fried rice for dinner and a few beers.
Goodbye China! Wont be sorry to see the back of these stinkers

To the Laos border

Bike on the bus

Back in Laos. All this used to be forest

Udomxai to  Muang Houn       91kms cycled
The resto in Udom that does baguettes, fried eggs and coffee for bf was closed, so after a search looking for another ended up with fried rice with an egg on top. Changed some money in the bank (Laos banks are almost like real banks now in looks and service). Set off by 10. Soon out of town following winding road through countryside, corn, rice and a few small rubber plantations. Passing poor looking villages, wooden houses, pigs, chickens, dogs all kids rushing out to wave bye bye. Road eventually alongside river and valley gradually widened the further I went downstream, the road alongside the rivers meanders. Some rain showers so stopped off and sat it out under a tree for 20 mins. Arrived at Muang Beng at 2 ish, glad to rest my sore bum and get a bowl of Foe down as feeling tired. Heat and humidity sapping my energy. Had 2 bottles red bull pepping me up for remaining 27km of ride. Hot and sunny now. Playing tortoise and hare with a tok tok laden with motorbike, strimmer and other stuff including a young lad passenger. He’d pass me on the uphills and Id whizz by on the downhills, helped make the journey more entertaining. Lovely scenery and quiet road all the way.
Arrived at Houn village 5 ish. Had a scout around the best hotel being ironically a Chinese one in the centre of town, had tried one further up road but room dingy and mattress terrible. Chinese one decked out in Chinese standard so ok, bathroom plumbed to Laos specifications complete with comedy sink and things that don’t work properly. Did laundry then in search of food. A real one horse town, a few places to eat but they were closing up and food on mkt stalls looked un appetizing, weird looking meats and pots of odd veg with things on it and sauce. No ta. Ended up a km up hill, ordered mixed veg with chicken and thought Id get a fair pile as 25K but only avg serving with usual hacked up bones.

Tiny tiny grasshopper crossing the road, (the road chippings give you an idea of its size)

Muang Houn to Pak Beng       51kms cycled
Had fresh pinapple and bananas in market for bf. Rolling rollercoaster road all way to Pak Beng, through cornfields across wide valley. Lots of villages along way and everyone saying hello. Chain slipping making the ride a real pain in the arse as cant get any momentum up hill. Had a rest in a field side thatch shelter. The heat takes it out of you too. Overcast most of way, sun popping out near midday. Didn’t bother putting cream on as nearly there but when I arrived realized my forehead, nose and arms were rather red. Surprising my skin will burn after all this time here. A lot of broken glass in road near PakBeng. Ate lunch in place overlooking river, first place I walked into they sat around TV looking disinterested and didn’t even say hello so spent my money further down hill in a friendlier place instead. Got room near river for 65K after haggling. Very hot. Showered, had a beer then a nap in room. Wandered down to jetty to see tourist boats arrive, only a handful on each which means itll be easy going tomorrow. Crowd of locals holding placards arrived to fish for hotel customers. Ate in place overlooking river and chatted a bit with a french bloke before retiring. Hot here.

Sheltering under a tree from the rainshowers 

Pak Beng to Huay Xai      by boat
Bought supplies, water bananas and sandwiches and onto boat – price up by a pound due to petrol prices they said, ticket 110Kkip, bike 35Kkip. Nicer boat than before, bigger with comfier seating, (seats taken from vans and put onto a welded base)  and a small snack and drinks stall at back. Only 8 farangs and the rest Laos on boat. Boat transporting lots of gas canisters. Chatted with Spanish woman a bit then settled in to journey, a long lazy day up the river. Arrived Huay Xai 6pm, made a dash for border as boats still going across but Laos blokes said Thai side would be shut already. Changed $15, got room and ate in resto round corner. She had put her prices up from last time although the plate of Laap I got was massive and really tasty. Counting my money so I have exactly enough for tomorrow.   
Huge Mars Bar sized caterpiller in a tree

Chiang Khong
Crossed over the Mekong river, found a lovely place to stay overlooking the river and lazed there for a few days, cycling up and down the river, making my way through Thai menus, drinking strong coffee, eating ice creams and having a few beers.
The end of the trip and really good to be back In Thailand again. J
Total cycled 8491km

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