I woke up early today. It was a chilly morning. At 5.30am, the skies were just beginning to flicker into life, and as I breathed in the cold mountain air, it had that unmistakable freshness that just seemed to just open up your lungs when you draw it in deeply. But one thing was for sure …
I wasn’t taking a bath this morning.
As I made my way to the cafe next door for breakfast, Kiewkacam was still smothered with a thick mist but it was beginning to clear as the sun’s life-giving rays warmed the mountain tops. The town was slowly stirring to life, and as I sat there eating my steaming hot Pho, I saw a rather comical sight across the street…
It was the local dentist working on a patient. His clinic was the open porch of his house, and comprised little more than a few chairs, a table and an antiquated dentist drill. I don’t think his patients demand to see his qualifications before they sign on for treatment.
I left Kiewkacam with a good feeling about today’s ride. By all reckoning, we were heading down to the lowlands again. As it turned out I would still be traversing the tops of these mountain ranges for a while yet before it pointed downwards.
The ride started easy enough; just a few gentle climbs. Then came an exhilarating 3km of switchbacks downhill. It was also here that I met Helge Pederson, the head honcho of Globe Riders, an outfit that specialised in motorcycle tours, namely on BMWs. We had both stopped at the same vantage point to take some shots; he of his clients sweeping down the switchbacks below, and me of the mountains.
It was quite an adrenaline rush to let gravity take over for these 3 awesome kms. Helge, who shoved off a little after I left him, was only able to catch me at the bottom of the downhill and as he passed me, he shouted “Hey, you were fast! I thought I could catch you but I couldn’t even see you”. I grinned and said goodbye to him.
The road was to climb twice for 8 km each time before it pointed downhill again. All this time, the majestic mountains were simply enthralling. For as far as the eye could see, all around me, it was green against a brilliant backdrop of white and blue. And where the sun broke through here and there, the contrast of shade and light were simply magical.
At the 50 km mark, I rolled into the town of Phou Khoun, located at the crossroads to Phonsavan and Kasi, where I was heading for. I guess the only reason this town existed was because of this important junction. There was even a guest-house a little down the road in the direction of Phonsavan. Perched on the side of the mountain, as were almost all the houses in town, the views from the rooms must have been stunning.
For now, more important things await. The sun was overhead and the temperature was climbing rapidly; and I was hungry. So I stopped for lunch — fried rice and coke at a cafe overlooking the town square … or was it a triangle?
An hour later, I finally dragged myself out of the cool shade and into the bright sunshine. 5 km out Phou Khoun, it was a glorious 18 km of twisty downhill with the wind in my Buff-covered face. At the bottom, I knew I was finally out of the mountain range and, a short steep climb later, I arrived at Bor Nam Oon hot-spring resort. I had read about this place and most of the reviews were positive. Even though my original destination was Kasi, another 20km away, I made up my mind to stay here for the night instead.
As I stopped to take a closer look, the manager came running out from one of the 2 cafes across the road. A rather effeminate young fellow (he even sported green fingernails flecked with gold dust), he couldn’t speak a single word of English but 5 fingers held up meant he wanted ‘Har Sip’, or 50,000 Kip. I gestured for him to show me the room first, or rather, the mini bungalow.
Constructed completely of wood, the bungalows, all 5 of them, were perched on the side of the hill and overlooked the hotspring. Inside, it was so tiny, there was only space for the bed, a little space to walk and the toilet. But it was cosy enough. Immediately after I checked in, I made my way to the hot-spring and joined 2 little boys playing there. The water was warm and the bottom was a little slimy with algae, but it was still nice. The people who ran the resort had done the smart thing by building a pool to contain the warm water to attract tourists.
Kiewkacam-Bor Nam Oon resort (Kasi) – 75km
Total ride time – 6 hrs
Total ascent – 1155m
Total descent – 1765m
Max elevation – 1380m
Min elevation – 575m
Total distance to date – 921km
From Kiewkacam, easy climbs followed by 3km fast, twisty downhill. Climbs start again at 22km mark, 8km long then downhill again. At 42km, climb another 8km then down a bit to Phou khoun. 5km from Phou Khoun, downhill for 18 km, followed by a short steep climb. Ends at Bor Nam Oon resort.