If you love Cha-Cha, you’d definitely love it here in Laos. Cha-Cha, as the dance, that is. That’s because Laotion pop music seems to be permanently composed in that groove. Catchy as it may be, after a while, it gets under your skin. Which was precisely what happened last night. I had gone to bed early in the hope that I would wake up fresh as a daisy the next morning to tackle the 150 km to Vientiane. But it was not to be, thanks to some local Karaoke enthusiasts nearby who were going great guns at it until well after midnight.
As expected, Peter was too sloshed to join me the next day. He had slipped a note under my door in the middle of the night saying something to that effect. Well, regardless, I was still going to Vientiane, and it would be my last day of serious cycling here.
Another thing about Vang Vieng; the town generally stirs to life well past sun-up. I found that out when I got ready to pay and leave at around 6am. There wasn’t a single soul manning the GH. They were all still fast asleep! These people are simply too trusting.
Finally, after knocking on some doors, a sleepy-head appeared and I managed to settle my bill. Then, after a quick meal of rice porridge at a stall down the road, I was off to Vientiane. It was 7am. The road was empty of traffic and the morning was cool, but I knew it was going to be a long, hot day of riding ahead …
Out of Vang Vieng, the road is gently undulating except for some bad patches similar to the ones I encountered before Vang Vieng.
Just before Phon Hong, about 40 km away, another cycle-tourer appeared at my side. And, as coincidence would have it, he was another Kiwi who was also riding a Surly LHT, just like Peter. Andrew, that was his name, was heading towards to Vientiane and was due to be in Bangkok in a week. He had started in Japan 8 months ago. Well, finally, I had somebody to talk to on the road. But, to my dismay, it wasn’t for long …
Andrew was fully loaded and he estimated his total weight to be about 40-something kgs, what with front and back panniers, a tent, a full-sized Thermarest and a real bad-ass bike lock that was about 6 feet long. Even so, he had started an hour later than me in Vang Vieng and had caught up with me before the halfway point.
After a quick stop at Phon Hong, we set off together and as it was still undulating, I was finding it hard keeping up with him. First, his heavy weight made roll him down the declines at twice my speed. Secondly, I was unable to shift to the biggest gears to pedal at higher speed. I had lost 3 of them in my crash riding from Oudomxai to Pak Mong.
Pretty soon, Andrew was totally out of sight, and I was all alone again. The good thing was, it was really easy going now — the elevation was permanently at zero degrees.
By this time, my legs were weary, my butt so sore I had to stand up every few km to ease the pain, and worse; the road was hot, dusty and heavy with traffic — expectedly so, as one gets closer to the capital. Along the way, I stopped at the slightest excuse — a Magnolia ice-cream vendor cheered and charged me up with a cold sundae. A stall manned by 3 giggly girls selling roasted bananas was equally welcome. And so it went on …
Finally, at dusk, I rolled into Vientiane. It was almost 6pm and I had been on the road for 11 hours. I made my way to the backpacker district, checked into the first decent-looking hotel and luxuriated in the cool air-conditioning of the room.
It was a strange feeling that came over me. The end of a long tour (well, it was long tour for me); almost 1,200 kms, and alone on the road for almost 3 weeks. Even though a part of me was glad to be able to go home to my wife and kids, I felt a strange sense of emptiness. It was only for a fleeting moment as I sat there in the hotel room peeling off my dirty clothes, socks and shoes.
As I looked into the mirror, the person that stared back at me was almost unrecognizable. Hair disheveled and badly in need of a trim, face tanned as never before and cheeks a little sunken. I guess it was a feeling that came with the end of every bike tour – when purpose is achieved, and knowing that tomorrow I would not be on the road again, looking forward to the next destination, and seeing everything with new eyes ….
Tomorrow, and the day after, I plan to chill-out big time — eat, drink, see the town and just be lazy.
Next: Checking out Vientiane
Vang Vieng to Vientiane — 154km
Total ride time -11hrs
Total ascent –
Total descent –
Total distance to date – 1162km
Relatively flat and easy out of VV, gently undulating hills until after Phon Hong, after which is flat and straight all the way to Vientiane. Plenty of traffic.