Riding through Laos (despite the terrible road conditions about 60% of the time) is peaceful and beautiful. The roads, roadside villages and green are a bit like parts of Central America, but bigger and easier. In CA you aways have that unknown factor, the potential for someone or something going wrong. Not here. The flip is that if you break down big here you have a big problem. If you can’t fix your bike yourself you’ll have to truck it to Thailand or go to my ’emergency plan’ (more on this soon too)
They’re Thai, from Bangkok, on great bikes and bubbling with happy, lol. They’re celebrating the King’s birthday (seems everyone in Thailand does this) with a 5 day blast through a convenient section of Laos. They have not only a superb support vehicle with parts and mechanic, but a police escort. If you’re going to do it, do it big they think. Really fantastic.
I would have loved to ride with them for a day, I think afterwards.
On a big glass plate wall there are ride stickers. No vanity stickers (a subject we’ll also be writing about soon) but SE Asian group/ride stickers from Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and one from Laos. Almost better than anything else, they tell the story of the fun these local ride clubs have.
Into the town proper.
Then you drift down, stopping to drink at the riverside bars.
They used to sell a drink here called Lao-Lao, 45% proof, at a price of $2 a litre. Seriously. Plus there’s pot everywhere but all kinds of mushroom drinks which need a ton of caution, not something backpackers are famous for.
In the worst year, 2011, 27 kids died. They drowned, dove off things onto rocks, did stupid things. According to a Guardian article, the hospital here gets around 10 injured backpackers a day.
So anyway there’s been a big clamp down in various ways to protect them against themselves and now it’s a bit quieter apparently, but is still a dump.
This is the common vehicle in the countryside. It’s used to plow fields and carry stuff around, everything. Here carrying a load of ladies across the bridge. The umbrellas? 2 reasons for that, one obvious, one surprising. Later