Sunday, January 10, 2010

January 10, 2010 - Struggling through Laos...

Mike here this time posting from the Lao capital of Vientiane.

I am sure I will complain about too much in this post as Jen and I are feeling a little under the weather this week. Because of this I apologize if this post ends up being 'bitchy'. (Note: I added the quotation marks to make it more classy and less profane in case any kids are reading...yes quotation marks do work like that. Tell your friends.)

We left Vinh in Vietnam a week or so ago and made our way toward the Lao border which was a day and a half ride away. Along the way we saw this boat in a field. It seemed out of place. The locals though seemed to think that the giant white man biking along the road next to it was the real thing that didn't belong, so who am I to judge.

This is a photo of Jen approaching the border to Laos. We got across the border without any problems and the only downside was that Canadians have the highest fee for an entry visa into Laos of any nation. Maybe they are unaware of how nice we are?

The funniest part of the crossing was when I handed the guy at the gate our passports. He opened one, looked at the photo, looked at me, nodded in approval and closed the passport. He then opened the second passport, looked at the photo, looked at Jen, and then looked back at me with a confused look on his face. He thought that both passport photos were of me!! Even though I clearly have a beard and short blond hair in both the photo and in person, and Jen has long black hair in both her photo and in person.

Jen and I argued for a bit as to which of us should feel more insulted, but then just decided that its not really a big deal because really, all white people look the same.....

The moment we crossed the border (which was atop a mountain range) the temperature jumped 10 degrees and the scenery became stunning....

It was quickly visible that Laos is a little poorer than Vietnam. Most of the homes were either straw or mud and the amount of new construction had dropped a lot.

The ride out of the mountains was really nice, but did have some insanely steep climbs that we had to suffer through.

A shot of Jen passing through a small town. I'd imagine this area (rte 8) would have some amazing rock climbing.

Another pretty picture. Well as pretty a picture as I can take.

Me glowing as I push up a climb. The sign said 10% grade, but I doubt they were being honest!

Jen and I relaxing at the top of a climb.

We found this spectacular view at the the top of one of the climbs.

Before coming on this trip, I kind of felt that there weren't that many people living in straw and mud huts other than two out of the three little piggies. I was way off on this. The huge number of homes we have seen have been mud, straw, bamboo, etc. They seem to do the job just fine, but as a kid growing up in Canada it never really seemed like a possibility. An ice castle sure...but straw, come on!

School kids everywhere in Laos! I read today that the median age in Laos is 19 (for reference it is about 40 in Canada) and you could really see this coming through the country. Its like Lord of the Flies out there! Thankfully the kids were very nice and respectful. No slingshots to my back in Laos!

Three days before our planned arrival in Vientiane, Jen and I started getting sick. We were not sure if it was heat stroke (it was 36C during the day), a flu, malaria (it wasn't malaria), a cold, or something creepy and tropical that we haven't even heard of. Either way it made the last few days of riding 'goddamn' awful.

Once we were 140km out of the capital, we tried to make a run for it, but after 90km in the pouring rain our bodies couldn't push through our mystery illness anymore, so we grabbed a room at some hotel (see photo below) on the highway to take a break from our problems and hope they would just disappear by the time we started again (I believe Steve-o would call this "proroguing our bike trip"). By morning we were still feeling like dirt, but loaded up, put on our music and rode the last 60km in Vientiane.

Me in my sleeping bag trying to pass the time at our tiny hotel.

Here is Jen riding into Vientiane. We were pumped to have finally made it!

After a few days in town we are now feeling much better. Whatever bug we had has started to pass and we have started exploring town. Vientiane is an amazing city. It is only about 230,000 people, but the restaurants, stores and sights feel more like a huge western city. There is a huge selection of great restaurants so we have been feasting a lot and resting up! Although Vientiane may not be the cheapest city we have been to, it is probably the best value so far.

So that's all for now. After a couple more days here we are going to take a train to Bangkok, and then get back on our bikes going down Thailand and Malaysia.


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