When you are away for a year travelling you can’t expect every day to be mind-blowingly stunning, fun or amazing. I guess there has to be OK times too, and I think that is how we’ve spent the last week, having some OK time (which by the way is still pretty good!).
Boxing Day saw us still in Luang Prabang, making the most of the architecture, scenery and good food while we could. It was also the day where a quiet and close mother- son walk somehow turned into a martial arts contest and I found myself thrown onto the road unawares and quite hurt my hand. As yet, we haven’t let on to Steffen how this injury occurred. He’s still under the impression that I am incredibly clumsy (which I am on occasion). We will keep this secret amongst ourselves, OK? Needless to say, Max is not allowed within a 50m radius of my person and I am not allowed to perform gymnastics unless in an approved gymnasium.
We realised we were running out of time in Laos as we only have a 30 day visa and there is so much to pack in. As such, we decided to catch a “VIP sleeping bus” from Luang Prabang to Vientiane as there were some pretty challenging mountain passes and only few guest houses on the way. The sleeper bus sounded great as we would save some money on a hotel and and could sleep the 10 hour journey. I’ve never travelled on anything like a sleeper bus before. There are no seats, just two rows of double bunk beds, which even come with blankets and pillows…it’s just like a sleeper carriage on a train! Except that it travelled a circuitous road though some decidedly dodgy road. Max and I wondered if we were on the trip from hell as we sat up in our bed desperately trying not to throw up in our plastic bags. At some stage however, we slept and apart from a dramatic flat tire stop, no toilet (ladies got to pee behind a rock on the side of the road, men just pissed on the side of the road) and a 3am stop for a free bowl on noodles (included in price of ticket???), it was a fairly uneventful trip.
Vientiane is nothing to write home about. It’s not got the flair of Luang Prabang and it was filled mainly with banks and embassies….. Also, I think someone forgot to plan it and think about a way to make it look attractive, it’s pretty damn ugly! The foreshore of the Mekong is a strip of failed Chinese investment properties and restaurants… it’s pretty sad looking. We got out and about and saw a few impressive looking Stupas and temples and Max and Steffen checked out a waterpark whilst I took advantage of a decent medical centre to find my hand is not broken, just sprained (phew!). One notable thing we did in Vientiane was to visit a small temple and attend a meditation session with the monks. It was a bit of an exchange experience as the monks and novices were keen to learn English and we had a 60 minute question and answer session, followed by an hour of meditation. We were blown away by the humble and calm nature of the monk we spoke to and how frank he was about quite personal matters. We also enjoyed the meditation session and once Max learned that Monks are not allowed to run or play sport (in Laos), he realised that this may not be his calling.
We left Vientiane well rested, well fed and keen to get back on our bikes. We are riding south, along the Mekong, so flat, straight and actually, reasonably boring. We’ve done a few long days (90-100kms), sometimes on dirt road, sometimes on sealed road, sometimes only through tiny villages and sometimes through ugly industrial towns. We’re about to hit some karst country and we are looking forward to a bit of variety in the scenery. Having said this, we’ve enjoyed the last few days feeling like royalty as we wave and say ‘sabaidee” to entire villages as we cycle through, been amazed (especially Max) as kids the age of 8 and up ride scooters from school on the main highway and enjoyed watching the New Years celebrations and happy vibes over the last couple of days. I in particular love the pimped up lights on cars, scooters and trucks….instead of brake lights, flashing love hearts and snow flakes or indicators turned into multicoloured flashing sequences…. Who needs brakes and indicators?