Vientiane - Vang Vieng - Kasi - Phonsavan - Sam Neua - Na Meo
Laos = sticky rice, noodle soup, laab, coffee lao, beer lao
Laos is a dreamlike land for cyclists, superb landscapes, beautiful passes, friendly people and nearly no traffic.
In the capital Vientiane, impressing with its dozens of temples and stupas, we try our luck again and apply without much effort successful for a Chinese visa. What a surprise.
In Vang Vieng we take advantage of the touristy amenities, like good, cheap hotels, order food of an English Menu and sipping creamy fruit shakes. And an exciting event, the Bun Nam (River Festival) takes place, with boat races to watch during the day and in the evening the people sending their oblations made of leaves decorated with flowers and burning candles, sending down the river.
Pedaling further on, through stunning limestone-karsts terrain, passing jungle, rice- and corn fields. In the Hmong and other tribal villages, life seems to take place mainly on the street. While cycling slowly through the villages, this gives us a good impression of the daily village life. But we have to attend to chickens, pigs, water buffalos, dogs and kids populating the road.
Along the way, we visit the Plain of Jars, an area where 2000 year old huge stone jars of unknown origin, with a weight from 600 kg to 6 tons, are scattered in the hilly region. Here – as in other north eastern provinces – you can see many bomb craters. During the Vietnam war 1964 – 73, the USA dropped about two million tons of bombs over Laos – more than over all of Europe during WW II. About 30 % of the bombs failed to detonate. This also meant for us being very careful where we pitch up our tent.
The roads wind up the rugged hills and for 11 days we climb daily between 700 to 1800 meters of altitude. Then we reach the remote border in Na Meo, and the officers worked fast and were very friendly on the Lao as well as on the Vietnamese side.