Thursday, January 16, 2014
We got the bike packed up after breakfast at Bannana’s Restaurant – homemade wheat bread, whole grain muesli…. yumm…. I’m going to miss their food. The Thai couple that own this restaurant used to have a guest house….a Danish guest taught her to make this amazing whole wheat bread.
Crossing the border into Laos is a bit tricky with the motorcycle. We took the motorcycle down to the river where Scott paid around $20 to load it onto a long boat.
The boat driver will take it across the river while we go through immigration a few miles down river. We take a taxi to the Friendship Bridge, get our passports stamped as exiting Thailand. We have our pictures taken for 100 baht each for our Laos visas; and buy two bus tickets to board the bus for the ride across the new 4-lane bridge to Laos (which we were not allowed to drive over on the motorcycle….??!!!???!!!!). On the other side of the river, we have to wait while the officials eat their lunch… then we watch them process our visas. Our passports are passed to four different people, each doing something different to our passports, then back to us after we pay the 700,000 kip ($87.50). The next step was to get the bike through customs… I wait for the official to finish her lunch. She asks for 100 baht ($3.00 +/-) to process the paperwork. Meanwhile, Scott takes a taxi to get the bike. It is already unloaded and waiting for him on the shore. He comes back to the border to pick me up and we are off to explore Laos!
In Thailand, you drive on the left side of the road…. in Laos, you drive on the right side….maybe that is why we weren’t allowed to drive across the bridge….?
As we follow the highway into the jungle, the villages are farther and farther apart, and becoming more primitive. As we ride through each village, the children smile and wave at us.
After a rooster runs under our front tire (OOPS!!!), we try to be very careful of the chickens, ducks, pigs, cows and dogs and of course people on the highway. The grass huts up on stilts are fascinating. Towards evening, each family makes a fire outside on the ground to make their dinner and keep warm.
After a few hours, we are still at least an hour away from the town we were hoping to reach. We stop to get gas at a little town called Vieng Phouke and decide we should find a place to stay. After driving through town several times, we decide on the Thongmyxai Guesthouse.
The hostess is very sweet and all smiles as she shows us to our thatched hut on stilts overlooking the creek. The walls are made from woven bamboo… I can see through the cracks in the floor down about 15 feet to the hillside. The view of the creek and jungle from the deck is beautiful. The bed has a mosquito net – I am glad! There is electricity, so we can charge our communications system. We have a private bath with a squatty toilet and a shower (no hot water). The rate is $5.00. For another $7.50 she prepared dinner for us – fried rice, grilled chicken and some sort of vegetable stir fried with chicken parts you don’t eat. It filled our stomachs. We are so grateful for a decent place to rest tonight!
For an hour that evening, the Laos government has a program blasting from a loud speaker that everyone in town listens to. We are assuming it is propaganda…. patriotic music and rhetoric.
Went to bed early because we were cold! Brrhhhhhh!!!!!
Friday, January 17, 2014
Slept pretty well under our mosquito net 🙂 At 6:30 am, the propaganda program started again for an hour. Scott endured a cold shower, while I warmed up with a cup of coffee. We ordered an egg omelet with tomato and some fruit from our innkeeper for our breakfast. As soon as Scott told her what we wanted, she ran to her scooter to go to the market. We were on our way after breakfast – first stop to find an ATM for more kip.
A few miles down the road we see a sign for the Kao Rao Cave. We stop and walk past the closed ticket booth. Farther along, we come along some men working on a building. They wave us past… we eventually come to the mouth of the cave.
It looks like it was meant to have lighting (we have a flashlight) by the wires we see snaking into the cave. There are steps and a walkway, so we slowly make our way inside about 800 meters. The cave is supposed to be 5 km deep, but we turn around once the walkway ends. The formations we see are impressive!
We stop at another tourist attraction – all abandoned like the cave.
On through the jungle we travel. The road is actually very good, which makes the ride comfortable. Not much traffic – the local people have a few carts, but no cars. We pass a few trucks, tourist vans and busses.
We stopped in a village to get some water. As soon as we got off the bike we were surrounded by children. They let me take their pictures and were so excited to see themselves on the camera.
At Oudom Xai, we turn onto another highway, which is partial pavement, potholes and dirt. The ride is not so comfortable at this point….
After several hours, we stopped for gas and lunch near Na Tong. We are within an hour or so of the border of China. The young Chinese girl who pumps our the gas speaks English amazingly well. Her family operates the gas station, guest house and restaurant (brand new). We stay for lunch and talk with her. She is 17 years old and wants to go to the university to become a doctor. We have no doubt she will do this!
We are back on the never ending road… hoping to reach Luang Prabang before dark. Luang Prabang is where the slow boats end up, so we know there are many choices for restaurants and hotels. I am dreaming of a clean bed and a hot bath…. when we hit a deep pothole. The suspension on the bike is suddenly gone and we are resting on the back tire… hmmm…
Scott stands up and I move as far forward as I can on the seat for the next 1/2 mile. We reach a village and Scott pulls up to a shop that looks like it might do automotive work. He is happy to see a welder sitting next to the door.
Within an hour, the shop owner has the bike welded back together and we are back on the road! We had a crowd of villagers watching the whole episode – a lot of laughter as they listened to Scott and the welder trying to communicate.
After another hour, the road becomes complete pavement. We make it to Luang Prabang after dark – the last half hour is crazy traffic. We find a hotel and are quoted $240. for the night – quite a contrast to last night’s $5 rate! We search farther to find a reasonable guesthouse that offers a room at $35 for the night. We get settled in and find a restaurant next to the river where we share a bottle of wine and enjoy dinner of chicken kabobs and fried rice. It’s been an adventurous day to say the least – but a good day! We are thankful for God’s provision and care today!!!!
Saturday, January 18, 2014
In the 1860’s, Laos was a French Colony. In Luang Prabang you can see the French influence in some of the architecture, bakeries and restaurants. The croissants are delicious!!!!
We stopped to get the bike cleaned at a carwash in town and walked next door to get a soda – these young men invited Scott to play petanque (similar to bocce) with them.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
We took a short drive outside town to Elephant Village. They have seven or eight elephants – got to watch them come in from a ride with their mahouts and then be fed. We were able to feed some bananas to one elephant – amazing!
On the way back to town, we stopped at the Tadthong Waterfall and hiked up the trail to the top. Even though the water level is very low this time of year, the falls are pretty and the hike through the jungle was perfect. It was a bit too cool for a swim.
(Good night my friends!)