Monday, 14 April 2008

Day 328 - Vang Vieng

Only 3 days since the last post and nothing much to report, so I will keep it short and sweet.

The day out of Luang Prabang was a toughie, only 2 climbs to speak of, but they were 15k and 21k, I seemed to be climbing all day, but with the scenery getting better and better all the time I had no complaints. I met 3 pairs of cyclists coming the other way, so stopped and had a chat with all of them making it quite a sociable day. I got on really well with the last pair and could have happily travelled with them, a shame they were going in the opposite direction. By afternoon there was no end of traffic going the other way, mostly posh Toyota pickups and people carriers, very much the status symbol in Thailand, so I guess the same here. They were all heading for the Pii Mai festivities in Luang Prabang so I think I am glad to be away from the place, it will be heaving. I warned the cyclists about lack of accommodation, but said they would find something eventually, but having seen all that traffic I am not so sure they would have done. There was hardly anything going in my direction. My mid afternoon it was clouding over and started to threaten a storm, they weren't empty threats either. It started to rain lightly but with very big, very cold drops, then a heavy shower which I luckily found cover from, then steady rain. I got wet! The temperature dropped from a sweaty 40 degrees to and icy cold 22. I found a couple of guest houses and gladly took refuge, only covering 78k but climbing 2000m. The guest house was a bit basic so showering was throwing more cold water over me from a large metal barrel, still, it made a change from the villagers doing it for me. It remained much colder over night. Normally I just lie on top of the bed with nothing covering me, but it was so cold that I even covered myself with a duvet for a full 15 minutes before I started sweating and threw the thing off.

The next day was a wonderful dawn (1st photo), just great as I was already high up, the mountians looked stunning and clouds hung around in the valleys. The road rolled along for the first 50k with better views than normal as the storm seemed to have cleared the air. Then came a nice big descent. I saw a couple of cyclists having a rest on the climb so stopped for another chat. They had only just started their trip and this was their first hilly day, they were finding it tough. I was surprised to find a decent guest house just outside Kasi, so made the most of it, but regretted it later as there was nothing else around, and it made for a really boring evening.

Another storm overnight meant another clearish day today, with more fantastic mountain scenery with abrupt limestone cliffs rising striaght up (2nd photo). It has been a short day as I wanted to stay in Vang Vieng for some reason. The past 3 days has also been spent dodging the water from the locals and to be honest it is wearing a bit thin now. Getting soaked is one thing, but having people throw buckets full of water with as much force as they can from about one metre away is hardly my idea of fun. Vang Vieng is a backpacker's playground with nothing of interest in the town, but dozens of guest houses and restaurants. The activities on offer are biking, trekking, kayaking and by far the most popular, tubing. Tubing is floating down the river in a larger lorry innertube, here it is the in thing. Most backpackers are young and rowdy, most also have big water pistol things and everybody is walking around soaked. There is one road I refuse to walk down as there are constantly about 10 people of either side of the road and nobody walks through and remains dry. I shall be glad when the Festival of Throwing Water is over, but I can see it dragging on for a few days yet.

Highway 13 from Luang Prabang to here seems to be a stretch of road that has been troubled by shootings in recent years, not aimed at tourists, but they have been caught up in it a couple of years ago. Now the road all the way along has armed 'guards', though most just seem to be ordinary young men carry semi-automatic weapons. I never felt threatened from either side, ignorance is bliss!

I have no intention of staying in this place, I hope to be out by 6:30 tomorrow morning. I have a long ride of around 156k to Vientiane. I want to get there tomorrow to have a realistic chance of getting a visa for Cambodia by the weekend. Typically the place I want to cross the border is the only crossing that they don't issue them on the spot.

Oh, that headgear. It may look silly, but it is brilliant. It stops my head, ears and neck from getting sunburnt, but unlike a cap never gets blown off. It also absorbs alot of the sweat so there is less going into my eyes, and it dries really quick, just perfect. It also converts into a beanie, very useful for the cold nights in Nepal. It also converts into a headband and a scraf, both of which I have used it for at times. It also converts to other things too, but I can't remember what.


S said...

Do you think the baguettes with condensed milk would catch on for Audax rides?

Caff said...

Good grief - those baguettes and condensed milk are having an amazing affect on you. Before baguettes and condensed milk we see a picture of you with a thingy on your head and a modest beard. But then after baguette and condensed milk - blimey, what a transformation! You've suddenly got an enormous beard, more baggage on your bike (must be full of baguettes and condensed milk) and a slight change of fashion style. I don't want to seem a bore, but I think I will avoid your tips and steer clear of baguettes and condensed milk. I value my reputation!!! :-)

S said...

I should think the best thing about your scarf is that it stops your hair blowing in your eyes all the time!