Saturday, August 4, 2012

8th July 2012

We had been informed by well meaning friends who had toured Laos that this is a rainy season. When making plans for this trip, we did not take this into account. Guessed we had been lulled into confidence that previous rides in Vietnam and Cambodia had been sunshine, hence Laos should be likewise sunny and hot.

Yesterday's arrival into Vientiane was with overcast sky but no rain. Without sharing my thoughts with Khailani, I felt we are going to have cloud covers along the route. Wishful thinking on my part.

We woke up this day to a grey and misty sky. A sure warning of rain. The route north-east would be within 80 - 100 kilometres. From the map I downloaded, the day's destination would be a town known as Thapabat. 

actual route captured on my Garmin Edge 800

As we got ready to start, little drops of rain started to fall. No worries, we had always been equipped for wet weather. Getting out of the city was slightly difficult because of the lack of signages, but after several enquiries with the locals, we were on our way out of the city.

A quick pose before the start of the journey

As we reached the outskirts of the city, it began to rain. It was too heavy to continue riding. A bus stop
was a convenient stopover.

wet wet wet

For the next 50 kilometers, we were playing with the intermittent heavy rain three times. This is indeed a rainy season. As we sit out the rains, I could imagine the "I told you so" remark coming out from my friends who had toured Laos before. We were not really concerned about the rain. We were more concerned with the lack of communication ability with the local folks. More so when almost all of them did not seem to know Thapabat, the town we were supposed to overnight. 

By lunch hour, we had covered about 50kms. Progress was slow as we stopped often. We were beginning to get hungry. We were munching the biscuits we carried with us, but they were no substitute for the Instant Maggie Mee we were visualizing to savor.

We stopped at a petrol kiosk for shelter from the rain. A small cafe was conveniently at this kiosk, with hot water available for our needs. So out came the maggi and soon we were tucking in, two hungry cyclists, wet and cold!

From this less developed part of the world, there are often observations that we Malaysians can learn from. The toilets at the petrol kiosks along the route could anytime beat any of our toilets found in our Malaysian petrol kiosks! Shame on us Malaysians!

A clean toilet - common at the petrol kiosks along the route.

A pose at a tributary of the Mekong.

The continuous grey sky - cool but wet
During one of our carbo stops, we decided to stop at a hut in front of a house.  One usually gets a little worried of some fierce dogs coming out to protect the property from intruders. With our bright colored clothings, we certainly look alien to the dogs. While we had encountered many dogs along the route, none seemed menacing enough and we braved ourselves to use the shelter in front of a house and enjoy the longans we bought earlier.

The owner of the house, a lady came out to greet us with "sapaidi", the only Laos word we learned so far. That's the greeting of the Laotians. The first time I heard this word was from the hotel maid cleaning the room in Vientiane a day earlier. I thought she said "Selamat Pagi" and thought she must have worked in Malaysia before.

In a foreign land where language is a barrier, the smiles became the standard international greeting and communication intermediary. The lady spoke Lao, we spoke English. Both sides were clueless as what the other was saying. But we smiled and laughed. The only word understood by both parties is "Malaysia". At least she knew we were from Malaysia.

Later on, the son in his mid-30's came out. Then the husband, ever smiling came out to greet us. We asked them about the town Thapabat. They knew and the lady showed 8 fingers when we asked "kilometre" in as local a sound as possible. When we showed our sleeping sign, they nodded meaning there would be accommodation.

We shared the longan and left the balance to them. A group photo, taken by the son was the finale as we bade goodbye and moved on.

The sky continued to remain dull with heavy clouds but the rain had relented. We continued asking for our destination but drew blanks most of the time. We passed several Guest Houses along the route but decided to continue on since these guest houses were not really in a town. we told ourselves that once we reached a town, we will take the first guest house we come across.

At one place, we stopped and showed a sleep sign again to a man by the road. He understood our sign language and showed us to proceed on and we understood his sign language that there would be a guest house on the right side of the road not far from there.

And there was indeed one. Boy, weren't we glad that we saw the signage and finally could end our ride at this VATTANAIN guest house.

For US$10, with air-cond we settled in very fast. Dinner was 2 packets of Brahim's Nasi Goreng. The mini rice-cooker served us well. Thank You Khailani. You are a great chef too!


Distance : 87.5 km
Ride Time : 5hrs 27 mins
Average Speed : 16 kph
Average Temp : 23.1 (pretty cool, thanks to the rain)

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