Thursday, August 2, 2012

7th July 2012

It was a blessing when AirAsia rescheduled the flight and brought forward the departure time from 3pm to 7:30 am. Arriving in the evening on the original schedule would mean an extra day of stay for a quick "look-see"of Vientiane. Now with the flight arriving late morning, we would have a half-day to do a quick tour of the city. A friend of Hj Khailani, Nik Anway made the group of us into a three-some, but only for a day. Nik had planned to put himself on a bus on the same route that we would be cycling, exit into Thailand and bus back to Bangkok.

Together in the plane were many senior lady golfers, who looked pretty excited at the prospect of enjoying themselves (away from their husbands) for a few days. They with their hobby, and us with ours - elderly folks with hobbies to keep the mind alert and active. Arriving on schedule, the only flight that came in to Vientiane was our flight and the checkout was pretty fast.

A pose at the arrival hall with our bike bags and panniers

Also on the same flight with us was a sprightly young lady, Ms Helwa who hailed from Kuala Lumpur. Travelling alone, she had planned to take a bus up north to Luang Prabang. She too had a 7-day planned trip. I admired her courage to travel alone. We gave her a free ride in the pick-up van that fetched us to the hotel we had pre-booked, Hotel Lane-Xang.

From Left : Helwa, Nik Anway, Khailani and self
Hotel Lane-Xang is located on Fa Ngum Road, and faces the Mekong River. Ideally located on the same road are two Halal Restaurants operated by Indian Muslims.

One of the two Halal restaurants in Vientiane
The location was very convenient indeed. In our planning, we had taken into account the difficulty of getting halal food once we cycled out of Vientiane. We came prepared. In between us, we had several flavors of "instants" - Maggie Mee in Cups, Serunding ayam, Kurma and Rendang Daging and Campbell Soups. One wonders whether this is a cycling trip or a makan trip.

With those instant food, hot water would be required. So we toyed we toyed between buying the coiled water heater or a small rice cooker. We reasoned that if we purchase the coiled water heater, we still need to buy a container to boil the water. So we settled for a rice cooker. The rice cooker later proved to be one of the best purchases for the year!

Not far from the hotel is also aTourist Information Centre. This is privately run but indeed convenient for travelers. Both Helwa and Nik bought their respective bus tickets to their destinations from this centre. Pick up arrangement from the hotel is provided free by the bus operators.

We too had some information given by the Centre of our intended cycling route. There was however no free maps available at the centre.

Gathering information at the tourist information centre
There was really nothing much to do to kill the afternoon. Little wonder why Hj Khailani did not sound too excited on the prospect of an extra day in Vientiane. He had been here before and knew what to expect.

Vientiane is not very busy and one can move around quite easily on a bicycle. However renting bikes somehow was never popular amongst the Asian tourists.

Rental bikes anyone?

A "permanent" waiter at a roadside restaurant
After lunch, we spent our afternoon at the hotel to assemble our bikes and get them ready for the start of the journey the following day. Later in the evening, prior to dinner we walked along the boulevard of the Mekong river. The river itself though was a distant away from the boulevard, an indication that the river is not yet flooded. The boulevard was popular with young couples on dates and there were scores of boys on roller blades and bmx bicycles performing stunts that senior cyclists like us can only watch and admire.

We also kill time walking amongst the many stalls of a night market located nearby.

A night market, typical in all Asian countries
I was attracted to a stall selling paintings. A young lady was attentively putting her creativity on a canvas and did not mind me taking her photo. The paintings were beautiful but I am no art collector.

I would rate Hotel Lane Xang as a three-star for triple sharing, we paid US57.00 a night with free wi-fi. We recommend this for its convenience, free pick-up at airport and the availability of halal restaurants a stone's throw away.

We looked forward to begin the ride the following day


hailwa said...

Salam uncle Ramli, selamat hari raya! Nice blog you have here. Been checking here a few times after the Laos trip but no updates yet at that time.. Nice to have met the 3 of you in Vientiane. Thanks for the ride & the food. I see (read) that you had interesting journey! So where's next? Keep cycling and keep writing! :)

ARZ said...

Salam Hailwa,

Good to hear from you. Was wondering too whether you would remember to follow the story in my blog. So how was your trip to the Plain of Jars?

In Nov, Hj Khailani and I will join a small group for a cycling tour of South Thailand. Hopefully during the Chinese New Year Hols next year, we plan to do Surabaya - Bali. In May it will be to Japan for the Cherry Blossom.

Same question to ask you. Where is your next adventure?