Lazy Laos zzzzzz

14 02 2011

When cycling Hanoi to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) there are three main options (just ask googlemaps!); one is down the dreaded (yet beach soaked) Vietnamese Highway 1; the practically deserted, beautiful but HILLY Ho Chi Minh Highway; or take a right onto the 9 into Laos and zip down the main north-south Highway 13. We have opted for the Laos diversion – Liz has never been so, heck, why not!

The moment we crossed the border at Lao Bao we were seduced! The wide open traffic free roads, the warm steamy air simmering from the heat of the hazy sun; the mile upon mile of empty brown red scrubland intermittently dotted with grazing cows, little stilted wooden houses, and snuffling boars. Every small village we pass through the air keens with the shrill pitching ‘Sabadeeeeeeeee’s of the under 5’s. After the fuzzy excitement of Vietnam, Laos feels like a mighty exhale.

With the return of warm moist days we ditch our dodgy Chinese doormen’s coats and re jig our daily schedule; now we are back to rising at 5.45am to ensure we make full use of the cool morning hours; by mid morning the sun is nipping at our exposed ankles and soon burns through our factor 50 sun block, Catherine even has a dark tan mark on her back, under her clothes! We are on a bit of a mission to make it to Savannakhet (see previous rim issue blog!) so hurry on.

We stay at cheap roadside guest houses in basic cells offering varying degrees of cleanliness but varying degrees of little else; most have a ceiling fan, a lock on the door, a toilet and a tap. At one such establishment our walls were liberally decorated with half scrubbed out pencil drawings of women’s heads – their barely visible features eyed us suspiciously in the harsh strip lighting as we laid out our sheet bags on the rock solid bed. Yet the rooms are adequate and the owners pleasant and obliging. We often get the feeling we are the only clientele, until the next morning (early) when gaggles of Laotian travellers stream out of the adjacent rooms.

We eat what we can at little road side shacks; a feast of son tam (papaya salad), sticky rice and an omelette is a usual evening meal – even though we try to indicate only a ‘nit noi’ (little bit) of chilli our lips and tongues usually end up pulsing shiny red as we rush to consume enough calories to get us through the next day.   As the red sun sets over the distant hills, we breathe easy in the warm, clear evening air.  Not for the first time on our trip do we thank the slowness of our wheels that allows us to spend our time in these seemingly dull and dusty little places; little places that wouldn’t even get a sniff in a Lonely Planet, but where we get to simply sit, sip an ice cold beer and sink lazily into Laos at is easiest.

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