On Saturday (2nd Jan) we had planned to ride just from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng – actually just a few km south of Vang Vieng -but we couldn’t locate the guest house there that Aad and Mike had booked – and when we checked with some guys at a nearby petrol station they rang the owner and he said he was 30km south – we rode down there but still couldn’t find it, so we tried to push on to Vientiane but the road was bad with many potholes and roadworks and it was getting late, so we stopped short.
Then on Sunday morning (3rd Jan) we did the last stretch into Vientiane…staying a the lovely S Park Design hotel (A$80 per night) and a welcome return to normality for me…..everything is clean, everything works, the hot water and shower is to die for, there are crisp white sheets, four pillows on the double bed, bedside tables, toilet paper ( even a spare roll) and toiletries in the bathroom, a TV, Mini Bar, Wifi, there is room service, and we got all our washing done! I’m in “Heaven”! I do think traveling overland and roughing it is much harder for girls than it is for boys…..they seem to be able to cope better with a lack of hygiene and creature comfort facilities…..although I must say Vince is very good in that he does plan a little indulgence now and then to keep me going…..not sure I could survive without that! Even Adventure Girl still needs the odd bit of pampering and girl stuff!
We’ve parted ways with out travelling companions, Aad and Mike, for the moment – they headed towards Vientiane with us but stopped on the outskirts of the city and changed their minds regarding their plans – they were fed up with the bad roads and some bad drivers so they decided to skip Vientiane and southern Laos and instead they went straight into Thailand where everything is a bit more civilised and orderly. We said brief goodbyes …. Well not really goodbye just ’till we meet again I’m sure. I know they didn’t want a big emotional thing so I tried very hard not to cry….and managed……they have become like our family on the road…they ones you choose for yourself! We’ve had a great time with them and I’m sure we’ll cross paths again soon – possibly when it comes time to transport the bikes back to Australia.
Our first night in Vientiane was really just getting showered and sorting our our dirty washing as things are desperate…we are BOTH on commando underwear mode now and I love Vince but I can’t stand to be too close to him in his riding gear…he PONKS BADLY! Dinner was in the Musso Resturant attached to our hotel and this was a very unusual place…..featuring motorbikes and superhero memorabilia in an environment so dimly lit you could hardly read the menu or see your food….which was tasty but very expensive. The alcohol was only sold by the bottle (including spirits) so we opts for soft drink…and even that was served strangely….with the can put aside on a separate area and when I finished my glass is was quickly whisked away with vulture like accuracy and replaced without my knowledge and in doing so ended up being two cans used instead of the one….very crafty…..there were so many staff they grossly outnumbered the patrons and consequently we felt most uncomfortable as our every move was watched and pounced on.
On Mon 4th Jan we awoke fresher after a great sleep in a comfortable bed….although I awoke to a bad allergy and had to take some steroids to calm it…interestingly Vince said he had a bit of bother breathing during his curry last night…..I wonder if our meals were loaded with MSG…..hmmmmm…..’Tis a puzzlement! Breakfast was at the hotel and was unremarkable.
We got a taxi into town but the driver dropped us far away from our destination so we walked for miles to go to the post office …..I am not really into exercise and I am sure marrying a personal trainer it was probably on the cards he would try to work on my fitness….I begrudgingly chunter and complain the whole way….but I do do it! It was a long way and the GPS was less than helpful at times but at least it was open (unlike our unsuccessful attempt in Luang Prabang. We had a bit of a mission and a huge cost (508,000 Kip/LAK) for just 2.5kg and we didn’t end up posting our pr virus anniversary painting back as they didn’t have cardboard tubes and the brown paper on offer just wasn’t going to offer any protection. We will try again from Thailand.
After the most office we had another long trek in the heat in search of the MAG Office. We stopped off in a cafe for a drink and some noodles before facing the heat again. We were intrigued by the names of streets and businesses……French, Swiss, German, Korean and a lot of Vietnamese. MAG was very interesting, we looked around a ND watched some videos…..not as emoji ally shocking as our experience in the UXO Survivor Centre in Phonsovan, but non the less confronting. We spoke with Noy (Information Officer) and Bethan (Program Officer). Bethan had just arrived from their HQ in Manchester, England and will now manage programs in Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam. We bought some t-shirts for Vince and his brother, Ken (our No 1 support team in Australia) and a DVD – so whatever space we reclaimed by sending stuff back this morning we’ve subsequently filled again.
We managed to get a tuk tuk back to our hotel…..quite expensive here (60,000 Kip/LAK on average) and the heavy traffic jams didn’t help our journey. For dinner we had a special treat….Vince had been promising me a great pepper steak and chocolate shuffle at a French restaurant, Ven Dome, he had gone to on his last visit, near his previous accommodation. It was vu romantic and the food and carafe of red wine was just the ticket. Coincidently, we met up with Andrai and Ingrid….a couple from Tasmania we ran into several times in Phonsovan (Plain of Jars, UXO Survivor Centre and Nisha’s Indian Restaurant). They too had come for the great food. Vince told me that during the war this place was frequented by the CIA spooks and journalists and I could picture them here in that time warp.
A fantastic and memorable day!
On 5th Jan we went to visit the COPE Visitor Centre where they make prosthetic limbs for UXO victims – and that was supposed to be quite an inspiring place to visit from what we’ve read – http://www.copelaos.org/visit.php but I found it very depressing and in fact it made me angry to see the carnage of civilian casualties, especially children. The US has a lot to answer for and really needs to take responsibility for the clean up required…..very disappointing that they do not appear to have stepped up to this!
We went for a walk around and intended to visit the World Trade Centre…but found it is still under construction. We had late lunch at the Billabong Sports Bar and Grill, we had tried to go back to Le Vendome but it was closed. As we walked towards the river to see the sunset over the Mekong, we stopped off at a little handicraft shop, Saoban, which sells handmade items from women exiting prostitution by providing safe work environments and alternative income….we wanted to support this in some small way….so we purchased a silk scarf for 200,000 Kip/LAK. There are so many worthy causes here we wish we could give more, but we are quickly running out of money options ourselves as we enter the final few months of our trip.
Tomorrow we head for Udon Thani, Thailand so I can make my orthopaedic specialist appointment at the hospital and hopefully get rid of this cast and start Physio. There’s a cinema next to our hotel in Udon Thani, so we are hoping to catch the new Star Wars.