Is it me? I cannot believe that it’s true but it seems to be the case.
For the last few days in China I stayed in Kunming and during that time I met lots of travellers and holiday makers all of whom were extolling the virtues of Laos and the ongoing countries after that, but Laos in particular.
Out of Kunming the road is excellent, sweeping mountain passes, lush vegetation and verdant panoramas. Frank my Warm Showers host put me up in Yuxi then rode with me to Jianshui, an 80 mile ride, we stayed the night in a hotel so inexpensive and comfortable I stayed another night using the day to explore the town and the Confucius temple. Frank showed me on the map the road to ‘Laos heaven’.
A small aside, Frank lives half the year in China and the other half in the states, his life seems extremely blissful. He speaks Chinese well and started his time in China in the 90’s learning Chinese. He seems to be following the same desire as me, as in trying to get the best bike possible for his desired travelling style. But his method is different than mine he keeps buying off the peg bikes (at very reasonable prices) having researched the bike and then hoping it will fit his bill, whereas I have bike made for me. He has more bikes than me; I think we are on a par financially, but interestingly still both not satisfied.
The border was a simple affair. I changed money in China for some Dollars, all my Chinese money and any other money I had, luckily as I had no other money to pay for my Laos visa. Goodbye China, I most certainly will be back. The Laos border was easy:
‘Fill out these forms, do you have 2 photos?’
‘Yes they are on my bags’
‘Oh well don’t worry then, that’ll be $28’ (slightly more than I thought I have to say, but that is to be expected, Sunday overtime, arduous working conditions and other add ons are expected.)
‘I’m in Laos’
Countryside pretty much the same, mountains, rainforest, banana plantations, green, and foggy the fog is so bad in the morning that you can only see a few meters.
I was aiming for Luang Purbang a 3 or 4 day ride. The Lao people get up early and although i set my alarm to 7 am many people are already up. First village kids in the street Sabaidee (Hello) they shout and wave, I shout and wave back, then the hand slaps. Second village kids are in the street, Sabaidee they shout and wave, I shot back likewise, then the hand slaps. Third village the kids are in the street, Sabaidee they shout, I shout back and wave, then the hand slaps. Fourth village…………………. I hope by now you can see where this is going. I’m sort of bored of it already, it so parochial. It me isn’t it?……….
Luang Purang is without a doubt my idea of hell. Hundreds of travellers and tourists flocking to see the sights, yes they are beautiful (I have to say I didn’t go to see any I took no photos) Just gangs of tourists in the evening congregating at the night market that sells boring ubiquitous crap, and cheap food (of course I partook of that and it was good) but altogether Horrible.
I have now been to Vang Vieng and Tha Khaek both hell holes of party tourists ‘enjoying the sights of Laos’, watching TV in massive bars, drinking till late.
What happens is that I go to a town and see other tourists and hear what they are saying about what is good about the town and forget the stunning surrounds and real Laos sights. I too have become narrow minded and only see the things I don’t like, it’s a bit like a self fulfilling prophecy people tell me what there is and I only see that and I am often too tired to explore further afield to see the beauty.
The food in Laos is great tasting (sorry definitely not as good as China) but the portion size is well, leaves a lot to be desired, I need 3 maybe 4 helpings to fill up and prices are rising. And being already well over budget this month so far. Those rising prices are cutting into reserves. I am finding it hard to fill up at lunch there is very little bread here which has been my staple for the midday meal so am eating noodle soup then scoops of peanut butter on a spoon.
I am most certainly not saying do not visit here, it is so beautiful and you will enjoy it like heaven on earth. It’s just I am viewing it from different eyes.
Over budget you may be saying, how are you over budget in SE Asia: I had to buy some ‘needed’ parts for the bike (yes the ‘needed’ part is dependent on who you talk to), broke a pedal only 3 months old (just checked the other one it seems a bit iffy as well.)
- Hilleberg sending out some zips of my tent, but I am in deep contemplation about whether to buy a new lighter tent (The Terra Nova, Voyager).
- Keen have sent me a pair of cycling sandals to replace the broken ones.
- I have just passed 12481 miles.
- 316 days of cycle travelling.
- Euro 20.56 to the good on the budget (this month).
- Euro 530 up for the year. I say that, but I cannot seem to find this money! Maybe I bought something and did not write it down.
- Insurance time coming up (26th Jan) that’ll be Euro 600 out of my account.