Writing a blog in laid back Laos seems quite incongruous to daily life where science and technology is as important to the locals as a hot shower. The locals accept my “business card” with details of my blog and email address with the same courteousness and joyful respect that I am always on the receiving end of here, but sadly the business card serves as souveneoir of meeting a foreigner rather than as a means of future correspondence. I’m endlessly enjoying being in my first country with no McDonalds or other similarly themed businesses….sadly that lack of capitalisation or prosperity to some means there is also not a hospital… but I’ll get back to that later.
Crossing the border into Laos I immediately had a taste of the Laos relaxed attitude and have adopted the “ko pangan” no problem attitude very swiftly….just as well seeing as I have had 2 broekn chains and 5 flat tyres in this country! I knew those damn €6 Chinese tyres would meet their day! I actually entered Laos unknowingly bypassing immigration as my more presssing task was how to push my fully laden bike up the very steep hill from the river boat. The local police men sat a little more upright in their hammocks and gave me a “fair play to ya you nutter” smile as I schlepped my 50kg up the hill to Huay Xai main street. It was only then that I realised I had passed no mans land and was illegally in Laos. With absolutely no intention of repeating the uphill push again, I locked my bike outside a guesthouse, took my valuables with me and headed back to find the “visa on arrival” point. A swift process ensued… as in it ran smoothly but there was certainly no hastening in their movement as a fresh glut of travellers arrived. Things take as long as they take and “Lao time” was a phrase and an attitude I was to willingly or unwillingly adopt. Contrary to the “Lao time” attitude they do grow and consume a fair amount of coffee which is very much to my pleasing and I am all to quickly balancing out my lack of coffee in Tibet, Nepal and India! Goodbye Nescafe!
The missile in motion!
My out of date map (the newest one I could buy in Bangkok) showed no road along the Mekong so I figured my best course of action would be to negotiate a place for myself and the “missile” on a slow boat to Pakbeng and from there I could start my Laos cycling adventure along the Mekong and into the mountains….rather steep I might add! Numerous knocks on my hotel door gave me an opportunity to meet the locals but sadly it was just the local marijuana and opium dealers who I don’t want to judge but it wasn’t the company I was looking for that evening. Although not locals I did meet up with an energetic Swiss and Austrain duo Lena and Oli who were also by bike and headed in the same direction. We quickly became the 3 musketeers, riding at our own pace, meeting and dining along the way and making great endeavours to make some nightlife or at least find a noodle stall in sleepy villages en route. It was one of their first trips by bike but I’m sure not their last. After a few days they headed further north and I headed south but hopefully someday in the future our tyres will cross again!