Laos – Into Another New Country

 

Southeast Asia, Indochina, the Mekong River all have had an aura of mystery for me.  Maybe being a kid during the Vietnam War and hearing of these places has made them places I’d like to see to better understand.  Before we left Nan, Thailand, Franz Joseph (AKA Frajo), Terry, and Peter reviewed GPS data for the day’s ride.

About two hours north of Nan, we arrived at the Lao border.  As with all border crossings, we spent a lot of time waiting.  Angelica, Terry, Gunter, Jeff and Chuck demonstrated how good we have become at waiting.  Kevin and Larry showed paperwork to the Thai exit officer.  Each bike was checked to make sure that VIN numbers agreed with the temporary import permits.  Erwin made good use of his time by straightening Larry’s pannier that had been bent earlier.  With rain in the forecast, it was a good time to minimize how much water would get inside.

Insurance is mandatory when visiting Laos.  This young girl collected the modest fee for the insurance as well as sold us water while we waited, and waited.

Not knowing what to expect, we were delighted with our first Laotian meal.  Our first money exchange made us feel wealthy.  With $1 US being worth 11,000 Kip, the Lao currency, we have huge numbers on the bills now filling our wallets.

The Mekong River flows through the interior of Laos at this point.  Independent ferries of varying sizes carry vehicles across the water.  Larry helped Terry get his big BMW down the narrow wooden ramp, across the mud to the concrete roadway. Getting on and off of ferries in this part of the world is not nearly as simple as we experience in the USA.

A fortunately short, horrendous, rocky, water filled, road took us to the beautiful Pak Beng Lodge. When others in our group saw how a recent rockslide covered the beginning of the road and the deeply rutted climb up the first hill, they felt that surely there must be another way to our hotel and turned around and found a smoother entrance. We were following Kevin, who looked at the rubble and thought, “let’s see if we can make it.” It was a challenging road, but we made it.  Considering we’re still in Malaria risk, jungle country, we missed having air conditioning.  The solitude of the location made all shortcomings worthwhile.

An evening walk took me to the bluff above the passenger ferry dock.  A woman waited, possibly for her husband.  It’s so peaceful here.  I think we’re going to like Laos.
4-Jun   Nan Thailand to Pak Beng Laos   120 miles

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