Sunday, December 30, 2007

...and a Happy New Year

Hello again

This will be our last post from Laos. Only 3 more days here and then we will be into Vietnam. We spent Christmas in Vientiane and splashed out on a French meal for dinner. No presents, no cake, no tree... (no family either of course!).

This is the monument in Vientiane, built at the end their version of the Champs-Elysees (A.K.A "the vertical runway" as it was supposedly built with concrete donated by the USA for a new airport).

After Vientiane we headed south down the main road - route 13. The way out of the capital was seriously dreary with hideous industrial areas, choking red dust, and a headwind. We were afraid this would continue for the next 400km but luckily things got much nicer. Although this is the main road there is minimal traffic. Plenty of cows, goats, pigs and children frolicking on the tarmac with buses racing full speed down the center line weaving in and out of whomever dares to cohabit their space. Below is a typical village school, of which we pass several a day. Often the kids are screaming at us, and playing krator (volleyball but soccer style, so no use of the arms and with a rattan woven ball) in the field which they share with some cows.

The towns along the way have been small but pretty nice. No English speakers for 3 days so we have been doing plenty of miming and pointing. Not much of an issue at the restaurants as they generally only serve one dish - a nasty noodle soup I think we have mentioned before for its lack of taste and nutritional value.

To get through this nice but somewhat boring section we have done some big days of riding, up to 155km. This is our longest day yet and was a bit of a miscalculation. Expecting to do only 50km we left late but never saw the particular village we were aiming for. Having seen a few places to stay over the first 50km we reasoned there would be more but not so! We arrived in the dark, which we have been trying to avoid due to stories of truck drivers on P and personal witnessing of liberal amounts of whisky with their dinner. However it was fine as half the scooters drive with no lights in the pitch black so the other traffic seemed to slow down in anticipation of this.

Now we are in Savanakhet, the last time we will see the Mekong on this trip. Its a funny town, seems half abandoned with many shops closed and not a great deal of people about. Some nice old buildings but most are pretty run down and the streets are often little more than a gravel pit with piles of rubble along the edges. We cannot figure out aspects of these countries, like the litter everywhere (is it that hard to put it in a bin?), and the rubble and junk piles. At the restaurant we went to for lunch, which was a nice one, there was just a jumble of stones, gravel, and a big pile of sand in the yard. Everything seems to be in a perpetual state of half-finishedness which cannot be taken as maintenance as it is clear that nothing gets any attention after being thrown together.

From here its east to Vietnam. Looking forward to seeing some derelict tanks and helicopters along the way as we are going into one of the main areas of combat in the American War.

We hope all of your dreams have come true for 2007 and that plenty of unachievable resolutions are made for 2008. We are biking to the moon.


Ruth, John & boys said...

Happy New Year Claudia and Damien! Great to read of your fascinating travels and sites (sorry to hear of your intimate encounter with the toilet Damien - oh well, thats travel for you. We missed you at xmas and did lots of shrieking to make up! Hope Viet Nam is as good as Lao - enjoy some pho for us
Take care and keep the news rolling in
Lots of love

Mike said...

Hi C & D

I hope things are still going well, and D I'm pleased you have experienced the toilet problem whilst biking, hopefully once is enough though.
I haven't heard you mention any bike problems which is great. I do wonder whether anything has punctured the Schwalbe tyres yet (if so - what?).
Anyway all the best for the rest of the adventure and the new year.
M & A

Barbara said...

Happy New Year intrepid travellers! Laos sounds remarkable - and really looking forward to seeing you in Vietnam very soon! Yay!!
Lots of love Mum / Barbara

Des said...

Happy birthday Claudia. No doubt you spent it doing something really different like riding your bike in some occasionally exotic location.