Posted on October 21, 2018
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After spending two months bicycling through Vietnam it was time to crack another border and head to Laos. Although I have lived in Cambodia for the past three years I never made it to the neighboring country of Laos. I guess it was about time. And boy am I glad I did!
Although I had heard and read a lot about Laos I really did not know what to expect. Laos is a very laid back country compared to the others in Southeast Asia from what I learned. I found this was as true as it could be. From the small mountain villages to the capital city of Vientiane the contrast between Laos and Cambodia/Vietnam was enormous.
Gone was the constant honking of very bus, car, truck and moto that passed me in Vietnam. The slow courteous driving in Laos was completely the opposite of the chaotic mad rush of Cambodian drivers. I even found it hard to cross the street here. Not because of any danger but because in Laos they drive slow, maybe too slow, and it was hard to judge when I should cross.
I crossed in to Laos at the Nậm Cắn border. I started the day in Tà Cạ, Kỳ Sơn District, Vietnam with twenty-six miles and five thousand feet of climbing in front of me. Crossing the border was a breeze. Being the only person at that time there were no lines. Stamping out of Vietnam took two minutes and getting a visa on arrival for Laos took about fifteen minutes. I had to go to three different immigration officials to get the visa, pay and stamp in. No issues whatsoever.
My bicycle was giving me increasing difficulties over the last week and they were exacerbated by the steep mountain climbs through the mountains. Being in such a rural area any bicycle repair is limited and usually only available for single speed bikes. I had no choice but to bear the increased workload and move forward.
There was a food stop just a mile or so after I crossed the border. As I sat there contemplating my entrance into a new country I was bitten on the knee by what I think was a fly. But this fly must have had teeth like a pirhana. I can’t believe how much pain was instantly caused by a simple insect bite. In no time I was convinced that death was near as I finally made my way to Laos and my demise was caused by an insect.
I quickly adjusted to the new country, new people, new culture, new money and new food. I had little trouble identifying the guesthouses since they are labeled as ‘Guesthouse’ in English. With an exchange rate near eight-thousand to one I had to rely on my math skills to understand what I was paying. Converting numbers in my head keeps me occupied through the day as I convert kilometers to miles and kip to dollars.
As I rode west thought the mountains of Vietnam the beauty of my surroundings got better at every turn. The mountains and the beauty continued into Laos along with the unrelenting climbs and minimal downhills. Small villages were spaced adequately for an old guy like me touring on a bicycle loaded with more pounds than is wise. Food and drink were never an issue.
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