Cycling from Luang Prabang to Vientiane: part one
Tuesday 12th January
I watched with great interest as the lady made up my sandwich, which contained ketchup, mayonnaise, chilli paste, meat paste(?), cucumber, tomato, lettuce, shredded egg(?), sliced raw mushroom/possibly tofu(?) and then a whole lot of hairy-looking stuff, which I think might be dried meat of some kind.
I’ve never had a sandwich with a) so many ingredients, and b) so many “mystery” ingredients! It was interesting, but don’t worry ham and cheese, you’re still number one.
I think that you could pretty much make a line graph with a 45 degree line, correlating increasing distance from Luang Prabang with an increasing number of smiles and hellos from local people. Cities! What do they do to people? Give me cycling in the countryside any day.
It was time for lunch, and we were expecting to find a local restaurant. But despite the fairly decent size of this village there didn’t seem to be one. (We’d gotten very used to Thailand, which has little roadside restaurants everywhere.)
We stopped at a small convenience shop and bought some cold drinks. However, there weren’t any snacks that we fancied – they were mostly selling things like soy sauce and dried noodles. One of the guys spoke some English and had a chat with us, and as we were preparing to leave he said: “Come on, gin cow” (eat food).
His family were coming to sit on a little table by the side of the road, and they invited us to eat with them. Wow! We had sticky rice, pork scratchings and a cold noodle salad, and we communicated in a mixture of English, Thai, Laos and mime.
We were very touched by their generosity and thanked them many times. They absolutely refused to take any money, and waved us off saying “Come back soon!” (which I hoped was just a figure of speech).
We were very lucky that that family had offered to give us food, as we didn’t see any restaurants. Even so, we hadn’t consumed many calories considering the task we faced, and I really ran out of energy with a good 8 miles of hill still to go. I had a headache and was feeling bad, like I needed to be lying down in a cold room, but of course we had to get on with it.
This was a moment where being on a tandem was great, because it’s likely that Eric picked up my slack, as well as keeping up my spirits.
It was slow, it was painful, but we got there by 4. We checked in to the Kiokajan Guesthouse and collapsed into bed for an hour, before getting up at 5 to wash and go out for dinner.
While admiring the sunset from the back of the guesthouse, we met Sita, an Austrian lady, who was cycling in the opposite direction. We had dinner together and she was fabulous company. She gave us some great tips for our route through Laos, and we told her some of the finer points about Maps.Me.
After a lively dinner we returned to our room at 8.30. I finished washing our clothes, brushed my teeth, took out my contact lenses, set the alarm and finally, exhausted, got into bed.
It was only then that I realised I was ill.
Wednesday 13th January
Climbing that hill yesterday I had thought that I was just very tired and out of energy. Nope… it was the beginnings of food poisoning.
As I lay extremely still, breathing deeply and concentrating on not moving at all, I couldn’t stop imagining that my intestines were World War One trenches. I was not feeling good. I was also maybe feeling a bit sorry for myself (can you tell?)!
Eric was great. He made sure I had water and medicine, read to me and did not find me disgusting. He made a bad day a lot more bearable.
In a discussion which took place a couple of days later we concluded that yesterday’s noodle salad was to blame. We think that it was probably soaked in tap water, or had a tap water sauce. (By the way – I’m not meaning to sound like I blame the family that fed us at all, I will only ever be grateful to them!)
Eric ate some too, so why didn’t he get ill? Well, the answer is that he did get a bit of an upset stomach, but it didn’t knock him out like it did to me. We think that this is because Eric already suffered the perils of Thai tap water in Chiang Mai, so this time round he was slightly more immune.
Eric came back from his solitary dinner this evening and told me that a drunk Laos man had tried to set his daughter up with Eric! Apparently the daughter was very embarrassed. No matter where you go, dads love embarrassing their kids!