Vang Vieng to Vientiane: business as usual

Cycling from Luang Prabang to Vientiane: part five

Sunday 17th January

Miles: 66

  
Today happened to be my 27th birthday! But at P&E cycle tour HQ it was business as usual. We had quite a lot of distance to cover today, so celebrations were being deferred. 

Rolling hills signalled the beginning of the end for the Laos mountains. It was both a relief and a pity. 

  

Passing the reservoir. 

  

We encountered some bad patches of road for much of today. For twenty metres at a time the tarmac disappeared, leaving gravel and dust. Not good for the wheels, or our lungs when cars passed by, throwing up dust clouds (we’ll have to get some pollution masks). 

  

Plants covered in dust. 

  

The other curious thing we noticed today was many piles of burning rubbish by the side of the road. We saw groups of children supervised by adults gathering up these piles of rubbish from the verges and setting them alight. The rubbish was largely plastic bottles however, so who knows what kind of poisonous fumes were being released. 

  

We passed by more houses, shops and restaurants today, and even our very first supermarket (where we stopped for an ice cream. We passed this off as a “birthday treat”, but let’s face it, my birthday had nothing to do with it).

On our first proper dirt road as we enter Thinkeo. 

  
Another lucky find with our hotel in Thinkeo. The Napakuang Resort was cheap, clean and spacious, with a restaurant and wifi.

One more day until we reach Vientiane. We have marked an ice cream shop on the map in anticipation. 


Monday 18th January
 

Miles: 62 

  
The views weren’t bad today – green hills, little villages and pretty rice paddies. However, we just wanted to get there, so for the most part we put our heads down and pedalled. 

   
   
As we drew closer to the capital our surroundings became busier and the road became fuller. 

  
Entering the city, we were aware of a very visible armed military presence (I decided not to take a photo of the men with the guns). 

Also, a lot of these flags.

  
There were some brilliant pro-military illustrated posters. Happy smiling farmers harvesting food alongside happy smiling soldiers. That kind of thing. I only managed to get a snap of the least interesting one.

  
Passing the Patuxai Arch.   

This arch, made from unused cement originally destined for Vientiane airport, symbolises Laos’ independence from France. It’s funny to see a symbol of what I think of as western imperialism in an eastern country – especially when it’s there as a symbol of independence from a western power. 

The driving was even more crazy than Bangkok. People on scooters simply rode on the pavements when the lights were red. Although the roads aren’t busy in Laos, we have found the driving to be terrible, and a little bit scary at times! 

We arrived at our hotel, took a shower and then went for my birthday ice cream. Hooray!

  
I seemed to eat it a bit too easily… so I got a second one. When this year is over I am going to miss the cycle touring “I do what I want” diet! 

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