Cycling from Vientiane to the Konglor Caves: part one
Thursday 21st January
“He was sorry and yet… he still did it” – an unrelated story
The day began way too early. At one in the morning came a muffled knock on our door.
First knock (I assume): I woke up.
Second knock: I ignored, hoping whoever it was would go away.
Third knock: I said “Hello?” and Eric woke up.
Mumbling from outside. Then the fourth knock. “What’s the problem?” I said more loudly.
Fifth knock. “What is it?” Eric says loudly.
More mumbling from outside. Sixth knock! Eric swears, gets out of bed, searches around for shorts, puts them on and opens the door (thanks Eric).
An apologetic-looking man is there. At this point it wasn’t clear whether he was a member of staff or another hotel guest. “Hello, I’m sorry, there is a problem,” he said.
I thought – is there a fire?
“Our air conditioning is not working,” he said. “We need to borrow your remote control.”
“Are you KIDDING? You’ve woken us up at one in the morning for the air conditioning remote control?” I said.
“I’m so sorry,” said the man.
He was sorry, and yet… he still did it?! Why??? It was not even very hot, and this hotel has a 24 hour reception!!
Eric gave him our remote control. “Don’t disturb us again,” he said.
I then spent 30 minutes feeling angry that he had woken us up in this manner, and that now I couldn’t sleep because I was angry.
What was he thinking? Suggestions welcome.
Back to cycle touring…
Today we would be leaving Vientiane and heading south towards the 4000 Islands region. I have not really been looking forward to this leg of the journey, because we have to make long days to avoid going over our visa allowance, and because as far as I know the middle of Laos is not all that exciting. Hopefully I will find out that this assumption is wrong.
Leaving Vientiane took a while as we cycled unexpected one way systems, and waited at multiple traffic lights. Most traffic lights people obeyed, while others were completely ignored (it was easy enough though, we just did what everybody else did).
Once we were out we got onto flat, fairly straight roads. It was pretty dull, but we quickly wracked up the miles.
We arrived at the T&M Guesthouse in Thabok by 1.30. Thanks to a lack of wifi I spent a productive afternoon washing water bottles, scrubbing the bike and fixing a hole in one of the panniers. We are better people without the internet.
Friday 22nd January
It rained like crazy in the night, and then in the morning Eric wasn’t well. He’d been up for a lot of the night with a bad stomach. We seem to have had some bad luck with stomach bugs in Laos.
The good thing was that although Eric was too ill to cycle all day, he was well enough to enjoy relaxing. We played cards, read, watched Thai dubbed films and ate biscuits.
I’ve suggested to Eric that he may want to stop eating the raw cucumber that comes with his fried rice. He has agreed.
Saturday 23rd January
Back on the road today. The scenery was a bit boring: flat with glimpses of the Mekong now and again.
We arrived in Pakkading and after rejecting a hotel that cost 175,000 per night, found a far more humble-looking establishment, where we found the owner stood in the courtyard holding a bin bag and eating a corn-on-the-cob.
She never stopped eating that corn while she showed me the room. It was very basic. Four walls and a bed. A cold shower and a bucket flush toilet. When she told me it was 50,000 kip (£4) I shrugged and said yes, but once we were in the room I really wished we’d gone somewhere else (so did Eric). For £3 more we could have found somewhere a lot nicer. Sometimes I am too stingy for my own good.
Never mind. It made us get out and take a walk around Pakkading, where we saw monks ringing a bell and hitting a gong, and found out that Laos people still say hello to us even when we’re not on our weird-looking bike.
In the evening the Chinese guests next door to us had fun honking the horn on our bike. People here love that horn! And despite (or because of) the uninspiring room I got an awesome ten hours of sleep that night. It was a good thing, because I’d need it…
Sorry about the cliffhanger. It’s a cheap device, I know, but