Chewed up, spit out, but still in love with it – goodbye Laos

Thakek, Lak Sao, Paksan, Phonsavan, Middleofnowhere, Hanoi – 790km

Laos is a country that reminds you that you love life. In many ways, Laos is why we bike tour. It beats you to the breaking point, but then erupts in beauty, and the contrast makes your mind fly. One minute you’re negotiating a flooded bridge – water flowing past your knees, gaps between the planks threatening to suck you under. The next, you’re rounding a bend to descend into the most picturesque village you have ever seen, again. And then you watch the entire village hiccup. All activity stops for a brief moment of silence before the kids empty out of their houses in a sprint for the banks of the road to watch you pass. The whole village of people puts their eyes on you, open-mouthed, and if you’re lucky they let out that wonderfully complex and gorgeous Laos grin. Immediately, your experience shifts from being punished by the terrain to undeserved celebrity. This post is particularly tough to compose. Each day on the bike is a new adventure, filled with stories that are too complex to share, and that taken as a whole rarely combine to form a common theme. Continue reading

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Southern Laos – the hard way

Pakse to Paksong, Xekong, Saravan, Taoy, and Samuoy. And back. 450km – 6 days.

Bike touring, like all things truly worth doing, is not easy. Sometimes, on hard days, the constant hunger and sore butts, the rattling and shaking from rutted tracks, and the realities of living on the road in a foreign culture become difficult to bear. Thoughts of the comfortable life at home creep into your mind. But then you turn the corner to see emerald mountains bathed in the orange glow of sunset, and you realize, for the fifteenth time that day, that bike touring is unmatched. Nothing else can compare to the complete immersion in both landscape and culture that the cyclist’s view affords. This is the ultimate way to travel, and now, after sampling the alternatives, we can say that with complete confidence. Continue reading