North of Laos

We spent a few pleasant days in Luang Prabang. The city is nestled between the Mekong and a tributary, all surrounded by mountains. Luang Prabang has a strong religious and royal past, but has also been colonized by the French, which gives it a very beautiful mixed architecture. It is in this context, favorable to tourism and visit, that we arrived with a huge desire to do nothing! The first two or three days, we loved having long breakfasts, playing pool, going to the Sauna (even with 40 degrees), to the bar, and we made good traveling friends at the Hotel Vongprachan (good one!). Nevertheless, we made the effort to go see the beautiful waterfalls of Kuang Si 30 km away, which is worth seeing because the fish offer their foot massage!

May 16th, departure for the north. We drive 110 km in valleys, following rivers, and in the middle of the day we are awakened during the nap by the storm. All excited, we put our sandals and hope to ride in the storm, dance in the rain and especially enjoy the fresh air. Only a few drops will fall … The rainy season is really late this year and it is worrying for the locals. In the evening we are in a Chinese hotel at a crossroads. The Chinese seem to have a foothold in the region already, they seem to finance projects of roads and dams and we see Mandarin written everywhere!

Here we go again on May 17 for a very small step of 30km on to Nong Khiaw, a very pretty village surrounded by vertiginous peaks at the edge of Nam Ou (the river that we have already followed the day before). There is a nice campsite with swimming pool and we fall quickly on our French friends from Luang Prabang, who in addition had seen us on the road from their bus. Apparently we seem to suffer sometimes but this is only an illusion of course! The place is so nice that we stay one more day. Short walk to the belvedere at sunset, then a beautiful kayaking expedition plus waterfall the next day, which allows us to exercise with those poor arms :). The surprise of the evening is the “pétanque” alley of the restaurant next door, where French tourists all have an appointment. Note: the Laotian rules are quite strange and we do not really understand the terrible loss they inflicted to us, so we will remain good losers!

On May 19th, we go back on our tracks for 20km and take straight north on a mountain track. It is not on google so we already know what to expect! It’s chaotic and hot as always on the tracks, hard, but we know that we are getting closer to one of his lost places that we love so much. The transmission is so seized by the dust that the chain of Leo breaks. It is necessary to clean, to repair, and everything is fine again once well greased(thanks to the villagers) as a good chef cook might say, the fat is the life! Unfortunately the climb is terrible, we had never pushed so much because it is very steep and dusty, the heart beats at 200 bpm!! Once we arrived in a small village on a ridge, we gave in, and it is an excellent choice because the local Lao ambush us. With nothing in the belly, the place is made for beers and rice alcohol. Not much to say but everything went very quickly 🙂 we spend the night at the village school, each under his little pagoda! Children want to play as always but sometimes we miss the strength!

Departure early May 20 to hope to finish off the track and rest in a guest house. The steepness continues the first 3 hours before the long descent, again, maps me plays tricks so we go through paths almost retaken by vegetation, it’s green hell! We arrive at Muang Khua (80km from Vietnam) in the afternoon. As Steph made a small mistake in his electronic visa for Vietnam it will be necessary to wait one more day, whatever, we could need it. Indeed, the rest of the road has two good passes.

On the 21st and the 22nd we are heading towards Vietnam, on a beautiful calm road. On the 22nd we will cross the border with a Frenchman on a motorbike, the opportunity to take the time to discuss and enjoy the landscapes!

This concludes our visit to Laos, the country where we rarely saw a flat road! We felt the need for a few days of unemployment in the middle, because the first and last days were quite hard. Note that we nevertheless have made good progress and now have legs to ride several straight days of mountain, good news! In any case the Lao people are really hospitable, funny, smiling, and not stressed at all. We found the country very rural, which changed a lot and delighted is compared to Thailand.

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