Vietnam, Laos and Thailand in 2008...with the Olivetts travel blog

I am in Savannakhet right now. Not much here, but it is very peaceful. I need a good rest. It took me 2 days to ride across Laos. I rode forty miles the first day and ninety the second day. I must be crazy. I am a little sunburned and the tip of my ring finger went numb. I got a kink in my neck and a blister on my rear end the size of Kansas. It was a great experience none the less.

I rode out of Danang the morning of the fifth. It was only 20 or 25 minutes to the bus station on the outskirts of the city, then I got a local bus to Hue. As soon as we exited the 7 km tunnel north of Danang it became cold and rainy. At Hue I had to get a bus to Dong Ha, which is a couple of hours up Route 1A. It is the coastal highway that connects Hanoi with Saigon (officially known as Ho Chi Minh City). The big buses were done for the day, so I had to buy five tickets ($15) on a mini-bus and they folded the rear seats to have room for the bike. From Dong Ha I went west on Highway 9 to the frontier town of Lao Bao. There it was the same situation with the bus as in Dong Ha. The ride is about the same distance, but this time it was $30. I’m not sure but I think it had something to do with the color of my skin. I spent the night in Lao Bao. A strange place indeed: there were two three story hotels beside each other and I am quite sure that I was the only guest between the two of them. It was a bit like a ghost town. When I first arrived the sun was setting over Laos and the sky was blue, but when I looked to the east over Vietnam it was overcast and raining. I knew then that it was a good sign.

The next day was beautiful. I had a pleasant forty mile bike ride through mountainous terrain where the many branches of the Ho Chi Minh Trail ran during the American war (as it is refered to here). It was a supply line from the north to maintain North Vietnamese troops in the south. As I came out of the mountains it became very tropical. I started around 9 and stopped at 3:00 in Muang Phin, where I spent the night.

The second day of riding was a killer. I was a already a little red on my forehead and nose, so before starting I went to the market and bought a hat. I started around 9 again. I like hot, but the sun was brutal. By early afternoon I had changed into a long sleeved shirt, put on socks with my sandals, and put a pair of boxers over my head to protect my ears. Sweet, huh? It was shortly after that I became delusional. I developed this Forest Gump mentality: I would ride and keep on riding. Then I would eat noodles and keep on riding, then I would stop for a Red Bull (next best thing to an espresso) and keep on riding. I rode until I got a flat tire, when it was fixed I kept on riding. I watched the sunset and kept on riding. I rode past the kilometer posts like they were standing still and kept on riding. I rode until it was very dark. It was so dark that I could just barely see the white line on the edge of the highway. I didn’t stop riding until I got to Savannakhet. Savan, as the locals call it, is situated on the Mekong River. At this point it is also the border between Laos and Thailand. I didn’t stop riding until I had ridden the entire width of Laos. It was a 90 mile ride yesterday carrying a forty pound load.

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