After leaving Vang Vieng, we made a beeline to Vientiene for the purpose of acquiring the ever elusive motorbike rental. While scooter rentals are a dime a dozen in these parts and tons of fun for day-tripping around an area, we needed an actual motorcycle to get us over into Northeastern Laos to see The Plain of Jars. In theory, we could have ridden our bikes there, but the 700+km to ride the loop to Phonsovan and back around to Nong Khiaw would have taken too long and our visas were running out. We attempted to rent a motorcycle in Luang Prabang but were thwarted by years of stupid tourists renting motorized transport and subsequently wrecking said motorized transport and either killing or injuring themselves or locals. Apparently, Luang Prabang said "Enough of this shit," and put a ban on foreigners renting anything with wheels and a motor. We tried renting one in Vang Vieng as well, but the rental fee was too much per day. So, we relied on some info given to us by a guy we ran into who had rented one in Vientiene for a fair price and headed straight to Jules Classic Rentals upon arrival.
The extremely busy, but helpful Jherie (the spelling is surely off, but it sounded like he pronounced it "cherry")- French owner and operator of both Phimphone Market and Jules Classic Rentals - reserved for us a large, Honda Baja dirt bike for seven days. Abe's email will surely give more detail on the bike itself - all I know was is was too big for me to do anything more than hold on to Abe or the back of the bike! We got a good daily rate and were excited to get to see the Plain of Jars and other areas of Laos that we had missed. When we told Jherie the route we planned he nodded and said in his thick French accent while pointing at a picture of a tourist standing beside a jar in a field, "Hmmm, yes...you will ride to Phonsovan and then you will take a picture like this." His sarcasm was not veiled, as he apparently felt the Jars were a bit overrated. "Then you will leave and ride north and around and have many days of the beautiful Laos countryside. It is one of my favorite routes!" His appreciation for the scenery (and not the jars) was undeniable and we couldn't wait to head out the next day.
The following morning, we awoke like children on Christmas morning and quickly got ready to pick up our sweet new ride at 10pm. We arrived at Phimphone Market, where we were to pick up the motorcycle. Jherie was kind enough to store our bicycles and panniers while we were gone, as we only needed one bag for the trip. We filled out all the paper work, received a registration card for the bike, were handed two helmets and it was off to the races! Despite his concern that he hadn't ridden a motorcycle this size since high school, in no time Abe was cutting through traffic like a pro. We sped quickly out of town and onto the straight open road leading back to the North - flying like an arrow shot from a taught bowstring.
After bicycling for so long, it felt bizarre to be moving so fast - rather liberating, actually. Going to the Plain of Jars and around meant that we would be returning to some of our favorite spots in Laos - Nong Khiaw, Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng. We couldn't have been happier!
We decided that while we had plenty of time to ride to Pho Khoun on the first day, the junction town that lead to the Plain of Jars, we did NOT wish to stay there overnight again. A big bonus to having already been through some of the route by bicycle was knowing where a good guesthouse and food was - and Pho Khoun had neither. A perfect example of a junction town, Pho Khoun was small, dirty, noisy and had the worst bed we've ever slept on (I believe Abe mentioned it in his entry awhile back)- rock hard with a large, bowl-shaped depression which we were sure held a vortex, because it continually sucked us into its center. Seriously...it was so bad that around 2 o'clock in the morning, after hours and hours of tossing, turning and trying to roll our way out of the black hole that was the center of the bed, we got up, stripped the bed of sheets and blanket and flipped the damn thing over assuming the concave depression would be reversed on the other side. Logic be damned, the other side also had an identical depression! At any rate - we weren't staying there again, so we stopped in Vang Vieng for the night, where we knew we could get a cheap room. The next day, we would make it a longer ride and go all the way to Phonsovan, where the Plain of Jars reside.