I love this place already
|Travel From||–||Mengla, China|
|Ending Location||–||Oudomxay, Laos|
|Miles Driven Today||–||88 Miles|
|Total Trip Mileage||–||13185 Miles|
|Countries visited Today||–||Laos|
|Countries visited on trip||US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Laos|
Today’s ride includes an important border crossing, but today’s mileage will be minimal, perhaps only about 90 miles of travel in total. Considering the pace of travel in China, I am looking forward to spending a few days which will be much more relaxed. We’ll spend our days transitioning into this, a more open society.
Here we were, sitting on our bikes at 8:00; all ready to go. I sat on my bike and watched as several of the bikes began leaving the parking lot; But as I pressed the start button, attempting to start my bike, I found that the engine would not turn over, and the bike would not start. Looking at the dashboard, I noticed that it showed a “Low Battery” indicator for the battery which is in the Key Fob. I quickly called for help, and was able to get the team to stop in their tracks. We regrouped, I changed the battery, and hoped for the best.
Unfortunately, the new battery did not resolve the problem, so I had to resort to using the emergency starting procedure. This crazy method of starting the bike when your key battery is drained is a tried and true method, but it looks pretty odd to be doing this, for such a sophisiticated bike.
The “trick” requires that you press the ignition/dashboard button, and then you hold the “plastic” key under the fender well, while reaching up to the dash and pressing the button. Once the key registers, you can press the starter button, and the bike should start up, just as it did for me this morning.
Having lost a few minutes, we immediately entered the highway, and headed to the border.
After only 30 minutes of riding, we arrived at a small marketplace, just before the border. We were able to purchase drinks and snacks, which proved to be a well-timed stop. During this stop, I would need to resolve the key problems that caused our delay earlier this morning.
The simplest solution would be to locate my spare key, which was stored in the van, and if the spare key worked, I will have resolved the problem for now, and I’ll be ready to head to the border. So, I worked quickly to find my spare key, and test it.
The spare key worked, so I placed the defective key into the van for safe keeping, where I would retrieve it, and replace the battery later this evening.
In the meantime, Karin had purchased some drinks and crackers for me, and I was not well prepared to sit at any border for an unlimited amount of time.
As it turns out, the border crossing out of China was very slow, perhaps 60 minutes or more, but at least we got it done. We then passed through the immigration checkpoint, while the export paperwork for our bikes was also processed.
Now, we would need to proceed to the Laos border, and immigrate into that country. Immigration is located about 1/4 mile from China, so our trip was short, and quick. Processing of Immigration was also quite fast, and within 25 minutes, I was out the door of the immigration
The Laos customs office is located about 10 miles from the Immigration station. So, we were told to meet our Laos guide at the customs office, 10 miles away. We’d need to travel through some new road construction to make it to Customs, but first, we’d need to complete our immigration paperwork.
As it turns out, the road between these two places is just now being built, so there were large construction vehicles just about everywhere, and the entire duration of the road to the customs office was unpaved, dirt road.
We arrived at the customs office to a pleasant surprise. It seems that our Guide, Pong had already filled out the customs paperwork, and we were told that “all was in order, and we could proceed”. So, we traveled another 10 miles to our lunch stop.
The lunch stop was to be our very first Laos meal. So, I was pretty excited. But it seems that the Chinese are taking over Laos, and as such, this restaurant was Chinese. Pretty strange, right? A Chinese restaurant in Laos…
It was going to take a while to make our food, so i took a look around.
Across the street from the restaurant was a hair cutter who was open for business. I thought that as a way to try to stem the high temperatures, I’d remove a bit more of my hair. So I decided to get my hair cut, ensuring that I looked presentable when I arrived in Bangkok. I had to wait about 25-30 minutes for the barber to finish with two other customers, then it was my time in the chair.
He did not speak English, so I typed into the translation app on my iPhone that I wanted it cut medium to short, with the same length all around. He did a great job, but neglected to cut the top areas. So, I motioned that I wanted them cut, and he didn’t understand. Eventually, he showed me a photo of someone with short hair, and I said, yes, that’s it.
So, he got another clipper and started on my head. After moving the clipper 4″, it was obvious that he was planning on shaving my head, which was not what I had asked for, and not what I wanted. So, with a stripe up one side of my head, I decided that let him cut the whole cue-ball short. Which is what he did.
In the end, he said that he was sorry that he misunderstood my request, and charged me 20,000 Kip, the local currency. This amounts to about $2.20 USD. A fair amount it seems.
After the haircut, I wandered into the restaurant, and found that the food was just arriving. it all looked great, but to make matters worse, I was still on a dietary restriction that limited which items I could eat. The ever-so-delicious-looking fish was too spicy, as was the pork, and even the vegetables were declared to be too spicy. So, I had some rice with veggies in it, and enjoyed every bite.
Final 60 Miles
The final 60 miles were great riding. Along the way, we found many, many children waving to us. It reminded me of our time riding in Kyrgyzstan, where the children loved to see us riding the bikes through their towns. The whole time, we’d be flashing our lights, waving, beeping the horn, and riding no-handed.
Each time I came upon a new group of children, I could not help but smile, wave, and beep the horn for them. They were adorable, and it warmed my heart to see the joy on their little faces as we continued our journey.
After an hour or so, Phil stopped to take some pictures of the local folks. He mentioned to us that he had observed that while they waved so naturally when we rode by then, it seemed that they were a bit more reserved when it came to taking their pictures individually, or in a more intimate setting. Nevertheless, he took some great shots, and I’m quite sure that you’ll see them over the next 2 days or so.
The road was mostly perfect for riding, but it was rather narrow, with some blind turns, and too many big trucks. That said, there seemed to be one curve after the next, with good traction, and only the first 20 miles were riddled with dirt sections.
With about 19 miles to go, we rounded a turn, and came upon a fruit stand, actually it was more like a fruit market. With many people selling fresh melons, bananas, and many other exotic fruits. I’ve taken some pictures showing the various fruits.
Unlike the way that we were typically met when arriving at the Chinese hotels, in this case, we were met with a team of folks who offered us lemongrass juice, and cold beer upon arrival.
They helped us get into our rooms, and get settled. It was a great start to our 4-day adventure in Laos.