Laos

Laos turned out to be one of the best places for cycling in the whole trip. Fantastic roads, with basically no traffic. And then in what I saw of the hilly north, there was superb jungle scenery, with great hills, except sometimes the gradients were just a touch too steep! Further south was pretty hot and flat following the Mekong, but the people were all so easy-going and relaxed, that it didn’t really matter.

Typical road winding up a hillside, to look out at the jungle from the top.

Laos road Laos jungle

Check out this typical bridge though – the roads are good, but the bridges could be pretty ropey. Buses hardly even seemed to slow down for them, so I figured they wouldn’t collapse under my weight.

Laos bridge

Coming out of China, where development is full steam ahead, it was a bit of a contrast in Laos. This photo could be of a sub-Saharan African school. Although you can’t see it so well here, the classrooms don’t have any glass in the windows. More practical anyway I guess.

Laos school

In a rather amusing interlude, Tim and I ended up sleeping at a brothel. Just sleeping, mind you.

Laos brothel Laos brothel

I finally reached the Mekong at Pakse – in search of a different road, we ended up going over the fancy new Japanese bridge, then turning around and coming back.

Mekong Bridge Mekong Bridge

The ruins at Champasak were well worth the diversion. A commanding position on the hillside, overlooking a broad expanse of the Mekong plain, with the river cutting a scar through the heart of it.

Champasak Champasak Champasak Champasak Champasak

Champasak Champasak

Ropey bridges were nothing compared to some of the boats we took later. In this first couple of shots, they built a sort of wooden deck above three hulls lashed together. The shot of the empty one shows it better. At least that was stable though

Mekong Ferry Mekong Ferry Mekong Ferry

It was later when we piled three loaded bikes onto one of these narrow longboats that things got interested. Basically it was a long canoe, and any weight imbalance meant it rocked alarmingly, threatening to send the bikes and us for a swim. The pilot just laughed at our concern. He’d seen it all before.

Mekong longboats Mekong crossing Mekong crossing

A classic scene stopping in a small village – the bus stops, and groups of ladies thrust barbecued chicken in the window. Rather tasty chicken too.

Chicken vendors

Buddhism is so popular in this region, that sites like this temple are everyday events.

Temple on Don Khong

Ah well, it couldn’t be good roads all the way. For reasons that escape me, the last 5km out of Laos were apalling..

Last 5km dirt road