Misty Mountains

Vang Vieng to Kasi
58.87km, 4:08:49, 14.2km/hr

We set our alarm and woke up early today at 5:30am. It is always a pain getting up early after taking a day off. When we don’t ride, we sleep in until 8 or 9 and getting up to ride the next day is never fun. Our hotel in Vang Vieng had free coffee (Nescafe) and breakfast (cookies), so we each had a cup before we set off. When we checked out of the hotel, the price of our room changed from $8 to $9. We’re not sure if the guy who checked us in forgot to write down the price we bargained for, or if the plan was to charge us $9 the whole time. We bickered for a bit but then ended up paying $9. We’ll have to remember to get the price in writing in the future.

Today was a rare day where it was actually raining when we left in the morning; usually the rain comes in the late afternoon or evening. It was relatively flat leaving Vang Vieng and to our west we had huge karst formations draped in mist and clouds. It was some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen on our trip and it was impossible to photograph.

There were several river crossings early in the ride and we saw a Lao man fishing with a cantilever net. Normally I don’t take many pictures of people. The children who eagerly greet us in the villages seem to like having their picture taken, but I am more hesitant to take a picture of man or woman going about his or her daily activity. It makes me feel like I am treating the people like zoo animals. Sometimes you miss great pictures though; today I saw a family of waterbuffalo huddled together under someone’s house on stilts. I wish I would have taken a picture of that. This Lao man didn’t seem to mind the photos and we watched him for several minutes. He seemed to be watching the flowing river for fish and would pull up the net when he thought he had one. The river was so muddy, I’m not sure how he could see anything. We saw him pull up the net three times and he caught one small fish.

Right after crossing this river, we stopped for breakfast of foe, the Lao equivalent of Vietnamese pho. It is pretty much the same thing, except the broth doesn’t have as much of a cinnamon flavor. I like mine with a lot of lemon squeezed in. Today our soup had beef and then a type of sausage that tasted a little like liverwurst. Not surprisingly, Sarah didn’t touch any of the meat. She has resorted to trying to get all of her protein from soy milk. Good luck with that honey!

Every time we ride through these herds of cattle on the road, I have an overpowering desire to slap one of them on the ass. I imagine it would be like slapping an enormous rump roast. I’m not sure of the reaction I would get though.

As it got later and later in the day and the clouds didn’t burn off, we began to get worried that we were going to miss out on all the spectacular mountain views. Eventually it did clear up, but I don’t think it mattered anyway because once the dramatic karst peaks were behind us the terrain flattened out and we passed through many hillsides where villagers where growing large fields of corn.

We had some decently long climbs today but the steep sections were short, so it didn’t feel very tough. Out of ten, I gave it a four and Sarah gave it a five. The 57 kilometers went by very fast: probably due to the scenery. About a kilometer before Kasi, we stopped and had lunch at a roadside restaurant. The young girl whose family owned the restaurant spoke a little English, but we used our guidebook to order in Lao. First we tried fried rice. They didn’t have it. Our next request was steamed rice and vegetables, but that too they couldn’t make. She told us they had soup, but since we had that for breakfast it didn’t sound too appetizing. After a couple of seconds of deliberation, we fell back to our old standby of an omelette and sticky rice. It’s simple, tastes good, and reminds us of the breakfasts we used to eat in Thailand. During lunch, a couple of chickens ran into the restaurant and caused a ruckus as they knocked over some pots and the girl chased them out. Afterwards, she said “Sorry!” about three times. I’m not sure what she was sorry about though. With all the loose farm animals living amongst people around here, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a pig walked into the restaurant to order some noodles.

We rode into Kasi and found a room in a guesthouse for $5. There are actually only two guesthouses in the town so we didn’t have much of an option. On the other hand, there are half a dozen of restaurants catering to all the buses that stop in Kasi on the way to Luang Prabang. We followed our usual afternoon routine of showering, reading, and resting until about 4:30. Then we headed out to the market to get some fruit and snacks. Kasi has a really small market and the fruit selection was pretty pathetic. We purchased some rambutans and bananas. Watermelon is by far our favorite fruit here in the tropics, but for some reason some towns have it and some towns don’t. No one in Kasi likes watermelons? I just don’t get it.

We also looked around for cookies and crackers, but couldn’t find anything. It’s hard to shop here. The shops are small and dark and the owner usually is either sleeping on the floor inside or else is awake and will follow you around the store looking at everything with you and suggesting you purchase certain things buy shoving them directly in your face. I don’t think the notion of “customer service” exists here.

After dinner we bought some snacks for tomorrow. I don’t know why there are rumors that there is overcharging in some of these southeast Asia countries but not others; it exists everywhere. Laos has official price-tiering for foreigners on some services like bus fares. How could you not expect the business owners to follow suit and tier their prices too? The easiest way to detect it is when purchasing water. We always purchase the same six pack of generic water that they have in every country here. In Laos, I have been charged 5000 kip and 6000 kip and twice people have tried to charge me 10000 kip. Double the going rate! The depressing thing is that when they try to charge you 10000, it is impossible to get them down to 5000 or 6000. They probably figure they can just sell the water to the next sucker on the bus for 10000. Once I got the person down to 8000 and today I got her down to 7000 only after we bribed her by telling her we would by two expensive ice cream bars as well. We also bought bread and cheese for the morning: a bit of an upgrade from our prison rations.

One Response to “Misty Mountains”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Hi there. I just stumbled across you website by accident. Nice trip. I’ve cycled through a few of the places you have, even made a little video of some of my cycling in Laos (on an Atlantis!). It’s on Youtube here http://youtube.com/watch?v=QstRMttVf8w



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