Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A bike trip north of Vientiane.- Part 1

In the School Where They Turn Back Time winter break finally arrived and I was granted three weeks of freedom. I took off on two bike trips. They were almost identical, although for the first five days I rode alone and for the second trip I went with Marie-Do.

The goal of both trips was to explore the biking possibilities of dirt roads. Perhaps a bit of explanation is needed here for those of you who do not live here:

The Lao road system is based on major arteries and smaller roads, just like in every other country in the world. The difference is that once you leave the main roads, 13 South, 13 North, 10, 4…most of the roads are dirt. Every now and then a stretch of pavement will miraculously appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, but for the most part you are riding on dirt in the countryside.

The main problem of the main roads is the traffic. Buses, trucks, four-wheel-drives go quickly and those roads just aren’t paved as well as they could be. Large pot-holes and pieces of loose macadam make it tough going and the more cars there are the filthier the sides of the roads are, thanks to the local habit of having a very clean car and simply throwing everything you no longer need out the window.

Nobody has thought of the possibility of having a garbage bag in the car and disposing of their waste when they get home!

But once you leave those roads you are in Hobbiton. Gentle villages with rice straw roofs, farmyard animals crossing the street, artisan wells in courtyards, women weaving sinhs on looms under their stilt houses.

In the following three entries about this trip (Somewhereness, Marketplace and Sugar Mountain) I will be showing photos of these villages and quoting from notes in my diary to give you an idea of the exhilaration of the experience. Here are some photos of  intimate Laos, small details of life here that we get used to but which colour our everyday existences: road signs, BeerLao outlets, all sorts of stuff we take for granted.

Intimate Laos.

No comments:

Post a Comment