There is a point where you come off the Plateau. All the guide books say there is nothing to see in Salavan and this is largely true; and hence the charm of the place. Just a thick winding river and a fish restaurant, it would seem. It turns out that Salavan is the centre of a whole new world but I will need another bike trip out there to explore it.
In the meantime, coming off the Plateau towards Salavan is a lovely experience. The only uncomfortable thing about it is the rise in temperature and humidity: gone is that Southern European climate.
On the other hand, you are suddenly reminded of where you live, as lowland flooded rice paddies remake their appearance. Gone are the tall trees and dense Plateau forests, gone are the endless rows of coffee trees. Now I am riding through a land covered in low storm clouds and flat paddies – hills shine in the distant sunlight.
The play of early monsoon rain and the brilliant illumination of cloud-breaks on the stubble filled mud flats is wonderful. The occasional tree, planted in the middle of a paddy gives off a shimmering reflection.
Shimmering. I have been back in Vientiane for a week now, and yet that word, shimmering, echoes in my mind as I wake up and remember the sight of it.