Thursday, February 6, 2014

From Phonsavan to Luang Prabang Through the Back Country

The beginning of the trip was only a step into hell. The 9:30 bus to Phonsavan only left at 11:00, of course. When I asked the ticket guy about it he said that the 9:30 on Monday becomes an 11:00 ... Of course, he couldn't have told me that on Sunday when I asked him for the bus schedule. But that's just a little bit of passive-aggressive falang baiting you get used to. The license plate number was a wink from the Cosmic Joker.

What I can not get used to is having music imposed upon me. The bus is 10 hours, 10 hours of the same 8 Thai pop tunes blasted through damaged speakers over and over again. My pleas for mercy, pretexts of a headache only brought smiles that said, "We have you where we want you". So at sunset, no longer able to take the crazy driving or the horrible noise, I told the driver to stop at the junction of the 7 and the 13at Ngam Khoun and found a guesthouse.

The cold was painful. I may be a Canadian, proud heir to countless generations of Eastern European Jews who froze their peyess off on the cruel steppes of the Ukraine and the unforgiving hardships of Poland, I still cannot fathom the cold. And here, half way to the Plain of Jars, it was cold. Cold, as in I Can See My Breath. This, for Laos, is cold.

A strange group of falang had congregated at the same junction. French, American, Swiss ... we had a fine evening of it over steaming bowls of pho before retiring to our soulless cold-water cement rooms.

The plan of this bicycle trip was to cycle from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang by the back roads, vertically in a North-Westerly direction. I had wanted to be as removed as possible from civilisation, but I soon discovered that even in the back country there is a major road and minor roads. Nothing is marked and none of the names on the map correspond to any of the names in reality. My next investment will certainly be a hand-held GPS with a screen map.

There are 10 entries related to this trip:

The Plain of Jars
Lao Gods
Little Houses on The Prairie
The Silence of the Everlasting Hills
Get Thee to the River
River Boat
Jews and Khmus
Thanks for the Views
I Drink to Forget, and
Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley

Many thanks to Jacqueline for lending me her fabulous saddle bags.

Many thanks to Ariane for lending me her most unusual portable espresso machine.

Many thanks for Fabrice Quet for the hours he spent with me pouring over the GPS maps.

Many thanks to John Berlow for the seven billion Kindle format books he gave me. 


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