Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cycling Nothern Laos (4)

Wednesday (February 26, 2006)
Breakfast? Don’t mention about it. We didn’t have anything…
Our SongTheaw having a gear shift problem. So, the driver arranges our transport and pay everything transfer us to another SongTheaw that headed to SAM NEUA this morning. Since, we pay a lot and there’s a lot of locals onboard, plus 2 pigs on top of the SongTheaw roof… I urge the driver to place us at the front seat with the new driver. We have to fight for the seat since the driver wife follows. Problem solves with the driver, driver wife and zul with a comfortable seat and I folding my leg behind zul with our luggage. J plus 8 hours ride to SAM NEUA.

It’s getting colder and colder as we reach SAM NEUA.
Again after 8 hours of an awkward sitting position and a bumpy ride we reach dusty and freezing SAM NEUA. Another 70km towards NA MEAW the VIETNAM border. Looking for any info crossing the border, we cycle towards maybe the only tourist info center. Unfortunately buses crossing border towards HUA BINH (VIETNAM) from SAM NEUA only on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday morning 7am. L

Another option is to cycle through the border through HUA BINH… since we’re starving and exhausted, staying a night at SAM NEUA is a must.

After having our 4pm lunch + dinner, I stalked over a Dutchman for additional info of NA MEAW and HUA BINH. Luckily he and his girlfriend cycle from VIETNAM and reached SAM NEUA this morning. We printed his map and info about the pavement and roads conditions, foods and he even have info about the stops and the hill climb degree to plan his cycle forward, talk about well prepared… huh (actually I’m looking for the same book “CYCLE TOWARDS INDOCHINA by LONELY PLANET” before the journey but it’s out of stock).

At night in SAM NEUA we can’t even walk around the town because it’s too cold. However, info about crossing the border and the village after the border is vital for tomorrow. In front our guesthouse there’s a print shop, lucky us the owner can speak English well.

He insist us to cross the border tomorrow because on February 27 Vietnamese people celebrating their New Year. Usually the transportation will be jam packed, limited and there’s cases they stop their transportation nearly 2 weeks for the celebration. Unless if we want to cycle 1800km down south to HO CHI MINH CITY, then it’s another case.

Well we don’t have that much of time. It seems that return back to VIENTIANE is more relevant then crossing the border. The owner of the guesthouse suggest that we depart tomorrow because buses going to VENTIANE moves only on Friday morning at 9am.

Spending the night with the guesthouse family celebrating the incoming Vietnam holiday is a memorable night.
The guesthouse owner invited us to join them gathering around an open charcoals to heat our body. It’s too freezing that night cover our body with a light sleeping bag and a pile of mattresses is NOT enough. We didn’t consume food that much since we arrived at SAM NEUA… it’s nice to have (UBI) heated on charcoals with special Vietnam tea (without sugar). We talked about MALAYSIA and they talked about LAOS very much. Even though there’s a lot of ahhs.. and ohhhss, the language barrier seems to get us along.

Then it’s time for the special food for the night.
It smells very good, it was sticky rice… inside it have a brownish sugar gravy. Zul & I feel that this is our lucky day… J before zul stretch his fingers to have a bite I have to ask one question first.
“Inside PORK… MEAT or FISH…”
They reply…
“No… No PORK… no PORK… FOX, FOX inside”
Hahaha… I’ve to pass…

It generally swept our appetite away…
Politely we decline and tell them that we as MUSLIMS can’t eat FOX…
They understand and one of them starts to tell a story about his two Malaysians friends. Both muslims.

One of them follows the rules and everything… however, one of them eat everything on the plate and drink everything in his glass… well, the explanations going on and on through the night to make them understands.

Friday (February 27, 2006)

Wake up early this morning. Didn’t want to miss that once in a while bus trip to VIENTIANE. J
It’s obvious since we arrived at LUANG PRABANG the water temperature is extremely cold, can’t afford that hot shower guesthouse for this journey. I only take shower once throughout our journey till SAM NEUA… and I don’t think this water temperature is suitable for bath.

Checkout early, before 7am we arrived at the bus station… our bus already start his engine. Again lift our bicycle on top of the bus and I take a comfortable seat inside. While zul wondering near the station for breakfast. He come back with a bread and an small Oveltine. Hmm… breakfast. Not forgetting both DUTCH couple we meet yesterday also join lift their bicycle on top of the bus and planned to stop at NAM NOEN.

I just wait in the bus till 9am and it starts and epic 20 hours ride towards VIENTIANE.

We arrived at NAM NOEN around 11am… it’s a nice small town with a very limited small restaurant. The bus stops around an hour for lunch I guess. Zul successful found fruits and I walked towards the river while munching our bread reserves. J

Along the way from NONG KHIAW to SAM NEUA up NOTHERN LAOS… every village has it own river. White, clear fresh water depth average around hip and width around 10 meters minimum. No electricity, very basic way of life… have a fair share of mountains and not forgetting a spectacular scenery.

At NAM NOEN the locals just used ROTAN to whip fishes passing by and lift it to their basket, simple and easy. Our DUTCH friend stops here and starts cycling towards west… towards NONG KHIAW.

Then the journeys start again… we arrived at PHONSAVAN in XIENG KHUANG province around 5pm to drop few passengers and gain few more. PHONSAVAN is a small city with electricity… famous for its PLAIN OF JARS. PHONSAVAN is nearly flat compare to village up north. It’s like a football field all around, with a few hills here and there and a mountains background.

By the time we reach MUANG PHU KHOUN its dark already. It’s a small city and a junction between LUANG PRABANG and VIENTIANE. It’s where route 7 meets route 13.

We reach VANG VIENG around midnight and the bus stops for supper. VANG VIENG is a popular spots for driver or stops since it has 24 hours restaurant and a proper toilet. Zul and I eat our remaining bread, and use this opportunity to used toilet. Still its freezing… everybody seems to enjoy their late night meals as for us we enjoy our late night cigarette. J

Saturday (February 28, 2006)
The bus still moving, but every time it moves my mood switch to sleeping mode. J We arrived at VIENTIANE early around 4pm… and the first thing we do is replacing zul bicycle tubes. Other then that sleeps at the uncomfortable seats in the bus station waiting for the sunrise.

We have to wait the money changer to open because we have very few LAO kip and without BATH there’s no way for us to booked train to BANGKOK at NONG KAI. We don’t have any info about any money changer in NONG KHAI… and its Saturday we can’t confirm to arrive there before afternoon. But, the main reason is we don’t want to miss our last chance to have breakfast at NAZIM restaurant for its delicious MUTTON BRIYANI… hehe.

After breakfast, we cycled towards NONG KHAI… it took us about 2 hours again to reach the train station. Purchase our 7pm trip to BANGKOK and hangout at my Singaporean friend restaurant for a cold drink just across the road. I meet him on my previous travel to LAOS with Hafizan. His name is ROBERT.

We cycle towards a superstore in NONG KHAI for snacks and instant noodle for our 12 hour journey to BANGKOK.

Decided this is the end of our journey and booked our train ticket from BANGKOK to BUTTERWORTH before the 7pm departure. Purchase our bicycle ticket and put safely our bicycle at the compartment area and we slept along the way.


azma_moskito said...

Hi bro, Bagus sey travel ek..aku nanti ething dah ok, financial sme dah ok. Aku nak sambar basikal 1. Murah2 nye basikal jadi le. Untuk travel. Ko nye travel journey best siot. Nanti dah bli beskal aku nak join ko. mula2 semenanjung dlu..ok bro..take care aaa..

Nas said...

:) aku mula2 nak buat travel journal... last2 jadik blog pulak.. kekeke