Vang Vieng to Vientiane
- 5 hours riding time (with breaks)
I started the morning being woken up at 5am with a splitting headache. I got up and downed a few pain killers and a bit of water and went back to bed hoping to sleep it off. Over the next 3 hours the pain got worse and worse. I tried to get up with the boys and made it down to breakfast but couldn’t eat anything as the pain was making me feel sick. I quickly realised that there was no way I was going to be able to get on a bike in the state I was in and told the boys I needed a couple of hours to try and sleep it off. Thankfully I managed a bit of sleep and no longer feeling sick (but still with a roaring headache) we loaded up for one last dash into Vientiane.
The headache lasted all day and the only thing I can put it down to is the scotch and coke I’d had the night before. It was the only thing I’d had different to the other boys and we had been warned about cheap local spirits being poured into brand name bottles. It was a rookie mistake and we really should have just stuck to the beer. It was the last time we drank spirits for the trip.
It was now 10am and very hot and humid. I still had the headache, Jarrod’s stomach still wasn’t playing nice and we were all sore after 6 days on the bikes so today was more about getting to our destination than anything.
The days ride started with a loop out through the mountain range to the west of Vang Vieng. It was a short 45 minute loop on dirt and stone roads that while scenic, were very flat and straight and somewhat boring to ride on. The only bit of action was me nearly running up the back of Jarrod when he stopped for a kid who dropped a fish he had just caught on the road.
Once back on the main road we powered on as much as we could. It was a scorching hot day, the roads were dusty and there were far too many trucks, buses and utes on the roads to enjoy ourselves. We stopped once or twice for a quick drink but we were all in a hurry to get back to Vientiane.
As you can see, spending an average of 6-7 hours a day for 7 days straight on a dirt bike takes its toll on your body. I took a photo of my hand to give you an idea as I’m sure no one wanted to see one of my backside which was the bit that was really hurting by now. I spent every moment I could that day standing up on the pegs just to give it a break from the seat.
After lunch our GPS took us off the main route and onto a secondary road back to Vientiane that added about 30km to the trip. We’re still not sure if Jim had programmed that in because the roads have (marginally) fewer trucks or so we had a chance to do one more ferry crossing because I wouldn’t say the scenery or the road was anything special. Admittedly none of us were in the mood to stop and admire anything anyway.
We arrived back into Vientiane about 3pm to the sight of Lao’s version of the Arc De Triomphe, Patuxai. An impressive structure in itself but more importantly a sign that we’d survived a trip around Laos and made it back in one piece.
We momentarily debated taking our bikes up into the park to get a photo of us all in front of it but decided there were a few too many security guards around so we set off to drop our bags at the hotel. We pulled into the Vientiane Garden Hotel where we’d left our bigger bags and made a return booking on our first night in Laos. The friendly manager came out to shake our hands, say hello and tell us he would be with us shortly as he was busy with a group of about 20 Korean tourists were checking in. I stood inside next to the group and waited while the vigorous discussions continued. It turned out they had a booking for 4 people and had turned up with 20. Our lovely manager then gave them every room the hotel had (including our booking) and came outside to tell us he was fully booked and the receptionist had lost our booking from a week earlier despite our bags sitting at the front desk waiting for us. To say we were annoyed was a huge understatement. He had openly sold our booking from under us so he didn’t lose the larger group and then flat out lied about what had happened.
We spent the next hour ringing around every hotel in Vientiane trying to find somewhere that could get us a room for a reasonable price without any success. Ultimately he offered us a room for the same price at his “sister hotel” which was a dump up the road but tired and without any other options we reluctantly took it. We would later run into a couple of other very unhappy guests whose bookings had “got lost” as well.
Once checked in we set about finding Jim’s place to return the bikes. He had sent an email to us a couple of days before saying he had to go to Thailand to help a customer who had got really sick and apologised for not being there to do the handover in person. Instead his wife would handle it. We dropped the bikes back without a worry (despite Shaun forgetting the phone charger he’d given us) and made our way back to the hotel to get out of our riding gear and find a cold drink. Exhausted and sore all over the first point of call was a shower and then a massage. For $10 each we all got an hour long massage at the most legitimate looking massage parlour we could find.
We had another early start in the morning to get to the airport for our flights to Phnom Penh so we settled on a quite dinner and a couple of drinks on way of the many little restaurant strips between Rue Setthathilath St and Quai Fa Ngum St.
Laos had truly been an amazing ride. We had gotten far more off the beaten track than we had in Vietnam and visited some amazing parts of the country that most tourists would never see. We’d been able to test out the limits of the bikes on dirt, gravel and bitumen, through rivers and over mountains and the they had never let us down. We were sore all over and thoroughly exhausted but couldn’t wait to do it all over again in Cambodia in a couple of days time.
To anyone thinking about doing Laos on a motorbike I highly recommend speaking to Jim (James) from Remote Asia Travel. Our ride wouldn’t have been half as good as it was without his involvement.