Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 63 Sun 29/08 - Rain..Rain..Rain Sickening Rain stuck in Thanh Hoa

Today Weather : 20 - 28C  Rain non stop
Today Spend : 442000vnd      Total : 542000vnd

Vietnamese street noodle stall
Decided to take a bus to Hanoi tomorrow ,154 km from here. Really sick of the rain and also no one seems to speak either English or Mandarin, couldn't find a Vietnam map in a big bookstore. Went to the ATM to cash out some Dong. I am getting home sick now.
154km to Hanoi no sweat if without the rain

A common smoking pipe in Vietnam

No harm in trying....feeling on top of the world

A shopping complex in Thanh Hoa, mostly selling cloths and shoes

Day 62 Sat 28/08 - Xam Neua Bus to Thanh Hoa ( Vietnam)

Today Weather : 20 - 28C   Rain all Day
Today Spending : 230000k + 160000vnd

The weather continues to be bad and raining non stop, everywhere seems to be flooded with water. left with no choice but to take a bus again crossing to Vietnam via the Nam Soi/ Nameo international border. The bus ticket cost 180000k. After buying the ticket while unloading my panniers from the bike, the vietnamese bus helper approached me in good English" Hallo, you need to buy another ticket for your bicycle" " What?" started to realise now I am no more dealing with the friendly Lao people but the cunning Vietnamese " Sorry I don't have enough money to but another ticket, I can only give you 30000k, take it or I refund my ticket?" The bus driver and helper were undecided trying to ignore my offer, but I was damn serious about it and went straight to the counter. My seriousness took them by surprise, before I took out the ticket, the helper calls me back and finally settled with 40000k.Bloody sucker!!!! A really bad impression on Vietnam even before you step into the country.At the border, no problem luckily but my luggage was 100% checked at the Vietnam custom before they put down an entry stamp of 30 days ( 27 Sept ). The Vietnamese custom officer even asked me to exchange to Dong from my leftover Kip. 10000k for 20000vnd. I am not sure the exchange rate for Rm, but based on the above Rm 1 = 5000vnd. Can someone help me with more information. Arrived in Thanh Hoa by 7pm , almost 12 hour journey having started 7.30am,dark and raining ,hard time to look around for resonable guest houses. Settled in one hotel , a bit more expensive at 140000vnd ( Rm 28 ) . A big room with aircon and cable tv, most important is now a hot shower,cos' 3 days hasn't been bathed. Lying on the comfort bed , my mind kept pondering " What's next from here?" Frankly I really don't know. It has been raining day and night non stop even at this hour of writing this journal 11.30pm, outside is still raining heavily...
Hyundai Van to Thanh Hoe
Vietnam custom border
For rememberance
The road between the two countries
Stop at Nameo town for lunch

Arriving at the Namsoi Lao custom

Road condition not any better

River overflowing with continuous rain

Truck skipped and landed side way  into the water

First hotel room in Thanh Hoa , Vietnam 140000vnd

Day 61 Fri 27/08 - Xam Neua another Rainy Rest Day

Today Weather : 22 - 28C   Rain the whole Day
Today Spend : 85000k    Total : 2086000k

It was stii early in the morning, the rain already started while i am still sleeping in my tent at the bus station. I was not in a hurry as i am planning to stay in a guesthouse in town just about 2 km from the station. Anyway I had to packed up early as more and more people arrived with the buses and tuk-tuk. Xam Neua, the provincial capital of Houapanh, is no better than Phonsavan in term of facilities, but the few guesthouses here are extremly expensive at 80000k, which is double that I had stayed so far. As I go in search for a reasonable one, the locals are staring at me curiously. Finally I found one 35000k, but the conditions were next to a prostitute den.No heater, no tv , the pillow case ,blanket and bed sheet were old and smelly, wonder how long they haven't been washed. The only Internet in town was too slow to do any blog update, not worth paying 10000k/ hour. In view of the frequent rains, I am toying with the idea of just taking bus to Hanoi, although my Laos exit is on the 6th Sept. Hopefully the weather in Hanoi is much more conducive for cycling.
Riding into Xam Neua
Landmark in Xam Neua
A colourful govnment building
A Vietnamese funded bridge
Lots of Vietnam influence here
A gate to the Temple
Buddhist temple
Vietnamese food
Room in Xam Neua- Prostitute den

Day 60 Thu 26/08 - Phonsavan Bus to Xam Nuea Station Camp

Today Weather : 22 - 30C   Day Cooling Night Rain
Today Spend : 207000k   Total : 2001000k

Reached the bus station by tuk-tuk sharp at 8 am. Discovered that the actual ticket price to Xam Neua is 70000k. So the agent and the tuk-tuk shared the commission of 40000k. The bus is a Toyota minibus 24 seater plus 2 helpers and the driver. No extra charge for the bike which was loaded on top of the bus together with a motorbike, a few chicken in a bamboo cage and other big luggages, well protected with a plastic cover from the rain. The bus leave at 8.30am and still picking up more passengers along the way, The bus was filled to the maximum until the driver had to turn away some much to their anger.I got the front seat beside the driver and had a good view on the road ahead. The waether is ok,cloudy but no rain. The route 7 continued flat to Muang Kuang, A junction here leading to 2 border crossing to Vietnam. One is to Nam Kan on route 7 to Vinh and the one I am going is route 6 to Nam Soi / Nameo and Hanoi .I am glad to had made the right choice of taking a bus on this part of journey, as the hills here are much much steeper than the earlier one.A lunch stop in Na Meun cost me a fortune for a bowl of noodle and a plate of fried beef with ginger and sticky rice, equavalent to a night of guesthouse stay.Not much pictures taken as I am a bit bored of the same mountain scenery. The bus arrived in Xam Neua at 6 pm on a hill top over looking down is the town. There is a guesthouse in the station but I prefer to set up my tent under a rest hut with zinc roof, and bought some foods and drinks at the stall. Tomorrow to stay in the town and see what Xam Neua has to offer.
On the way to the Bus station in a tuk-tuk
No extra charge for the bicycle but not dure on the motorbike

The road continued to climb on very steep mountain
Welcome to Xam Neua gate

Bus satation Xam Neua

View from the hill top at the station
Town of Xam Neua
My camp at the Rest hut in the station

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Day 59 Wed 25/08 - Phonsavan on a Rainy Rest Day

Today Weather : 20 - 26C Rain all day
Today Spending : 111000k   Total : 1794000k

A day in which you don't feel like doing anything except going to the Internet to update the past few days reports. At 12000k per hour ( Rm 4.80), is double the price as in Malaysia. It usually took me 2-3 hours to finish the job. So you guys at home able to enjoy the stories and pictures. Had decided to temporary take a rest from biking, to get away the boredom, instead I will take a bus to Xam Neua tomorrow. Approx. 9 hr journey costing 110000k. From Xam Nuea is another 100km to the border town of Nameo before crossing to Vietnam.

Day 58 Tue 24/08 - Bamboo Hut Camp Nam Chat - Phonsavan or Xieng Khouang

Today Distance : 84.8 km    Total : 3344.3 km
Today Weather : 21 - 30C   Day cooling Night rain
Time on Bike : 6 hr  30 min
Ave Speed : 13.0 kmh   Max : 55.0 kmh
Ave Climb : 3%             Max ; 12%
Trip Altitude : 1068 m    Max : 1383 m

After 3 days of consecutive Bamboo Hut camping since leaving Luang Prabang, I badly needed to clean up myself,washed all the smelly clothings and to recharge the batteries. So today I am determine to ride to Phonsavan, but was not so sure in doing it as it is 80 km . Mountains ahead for sure, but how tough? and Steep? That will be the main factor!! Started at 8 am. The 1st 57 km have climbs but not too long, then follow by downhills a little , not to the very bottom. More or less I was riding at an elevation between 1200 - 1400m.  A surprise came when after one of the downhill , a vast plain of  grassland plateau, with paddy fields at the lowland and upper land with pine,oaks trees, a great change of vegetation from the rain forest. The villagers houses are built on woods instead of the bamboo and attap roof. With a very cooling temperate weather, the ride from here is much more relaxing, a boaster to my confidence to reach Phonsavan. There was a toll gate before the town but was free for bicycle and also a sign board of world heritage sites in Plain of Jars. My first impression of the town is rather disappointing at the amount of red mud dust flying around on both sides of the road, especially worst when some inconsiderate drivers zoom passed. The road leading to Phonsavan is lovely. But the same cannot be said on the town , dirty, rubbish everywhere. By 4 pm settled in Sabaidee guest house for 35000k. Too tired to think of anything, drop straight on the bed.

Mountain water good for drinking

Fishing pond

A change of vegetation from rain forest

Pines and oaks greenland

World Heritage site -Plain of Jars

US cluster bomb left as decoration

And also flower pots

Riding into the town with red mud dust on both side

Xieng Khouang Hotel at the main junction

Market complex in Phonsavan

Day 55 Sat 21/08 - Luang Prabang to Bamboo Hut Camp 15km b4 Kiewkacham

Today Distance : 63.8 km   Total : 3137.4 km
Today Weather : 27 - 42C   Sunny and Hot all day
Time on Bike : 5 hr  36 min
Ave Speed : 11.3 kmh   Max : 54.5 kmh
Ave Climb ; 4%             Max : 14%
Trip Altitude : 1329m     Max : 1045m
Today Spend : 35000k      Total : 1546000k

Unlucky day for me with a fall off the bike from a 15km downhill over a patch of running water at a sandy bend .With my speed of 40-50kmh, when I noticed the danger in front,I slowdown trying to control and balance the bike, but in vain as the tires hit the sands, the bike and I landed on the left hand side,my left pannier was thrown out from the rack, no damage for the bike but my left thigh suffered bruises, nothing serious, a rest of 20 min to cool down the pain and I am on the bike again. Today's weather is extremely hot ( max 42C) couples with the long climb with no shade to hide from the heat. The climbs in fact started right from Luang Prabang,gradually for 27km to Vieng Ngeun and then came the steep climb of 14 km to the top before the 15 km downhill. The bamboo hut camp is only the midway of the 2nd climb. Tomorrow the climb continues to Kiewkacham and hopefully able to reach  Phou Khoun which is another 65 km away.

Lao lady selling noodle at road side

My breakfast and pick your own on the pork stomach

A look out point at the hill on Luang Prabang with the Mekong River

A really good place to dream

Fruits stalls on top of the Hill before the descent

Location of my fall with running water and sands on a downhill
Very high and steep rock cliff
Left thigh brushes
My favorite stop
Bamboo Hut Camp
Nice to see a sun flower around