We are in Pakse, Laos. 300 km west of the Bo Y international border, which we crossed to Laos from Vietnam. A huge border crossing point that was planned for more, much more people, but where we felt rather completely lonely. No visa on arrival, no e-visa can be used here, no ATM, no shops, no exchange on the Laos side. Luckily we changed already some money in a small village on the Vietnamese side.
There is no information about the border crossing and none about the route to Pakse we could find ahead. No information about road quality, traffic, shopping or accommodation. So we packed ourselves with plenty of water, oatmeal and apples. In retrospect, it was quite easy. But we could not know that yet. In addition, the heat and high humidity makes us physically tired. We hope for accommodations, so that we can rest from about 1 PM somewhere in a room with at least a fan and sleep early to be able to start cycling again in the morning around 5:30 AM.
In fact our plan works out
Short stages and simple accommodations for one night we can find along the way.
Mostly happy to leave them in the morning, but at least protected from the heat and the thunderstorms that come in the afternoons, but unfortunately do not bring any cooling. Surprisingly, we cope well with the weather situation. And even the cold that has caught me, is to be held out with a little whining and cursing. So now 3.100 meters of altitude want to be overcome. We didn’t choose the touristy developed area, but for that it was a really magical area.
Aren’t we all always looking for the places without the tourists invading in droves? In search of the original?
They still exist, the regions beyond mass tourism. The places where culture and traditions are not primarily maintained and cultivated for tourists, but are a natural part of everyday life. The places where time sometimes seems to stand still, where there are no souvenir stores, tuktuks and multilingual illustrated menus.
Besides the charm of the original, peripheral, rural regions far from the political centers, there is often an inadequate infrastructure. Some will now know what I mean, because tourist like to complain about tourists, but they tend to overlook the fact that they are tourists themselves. It is not uncommon to complain that there are too many of them. It is not the fault of the tourists, it might be the greed, which does not allow a “gentle” tourism. In case there is some kind of “gentle” tourism, then not infrequently some are horrified by power outages, lack of internet or the warm beer.
The bicycle, the best way to travel
Just in the last days I know again why I prefer traveling by bicycle with all its difficulties to all other possibilities. We can decide for ourselves in which places we want to stay. No guidance system for tourist highlites, no compass for the tourist-adapted restaurants.
But instead the one or other feeling of “struggle for survival”. The fear of getting stuck if the road quality drops, the fear of running out of strength somewhere in jungle areas, running out of water or getting stuck in the mud.
None of that happened. And with zero expectations, we thoroughly enjoyed every little situation, even the warm beer.
Once again, it’s the expectations that play a role on a trip like this. And even the climbs, for which we had some respect in advance, were not so bad.
If I described Vietnam as “quiet”, then I can describe us in Laos as “quiet”. We had developed an incredible inner peace for and on the coming stages.
The roads were perfect, the sound of the animals in the jungle accompanied us for days, then the first isolated houses, the astonished faces, the laughter, the friendliness……
…… and the sticky rice. Delicious.
Sticky rice is a staple in Lao cuisine. Gluten free but full of carbohydrates. So no wonder we were always feeling a little tired after eating this stuff.
Here, the rice is eaten with a sauce at every meal and just not only as a dessert with coconut and mango. A bit rubbery, like little worms it feels, but simply delicious.
And there I sit now, in Pakse. We take a break for a few days before we set off, along the Mekong River, to Cambodia. We will stick to short stages, because we have time. Here our visa does not expire so soon, so we want to enjoy. More often a little break, a little sight seeing, a little more Mekong. Pakse, still a little sleepy place, but you can feel the tourism and the will to attract even more. An Italian guy with his pizzeria, a Frenchman with his bakery, they all come or have been here for a while, waiting for more guests. And they will not be absent. I hope the Laotian businessman will find his place as well.
We will leave within the next 2 days. Along the Mekong in Laos to Cambodia. So we will reach our first stage destination on our bicycle world tour after one year of traveling, one year on the road.
Some impressions from Pakse in Laos.