The team splits up temporarily today as Trevor and the Swede go south and WWR heads north. We are going 234 km north and then east to Phonsavan.
We initially had a 57 km back track to Kasi and then we continued north on the 13N.
This route is all curves and heads up into the clouds and mist over the mountain. At times it was a bit hairy with the wet road, sharp curves, and almost zero visibility. Luckily on the down side the road was dry and the curves continued.
We only stopped once for 30 min for a Laos noodle soup lunch and it still took 5 1/2 hours to get to our hotel.
The last 60 km we got some speed up and managed to get out of 3 rd gear. We had booked into a guest house located off the main road and not too far from the “plain of Jars” sites that are the attraction here. Dinner was treat as there is an Italian Chef here with a place 400 m from us and we had very nice red wine and very delicious pasta for dinner. There are very few tourists here and no backpackers.
There are a lot of reminders of how much this county was bombed.
Today the weather in much nicer and we rode the 10 km to the Plain of Jars Site 1 after our banana French toast.
At the site foreigners pay 15000 Kip to enter and 3000 Kip to park. The jars are on one of the most heavily bombed regions of the country.
We also did a bit of a ride around the city and found a nice local place for a noodle soup lunch.
Dinner was some local food and a great passion fruit Margareta. Fingers crossed Trevor is at the ministry of transport in Phenom Pen today to try to get our authorization letter to enter Cambodia with the bikes. This will be a major problem for us if we can not get them this week.
We have no fixed plan today, except to head south and west to be in striking distance to meet with Trevor and Orvar and hopefully pick up our Cambodian TVIP in 2 days time. The road today is again mostly curves for the first 120 km on the 1D and that took about 2 1/2 hours.
We stopped for a Laos noodle soup about 1030. We love the Asian soups and the bowls of “ditch weeds” they always serve along side to add some flavors.
This is THE main road, but there is almost no traffic. Several times we thought the road might be closed as we had not seen another vehicle for over an hour. After “breakfast” the road is straighter and we made better time.
After 320 km we were just passed Na Hin (which has a lot of guest houses, but is not a nice place) and we stopped for fuel. There was a sign here for a resort near the Konglor cave in 43 km and so we decided to see how the road was (mostly paved).
We had though to come here, but as it is an in and out we did not care for a mud road as on these tires it would be tragic.
We were greeted warmly my the owner Vicki and settled into our little garden cabin for 15$. The noise from the Cicadas was amazing, but suddenly stopped after dark.
The attraction here is being on the river, paddling up into the lagoon, and to visit the Konglor cave. This is a huge pitch black cave where you ride on a long boat 7.5 km thru the cave twisting and turning guided by the driver using spot lights. We opted to also take a 45 min long boat ride from the resort up the river to the cave entrance.
At Konglor park headquarters you buy your cave ticket and the driver takes you across the river as it is a 200 m walk to the navigable entrance to the cave. 100 m inside the cave itself you step into one of the boats moored there.
You ride about 5 min and then get out for a short hike thru the lighted area with stalactites and stalagmites. You meet your boat on the other side of the short hike and continue the journey on the river.
There are some rapids at the far end that you must walk up, but get to ride down on the way back! The ticket is for the return ride as well.
The next day we lazed about all day until Vicki told us we really needed to do something! So we borrowed a canoe from the hotel and paddled up the “spring”. This is the smaller waterway that joins the river and starts deep in a cave that is now collapsed, but you can see the water welling up at the entrance.
We had some bad news from Trevor at 2 pm when we got back from the paddle. The paper work “will not be ready today” was the word from the tourism office. They are only open until 5 and so he will not get to customs until Monday. This gives us only 3 days to get to our flight in Siem Reap. Doable, but not fun.
Well it is certainly a roller coaster ride of emotions today for us. Trevor messaged us again at 430 that they actually got the paperwork and he got to Customs, but not in time to make his flight for today. This means booking another and so we are now up to 600$US for the TVIP/flight, and visas at this point.
And we thought Thailand was going to be the serious challenge to get into. We still have that hurdle to deal with, but at least we are not under a time constraint of our flight Nov then.
Our plan is to try for the southern most border in Cambodia to get to Thailand and use the Carnet. We are not at all keen to sit 2 weeks to apply and wait not to mention pay exorbitantly for Thai tourism permits. If they refuse us at the border we will be prepared to camp out in no man’s land as we can not go back to Cambodia as the TVIP expire Nov 30. If that does not work we will have to hire a bonded truck to take the bikes to the Malaysian border.
Trevor has managed to get a flight back the next day and that meant he arrived to Vientiane at 1340 and was on the bike riding at 1430. It is 309 km to the Spring River resort and with some traffic and navigational and Orvar’s GPS “issues” they finally arrived at just before 8 pm. Just in time to celebrate Daniel’s birthday and even brought a card and a “gift”. Thank you so much to Vicki and her staff since they must have traveled a long way to find birthday candles (they drive 6 hours to Thailand for bacon.)
The plan was for the guys to visit the cave and then we would all “take the loop” thru the national forest and end up in Thakhek. This is a 245 km and 5-6 hour trip. Sunset is at 540 and it is pitch black at 6.
We made the mistake of waiting for them to get back from the cave as by the time they did it was almost 2. We had decided that if they did not get back and we were not riding at 1 we would take the main road to Thakhek, which is 179 km and takes just over 3 hours. In hind sigh we should have left right away and taken the long loop road. When they arrived so late and they still wanted to go the long way. We were not prepared to ride in the dark and Thomas the owner at Spring River said there was limited places to stay after the half way point.
In the end they were 3 hours to go 160 km and ended up at a small very simple guest house at dark. We on the other hand had a very nice ride over the mountains and then onto the 13S to Thakhek and arrived before dark.
We found a very nice boutique hotel right on the Mekong! Splurge night of luxury for a change. We had to walk almost a km to find a working ATM and when we did there was 5 located in the same spot. The hotel also has a restaurant on the river with very good food and a view of Thailand across the river. It is quite striking to see the difference in urbanization on the Cambodian verses the Thai side. The Thai side look all lit up!
We were asleep by 2130 and so up and well rested at 630! We had a nice included breakfast in our stay and then we walked along the river for a bit to catch the monks walking and cycling on their way to school.
The ride today is 372 km to Tad Fane waterfall just east of Pakse and is on the 13S. This is almost all straight and thru farmland, but this means we could go 90-100 mostly.
We stopped for some 95 Octane as we had not seen it yet in Lao and some iced latte frappes at “cafe Amazon”.
The next rest was at a Wat. The young monks were a bit shy, but 2 were brave enough to sit on Lulu for a photo op.
The cabin we booked for tonight are 43 km east of Pakse at the Tad Fane waterfall. The road is in pretty bad shape for most of the way with pot holes you could fall in. Arriving at the “resort” at just about 2 we checked in and then enjoyed the amazing view of the falls.
The other guys, who had left this morning from about an hour before Thakhek did arrive just after 430 and in time for a zip line tour.
The only noise last night was the water thundering off the falls.