The ride from the Chinese to the Laos border is paved and mostly downhill.
You park at the immigration building and go inside. Here you fill in an entry card and stand in the first line for a passport check. Next you fill out a visa application form. They list the price for each country on a notice board (44 USD for Canadians) and you need to supply a passport photo.
We then went out to what we though was the customs booth and gave them our bike registration and passports. They entered this in the computer and let us go (no TVIP??) The gate agent checked us and let us go. This was all done in under an hour. We rode about 200 m to where there were a bunch of vans and small trucks parked and asked around for a ride 282 km to Luang Prabang for Lulu. We had looked at several trucks, but one had a flat and the other guy said no.
There was a minivan driver who said he would do it for 200$ (the estimate from Moto Laos was 150-200) and so we jumped at that. He had to unbolt the seats and we managed to wedge her in the back.
Then we set off out of the border zone.
We stopped for gas for the van and the guys went in for some snacks…Next thing Sara and the van were gone! Dan raced after us and about 5 km later there was a “customs gate”. The van went thru the gate and the guy looked and me and the bike and waved us on. Dan went on the side thru the motorbike lane and no-one stopped him.
The van had pulled over, but he then took off right away. Dan did not follow as he figured there must be some paperwork we need to do here and when the other 2 showed up and rode thru the main gate the guy pulled them over. Lucky for us things are lax here and they did the TVIP for 4 bikes even thought there are only 3 there at the time.
The road south is narrow, winding, and two lanes and passing for the van is a challenge.. It is lined some of the time by stilted wooden houses of the small villages. The lower economic level here is obvious as is the large amount of garbage discarded. There are an unbelievable number of kids. Troops of toddlers walking along the roadway with cars, bikes, and trucks zooming past. The school age children are all in uniform coming and going along the road, with the younger ones on bicycles and the older ones on electric scooters. The guys rode on this amazing curvy road and stopped for lunch and so were a bit behind the van.
Daniel finally caught up to the van about 4 30. He said he had had one of the top 5 rides of the trip to catch up from 90 minutes behind us. EPIC!. We arrived to the city just at dark and to the guest house when the other 2 also showed up 5 minutes later. We walked a few blocks along the Mekong to find a local place for dinner.
The YSS shock is here thanks to Tiger Trail / Moto Laos for accepting the package and Manichan guest house for picking it up for us and trying to send it to the border!
Today we want to do nothing and we didn’t really. Got caught up on emails and blogs. We did walk to the main street to get SIM cards and are a bit overwhelmed by the number of tourists. For lunch we had traditional Laos omelettes at a place on the river that has been there for 20 years.
In the evening we walked to the end of the peninsula to a French restaurant recommended by Mark who was also in the guest house. Great Duck salad and galettes. We walked back thru he night market which was packed with tourists.
The newest issue of the day is we have learned that there are on and off issues crossing the border to Cambodia and over landers are being denied entry as the border officials do not want to or can not issue a TVIP. This is not a carnet country, but we may need to use it. Even with the carnet 2 Swiss in a truck were denied entry 2 days ago. They bused to Phenom Pen to obtain a letter of permission to enter and some of us may need to bus or fly there later this week.
This really throws a wrench in the plans to travel in Laos as we may spend most of the time trying to get access to Cambodia. Dan and Sara are on a schedule as they have flights from Siem Reap to Hanoi Nov 2 in 2 weeks time. They have storage arranged for the bikes for 2 week in Siem Reap. The TVIP for Laos expire Nov 18 and this means if the bikes need to be left here instead we will have to cut short their Vietnam family holiday.
On a positive note our Vietnamese friend Huong in Vancouver has arranged for the Consul there to issue us “emergency” on arrival Vietnam visas as we fit the criteria and are out of Canada. This means we get an e visa and use this for boarding and then they issue us a visa on arrival.
Today it is install the shock day and this went smoothly.
We have also decided to stay another day to try to get some rest. This afternoon we took the bikes to the car wash and then grabbed some traditional Laotian food for lunch on the main drag. It is impossible to be in the direct sun here!
Several of the other guests were going out to dinner with the owner of the guesthouse Venus. There is an Italian guy in town that has a wood fire pizza place in his front yard. It is open Tue and Fri 6-9 and today is Friday! Great pizza at Secret Pizza!
Well after 2 days of doing almost nothing we finally got the energy to ride the 30 km to the Kuang Si waterfall. The road is paved, but potholed and missing in some sections, but the ride thru the jungle is scenic.
The waterfall is actually a series of falls. It was a bit too murky and cold for swimming for us.
It was forecast to pour rain all night, but there was a sky full of stars and the sun was out in the morning. We planned to set off at 930 for the 184 km to Vang Vieng. We hoped to go the shorter way on the “new road” number 4, but the host here says it can be closed and was for a month this summer.
We took the chance and went for it. The weather was good on the uphill side of the mountains, but as we climbed higher it got mistier and then was lightly raining.
We got to the summit and there was a long line of trucks park to the right and found the reason the road can be closed at times. As we rounded the corner we could see why. There was a 300 m section of muddy steep road and when we arrived a minivan was making another failed attempt to get up the hill. Dan went down to see how tricky it was and reported back that it was not too slippery for the downhill and we would be ok once the minivan backed down out of our way. It was wet and steep and muddy, but not slippery going down. Once we passed this there was another 2 sections of dirt now mud of 200 m each to pass, but with no trouble.
Then the rain started in earnest and we pulled over for the suits. We had gotten a bit wet, but we would have been soaked otherwise. We continued on down hill and out of the clouds and rain about 15 minutes later and we could pull over and get the suits off so we could dry out underneath.
The rest of the ride back down to the 13N was uneventful and then we had 57 km left to go south from Kasi.
Vang Vieng is a smaller, but very touristic town and mobbed with young kids. We stopped for some lunch and checked online for our options. We settled for a quiet inn off the main road with excellent parking. We managed to get some rest and then walked down the road to a local Bbq place for some grilled fresh fish and chicken. This is not really a very nice spot to be and Trevor does not recognize it at all from his good memory of his last visit.
Today the forecast is for rain and we have some time to kill anyway and so we will stay another day. Trevor will head south to Vientiane tomorrow and fly to Phenom Pen Cambodia to get our TVIP sorted and we will head north.
As predicted it poured, but only for an hour and the sun came our in time for us to have a small tour in a long boat up the river.
And then some beers!!