March 10, 2013
Distance: 49.9 miles
We got up at 530am to get an early start and get out of creepy town. We had everything packed up the night before, so we were able to get on the road pretty quickly. We were hoping to find a restaurant in the next town, but nobody appeared open yet. We passed through a few more towns stopping and making an eating food motion with people just shaking their heads no. Once Chan and I started snapping at each other, it was obvious we needed to eat or the ride was getting to become very unpleasant.
Chandler bought some eggs and we decided to make breakfast on the side of the road using our stove. Before the trip, we purchased a new stove that could run on gasoline or diesel fuel and this would be our first time using it. It took a few minutes to figure out how to prime it and get it going. Soon enough eggs were cooking.
With breakfast out of the way, we were ready to bike. The road was in good condition and relatively flat. The scenery was beautiful as usual. Chandler saw a ferry across the river that would cut out 10 or so miles from the ride. The ferry was just a floating metal platform with an engine, but it was quick and only 4000 kip or $0.50 for both of us.
We tried to go to a restaurant on the other side of the river, but they only had soup. We had a couple of sprites to cool down. Further into town, we found a restaurant miraculously with an English menu posted outside, but they were closed for the day to clean. Eventually, we spotted a donut stand and stopped for a few. There were two flavors and because I didn’t know what either kind was, I bought a few of each. The first donut was filled with condensed milk and were delicious. The second was filled with dried fish with the consistency of yarn and not delicious. After, we bought more of the Laos Krispy Kremes, the man working the stand gave us a melon for free. The melon was small and green, like a mini honeydew but had a texture similar to an apple. It was interesting and we really appreciated the man’s kindness. We figured our snack would hold us over for another hour, when we would get to Phon Hong where were planning on staying.
We made it to Phon Hong in good time and were hoping there would be a guesthouse on the north end of town. When Chandler spied a cafe, we u-turned and headed over. As we pulled up, so did another man on a moto. The sign in from of the cafe was written in Vietnamese, so Chan ordered a cafe sua da, and the girl working at the stand nodded. Then, the man asked me what we wanted, then repeated our order then told us the girl didn’t speak English (duh). Then he indicated he spoke english, which was a bit of a stretch. As we sat down, the man sat down between us introducing himself as Chicken. We were pretty tired at this point and not interested in entertaining our guest. His body language was a little strange, but he was asking us normal questions so we went along with it. After the some small talk, he left, saying wait here for him. Our coffee wasn’t even out yet so we weren’t going anywhere.
Our coffee arrived and we began to relax, but the guy comes back- he had changed and was now stinking of cologne which barely covered up the booze on his breath. Chicken sits down, tells us we need to follow him out of town to a restaurant. We lie and tell him we already ate in town. This seems to annoy him so he picks up Chan’s coffee and take a really gross gulp with backwash and everything. Chan is stunned, and pissed of course. He tells him we’re not going anywhere, that we are trying to relax and he needs to chill out. Chicken keeps handing Chan his coffee saying “let’s go, me take care of you.” He takes another swig of Chan’s drink as if this will help the matter. Chan is just staring back into the cafe with his arms crossed ignoring him. Finally, he tries to guilt us into following him by saying “fine, I just go alone”, which is fine with us. He takes off on his scooter with the kickstand still down. Good riddance.
Now that our coffee break was ruined, we waited a few minutes to ensure the drunk guy is far enough away from us, before hopping back on the bikes. We didn’t want to stay in town with only one guesthouse, it would be easy for our “friend” to track us down if he really wanted to. We passed a dive of a guesthouse and one that was closed. Then we saw a pretty nice sign for an eco-resort, which was a few kilometers down a side road. It looked like it was probably an expensive package tour type place so we decided not to risk a potentially fruitless ride out there. We pressed on.
It was hitting 2pm, the hottest part of the day and there was a large pass in front of us. We found a shady spot and sit down for a snack of Oreos and almost immediately a guy on a moto coming down the pass u-turns and rides back up towards us. We scramble back onto the bikes with our mouths full of cookies and take off without saying hello. When we reached the top of the pass, we both felt really bad about blowing off the guy who was probably just curious. We still had our guard up big time after the incident with Chicken.
We continue cycling through beautiful scenery, saying hello to friendly people, hoping to see a guesthouse. The back side of the pass was markedly less traveler friendly, but we did find some cold water and a pepsi when we really needed it. I was getting desperate to end the day at this point but had begun to mentally prepare myself for another 40km of riding. Just when I was about to lose it, another cyclist rides up to us headed the other way. We stop and chat about where we are from and where we are going. He was from the Boulder area in CO, and had just packrafted a few days down a river starting near the Chinese border. Pretty cool! The best news the cyclist gave us was that there’s a guesthouse only 2 miles up the road in Hinheup! Horray!
Sure enough, guesthouse and restaurant appeared where we were told they would. A clean bed, hot water and a safe place for the bikes. We were so hungry, we ate dinner before taking showers and putting on clean clothes. They cooked us up a huge pile of stir fried vegetables with rice and an egg, a perfect meal!
When we were in Vientiane, Ian transferred all his movies to our computer, so we spent the rest of the evening laying in bed, relaxing watching the Big Lebowski.