March 13, 2013
Distance: 49.6 miles
We told the woman who showed us the room the night before that we would be leaving at 530am in the morning and could we pay right then. She said no, pay in the morning, she would be up. When 545am rolls around, we begin to wonder where we should leave the money. Under the door leading to the kitchen? Also, we didn’t have 30,000 kip, just 10,000 kip and a few American dollars. Just when we agree how much USD and kip to leave, a groggy young man comes up to receive our payment.
Finally, we set off through town. Nothing is open until we reach the bus station. We notice several restaurants that have clearly been open for hours and pull in. A young girl understands enough English to figure out we want omelets and rice. Knowing we have a big day ahead of us, we order seconds.
The morning started out with a pretty strong headwind, but we escaped it when we went over a small pass and the road turned into another valley. The road to Kasi was challenging, but incredibly beautiful. The mountains reminded us of movie scenes. Shear limestone walls in some parts, others with just a shallow enough pitch to support dense jungle plants and trees. There were a number of steep climbs, where there was absolutely no breeze and I was almost wishing for the headwind again.
In a small village we ran into another cycle tourist, Ivan from Serbia. We had a nice chat about routes and road conditions. He offered to host us at his house when we go to Serbia and gave us some helpful suggestions on biking through the Balkans. Talking to him had us looking forward to that portion of our trip.
We made it to Kasi in good time and stopped for lunch. Chandler ordered fried noodles with chicken, while I ordered fried noodles with vegetables. When the meals arrived, we were surprised to learn fried noodles with vegetables just means noodles with less chicken than normal. Chandler was willing to eat both meals, so I tried to order another one with really no chicken, but she just pointed at my dish and said no chicken over and over despite the small pile of dead bird I had excavated and set aside.
When Chan finished his double lunch, we went to another restaurant to find me something to eat. I showed the cook my vegetarian sign and he nodded like he understood. He then brought me out a soup without any meat in it, but filled to the brim with chicken broth. A lot of people don’t seem to make the connection that soup broth is made from animals and therefore contains meat. I looked at Chandler to see if he would help me, but he was completely stuffed. So, I pulled the noodles out of the broth and told myself it was vegetable broth over and over and over.
We had read online that there is a hot springs and guesthouse 20km outside of Kasi, so we decided go ahead and go there. What we didn’t know was that it was going to be uphill the entire way. And, of course, we were doing the hardest part of the climb in the heat of the day. Chandler and I began making jokes about how good we are at our timing.
We finally made it to the hot springs a little after 4pm and we excited to see two other bikes all loaded up outside one of the bungalows. We headed over to the restaurant and had the pleasure of meeting Josh and Kat. Josh, an American, and Kat, an Aussie, had been teaching in China for the past couple of years and were exploring SE Asia on bicycles before heading to Australia. A short while later, another cyclist joined us, Tony from Germany.
We spent the next 5 hours in the restaurant eating and drinking way too many beers. Our little cyclist party was so much fun. It actually got a bit chilly later on in the evening, which seemed impossible after how hot it was during the day. We ended the night by taking a soak in the hot spring together and wondering how in the world we were going to manage the next day.