Km 8950 – Bueng Na Rang, Thailand
„Sabaidiii!“ This is how the Lao Hello sounds and which we hear all the time. Our time in Laos was short (7 days) but intensive and full of adventures. Nature and people have touched us. We travel in a country, which got its independence of French colonialisation (in 1954) and was neutral in the Vietnamese War (1955-1975). Nevertheless, every year (nearly 40 years later!) around 300 people per year are wounded or killed by unexploded bombs. We saw the warning every couple of kilometers. But where do the so called UEO (unexploded objects) come from? In a secret war against Laos the U.S.A. dropped about 2.5 tons of explosive devices per person (total: 2,1 BILLION tons). Generally to harm the communists, but especially to stop supplies for the Vietcong. Until today no reparations are paid.
CAO TREO – LAK SAO
- Laos waits: with a lot of sun, a long downhill ride and a green and hilly landscape. One pass is enough to leave the cooler weather of Vietnam behind and to join the warming heat of Laos.
- In Laksao, 35 km after the border we try to get some money. But the ATM swallowes our credit card and shows no more reaction. A young lady helps us, calls the bank and 15 minutes later an employee shows up. A short time after that we have our card and money, then a hotel, shower and food. Laos is relaxed! No big negotiations, no rip-offs.
- In the morning we see two trekking bikes next to ours. Minutes after that Claire and Mark (U.K.) show up. They have good hints and propose a change of our route (through a cave).
LAK SAO – THAKEK
- The trip together turns out to be a highlight. As many times before, the others are better prepared better and have more information. We camp beside a shallow river, cook and sit near the fire. The moonlight falls on the river – everything is calm. Just before – in the village – we thought about taking a room. Five Euro is not much. But this time it isn’t about saving the money. It is more about the atmosphere, being close to nature. We enjoy the beautiful scenery while standing in the shallow water and looking at the dark silhouette of the bamboo bowing over the water.
- Next day: We rent three pirogues, these flat, wodden boats to carry us four, the four bikes and all of our luggage. We drag everything into the cave, load up the boats and drive through the darkness, through a seven kilometer long, underground (!) river. There is no light in the natural tunnel and only the headlamp of my steersman flickers on the high walls. Unbelievable much rock above us, water below – and ourselves on the small shaky boats.
- How deep is the water? A feeling of happiness flows through my body. Suddenly daylight again. Still in the dark, we have to unpack everything and pull the boats over a rapid. Unloading to be spit out of the cave into the bright jungle. The contrast of the black darkness (no light = no life) and the lush, green jungle is mind-blowing. Again a magic moment.
- We follow a 50 kilometer long dirt track by bicycle. In total we need one and a half days for the short distance. Small villages, bad roads.
- Somebody allows us to camp in front of their huts. From pitching the tent until the preparation of our dinner we are followed by at least 15 pairs of eyes. We share hot choclate and some candy. Unfortunatly we don’t have more to offer.
- Ascent the next morning. The track is dusty, sandy and steep. We push for hours, withstand the sun and curse the mountain. I have to help Jana several times, as her knee is hurting. Finally, finally we reach asphalt. Seldomly one is as happy about concrete, about the sealing of nature.
- 16 kilometer north of Thakek, the border town in Laos, we cycle to the new „Friendship Bridge 3“ towards Thailand. Before the bridge: lane change. From now on: left-hand traffic.
- THAILAND! We know about the mass tourism in this country and we soon know why. The relaxed attitude of the Thais, a beautiful and mystic country (old temples and shaven-headed monks in organe-coloured cowls) and fortunate living conditions (climatic and financial)…but most of all, the constant smile of the people.