Laos Solo Adventure - Part 2

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by ZCM, May 27, 2018.

  1. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    #1 ZCM, May 27, 2018
    Last edited: May 27, 2018
    Day 5: Phonsavan (Plain of Jars). (Google Map link)

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    At 7am I had a light breakfast in the hotel (not much to write home about, but ok. I was careful about what to eat as my stomach still felt off). I then set off to Plain of Jars site 1. It was surprisingly dry given that it had rained all night!
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    I am glad i turned up early to the site. First, because I escaped the heat (which, by just 2 hours later, was intense), and second, because i escaped the crowds (which came thick and fast later on).

    I skipped the exhibition room initially (I already knew the story as i had watched a documentary 8 years ago, and had wanted to visit the site ever since. I figured I would leave this room until after my walk).


    The stone jars were very interesting. Well, to me they were. I suppose how interesting they are depends on your own perspective really. Some may just see a bunch of boring jars, but I saw history. Historical sites always gets my skin prickling. Something about the idea of walking in time. Hard to explain, but fills me with awe. So I loved seeing the jars.
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    Then of course there was the more recent historical aspect of all the bomb craters. During 1964 and 1973, the Plain of Jars was heavily bombed by the U.S. Air Force. Known as the “Secret War”, the area had more bombs dropped there (primarily in the Plain of Jars), than anywhere in the whole of World War II. This includes around 262 million anti-personnel cluster bombs. It is estimated that there are still around 80 million unexploded bombs in the region.

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    Clearing the area of bombs is ongoing. It is mind blowing to think that many people in this region have gone through this in their own lifetimes. Shocking and not spoken about enough. It has received very little global attention. Many have no idea where Laos even is, let alone this terrible tale.

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    I spent many hours in site 1 and debated about heading to site 2 and 3. There was also Long Tieng that could have been explored too (where, in 1962 the CIA set up headquarters). However, I made the decision to rest instead. I was happy with what I had seen (and I can always return one day to see more). My stomach was still off and my body was aching a lot from riding, so I just wanted to give myself a break. I purchased a couple of snacks (unhealthy comfort food) and headed back to my hotel for a rest up.
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    I think I may have been in the room for too long though, because i started doing weird bored stuff, such as:



    It was a pretty evening over Phonsavan. Another storm blew through. The air was very fresh. I slept well that night.


    Day 6: Phonsavan to Vang Vieng. (Google Map link)
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    Another early start and a glorious backtrack ride on a tranquil and scenic road. Absolutely love the route from Phonsavan to Phou Khoun, and the route to Vang Vieng was fantastic too. Uddd.

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    Was a real pleasure riding that day, despite the heat.
    I stopped at a quiet viewpoint and drank in the sounds of nature.
    Not a vehicle in sight!

    I arrived in Vang Vieng by 11am.

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    I stopped in at Luang Prabang Bakery whilst I looked up about where to stay. I found a bungalow resort place with a pool for 700 a night (Initially it was 750 a night, but as I was staying two nights I got a discount). Vang Vieng Garden Bungalows. Was simple and ok. (Overpriced for what it was, but that’s popular tourists spots for you I guess…). I cleaned up and headed out for a wander on foot. Vang Vieng truly is backpacker party-town central. Haha. I had lunch then went back to relax at the pool and try to get some colour on this white farmer-tanned skin of mine.

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    Found myself getting bored fast, despite listening to podcasts through headphones. I’m not really a sit-at-the-pool-and-do-nothing kinda person and I got antsy. Ended up going back to my room and typing up some trip report stuff. Headed out again in the early evening to walk around the night market (which sold pretty much all the usual stuff you expect in a touristy area, but was still food for the eyes regardless). I treated myself to an oil massage for the first time in years and tried to relax (I seem to find relaxing hard..haha!). I think my masseuse was used to only giving light massage as i kept having to request her to be firmer. My muscles were really quite aching by this point, so was good to have them worked on.

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    I had a walk around and ate dinner, had a quiet drink and people watched. The social scene is not my thing really, and was glad to leave the chaos of people beginning to party.

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    Day 7: Vang Vieng explore & Famous Rocket Festival.
    (Google Map link)
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    My morning started at around 7:30am and I headed over the Toll Bridge (where foreigners need to pay 10,000 kip to cross).

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    Mind-blowingly beautiful! The karst mountains spread out before me and had stunning morning mist encircling them.


    I did an anti clockwise loop ride, stopping in at the Blue Lagoon 2. You can see why this place wold be a tourist utopia. It was dead when i went, but for sure by the afternoon it would be buzzing.

    I really wasn’t much in the mood for doing the tourist thing, so avoided most of the main tourist attractions. If I were to go again, i will check them out, but I just wanted to ride around and look at nature.

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    Love is in the air ^^^

    I stopped at one glorious scene and decided to give myself an indulgent selfie moment. Haha.
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    After a few hours of exploring I went back to rest and attempted another lie at the pool area. By mid afternoon I headed out, had lunch, then made my way to the riverside to take in the famous Boun Bang Fai Rocket Festival!


    This was my first experience of the rocket festival (which is also celebrated in Yasothon in Udon Thani, Thailand). It was truly explosive! Men dress up in drag or in some funny way and communities come together for a wild time. The Wild EAST for sure! Drunk people, laymen and children, all messing around with gunpowder and rockets.. what could possibly go wrong? Haha!

    At one point a group of children around 7 years old came near to where I was and started to light a fair sized rocket. I noticed that the rocket was taking way too long to fire and that something wasn’t right. I quickly got up and headed away from the rocket fast. I was expecting it to implode. In fact it did, but thankfully just a small implode. The children looked bemused. Madness…! Amazing Laos.

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    A really crazy festival and lots of partying. Well worth a visit at this time to see this crazy rocket show!

    Day 8: Vang Vieng to Vientiane. (Google Map link)

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    I woke up later than usual. Maybe around 8am. I think I was on the bike not long after. I arrived in Vientiane a little after 11am.

    This ride was deflating, I’m sad to say. The main R13 between Vang Vieng and Vientiane is mainly straight, busy, and passing though bustling modern town life. A disappointing contrast to the gloriously scenic roads I had taken previously. If I were to repeat this route or similar, i would find an alternative route.

    I switched off my gopro as there was not so much of interest to capture on this road.

    When I arrived in Vientiane I stopped in at a cafe next to Benoni Cafe and had a search for accommodation.

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    In the end I stayed at Lane Xang Hotel, Which I have stayed at before.
    More expensive than I had hoped (1000 baht a night), but at least it was comfortable.
    Their dodgy electrics did fry my computer cable though...
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    After a clean up I headed out and had a walk about in the city area. I had hoped to eat at an old Vientiane haunt (I have been to Vientiane on and off over the last 11 years), but it was gone! A lot of development has gone on over the years in Vientiane, and is still ongoing. I was sad to see this restaurant gone.

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    I decided i might just get some food to take away and go rest up in my room. However, as i was walking along I spotted a familiar face. I had a funny “small world” moment, as it turned out to be the owner of El Patio bar in Chiang Mai. I ended up joining him and his local friend for dinner and drinks that evening. xz.

    Part 3 (Final Part)
     
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  2. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Another interesting report ZCM (I’m just catching up on them)

    Great videos, and I particularly like the Silky soft Hair Conditioner video of which is a comfort to me, because I thought I was the only crazy person that did that.

    If you ride south down HWY 13 again, I would recommend turning off at Xang and riding down to Xanamkham, which is a brilliant ride with no traffic, avoiding the worst of hwy 13.

    I love your attitude to Adventure riding, no ego, just getting out there and doing it with a great sense of humour.

    Cheers Moto-Rex
     
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  3. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    Thanks Moto-Rex,
    Seems a few people have particularly enjoyed the silky-soft hair conditioner video..haha!
    Maybe it resonates with more people than we realise.
    I guess we are all a little bit on the nutty side!

    Thanks for the advice on HWY 13. I was really quite disappointing on that last stretch, but was good to see a contrast too i suppose. It is always a learning curve. :)
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Hey hey wasn't that rocket festival a bonus.
    You were so lucky scoring that mayhem.
    How did the danger level compare to riding your bike on the road there? Does it compare at all. You could have gotten taken out anytime if you think about it?
    Did that bother you at all?
     
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  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Love this shot

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    Pretty special & pretty cool. I bet it felt amazing when you looked at it after - a great triumphant feeling!
     
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  6. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    It was indeed a lucky bonus, and yes, I did very much think about the danger factor!!

    I grew up with Guy Fawkes bonfires and fireworks, so Im familiar with the fireworks/danger aspect, just not on this scale.
    I remember being around 8 years old when a tragic accident hurt a childs eye, and that image has never left me.
    There were always some kinds of accidents happening on that occasion, but I also grew up in a time when we weren't overly protected by society/law and so as kids we would let off small fireworks ourselves. Local stores would sell them to us! Small injuries were quite common. Times have changed a LOT since then in the UK.

    Anyway, I have never been around anything quite like the rockets at the festival, which were absolutely HUGE. Initially my curiosity and quest for a good video shot overcame any caution and I got fairly close to a couple of the rockets going off. After I got the video I wanted I headed further back, suddenly very aware of the danger factor. I found a spot to watch from a distance but then some kids started lighting meter long rockets close to me. Typical! One rocket took way too long to fire after being lit. I knew this means i should get some distance between me and the rocket. I beckoned to the kids to follow, but honestly they just looked at me like i was nuts, so what can you do? The rocket imploded but nothing too severe, and one of the kids went STRAIGHT up to it..gah! I would have liked to have got them to wait longer. The adults watching all just laughed.

    At one point one of the huge rockets climbed really high, but then began to descend with it's tail still smoking. No idea where it landed, but I get the feeling it would have landed with a real thud!

    The festival was for sure the most dangerous aspect of the whole trip. At least I have some element of control with my bike, or I would like to think so. Plus, there are some fairly predictable parameters when riding. The rockets on the other hand, were completely unpredictable! That made it quite scary viewing, but also quite exciting too.
     
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  7. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    Haha yeh, thanks!. I figured i had to try get some footage of myself on this trip. I only got a few minor shots. Most of the time I just had no care to get photos of myself, I was too busy immersing myself in the whole experience first hand. I had a feeling this particular spot might make a good photo though, and thankfully it did, because im really happy with it. Good memento.
    The jump was just a last minute giddy moment after attempting to do some cool poses..haha!.
    I also caught another photo I am happy with, by accident. I took off my helmet while the gopro was still running and placed it on the ground next to me. It resulted in me catching an unexpected photo of myself sorting stuff at my bike with the mountains full of mist behind me.
    A happy accident and a treasured photo now. It is quite funny and bizarre watching yourself doing something when you had no idea it was being recorded lol.
     
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  8. Ashmaster

    Ashmaster Active Member

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    That's funny Zoe!
    In the early days of rockets used as weapons Wellington had his own Rocket Corps. They were so unpredictable they killed as many of his own troops as the French...!
    Great trip report! I'll be going there myself in Dec...!
     
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  9. Andrew

    Andrew Member

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    Looked like a great trip, love the history of South East Asia.
    Great to see you went to see the Plain Of Jars.
    Cool
     
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  10. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    Interesting story!!
    I look forward to your trip report in Dec, Ash :D

    I absolutely loved Plain of Jars.
    Still get goosebumps thinking about the history of it all!
    I love the history of S.E.Asia also :D
     
  11. ZCM

    ZCM Ol'Timer

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    A short video update of the current situation in N.Laos.
    Hard to believe that this is how these areas look merely 2 months on from when I was there.
    Plain of Jars - Site 1 and Kruang Si Waterfall have some heavy flooding! Seems to be that N.Laos is being hit bad currently.
    These images/video from today and my images from earlier in May.


    Video credit (flood video at Kruang Si Falls): Dorh Focus Siviengphone
    (Video link here: https://web.facebook.com/dorhfocus.siviengphone/videos/683540065319792/?hc_ref=ARQJdyDZeS2mIZe1M8g7i5ginoLhMBBdKivmWv619opxgRvmOCrFuygJnsoAS-k3xYs )

    Photo credit (Plain of Jars - Site 1): Phoumee Sybounhouang
    (Link here: )
     

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