Thakek to Vieng Kham 107km
Vieng Kham to Pakxan 100km
I know I'm not buying into upmarket accommodation, you don't get Five Star for $10, but Asian Hotels, Guesthouses and Losemen, have a uniqueness of their own. The chances of getting a room that all the light switches have a purpose, that the aircon and fan work, that all the bathroom fixtures are usable, or the bed hasn't a cheap mattress, hard as a board, and with the springs pressing into your back, seems pretty remote. Last night however, I had a gem.
An almost new unit. Neat, tidy, clean. The light switches all worked, although, you couldn't reach them from the bed. The fan sent a cool breeze over the bed. The toilet was Asian, (squat) but really clean. No toilet paper, but the system isn't built for toilet paper, and I'm happy to go native.The shower, not hot, but a good pressure, was built for a six foot six person, and hit me in the face, but that's okay too. And all for $5. Gotta be good.
3am, and I need to go. My double meal of fried rice and vegetables can't wait for daylight. All goes well, even squatting so early in the morning. Then I hang the cleanser on its hook and step off the squatter. The hose from the cleanser drops out of the trigger handle. Suddenly there is a high pressure stream of water squirting through the bathroom. It knocks the mirror off the wall. It rips the shelf above the basin off the wall. It squirts through the open door onto the carpet in the bedroom. There is no way to turn it off. I turn one tap. It's the shower. I get a face full. I grab the hose and bend it. The water stops. I'm standing naked, throughly drenched, in a soaked, wrecked bathroom, at 3am.
My tools are in the trailer in the bedroom. I have to let the hose go, slam the door, root around for my Leatherman, and reenter the mayhem. I'm very awake, and it doesn't take too long to get the nozzle back on the hose. Luckily, I had the one towel on my improvised clothes line. I leave the mess for the morning. How to explain it all to the owners? And that was a good unit. Wouldn't find anything like that in Hanmer.
So I've had a couple of days cycling through some pretty non exciting landscape. Very dry, scrubby, and with the haze in the air, not much of a view. Occasionally a big hill has popped out of the haze, but I haven't had to cycle up too many. But the trip is never boring.
Last night, I met a beautiful Swiss medical Intern. She is in SE Asia rock climbing, and cycles between climbing sites. She started in Chang Mai in Thailand, cycled to Thaket and is heading south into Cambodia shortly. In March she returns to Switzerland to do her Internship in a hospital. I used my initiative and offered her a job at the Hanmer Springs Medical Centre, when she becomes fully qualified. I know she will be an amazing addition to our wonderful team, and fit in easily.
I also met a German guy, who is a cycle rickshaw driver in the English Gardens in Munich. That got me thinking about job opportunities when I get home. I reckon Hanmer needs a couple of cycle rickshaws. Councilor Fletcher, I'm asking you to research for me, rules and regulations for the operation of the same in our district. I'm sure there will be a few.
I sat on the banks of the Mekong, eating dinner in the sunset, with a French tourist. We were lucky enough to witness the proprietor of the restaurant and her waitress, lift a very heavy concrete seat that was broken, up over the retaining wall, and drop it, almost, into the river. It didnt quite make the water, so I guess it will be there on the bank, until the next flood. Rubbish disposal, Laos style.
Meet some cyclists on the road too. A Dutchman in a hurry, and a Belgium family. Dad and six year old on a tandem, with recliner at the front, towing a trailer with four year old, and two big panniers. Mum and seven year old on another tandem, with four big panniers. Had a great chat, for 15mins at the side of the road, covering Politics, Environment,Travel, Education, and how we were going to save the world. They were all finding the "hills" pretty tough. I suppose anything that rises above sea level is steep for a Belgium. Brave folk, on an amazing adventure.
This afternoon, for the first time in two days, the road ran beside the river. What a difference water makes. The air feels cleaner. The breeze suddenly is cooler and fresher. I'm certain I am a water and river person. My whole attitude improves. I take the first photos for two days. The biking feels easier, and I have a spring in my pedaling. I'm definitely taking the slightly longer route along the river into Vientaine.