Progress, development, aid, wealth…fourth poorest country on earth…what’s that again??  Laos is developing at a frantic pace. Physical changes are more prominent in the towns and cities. Lots of changes year on year. Once open sewers waiting to swallow tourists whole are now nicely paved brick walkways fronting fashionable boutiques. At the two M Benz showrooms that I was welcomed into, there was icy cold Perrier and attentive, pretty salesgirls. It also helps when you dont have a muddy proletariat bicycle, any kind of bicycle parked outside!

Nothing wrong with development though but at this bewildering pace, the haves and have nots are going to be spread wider apart.

Having no plans nor detailed map, I followed heavy traffic north for 20 kms out of town before turning off into this small side road. A grid of off road paths around green rice fields and fishing ponds. Amazing, cycling off road minutes away from a four lane highway. Even in these fields there were small pockets of luxury housing, huge villa style homes in gated communities. At least there were these dirt roads to drive one’s SUV home to. It was quite refreshing having no plan and heading beck to Vientiane was as easy as finding the main highway and backtracking to the river. After 60 kms or so, I found myself at PVO Vietnamese Food again. After a quick wash I plonked myself down just in time to see some spanking new Honda Bajas being delivered to PVO – these were rentals!

This was my alarm clock every morning. Loud booming bass speakers at 6 am. So loud that an Australian couple I spoke to had to change rooms, away from the river view ones.Might as well have Ricky Martin or Carlos Santana play on that stage. You could hear them streets away. No point fretting. Went down with my camera and took revenge by making one and all feel very self conscious. On second thought, Carlos isnt a bad idea at all.

If you thought sight seeing on a slow bicycle would get you into greater contact with your surroundings, walking is even better.

No sudden stops or U turns when a photo op comes up, and trying to keep on the ‘wrong’ right side of the formerly French road. Negotiating roundabouts and fast corners full of traffic on the first day was a little scary, so I just followed the crowd. Navigation on or off the bike became as easy as memorizing where the Mekong was. By the third day, I had cycled most of the town, so zero kms on the bike today. Another upside to endless walking? $3 foot massage, right after dinner.

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