Friday November 7, 2008, 12 km (7 miles) – Total so far: 46 km (29 miles)

!st class service from a 3rd world airline

Vientiane’s Japanese built Wattay airport is just 4 to 5 kms away from town. With our boxes ditched in Nong Khai, it was touch and go with the airport baggage handlers. To our pleasant surprise, they decided to tape up our bikes even more, assuring us that removing the front wheels was OK, to fit in the small cargo hold of their plane. Lao Airlines is getting to be my favourite airline on this trip. They’ve had some bad press in the past, what with certain embassies forbidding their staff to travel on Lao Airlines. In their defence, their track record claims ‘no crashes since 2000′ You could also find fault with bad weather and an overused Chinese made plane for that excuse. My one bad experience back in 2005 had the pilot looking for holes in the clouds, to see his way before landing in Luang Prabang. Steep, tight banking, much like cornering too low around a blind corner on a mountain bike. Scary but fun at the same time.

The low level 40 minute flight into Luang Prabang gave us great views of the mountains that we would ride across over the next week. As this was the start of the high tourist season, the plane had just one empty seat out of sixty.

We, or rather I have planned a whole 4 nights in Luang Prabang as there is this side trip north to Nong Khiaw that I’ve always wanted to do, cycle 140 kms upriver and return to LP by a slow boat. So I’ve decided to split the 4 nights in to 2 parts.

It’s easy to spend up to a week here, lounging around, playing tourist with maybe a folding bike or two. With serious bikes like the LHT, we’re aiming for an ambitious 140 km first day, until the bikes get tired and it’s songtheaw time. That’ll be the day after tomorrow.

Today and tomorrow we’ll take it easy, have a look see across the other bank of the Mekong, generally temple out ourselves and heat up our cameras’ batteries. With the weather getting cooler, we got our lights on and even rode at night. Some nicer restaurants were out of town and walking back would be very tedious after a nice meal.

Our little guest house, the year old Oudom Souk, one out of a hundred or so in town, is chock full of touring bicycles, and even a Burley tandem. Most or the riders are older French folk on a cycling tour. They leave the next morning with a van sag wagon and small pick up, down Route 13, the very beaten path for bike tourists in northern Laos, ending the ride in Vientiane, about 420 kms away.

Day's end along the Mekong at Luang Prabang


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