Vientiane: down time

Posted: June 10, 2010 in Cycle touring Rte 13 Northern Laos 2008
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Wednesday November 19, 2008, 20 km (12 miles) – Total so far: 721 km (448 miles)

We fly home tomorrow morning. Today is errands day. Find boxes. Wash bikes, pack bikes and try to fit in eating, massages, shopping and sightseeing.

We had the company of Michel, a world traveler on a trike at breakfast, and I wished I had followed him some kilometers out of town just to see the reaction on people’s faces. He was heading to Thailand via the Friendship Bridge and eventually Bangkok. He has handled bandits before, so grumpy anti bicycle Thai customs and immigration should be a piece of cake.

Like his trike and trailer there’s long address at,

another round the world bikes in Vientiane

First time visitors to the largest city in Laos will notice that prices are much higher than in neighbouring countries. More so if they’ve been used to longer stays, say in Thailand or Cambodia. Almost all consumer goods are imported from Thailand or China.

Being hungry cyclists, we try not to quibble too much about food prices, we need lots of it ! Then there’s the drinks. We were lucky to stay in guest houses where drinking water was supplied freely. On the longer hill climbing days, we drank more than we ate. It was difficult to resist the array of cold bottled drinks in the fridges of those small road side shacks along the road.

Probably the greatest expense were the guest houses. The Vientiane ones cost the most, averaging $25 and above. My quibble here is that the exact same establishment listed prices of $15 for the same room, last year. If you get to Vientiane, late in the day, like most cyclists do, be aware that rooms fill up quickly and most places have a take it or leave it attitude, at their not so good value prices.

The quality and variety of food in this town comes in a close second after Luang Prabang. There’s French of course, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese and even Lao. At KKC we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Vientiane has the added attraction of a small Chinatown, which means just more food choices late into the night.

Shocked by higher than average prices, it’s not surprising that some cyclists just head out across the Friendship Bridge over to Thailand just 24 kms away.

To console ourselves, we remind each other that, everything back home costs a lot, lot more, period. We change the remainder of our US dollars which used to trade at the princely rate of 10300 kip to a dollar, back in 05. It hovers around 8500 kip now.


I’ve got so many blessings to count for on this trip, mostly friendship and laughter on the road, the graciousness and hospitality of the Lao people, arriving home in one piece (camera excepted) and just plain ol good timing.

The chaos at Bangkok’s Swamp Bunny airport was postponed by 3 weeks just for us.

Route 13 is described in some tourist brochures and guide books as the ‘Royal Road’ between Luang Prabang and Vientiane. I don’t know why yet, but Royal does sound much better than just Route 13.

In between these 2 must see destinations, you can fly (done that already), take a bus or van (did that on one 22 km uphill stretch) or like us cycle down, and up the only road linking the two towns. And what a journey this has turned out to be.

Looking back at 3000 images, I’ve realised that the essence of a good bicycle tour makes plodding around on two wheels a secondary afterthought. Yes it’s a means of transport, but sweat, sunburn and aching butt aside, your senses, mind and eyes are stimulated and enriched far beyond any monetary value. Just ask ol’ blue eye below. He never misses a blink.


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