Chiang Khong Thailand

We had to give up the three day ride from Luang Namtha to the Thai border as neither of us were feeling well for about a week. We got a van ride to the border. It looked like we missed a good but difficult three days of riding.

The border crossing included a 5 minute boat ride across the Mekong and a 15 minute visa acceptance process.

It only took a few minutes in Thailand to notice many differences. They drive on the left side of the road. The dogs are more aggressive. There appears to be more wealth. We even saw a 7/11 store and all the amenities we hadn’t seen in nearly a month. We even heard song birds. In Laos, they kill and eat everything including birds the size of a sparrow.

We saw people engaging in leisure activities.

We came across a parade.

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There was also a little midway.

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They pushed the merry go round to start it and then a fan kept it going.

If you are ever in Chiang Khong, be sure to got to the hub resteraunt. It is owned by Alan Bates. He is the current world record holder for cycling around the world. He did the 29,000 km’s in 106 days clipping the old mark of 160+ days. He did it in 2010 in his mid 40’s.

Alan joined us after dinner and brought out his record setting bike.

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He also spent time taking us through his 92 bicycle museum. It is quite an impressive collection.

If you wish to read more about this amazing guy and his amazing achievement Click Here

There is something that happens in South East Asia each spring and that is the “Slash and Burn”.

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For several reasons they do a lot of burning of fields and makes for dangerous levels of smoke.

We were planning on doing the north of Thailand; ChaingRai, ChiangMai and Phi, except the pollution is so bad (European danger level is 50 and ChiangRai has readings over 300) we decided to abandon this portion and do it next time in SE Asia.

We picked another route to get a bit of biking in before we put the bikes away for some beach time.

Janis and David

Farewell Laos

It is time to say goodbye to our most favorite country to cycle in

As we may have mentioned before, if the meek shall inherit the earth, then Laos is due.

It is a developing nation, with lots of poverty, poor healthcare, schools without book, high illiteracy rate, no freedom of religion and a communist government, yet the families are intact and strong. The people are kind and genuine.

It also appears that this small (6,000,000 people) impoverished nation is not only selling their resources to China, but also their soul. We have heard of large tracks of land being leased to China for things like casinos, and local villagers we relocated (forced out of their heritage land).

Often times hill tribes don’t have passports or papers to say what Country is their home.

There is also an issue with human trafficking.

When whole viallages of young children drop what they are doing and run to the highway just to say hello, you know you are a welcome guest.

To think we almost didn’t Coe here.

Below are some parting photos.

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Touring Luang Namtha and Mung Sing – Part 2

In one of the villages we could hear some drumming and chanting. We went to the home and found a Shaman inside performing a ceramony to chase away the spirits for the village. We also witnessed the slaughering of a baby pig that they were going to sacrifice at the entrance to the village. Amazing stuff, and as Janis says, it helps get us out of our Ethno-centric lives we live in East City.

In another village we were invited to a housewarming party. It started in the morning and appeared to set to run late at night. It was a rather large home in a poor village. The owners sold rare French Gold coins to pay for the home. Over 500 guests were expected, including several other tribes. It was a nice way to spend a few hours. We were treated very well.

Cooking for the masses.

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Eating under the big top.

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At the end of the celebration we were given party favors by the hostess (a decorated hard boiled egg necklace).

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One village entrance had a row of wild boar jaws strung up. This demonstrated how powerful and brave the village chief was.

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Many of the villages specialize on certain things. One village makes 45% rice whiskey, another rice paper, another special noodles using a wooden press. Here is a video about this 3rd generation wooden press.

We spent about one week in this area and got to meet and know two super cycling couples. They are all hard core world cyclists.

Mica and Tobi.

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Their mascott Plov. Note they are hauling some serious weight as Tobi is pulling a portable canoe, big enouGh to hold them and their bikes

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Mica is a professional singer songwriter and we had a couple of great campfire sing-a-longs.

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Julia and Richard were the other couple. They are hard core world cyclists and we loved hearing of their great adventures.

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Janis and David

Touring Luang Namtha & Muang Sing Area

This is a lovely area of Laos, with lots of Tribal Ethnic Villages (this is what the Locals call the area).

We had 3 days of touring with a great local guide. His name is Ped ( Luang Namtha Discovery Tours ).

We stayed overnight in Muang Sing at a lovely guesthouse. While we were having dinner a Laos volunteer English teacher asked if we would come to the makeshift class room and let his 4 student practice English. We went in and spent a lovely part of the evening helping these 10 and 12 year old girls practice English.

We went to the Chinese boarder but could not cross as it was a non-tourist border.

Sugar cane exports from Laos to China. We saw dozens of truck loads heading to the border.

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Loading a sugar cane truck.

Here are some of the shots from the various villages.

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We were invited to a lovely stitch n bitch session.

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Crossing one of the shaky bridges with many missing slats. The rewards on the other side are usually worth it.

Bike on another shaky bridge.

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A young villager.

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Take a gander at this.

Rice noodles being processed and sold at the market.

Our guide having some fun with a villager.

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Morning shopper.

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While it is an amazing country to tour, there are some issues with Laos. They do not tolerate freedom of religion, and if you are caught trying to spread your beliefs it could be fatal. As tourists, we feel extremely safe. There are few hospitals and clinics. If you get sick you go to a shaman.

Otherwise you go to the market and buys some herbs. For westerers we exit as quickly as possible to Thailand if we need care. Below is a picture from the market, where vegetables, fruit, meat (including all kinds of wired forest animals) and herbs from the forest.

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Janis cycling through a banana plantation being run by a village on behalf of a Chinese interest.

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One village was making sugar cane candy. The process includes squeezing the liquid frome the cane stock. Next they boil it down for about 4 hours (a process similar to the maple syrup process). Next they pour it and cut it and it looks similar to a block of fudge.

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Signing off
Janis and David

Na Mor to Luang Namtha

Another hilly but great ride. It was 69 km’s with no major pass, but many ups and downs. Today we did 691 meters of total ascent and 734 meters of total decent.

We had perfect road and little traffic until we hit Nateuy. At that point we could head north to China or go south towards Thailand. We went south. This was a good road (not as good as the road we were on this morning.

There were more big trucks and buses on this road.

We arrived at Luang Namtha and got a good guesthouse for $10 per night. The plan is to stay here a few days and visit some minority villages.

This area was heavily into poppy growing and opium production. They have since replaced this with other crops (bamboo, broom grass etc.).

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Snack time part way up one of our climbs.

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This is how far north we are in Laos. We are starting to see and hear of more Chinese influence in this region.

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Here are a few water buffalo at play. I have been eating water buffalo quite a bit, while Janis sticks to tofu and chicken dishes.

J and D

Oudamsay to Na Mor

Another great riding day. It was only 53 km, but included a 16 km pass. Basically, get on your bike at East City IGA and ride up Armour hill for about 16 km. Whoever built this road made it with an acceptable slope (not as steep as Armour Hill).

This pass started at the 17km mark and there was a few km of up and down plateau near the top. This pass rose 550 meters.

Total assent ror the day 798 meters, and total decent of 812 meters.

The road was in excellent shape, with no potholes.

Last night we went for dinner at a small cafe. The owner was alone so when she cooked, she asked Janis to hold her 11 month old daughter.

It included passing through some rubber plantations.

We averaged about 6 km per hour on the uphill, so you can Imagine it is more than 2 hours to cycle up a pass like this. Due to the great gears on our bikes, there is no lactic acid build up in the legs. It is best not to think of the bigger picture when climbing a pass, but rather enjoy the moment (maybe a good life lesson as well.

At the top of the mountain there were several small and dirt poor villages. The children in each village cheered us on, a very motivating moment.

Until next time.
Janis and David

Muang Khoua to Oudomsay

This may have been the greatest biking day for us ever. It was 100 km with a total assent of about 1,100 meters and a total descent of about 980 meters.

The scenery was striking. The road was in excellent shape, and very little traffic. It was about 35 degrees C but we had a cloud cover most of the day.

We followed the Nam Phak river the whole way, which ment no major ascent of descent. Many of the villages have abandoned both slash and burn techniques as well as harvesting Opium. They are replacing it with bamboo production as well as broom grass (this is the grass that they band together to make brooms.

Many of the small towns we passed were composed of people who use to travel around planting, harvesting and after a few years, slash and burn the fields and then move on. They are now banded together and are transforming into communities. We assume there are issues as they evolve but many people appear busy with the crops, as well as harvesting river weed and fishing the river.

One thing you see a lot of are intact families, with both the mother and father present. The father’s appear to take an active role. Grand parents are also active when they are around. It leads to a nice atmosphere. They may not have much education, but they appear to have great community.

So far Laos is our most favorite country on this South East Asia Trip.

Early in our ride we came around a corner to a bridge and market and came upon the Akha Women at market.

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There were also other women at the market from the Khamu Village.

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Janis had purchased some Lao to English books and gave one to this washroom attendant who was 12 years old. He immediately started to devour the book. When Janis went to pay to use the washroom he waived the ten cent fee as a thank you.

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Bye for now.
Janis and David

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