Motorbikes, santa and plans for NYE

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
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Trip End Jun 12, 2009


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Ello Ello,

So Christmas has gone... and i spent mine in Laos, i admit i did feel a little homesick, missing family and friends, especially my mums roast dinner, i started to feel really homesick when talking to my family on the phone.  I'm OK now though and i will tell you about our motorbiking trip in Pakse.

The biker gang was me Zoe and Mike who we had met crossing the border from Cambodia into Laos and have stuck with ever since.

The morning started with a quick shop a round for 100cc motorbikes, we soon discovered the cheapest place and dug into an omelet for breakfast ( i think thats what true bikers eat :P ).  We left our big rucksacks at the bike rental place and just packed a few things in our little backpacks for the four day trip.

After checking the bikes for faults ...what faults my bike retarded eye can detect i do not know, but i did not spot any.  Anyways, after checking for faults but before mounting our bikes we had to give ourselves biker names.  I chose Pixie dust for Zoe, Zoe chose Green Wing for Mike (because he looks and acts a little like the blond bloke from green wing), and we all chose Falcon Speed for myself.  We called our biker gang the lone wolfs (this involved revving our bikes and howling every morning ....cool ayy)  Oh and we also named our bikes, i called mine "Talon", Pixie Dust rode on "Stardust" and Green Wing rode on "Gold Wing".

We hit the road with a four day plan:

Pakse -> Tad Lo  Sleep,
Tad Lo -> Seekong   Sleep,
Seekong -> Paksong Sleep,
Packsong -> Pakse

From Pakse to Tad Lo the roads were pretty much empty and straight the whole way.  After finding the correct left turn 8Km into the trip we cruised with the wind in our hair, my speedo did not work so i don't know how fast i was going but it felt fast  9Zoe reported us going at 85 km/h on a one off).  I sang to myself most of the way, mainly biker tunes like "born to be wild" and ummm "George Michael - Wake me up before you go go".  We stopped en route for a quick waterfall viewing but we were itching to jump back on the bikes, so that we did and cruised on.

We cruised through remote villages, up and down steep hills, one hairy section involved overtaking a large truck on a narrow road, darting out with well needed timing and hammering in front.  We stopped for lunch at a very small collection of huts on the side of the road.  We managed to get the message across that we were hardcore bikers and needed lots of meat or something and we managed to get a bowl of instant noodles each with some rice.... good enough for us and we dug in.  Chatting to the local kids and munching on our noodles we noticed a local van stutter and roll to a stop in the road, me and Green Wing offered and completed a push so the driver could bump start the truck and we walked away feeling happy with our good deed for the day.

After settling up for the noodles we hit the road again.  Heading up a fairly steep road until we passed the peak the view that hit us was breathtaking, i had to force myself to concentrate on the road as the view all around me was enough to distract anyone.   We descended into a view of lush green mountains embedded in a stunning valley, topped off by fairy tale white puffy clouds in a blue sky.  Exhilarated by the view i just managed to miss a set of very large pot holes and we continued to Tad Lo.

Rolling into Tad Lo i felt the muts nuts passing a bus load of tourists, thinking "hah! you cant handle the road like us hardcore bikers" and then as i pulled into the small village my bubble burst stopping next to some real bikers on some real hardcore bikes.  I guess you need to start small though, and if i get a chance for another motorbike excursion during this trip i might progress on to something bigger.

Tad Lo was a very small village and we found a bamboo hut we could rent with two beds, costing us each just 60p a night :)  The village was over run by animals and it was nice to eat dinner with chickens, cows and pigs running around.

We woke the next day to the sound of the local animals, first you notice the noisy ones...the cockerel, the mad cow and then stepping out of the bungalow you spot the chunky neighborhood pigs, the pregnant dog and a cluster of chicks following their mum.  We were heading from Tad Lo to Seekong, but started off with a little backtrack to a waterfall we had passed.  Being the hardcore bikers that we though or were pretending to be, we decided that true bikers only wash in streams and a normal shower was not hardcore enough, so that we did and i washed my upper body in the stream running off from the waterfall.....what an excellent way to start the day.

We hit the road....first some tarmac and then turning right onto a dirt track, this is where it got a little more interesting as the road was a dusty track full of holes and full concentration was needed.  I almost felt like our previous motorbike days on our around the world trip had been training for the 4 day trip we were on.  We had getting used to bikes time on the island off ha long bay with minimum traffic, then we had getting used to navigating roads and heavy traffic...even a bit of night time driving in Hue, Vietnam.....and then our biking day in Ban lung prepared us for bumpy roads, and navigating dirt tracks.  Anyways we were on a very bumpy, pot holed dirt track and i was loving it.... after some speedy dirt tracking i turned the corner to see Green Wing covered in dust and his bike on the floor.  He had been over taking a local when their bikes had interlocked and it ended up with Green Wing falling off.... he got a way with some minor cuts and bruises so all was good (he did give himself a hard time over it though).  Jumping onto some more tarmac and filling up our petrol at a station we bumped into the guy who had collided with Green Wing.... luckily putting green Wings mind a at ruest as the reason for the accident became apparent, the guy had been drinking, he was very friendly and touch feely, kept on saying sorry and stank of Whisky!  Naughty!

We carried on and looked for a waterfall...unsuccessful but ended up riding around a very remote village and getting stared at a lot.  As your riding round the kids come out to say hello, the most enjoyable is riding past a school when they all run up to the fence waving and shouting hello....we even had times where you ride down a line of kids on the side of the road giving them all a high five.

We arrived at Seekong and whizzed around looking for accommodation, we didn't find much so we decided to splash out on a semi spanky place with a gorgeous view of the river.  The night was spent playing indoor ticker (the hackey sack with a feather game)  and watching really really bad karaoke....then more ticker with our crash helmets on allowing for an extra dimension to the game.  (I'm gonna chuck on a couple of photos from don det some one sent me of us playing ticker so you can see what I'm on about... oh and a picture of what ticker does to your foot)

Day three began with our 7:00 start routine we had got used to.  Had some coffee at a place with the grumpiest people in Laos i had met so far (maybe it was because we had gotten so close to Vietnam :P )  And i realized that i didn't really like Seekong...the surrounding area and the views gorgeous, but Seekong its self i didn't like it... Basically lots of building spread out along side the main road, not really any character and the people were not too friendly.

We went looking for another waterfall down a track demonstrating some of the toughest terrain i had met so far in my biking life (around 5 days so far).  But it was definitely a reward to get to our location... no waterfall but a gorgeous clear river, shadowed by a view of the mountains... perfect for biker washing, so we all had an early morning dip watching out for the dreaded puffer fish that is supposed to swim the areas.  The puffer fish (should be called the pervert fish) is not a problem for women ... or i guess unfortunate men, but it was a worry for me as the are rumored to attack penises... luckily i left the river in tact and we got back on the road.  This was an amazing morning, the mountains surrounding us were beautiful, we were climbing a gradual slope, so with every turn in the road we were presented with a better and better view of our surroundings.  The road was also in good shape so we managed to get an early morning buzz of speed while taking in the views.  

We turned right towards Paksong and back onto the tough terrain, up a super steep hill,  but one that made you feel good about yourself for not being motivated enough to get a push bike, happy in the though that the only exercise necessary was a turn of the wrist.  After some searching we found a beautiful waterfall, jumping off of the bikes and taking 20 minutes or so just to soak in the view and listen to the roar of this impressive piece of nature.... it was in the distance but the roar was still impressive and it took some proper self control, to get up and leave without getting stuck watching the falls.  Heading on we were over taken by a french couple sharing a moped... 5 minutes later they were led in the road where an oncoming car had knocked them off..... we offered them some hand wash to clean up their cuts, checked they were OK (which they were) and pushed on.  The next section of road i whizzed ahead and enjoyed the tranquility of just me the views and this long and winding dirt track (reminded me of the Death road in Bolivia).  We stopped for lunch and some extra fuel in a very small village, surrounding the houses were sheets covered in coffee beans roasting in the sun... Laos coffee is very underrated, i had never heard of it before i came here but in my opinion it is the best coffee i have ever tasted, we bought a 1 KG bag for $2.50


Getting closer to Paksong we noticed a sign for a coffee plantation, always up for a detour we decided we had enough time to visit the plantation and get to Paksong before it got dark.  Heading up to the gates we were waved through by the security guard and as we rode on we were hit by the amazing and dizzying smell of coffee.  As far as the eye could see were coffee bushes, on the side of the track piles of coffee beans, and hard at work the keepers of the plantation shoveling manure and collecting coffee.  It was a little strange as we did not have to pay to get in, no one spoke English so we just whizzed around the plantation, dodging manure lorries and workers taking in the sights and smells of coffee production.  Defiantly and enjoyable experience and Green Wing even felt the need to hug a coffee bush (guess thats what the routine of a morning coffee or two does to you)



Now not far from Paksong we were presented with our last challenge for the day, a tarmac road riddled with deep and plentiful pot holes.... i got a little stupid here but always felt in control.  Whizzing along on the bike, it felt like with a slight lean here or there i could control the bike with precision accuracy, so i started off slow weaving in and around pot holes, but as i continued i started to throttle up a little more, i kept doing this until i was riding at a descent speed but constantly dodging around pot holes, sometimes hitting the brake and narrowly avoiding each one.  I managed to get to the end of the road having dodged every pot hole, knowing that i should have gone a little slower than i did but the adrenaline rush was amazing...and i think i realized a little more why my dad and other bikers around the world enjoy motorbikes so much.



We made it to paksong and ended up staying at another fancy hotel (fancy meaning $5 a night each) at the lack of a better alternative.  Completely knackered we ate and fell straight asleep... its funny how riding a bike can take it out of you.... i think it is because of the concentration needed when riding such as dodging pot holes, kids, water buffalo, traffic, goats, dogs, pigs, chickens...all of which i had to dodge on this trip.



The last day of our trip and just as keen as all of the other days i was happy to jump on the bike.  First we woke up to some beautiful views of the Laos countryside and enjoyed a game of cards over breakfast.  As seemed to be the case every morning of the trip so far we found ourselves riding into a gorgeous view for the morning, with mountains and clear blue skies all around.  Me and Green Wing decided to get our tires topped up when chucking in a litre of petrol and off we headed.  Not far into the ride Zoe felt the back tire of her bike sliding out from the back and luckily or more accurately ...skillfully Zoe noticed it early on and as we stopped we spotted she had a flat tire.  The sun was beating down on us, we had already made 10Km headway out of Paksong and Zo was stuck with a flat tyre (it happened to be about 20 M from the entrance to the first waterfall we were set to view).  Me and mike scouted the area for garages or wooden shacks that could fix a flat tire and i stumbled upon a couple of guys who seemed equipped to repair the tyre.  The problem was getting the bike to the shop...i decided Zo shouldn't ride it as i can remember my dad telling me how much it damage a tyre to drive without air so we decided to walk it in shifts..... it was a long down hill and a not so long but still a descent distance up hill... I let Zo walk most of the downhill and then i took my shift... i switched on the bike popped it into second and i jogged the bike up the hill....almost letting it pull me up until Green Wing took over and we rolled the bike up to our knights in Shining Armour.  They repaired the tyre, doing the mechanic thing of "oooo need new brake pads aswell"  We were umming and arring but decided that for a total repair price of $6 for the tyre and the brake pads, we had better not risk it and Zoe got them both fixed... Damn i keep saying Zoe i mean.. Pixie Dust got them fixed.



Having repaired the bike we back-tracked a little to the first waterfall of the day... walking into the area surrounding the falls i expected to see frodo as the area looked remarkably like the shire in the lord of the rings.  We took a little trek and this time we were able to get to the base of the falls feeling the spray hit us as the water pounded off of the rocks.... another great way to start the day.  The second waterfall was not so high but super fun...some clever no doubtedly smiley happy Laos dude had rigged up a raft in the pool below the falls.... the raft was attacked to some rope that run underneath the water.  The idea being that you all jump onto this wooden raft and pull yourself along until your underneath the falls and eventually behind them.  We decided that this was defiantly a group activity and the three of us piled onto the raft, getting closer, feeling the cool spray of the falls almost got us changing our mind but as soon as we felt the sting of the water i knew we had done the right thing.... it was super refreshing and very exhilarating.  Back on land Zoe pointed out that we didn't have any pictures so me and Green Wing repeated the whole experience and picked up some good photos.



The third waterfall took a little riding on some rough terrain, my ass now happy to stay on tarmac after the four days, but it was defiantly worth it.  We stopped for a coffee first and then walked to the waterfall.  It was very inspirational... slightly hidden but i think that added to the view, we trekked a little through some jungle hoping for a better look, the view improved slightly but i full view of the falls was unobtainable, which i felt added to the mystery and inspirational values of the falls.  Feeling fully inspired we decided to get back to Pakse and munch on a curry before our night bus.



It was a nice ride back to pakse and when getting int the city i had a definite buzz of accomplishment, and an adrenaline rush of being able to navigate the semi busy city successfully.  Over taking locals, navigating the roads and roundabouts defiantly rounded of the trip nicely and we tucked into a curry before the bus.  So overall it was a very good trip, it has shown me how much enjoyment you can get from riding a bike (that i could not see before) And i felt a little bit like Ewan McGregor on the TV series "the long way down" except without the davidoff aftershave....as you will know if you have seen the adverts "Ewan never rides without his davidoff".......sell out.



Waiting for the night bus felt like a rude boy car meet in a car park in england, there was music pumping and the buses had lights flashing all over them, they were beeping their horns...our bus was painted in an excellent mural and the bus next to us had green lighting illuminating the road beneath the bus.  Me and Zoe were super excited to discover that we had a double bed...i could even stretch out as much as i wanted and we hugged up and slept as the bus headed north to the capital city of Vientiane.



We arrived at 6:00 am on Christmas morning, and as has become a bit of a routine i opted to stay with the bags while Pixie Dust and Green wing... oh hang about were not on bikes anymore... i mean Zoe and Mike... oh plus Shauna ( a girl we had met on Don Det and happened to be taking the same bus as us) looked for a guest house.  They found one playing Christmas tunes and we dropped off our bags.  We went in search of an English fry up as i wanted to keep the tradition of Christmas alive (my mum always makes a cracking fry up on crimbo morning)... mission successful we tucked into fried tomatoes, bacon, sausage and eggs.  Picking up some Christmas hats we set off to the market to buy each other presents.  We gave ourselves 20 minutes and agreed to meet with the presents... we had a shop and returned to the hostel to wrap.  



The pressies were wrapped in a newspaper that i had found ... but it was still nice to give and receive on Christmas day and have something to open.  I bought Zoe a decorative and engraved knife...as i knew she had been looking for one to carve up fruit etc.  i bought mike an electric shaver as he had mentioned that his had broken in Vietnam...and sporting a ginger beard i thought i might put him out of his misery :p  I received a plastic ball that is played over here similar to ticker...a butt scratcher, a DVD and a rasta doll that danced and sang :)  Our next mission for the day was t5o find something that resembled a Christmas dinner...  we found an English pub called the fox and the hound or something and felt very hopeful when we walked in spotting crackers and roast potatoes on the tables... on inquiry we discovered they were fully booked and they couldn't even spare a turkey Sarine the bastardos...so we settled for a burger and a pitcher of Beer Lao instead.  I rang home, very excited to speak to my family but also feeling a little homesick (the most home sick i have felt on the trip so far)... but there are plenty more Christmases to come and i plan on sharing the next one with my family :)



It ended up being a slightly drunken night and i hugged an Asian Santa :)  Boxing day was pure relaxation, we spent a lot of time watching Family guy and our Christmas movies on a portable DVD player me and Zoe bought with some Christmas money :)  Very good investment, it means that every now and then we can spend the day in bed watching movies and taking advantage of the super cheap DVDs over here.



The day after boxing day was a very interesting one...as informed by lonely planet there is a temple on the edge of town that offers a free meditation session with local monks on a Saturday evening.  We headed over to the temple early and treated ourselves to a sauna and a massage prior to the meditation.  The massage was an experience, it seemed to involve the use of pressure points more than anything and the masseuse was very rough... he popped all of my fingers, cracked my back, crushed me into a ball...but afterwords i could feel a difference and  i was fully relaxed.   We headed from here to the meditation session, it involved 30 minutes cross legged, with your eyes closed concentrating on your breathing ...we were told that of any other thoughts other than your breathing came into your head to take a note of it and to remain focused on the breathing aspect.  i found this tough but noted how effective this form of meditation could be to clear your mind...we then had 30 minutes of walking meditation where all you concentrate on is the action of your feet... you are told to be aware that your foot is rising, coming forward and resting on the ground and only this... so we walked in silence for half an hour and then enjoyed a further half an hour concentrating on our breathing.  The session was ended with questions for the guy leading the meditation.. i found it very informative and a good taster for something i plan to do in Thailand.  Everything according i plan to do a 10 day meditation retreat in northern Thailand... this involves, the boys and girls being separated, the only person you can talk to being your monk, all personal possessions being taken away from you for the duration of the course, and 12 hours a day meditation.  I have talked to a couple of people who have completed this course already... they say the first three days are very difficult to get through as it is just you and your thoughts for 12 hours a day... they also say that they went through all of their emotions and found their selves crying, laughing, angry.  But most importantly they say that after the first three days your head becomes clear and it is a very rewarding experience.  So always up for trying something new and realising that i would never ever have a chance to spend 10 days with just me, myself and my thoughts ... this is an experience i am very much looking forward to in Thailand.



A little off topic there and a bit of rant...sorry.  OK sooo we relaxed and meditated, yesterday we wandered the city a little, ate another curry and watched some more movies.  Today i am writing up this blog, sorting out my photos and we have a bus booked for Vang Vieng in 2 1/2 hours.  So thats where were heading next and will be spending NYE.  It is me, Zoe, Mike and Shauna and we will be meeting Tom Mills sometime this afternoon, who i believe is currently traveling with an Australian posse. n Vang Vieng is famous for its tubing...a day typically involves a 9:00 start... grabbing an inner tube of a tractor tyre, getting a Tuk Tuk up river and jumping in.  You float down river every now and then getting pulled in by a bar, having a pint, messing around on zip wires and slides and floating some more along the river to the next bar.  They also have video bars constantly playing family guy and friends on big TV's.  Sooooo thats what were set to look forward to over the next few days.  



Hope everyone had a good Christmas and lots of love to all.... Feel free to write me an e-mail at thomaswguy@gmail.com and let me know what you are up to at home or wherever you are.

If you want to check out the photos in descent quality go here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/discozo/sets/

Peazzze

Tom x x
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