Cycling through Central Laos & Northern Thailand

We spent a week cycling around central Laos visiting some famous caves, including the 7km long Konglor cave, which you should definitely go see if you ever visit Laos! Our way of getting there was by cycling & pushing our bikes up & down some very narrow and steep muddy trails and streams, whilst passing the occasional remote village, rice fields & grazing water buffalos. As Sertx was cycling down one of the paths, a young girl pulled out her machete just to show him that she was not scared of the bearded man (the villages were that remote!) 
Once we arrived at the cave we needed to spend another 2 hours convincing the boat drivers to take our bikes on their small, narrow boats for less than the usual bike price, which always seems to be as much as a ‘person’ ticket. We guess they weren’t happy with the outcome, as Sertx’s bike was dropped & sunk into river! The boat ride lasted an hour, which included having to get out and walk in complete darkness across shallower sandy parts a couple of times. Only the boatmen had powerful enough head torches to light-up the vast cathedral-like cavern. This cave was really an unforgettable experience and unfortunately the only place we could not take any photos as it was pitch black inside. 

Our Greek friend Petros caught up with us for a day here after cycling through the country on muddy off-road tracks, on which he continued after leaving us, only meeting us again in Laos. We stuck to the asphalt road, cycling passed tobacco-leaf fields in valleys, and up some very steep mountains only to descend their other side steeply, all on our way to the capital Vientiane, from where we crossed over the Mekong into Thailand. Whilst crossing the ‘Friendship’ Bridge I somehow, inadvertently managed to get my front tyre stuck in a train track, thereby flying off and over my bicycle for the first time.
The beautiful tobacco fields of Konglor
We spent the first 2 weeks of May cycling through Northern Thailand; One week on undulating roads following the Mekong westwards towards Uttaradit & the second week resting in Chiang Mai then cycling over a few mountains back into Laos again. We thoroughly enjoyed riding these peaceful roads until our third 100km-day where we met some seriously, illegally steep mountain roads that we were forced to get off the bikes & push them up the more than 12% inclined slopes.

We were gratefully rewarded with stunning valley views for every mountain we climbed, however, some massive, biting horseflies managed to catch up with us on our last slope of the day, resulting in us rapidly hopping back on our bikes & spinning our pedals as fast as we could, whilst they flew into our eyes & ears & even tried to nest in Sertx’s beard. Sertx looked like a human windmill trying to fight the horseflies away. 

Although most days on the bike were spent cycling under the intense heat of the sun, we also experienced cycling through several thunderous rain showers, where we needed to dodge leaping frogs & scuttling crabs on the roads!

We accepted an offer for a lift from a friendly Japanese-Thai local, who drove us over many mountains, and across a few towns in order so that we could catch an afternoon train to Chiang Mai – so that we could spend more time exploring the north before our 15-day visa expired. Even though we rushed it was only after arriving at the station that we discovered that large luggage was only allowed on the 5am morning train; the following morning we also discovered that the 5am train is always 3 hours delayed. 

Once in Chiang Mai we picked up our front panniers & rack pack bag, which were filled with our winter clothes & camping kit for the months ahead. Sertx now carries 28kg on top of his 14kg bicycle & I carry 10kg less than him. So since then I’ve been racing up the mountains in front of Sertx for once, who is only slightly suffering from carrying the heavier load. Riding our bicycles now feels as though we are steering a caravan! 

After crossing the Mekong again, we spent 3 days cycling through 40 degrees C. temperatures over the steep mountains in Laos to our final stop in Luang Namtha. From here we spent a day renting a motorbike to explore a town just 58km away, yet only made it 50km to see a waterfall, before a thunderstorm caught up with us. On this occasion we forget to pack our raingear, and ended up soaked to the bone & shivering on the windy & winding motorbike ride back into town.

Laos is breathtakingly beautiful throughout the country, and would make a fantastic trip if only you have the perpetual patience to wait until the locals understand anything you ask for, even when you ask for it in their own language! As for Thailand; that is a country we would happily cycle through any day again!
I swear I didn't knock that lorry over!

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