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Motorbike Adventures in Laos…
with Siam Bike Travel

Part 4: Viang Pukha

Late afternoon we arrive in Viang Pukha, our destination for today. It is a tiny village with a stream running through it and like the villagers, we take our bath in the river. The "guest house" has a small electricity generator, but they only turn it on at seven in the evening for one or two hours. After the river bath we head straight for the fridge, only to find it empty. Right, no electricity. This is where we find out that Lao beer is drinkable even when it's warm! The women prepare our dinner - chicken, eggs and rice. Food is a bit of a problem in rural Laos. It's mostly chicken and eggs or eggs and chicken. Cassius, our Thai mechanic, has serviced all eight bikes, and it is getting dark. We've been watching village life down at the river - the women carrying water in buckets up to the road, the men driving herds of buffaloes home, and kids playing in the water.

After dinner most of our guys have an early night. It has been a hard day. Walter, Cassius and I chatted with the locals. Laotian is quite similar to Thai, Walter tells me. It is a monosyllabic, tonal language, which means that each word has only one syllable, but up to five meanings, depending on the tone. I try to get some words right, but earn nothing but laughs from the others. Wrong tone, different meaning, and I have no idea of what I just said!

Next morning we head towards Luang Namtha, the provincial capital. 140 km more of the same - except it has started to drizzle. We don't mind. It's cooling down a bit. I am feeling sore just about everywhere, my body is not used to this kind of exercise. That's the nice thing about adventure holidays: When you come back, you're fit! A group of Akha hill tribes has a problem with their transportation: Too much weight, road too steep, vehicle dug itself a hole. We help them getting it out and moving again. Walter speaks a bit of Akha and we learn that they are a group of students on their way home. They all wear the traditional Akha dress - you won't find a pair of jeans here!

Luang Namtha is bigger than I expected, but is also without electricity until 7:30 pm. We check into the best hotel in town, must be a 1.5-star. We don't care! We're happy, slightly wet and tired. After a shower and rest, we're ready for dinner. As it is getting dark, somebody fires up the town generator and a bit of electricity finds its way to our hotel. Dinner is great, which means no chicken, no eggs, but steamed fish, fried vegetables and fresh fruit. The second round of beers is definitely cooler than the first for electricity made it to the refrigerator! During the night I woke up to the sound of heavy rain. In the morning it is still raining a bit and black clouds cover the sky.

Over breakfast, we debated the next leg of our tour. If the rain continues and gets heavier, we may have problems. We decide to go through with the original plan and continue to Muang Sing from where we drive up to the Chinese border to take a look. Walter went with several groups into China, but for our tour, we were recommended not to go for there were too much bureaucracy. Even if you get all the necessary permits and visas, it's never sure that you can actually get the bikes across the border. The rain has stopped. We decided to continue to Chiang Kok and do the Mekong riverboat trip. Walter tells us that we could get into trouble if the weather gets really bad, but we all love trouble, don't we? We send our backup car through Viang Pukha back to Hua Xai, where it will wait for us. The next two or three days we are on our own and everybody packs a few things in a plastic bag and straps it on his bike. We ride a beautiful old jungle trail for another 140-km to Chiang Kok, which is a tiny bamboo hut village at the Mekong. Despite the drizzle, the road is still dry and we really enjoyed the ride and there we faced the “River of No Return”…

Do not miss the exciting last episode next week!

Many thanks to:
Text and photographs © 1996-2000 by Siam Bike Travel Co., Ltd.

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