Updated: Nov 12, 2018
I’m sitting on a motel room balcony in That Pranom, which is a provincial town in Thailand, sipping a gin and tonic & staring across the Mekong river at a country (Laos) that we may never be able to get into; with the bikes at least. So, as you may have guessed, we didn’t make it across the border into Laos. We were assisted by a very helpful gentleman in Thai customs who informed us that there was no problem from the Thailand side, but last year Laos changed the law about letting in bikes if they weren’t in a group of 10 or more and with a local or registered tour operator. Would have been nice to have been told about this, don’t you think? He embellished. Apparently a foreign biker was involved in a serious accident & fled the country (obviously not too serious for him) before justice could prevail. Hmmm... If true, then all the curses of Wat on the head of that imbecile biker. If this is just a side story (as I strongly suspect) then the real reason, like Cambodia tightening its borders, is money. The same customs official also said that he thought Laos desperately wanted more money. Well, we’ll have more information tomorrow because that’s why we are in a small town half way between the Chong Mek border crossing & the Vientiane crossing. We are going to try again to cross into Laos’ capital & if we find the same thing, we might just go over on foot to see. Not quite what we were planning, though.
So, yet again we had a dash across country to try & reach the destination without necessarily enjoying the ride! That’s not to say the riding is bad, it’s just that very long, straight & did I say very long and straight roads can be a bit... boring? Simon & I have communicators with microphones & headphones inside our helmets so we can talk & keep in contact. They’ve proven quite useful when one of us gets caught up in traffic. On this leg, I turned Simon off & played some music from my phone. Now, I didn’t make this up, but the first track that came on was The Doors, ‘Riders on the Storm’. It was a quite surreal Robin Williams “Good Morning Vietnam” type moment. Just the evocative sounds with the Thailand countryside sent film reels spooling in my head. It obviously was pure coincidence & not karma though, as the next track was ‘Come on Eileen’ by Dexy’s Midnight Runners!
It threatened to rain again this afternoon but held off, luckily, but the wind was definitely up, pushing us hard on some occasions. We went through one patch with huge leaves swirling around the road, plucked from the surrounding trees by the strong gusts. We stopped several times for short breaks & on one occasion the shopkeeper’s children surrounded us, fascinated more by us, I think, than the bikes, but certainly by the ensemble. They are pictured at the head of this blog. If Thailand have one thing right (and they have lots, btw) it is the care & attention they pay to their kids. You can do many things here, but harm a child & their wrath is upon you, correctly. The children are, without exception, happy, curious, fun & a delight.
On the bikes we obviously cannot go on a shopping spree. We have enough trouble fitting everything we have anyway, but we couldn’t resist a couple of pairs of long, colourful, tiger print shorts for NZ$5 each. Perhaps I can persuade Simon to model them for a phot at some point! But it’s fair to say there are a lot of great things to be had cheap here. There are the obvious knockoffs, but there are also some skilful local trade crafts. We have noticed a huge variation (obvious I suppose) in pricing between the main tourist areas & the out of the way markets. Not that I’d recommend purchasing this bag of goodies that I spotted hanging outside the customs office! I don’t actually know what they are, but my guess would be somewhere along the cicada line...
We stopped for a bite to eat on a floating restaurant we came across by accident when we were looking for what the sign said was ‘2 coloured rivers’ which I think was the confluence of two big rivers, not that we got close enough to seeing any difference in colour!
The restaurant was completely empty, as it was too early, but they rustled us up a quick omelette with rice, which was all we could easily show them in pictures as they spoke not a word of English. Apart from the loud & somewhat raucous (to our ears) music, it was a peaceful place to wind back down from the disappointment at not being able to cross.
Tomorrow we have a last ditch attempt at Laos, so keep everything crossed!
You’ll find all the images from my Rovings here:
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