It was cold last night. I am tired of the cold, and want to get out of it. After my food poisoning I slept for ten hours, and finally felt better.
I had a pretty long ride, 230 km. And I would be backtracking to return to the main North-South Route 13. I hate retracing my steps, but the side road I took to the Plain of Jars, Route 7 is a spectacular road.
But before getting to the amazing views I had to ride for a while to get out of the flat plain and suburban sprawl surrounding the unpleasant town of Phonsavan. As I rode out of town I marveled at the sheer number of gas stations. They have been hard to find in rural Northern Laos, but Phonsavan must be the gas station capital of the country. There’s one every few feet, and they are busy building more.
Eventually I passed the last gas station and was riding back up into the remote mountains, twisting and turning on the narrow roads, and stopping frequently to admire the views. I gazed into the deserted valleys far below me. They did not have any signs of civilization in them. There was no traffic. I passed through small villages that didn’t have gas stations, or any other facilities. I stopped at a hut with a hand pump to refuel.
I reached the grim crossroads town of Phou Khoun in time for lunch. Then I headed down Route 13 towards Vientiane, ending my side trip and continuing my journey south. There were more stunning views for much of the way, and still no traffic. Eventually strange limestone cliffs came into view.
I started going down, down, and down. I’m finally leaving the mountains, and the cold weather behind me. I came to flat plans, with limestone cliffs towering in the distance. The road deteriorated, with lots of huge potholes. I was glad when I finally arrived at the legendary backpacker mecca of Vang Vieng.
Vang Vieng is infamous because so many backpackers died here by getting drunk and jumping into shallow water. The authorities finally cracked down a few years ago, so it’s not as crazy as it used to be. Now there are more Chinese tour groups than independent Western backpackers in town.
My initial impression of the town was not good. It’s overbuilt with hotels, restaurants, and bars, yet the roads are not paved and there is no drainage. It’s not a charming little village like Nong Khiaw. And the hotels are overpriced for what you get.
But I didn’t come here for the unpleasant town. Tomorrow I will explore the countryside.