Today as I left Vientiane I would be embarking on the second half of my tour through Laos. I’d continue following the main Route 13 out of the big fat northern part of the country and into the skinny Southern portion.

The South does not have the incredible mountain scenery of the remote North. But this more populous part of the country held two of the attractions I had to see: “The Loop,” and the 4,000 Islands.

It was a long 330 km ride to the start of The Loop. I considered breaking it up into two short days, as there are plenty of guesthouses along the way. But there’s really nothing worth stopping for. I figured I’d get the long ride over with in one day.

Unlike Cambodia, I had not seen a lot of temples in Laos. There were a few on this ride.
Unlike Cambodia, I had not seen a lot of temples. There were a few on this drive.

The ride wasn’t really scenic at first. The land was flat, which means lots of towns, industry, and other development. But Route 13 was straight and in good repair, so I could go about 70 kph. Because of the speed and the lack of photo stops I made good time.

The scenery improved later on. There were some mountains on the horizon. The road followed the Mekong, and Thailand was visible on the other side. I passed some interesting temples, including one that was similar to the one in Pha That Luang in Vientiane. The road went over some rivers, with scenic views over them. There were some views over a sandy river of funky mountains in the distance.

A scenic river.
A scenic river.

Even with the better scenery, it still couldn’t compare to the fantastic scenery of the North. I increased my speed to 90 kph. I even had my bike up to 100 kph for a little. That’s 62 mph, so is a lot faster than the 40 kph (25 mph) I had been limited to in the mountainous North. Because I went so fast, I made it to the town of Tha Khek at four.

Tha Khek is the starting point of The Loop, and after fighting through its sprawl I arrived in a pleasant little town. It’s on the Mekong, right across from Nakhon Phanom in Thailand. There’s some French colonial architecture in its old town.

Another interesting temple.
Another interesting temple.

There are a surprising number of fancy hotels, and some fancy restaurants too. There is even a massage shop. There’s lots of street food along the river at night.

The town is hardly a big tourist destination, and there aren’t that many falang in town, but it has quite a bit of tourist infrastructure. Most people come here to ride The Loop or daytrip from Thailand.

I had basil duck and tam mak huhng (don’t call papaya salad som tam, this is not Thailand) and Beer Lao while watching the sunset. I planned my ride on The Loop.

This temple looked like Pha That Luang.
This temple looked like Pha That Luang.
I didn't know it at the time, but The Loop would take me up on that plateau.
I didn’t know it at the time, but The Loop would take me up on that plateau.
Another scenic river.
Another scenic river.
Funky landscape.
Funky landscape.
Looking at Thailand from Tha Khek.
Looking at Thailand from Tha Khek.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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