It was hard to sleep last night because of the huge karaoke party next to my hotel. I woke up tired at 7. I only had 130 km to Savannakhet, so I figured I’d get my bike checked first.
I went back to the guys who change my oil. They didn’t want to tackle the speedometer, but he tightened something and my back breaks work now. He said to stop putting oil on my chain, which is causing the leak.
I went to a different shop and they worked on the speedometer. I thought it would be a simple matter of swapping out the cable like last time. To my dismay he took the console off, then proceeded to dismantle it. That took an hour. He took the odometer out and pounded on it. Then he showed it to me and indicated it couldn’t be fixed.
He put it all back together. All told it took two hours and 55,000 kip. I rode off and the wheel made a rubbing noise. I went back and he fixed that. As I left town the speedometer and odometer were working fine and I was happy.
I opted to take the “scenic” route that follows the Mekong. About 10 km out of town my front wheel started making the rubbing noise again, and the speedometer and odometer stopped working. I also noticed the fuel gauge wasn’t working, so the mechanic had actually made it worse.
The ride was not interesting. There were a few views of the Mekong and Thailand beyond, but they were not scenic. I passed through ugly little settlements along the road. There were signs of industry.
I passed a huge party with multiple stages set up and music blasting. For those who haven’t been to Asia, “blasting” here means being cranked up to 11 so the speakers are distorting and you can feel your ears being damaged. Many people were walking on the road. There was also a lot of traffic coming in. I got stuck in a traffic jam on a narrow bridge.
Once past that mess the road deteriorated, with huge potholes. A nonstop stream of pickup trucks, SUV’s, and vans was coming at me, and they were all over the road as they swerved unpredictably to avoid potholes.
Eventually the traffic died down, and I proceeded through unremarkable countryside to the city of Savannakhet. Some accounts on the internet describe Savannakhet as the second largest city in Laos after the capitol Vientiane. Others say the Southern city of Pakse is the second largest. After visiting Vientiane, I find it hard to believe tiny Savannakhet is the second-largest city in the country.
I had rather liked sleepy Thakhet, which has a small French colonial area. Savannakhet, on the other hand, is really spread out. I tried to walk to the colonial area from my guesthouse, but turned back and got my bike after walking for 10 minutes.
On the ride here it occurred to me that it would be nice to sell my bike in Laos to avoid going back to Vietnam. I made some inquires, and was told about a bike rental shop. I located it but it, along with most businesses in town, was closed for the weekend.