As you know by now, since my yearlong trip across Southeast Asia I am a huge fan and advocate of traveling and exploring by motorbike. I probably rode a bike at least once in every country I visited and every single time it made for an unique and unforgettable experience. It is about the feeling of total freedom, of really immersing yourself in the scenery around you, about the sun warming your face, a cool breeze blowing through your hair and all the kind people you meet along the way. The freedom of traveling by motorbike is just unmatched. You can do whatever you want whenever you want and you are not confined to anyone’s schedule but your own. You can just take that interesting side road you just passed, you can have a snack at that unique road stop which you’d otherwise whip right past or stop to say hello to that group of smiling children who have been happily waving at you. Continue reading
It has been more than two months travelling with my mates Dolf and Chris from Belgium and time has been flying by. What started with a brief small talk in a remote fishermen’s village in Laos, marked the start of an incredible adventure and finally turned into true friendship. Although we have split already a couple of weeks ago, I still want to appreciate our shared trip with a separate post.
I like travelling alone but at the time I met the guys in Laos, I was a little fed up with it and more than happy to meet like minded people. I mean you meet a lot of people while travelling, especially when backpacking. But to be honest, especially on the classic South East Asia Loop I found a lot of these people pretty annoying and just not on the same wavelength. All the more I instantly enjoyed the company of Dolf and Chris. We shared the same thoughts, the same interests and the same style of travelling. It was great I am sure traveling the route we have by myself would have been a completely different experience. Continue reading
Laos has been the country of impressive nature and monumental landscapes. The sea of clouds on Phongsaly, the karst mountains in the North and Center of Laos as well as the mighty Mekong accompanying my journey from North to South. To top it off, Laos treated me with majestic waterfalls and gigantic caves. There is not a whole lot more you can demand from a country in terms of nature encounters. That being said, it was striking how less wildlife there actually was. We walked in the jungle and sometimes didn’t even hear a bird, not mentioning seeing one. Apparently the Lao people a long tradition of hunting and have a taste for almost all wildlife. Besides that there is a lot to explore and it is so difficult to venture off the beaten path. The means of choice for this is definitely the motorbike. The scenic loops and day trips can make for some wonderful memories. However, if you stay on the main route that almost everybody is doing, Laos is almost as touristy as Thailand. I didn’t expect this to that extent I have to admit. Continue reading
I am way behind with the Pic of the Week category again. My apologies for that. I selected two great pictures representing the Pic of the Week 6 and 7. This time no temples, no sunsets and no people. It’s all about the animals. Here you go!
This was taken during my lengthy stay on Don Dhet, Laos. There is one big herd of oxen which lives on the island. I never found out who they actually belong to, but they roam the island completely free and can feed wherever they want. Sometimes you can even spot them around the bungalows and walking in the village.
One day I rode my bicycle around the island in search of some good picture opportunities. I was on my way back to my bungalow when I suddenly saw the herd taking a collective bath in the Mekong. It was so funny since you could really tell that they were enjoying it a lot. They sometimes completely submerged, holding their breath for more than a minute. I had some more encounters with these guys but this one was by far the funniest.
This one was taken in Cambodia, where I am at right now. I don’t want to say anything about it right now to keep it a little bit mysterious. I will explain in the article after the upcoming Laos Roundup. Stay tuned.
After having done the Takhek Loop by motorbike followed by another motorbike trip around the Bolaven Plateau, Chris, Dolf and I were exhausted. Riding had just took its toll and we were ready for some days of relaxation and idleness. The 4.000 islands and especially the island of Don Dhet in the middle of the mighty Mekong River seemed like the perfect place to do so. It is very small, no cars and has the reputation to be one of the most relaxed places in Laos. It should also be our last stop in Laos before entering Cambodia and also the place where we would split.
Having left Luang Prabang, I was looking forward to meet Chris and Dolph again. Our plan was to meet in Thakhek where we would base ourselves to go on a 3 day motorbike tour – the renowned Thakek Loop. Before getting there, I first had to take a horrible bus ride though… probably the worst one so far. The bus completely overloaded, me being stuck in one of the worst seats of the bus, oven like temperatures, no aircon and two bus breakdowns including the odd pushing to get the engine started again. Completely exhausted, I made it to Thakhek where the guys had fortunately already arranged accommodation. It felt great to see the guys again. We went out for some drinks and dinner and discussed how to best do the loop. Our itinerary set, I rented the bike for the next day, this time a Chinese Model – a Zongshen 125cc. We were set and stoked to go and I was happy to be on the road again soon.
After having split from the two Belgians Chris and Dolf in Nong Khiaw, I made it to Luang Prabang in the afternoon. I was supposed to catch up with the guys again at 6 pm. since they had to drive down from Nong Khiaw with their motorbikes. Luang Prabang was said to be a touristy but yet very relaxed and serene city by the banks of the river Mekong. I was looking forward to explore the city, kick back for a little and take some pictures of the supposedly stunning sunsets.
However, after I had started looking for a guesthouse, I soon realized that my stay probably won’t be as relaxed, serene and laid back as I imagined. It was Chinese New Year, which I knew before. What I didn’t know was that the Chinese take this holiday as a chance to travel and just invade the country by the hordes.
This was taken in the evening of my first day in Luang Prabang. The two Belgians Chris and Dolf had split in Nong Khiaw in order to meet up again in Luang Prabang at 6 pm that same day. They had to ride their motorbikes down and I took the local bus. After I got myself sorted out, I went down to the banks of the Mekong to watch the sunset before meeting the guys. I heard the views were supposed to be amazing. This was definitely no exaggeration and I went down to the water where all the longboats were anchoring. The longboat on the picture just pulled in and the guy on the roof did the last smooth adjustments with his long bamboo rod. Not many people around at that moment and a very serene atmosphere. However, this would be the exception for my entire stay in Luang Prabang as I would soon have to find out….
We left Phongsaly, the city above the clouds, early to get the bus to Hat Sa. From there it would be a two day boat ride with an overnight stop in Muang Khua. Our final destination being Muang Ngoi Neua, a supposedly blissful fisher village at the banks of the Nam Ou River. But first Phongsaly bid us farewell with another beautiful vista of its sea of clouds.
In the guidebooks it is said, that it might be difficult to arrange a boat trip down to Muang Khua due to the possible lack of people going there. There was no need to worry though since there were more than enough people to pay for the ride. The boat itself was a lot smaller than the first slow-boat I took on the Mekong. No chairs, just wooden planks to fit three people. Needless to say that the boat, as with every other means of transportation in Laos, was way overloaded. With lots of draft we started our journey rocking down the Nam Ou.
I get up very early and as I leave my guesthouse, it is foggy and drizzling again – a phenomenon that seems to be typical in Laos and which I still have to get used to. The already not so charming town of Oudomxai presents itself grey and depressing. Tired and weary, I arrive at the local bus station and the sight of this muddy and bland place just completes the picture. Bound for Phongsaly, the remote and wild North of Laos, I am worried if the bus will make it there. There are rumors that yesterday’s bus had to turn around due to bad road conditions. The almost antique bus is completely overloaded with people sitting on plastic stools in the aisle, others even standing and sacks of rice and other produce stacked behind the driver. With lots of luck, I secure myself a seat, send a quick prayer to heaven and the bus squeaks off for its 9 hour journey to Phongsaly.