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Report Laos II

Laos-Report 2

It was with regret that I left the paradise of Muang Ngoi but I had left the bike back at a guest house in the last village downstream. It was not under cover and there had been a tremendous storm overnight, so I was a bit anxious about it. No probs, as it happened but the storm had washed away a bamboo bridge out to an interesting cave so I had to forgo that attraction The guest house owner kindly woke me at 2am to watch the Germany/Italy match though. It seems strange having this connection with the first world European countries while sitting in a rush hut in the jungle near a raging river.

On returning to Luang Prabang  I first went to the police station to see if there was any news of the camera being handed in. Of course not and while I was inside the bike decided to throw itself on the ground. Normally I can ignore these temper tantrums, apart from finding someone to help pick it up, but this time it was close to a steep pavement which put a large dent in the pannier and broke the knob of the clutch lever. On moving to the camera shop I was told that it was my fault the camera didn’t work. (it decided to come back to life when I demonstrated) They didn’t have another of that model and I could only trade it on another more expensive one.  Not wanting to risk more money on crappy cameras I stormed out and pissed off with their unsympathetic attitude, I stormed out. The camera died totally again and I was once more unable to take pictures. I moved on to the internet and spent a couple of unprofitable hours trying to put in a claim and find out why the insurance haven’t paid out for the last one yet. In my negative state of mind nothing worked and I kept deleting information. I also suddenly realized that my Carnet de Passage was about to run out and I need to get a new one sent from Germany.

Not a good day.

One of the Golden Triangle Riders in Thailand riders had told me about the Plain of Jars at Phonsavan, another days ride away so I moved off east to find this tourist attraction.

After another wet ride through the mountains I arrived on the high plateau where Phonsavan is situated. With wide streets and simple wooden buildings it looked like a wild west cowboy town. That evening I found a group of antipodeans who were going out to the Jar sites on an organized tour the next day and decided to follow them on the bike as one of them, Aaron, said he would take some photos for me and send them on.

Several thousand years old, these enormous jars made of stone or a type of cement, lie scattered in the fields amid bomb craters from the American War. Needless to say many have been broken. There are several theories about their use, some think they were for storage of wine or rice, others that they were funereal. Nothing has been proven yet but the sites are amazing and feel very mystic. They are big enough to climb inside and are a perfect place for a quick rendering of King of the Fairies.

On returning to town that afternoon I saw a 650 Honda Dominator with Aus plates parked outside a guest house and was happy to make the acquaintance of Rachel and Skip from Queensland who are on a 4 month tour of S.E Asia. They had heard I was in Laos and hoped we would meet. It was a real tonic for me to chat with them and we swapped info. They promised to take photos and send them for me too.

Another wet days’ ride took me North East near the border of Vietnam to find the small village of Vieng Xai which, because of its green valley surrounded by Karst cliffs and caves, was used as a hide out and headquarters of the Pathet Laos leaders and forces during the American War. The topography of this area ensured that the bombs could not affect these hideouts and during the 9 year bombardment the caves were impregnable, life and military planning went on and it was called the Hidden City. The only way that any of the officers or their families were harmed was by CIA spies. The three hour, informative tour of the caves left me amazed and full of admiration for the ingenuity of these besieged people. . Now a peaceful, stunningly beautiful place it is hard to imagine the ceaseless bombardment, day and night for 9 years. All this lovely part of Loas is still being cleaned of unexploded bombs by the bomb disposal squads. Like Cambodia there are many local victims of these dreadful war weapons.

English Lindsay and Swedish Gustav were on the tour with me and have promised to send the photos, so fingers crossed that I can share this experience pictorially with you too.

Back in Phonsavan the following night I was on my way to the  cyber café to find out how the Carnet situation was going when, on crossing the wide, clear road I was suddenly hit from behind and sent crashing to the ground screaming *********!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

When I had enough breath to turn my head and see a Laotion on a small motorbike was inspecting it and looking worriedly in my direction. I just sat there in the road, totally shocked and wondering if I could stand up. Another guy on a bike stopped. Fortunately he could speak English and insisted that he take me to the clinic with the other guy in tow to find out if I was seriously hurt. As I am built to bounce (and have had lots of practice) we luckily found that nothing was broken and my kidneys hadn’t split from the rear impact. Armed with painkillers and heat rub, bought by the guilty party I continued to the internet café and then found that Skip and Rachel were still in town so had a commiseratory beer with them.

Now it was time to head south again. With the roads deteriorating with the heavy rains I could not go any further north and I had decided to exit Laos (was I jinxed there?) and go back to the biker bar in Nong Khai, just over the border to find somewhere to do an oil change and general maintenance.

I went back to Vang Vieng, and there bought a Kodak click (Chinese) camera, about 5 times the price that you would pay in Europe but just so that maybe I will have some photos of Laos that I have taken. I spent a day watching movies and playing the fiddle to give my bruised body a chance to recuperate and have now arrived back in Thailand, serviced the bike and am getting ready for the next part of the trip which will take me along the Mekong, round to the Cambodian border which I will follow to finally head West to Bangkok. Another camera, my carnet and some more rosin for my bow are on the list to obtain there, I hope.

So, as you can see these last few weeks have been a mixture of pain and pleasure. I know that there are far worse things that can happen than losing a few photos and camera but, on this trip my photography is important to me. Taking good photos is part of the pleasure of the ride or event. I often stop on the road when I see something of interest and interact with the people while I take the picture. Keeping the web site with these reports is part of my raison d’etre during a life on the road which could become haphazard and unstructured. I want to share this trip with you verbally and pictorially and I need a camera to do it properly. I was really devastated when I lost it and it took me several days to pull myself together and renew my interest in continuing my journey. As I have said before, when you are alone the hard times are even harder and mental self flagration really brings me down. I seem to constantly lose things no matter how hard I try and I hate myself for it.

You can be assured that the next camera will be chained to my belt and with me at all times.

Thank you for bearing with me and thanks to all the people who have helped me on this section and those who have offered to send on piccies. It will take a while but I hope we all get to see some.

Love to you all


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