On November 4th Fred the bike is embarking on a six month journey across Southeast Asia. Starting in Singapore, Fred plans to make his way up the west coast of Malaysia, across Thailand, Cambodia, up through Vietnam and into Laos. After that... who knows? Fred invites you to follow him through his adventure. Any advice from fellow travelers is always welcome.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Na Meo-Vieng Xai

Total Distance:58.97km
Total Time:5h00m27s
Average Speed:11.7km
Maximum Speed:45.0km
Total Distance So Far:6580.02

The journey to Laos proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated, to say the least. After being declined entry at the border, I hoped a bus back to Hanoi to get a Lao Visa. Let me just say, I do not consider taking a bus in this circumstance cheating as I resumed cycling from the Na Meo. Hanoi was... Hanoi. Loud, expensive, pretty much everything I hate about Vietnam rolled into one big city. I spent a few days there, pretty much trying to avoid everyone and everything there, waiting for my visa to be processed. Finally with my Lao Visa in hand, I was back on my way. The bus ride back to the border was possibly my most unpleasant Vietnamese experience, and that's saying a lot!
In order to get back to Na Meo, I first had to take a bus to Thanh Hoa. Upon arriving in Thanh Hoa, I was told there would be no bus to Na Meo for three days. This presented a large problem. You are aloowed to go over your Vietnamese visa for five days with only a $10 penalty. At this point I was on day 4, so you can understand my dilema. At this point I started to crack a little. One of the ladies selling water and snacks led me to a bus..."to Na Meo" she said. I asked the driver multiple times if he was sure he would drop me in Na Meo, and he assured me he would. Once we reached Quan Son, which I knew to be the last place with a hotel before Na Meo, I asked again. Again he assured me I would be dropped in Na Meo. A couple of hours later the bus came to a stop and I was shuffled off. Fred was taken down from the roof racks. The problem was, we were not in Na Meo. We were about 30km away. This wouldn't have been that bad if not for the fact that it was pitch dark.
I begged and pleaded. Even tried to bribe the drive, which almost always works with the Vietnamese, but to no avail. "No" he said "you ride bike. Then he got back on the bus and drove away, but not before I had a chance to spit in his face. Okay, it wasn't the smartest nor the most lady like thing to do, but it was well deserved. So, in the middle of the mountains, on a sketchy road, in the dark I rode to Na Meo. It took three hours.
I spent the night there and the next morning, at long last, I crossed the border into Laos. It is all I had hoped for and more. The people here are so much better. It's peaceful. People still say hello, but not in the aggresive, almost threatening way of the Vietnamese. The Lao people speak softly, almost in a whisper. They are gentle and sweet. The children are well behaved. I know I haven't been here long enough to draw such broad conclusions, but I love Laos.

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