When people asked before we left why we decided to travel by bicycle, I told them that we wanted to be free to go wherever we wanted. So in case a local would said it was better to go left than right, we simply could. And so we did. And unexpectedly ended up in lovely Laos!
Here’s how it happened:
After Christmas it started raining in Vietnam. Not just an hour at the end of the afternoon, but full days of pooring cold rain. We had the plan to cycle up north via the old and beautiful Ho Chi Min Road. But the weather forecast was really bad, both where we were at that time (Hué) as where we were heading (Sapa and Hanoi). And while we were looking very much forward to cycle in the pristine mountain areas of Vietnam, it didn’t look like we were going to see a lot of them with all those clouds. This weather wasn’t a hickup from mother nature, it’s an annual thing called the winter monsoon, and it makes mid/north Vietnam very wet during December/January. After a few days in wet cycling pants and limited views from under our rain cap, we had enough.
And then a magical thing happened.
One morning in the remote village of A Luoi, we were having breakfast trying to recharge ourselves for the rainy cycling day ahead. A retired german man saw our packed bicycles and walked up to us for a chat. He spends his winters in Vietnam, and did quite some cycling while in the area. He was the type of cyclist we definitely relate to; collecting impressions instead of kilometers. And he just came back from Laos, where apparently the weather was completely opposite, and the mountains were great too.
“You’re likely to see the first signs of blue sky as from the border.”
“You could cycle The Loop from Thakhek. It’s beautiful out there.”
“I think it will rain for at least another 2 weeks here in Vietnam.”
We were sold. And luckily we had the freedom of our bicycle, enough time and the right passport.
– Random encounters are the best. Thank you Joachim Geppert for showing us the way. –
So one last wet cycling day later, we took a turn left instead of the planned one to the right. The next day we crossed the border into Laos. And how funny it was to see the first cracks in the grey clouds when in line at the immigration office. 1 hour later, we were sweating again under a burning sun.
This random encounter was the best that could have happened. The cycle route he proposed was just STUNNING and one of the prettiest scenery I have seen in southeast Asia. We loved how Laos is not too touristically developped (at least the small part we have seen). We were really happy to add this last Indochinese country to our route, and to discover that it’s a great mix of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam but with quieter roads and gentle traffic. And we enjoyed the very pure way of living including the many handicrafts (which makes great souvenirs).
– views over limestone mountains and forest on The Thakhek Loop, a must-do when in Laos if you ask us –
– the simple but happy life on the side of the road –
– homemade handmade textiles. I could have bought the entire shop. –
So even when we’ve cycled over 5000km in Asia and my bum truly hurts, I’m still so happy we travel by bicycle, unmotorised, independent, at the perfect speed of +/- 20km/h to have a good look around, and to have the freedom to take that turn left.