Following the Mekong

Trip Start Apr 12, 2010
Trip End Apr 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
Paradise Bungalows

Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Friday, July 9, 2010

From Kratie, we motored the 250km to the "unofficial" Cambodian-Laos border crossing. Whatever that meant! This was the 2nd border crossing with Frank and more importantly without the correct paperwork. We rolled up to the shack and I hopped off with my most winning smile to be confronted by the bare ass of an official taking a leak in the corner of his shack. Nice. We got sent to Customs first. This official at least had his pants on. He looked at us and then at Frank. He asked us if we had documentation for Frank. We were expecting the start of a long negotiation process but all it required was a measly $5 bribe. We had escaped Cambodia. For $4 the Laos officials put a stamp in our passports and we were in Laos. We were told to go to Customs for Frank. Weirdly, the Laos Customs shack was 2km past the immigration control, so it could be easily missed. We ducked the barrier and glanced at the empty shack briefly as we powered past behind a scooter!

A few kms further north we turned onto a dirt track to the river and skillfully rode the bike onto a very dodgy looking catamaran. 10 minutes later we were in the heart of the 4000 islands on Don Det. After a quick potter round the island we chose a suitable hut overlooking the Mekong to sleep in. Shortly after this we bumped into Gina and Sam, a duo who we'd met in Hanoi and had been running in to ever since. Drinks with a glorious sunset followed as we learnt from them all the good bits of Cambodia we'd not managed to see!

Abandoning Frank the next day we pedalled bumpily around the adjoining island to see rapids, old railway lines and no freshwater dolphins as we took another dip in the Mekong. The islands were totally relaxing places; cheap to stay on with many places to sip beer as the Mekong slid by. Every morning the sun rose over the river and streamed into our hut.

We'd hatched a plan with Sam and Gina to do a little trip further north so we spent the next few days trying to keep up with their buses. We beat them to the first destination, Pakse, even though Frank's accelerator cable snapped 8km away. I controlled the engine from the back seat with a pair of pliers on the broken cable, while Matt drove the bike and issued speed up and slow down commands. Yet again Frank dominated our time in a town as we hunted for spares to fix him.

Our next stop was Savannakhet (which Sam and Gina skipped) where we met up (on the road) with a friendly French biker called Jerome. We joined him and his mate later that night and he shared with us his encylopaedic knowledge of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. He had ridden his motorbike everywhere, including our famous little route 66 from Siem Reap in Cambodia! In the dry season he'd said it was pretty bad, so we felt somewhat relieved that others had suffered our pain. He was also looking to buy a Minsk as a second bike, but we were not yet ready to abandon Frank.

The next day we followed Jerome's detailed advice and found a back road along the Mekong all the way to Thakek. Slightly hungover and desparate for breakfast we found a little nook overlooking the water, run by a friendly Lao guy who also ran a Thai massage parlour in town, grew corn, grew onions (across the water in Thailand) and did something to do with a deodorant tree we never got to the bottom of. He fed us sticky rice and dips and coffee. He'd been up all night serving drinks to some customers till 6am and refused to charge us for the refreshments! It was a perfect spot and all thanks to our Frank-Jerome connection!

In Thakek we buzzed round town and found Gina and Sam scoffing on some spicy pad thai. Back at the guest house HQ, the maps came out and we began planning the next adventure with them....
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Ash on

Hi Matt,

Meanwhile back home (on TV at least) the tour de france reaches the climax of tourmalet climb. Can young Andy Schlech defeat the unsporting Alberto Contadour without the help of his brother. Only time and the eurosport highlights on shortly will tell.....



Garnet on

No joy for Schleck malheureusement...

Like the hair Nickiy, will it stay this way or will it be grow, grow, grow until you get back??

Haven't read all your blogs but it seems as though you are having a great time. Jealous.
Em, Seb and I are on our travels too, somewhat more sedately to Wilmington, Delaware in September for 18mths...If you're passing through the 1st state (unlikely), give us a shout..

Love to you both. (btw, Em is in St Austell this week, thought she might try doing some clay analysis....)


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