Saturday 31 December 2011

Vientiane sights

Yesterday when out looking for a place to park my bike for a week while in Vietnam I also went to Patuxai and Pha That Luang, the two main things to see in Vientiane that I didn't look at last time I was here (because I knew I'd be back).

For future reference, Wattay airport does not have overnight parking. Although the guy at the motorbike parking section said I could keep it there for 20000kip a night, but he was unsure about a week. Maybe he just wanted me to leave it there so he could steal it...

It's like disney land!
Patuxai is on Lane Xang avenue in the middle of Vientiane, which is oddly enough where you find the worst traffic in Laos.

The other side.
These people hang around the bottom, taking photos for tourists and then printing them out on the printers they carry over their shoulders. There are LOTS of them. They didn't bother me though, mostly going after the Chinese and Thai tourists.

There are staircases inside so you can get to the top, for 3000kip (oh and parking was 3000kip). Oddly around the base of it there weren't as many people trying to sell you things as I thought there would be.

Latest in the series of bad HDRs. 

Oh right, this is where all the souvenir shops are hiding, inside the tower... 

Oh, and there's a second floor of it too...
View from the top.
Some people spotted me at the top and took my photo! I have fans!
Well umm, OK. I don't think I've been passing a grass, but now I'm not sure.

Pha That Luang
This is it! The national symbol of Laos.
Pha That Luang is just near Patuxai. Each level is a slightly different rectangle, not sure why...

Some statues along one of the walls.

Shiney little serpent.

Very empty in this part.

Panorama time!
Another very bad HDR.

And of course, market stalls.

And then it was time for new years eve. I went to a beer garden near where I'm staying and since it's run by a German and some German expats were there, they played Dinner for One, and thanks to QI I knew what it was! Then after I had 4 beers, I decided not to drink more and went back to the hotel to wait out midnight and then go down the road and look at what was going on there. But I fell asleep (4 beers) and woke up to very loud bad Lao music in 2012. Then I woke up again to some more very bad lao music. And again... Horrible, bad, lao music...

Thursday 29 December 2011

Vang Vieng back to Vientiane

Vang Vieng wasn't as interesting the second time around. There were more people there this time, mostly of the stumbling and drunk variety after they had spent a day tubing. I had my two nights there and headed off towards Na Nam, which was a small village on the side of a lake that sounded interesting. This means I could get of the stupid rough highway 13 and over to the less used highway 10.

All they way from Vang Vieng to the turnoff to highway 10 was horrible. At least there was less traffic this time and I could ride fast enough to float over most of the bumps. Except at one point I hit a rather large square edged pothole that may have damaged my front rim more than it already is. Bike still works though...

Stopped at the new bridge again.

Panorama time!
I sat on the side of the river for a while zoned out from the riding. I watched some locals drive into the river a little way to wash their cars, and another person came over to look at my GPS.

After that stop I headed off again, over more bumpy roads. I think after all this travel only some things have been damaged slightly. The fan in my laptop now grinds a bit, and my main lens has loosened up. I haven't noticed anything else broken yet, although there are some rattles that I'm not sure of the source...

There were police at the checkpoints along the way this time, none of them stopped me though, or if they attempted I ignored it I guess. I don't think there were as many police out when I was heading north, something must be up!

Finally I ended up at the dam near Na Nam.

I was sitting here for a bit trying to figure out where to go, and then some local girls road their moped thing right next to me, stared at me, giggled, and road off. Strange.

I finally found Na Nam which was over the other side of the dam wall  next to the lake.

Here's the lake.
I found a resort style place just next to where this photo was taken. I waited while a group of cyclists checked in. They had a card with the room details and prices on them on the desk, so I pointed at the cheapest one ($20!) and asked if any were available, they said no, and then immediately started talking to someone else... So I waited for them to finish and finally got to ask if any of the other types of rooms were available, and then I got told no again. After this strange interrupted conversation, and the strange local girls giggling at me, and the fact that Vientiane was only 80km away, I decided to get on the road again. Even though I would have liked to get a photo of that lake at sunrise, I was hot and annoyed and thought that it was best to get out of this strange village.

I headed back out of Na Nam and headed south on what I though was highway 10, but it turns out I was on the other side of the river. Eventually the road ended at a couple of ferries. I waited for a bit to try figure out what was going on with the ferries, one took cars and a couple of motorbikes, and the other was a small ferry that took motorbikes and people. I decided to head over to the car ferry because you could ride on the back and off the front and there wasn't a lot of room to turn my bike around on the smaller ferry. But as I approached the car ferry they waved me away and pointed to the smaller ferry. Right. So I got on the small ferry, struggled to turn my bike around, and almost lost it over the edge when I forgot where the brake was. But then I was on, and we went slowly across the river, all for about 50cents.

I'm standing right at the back of the ferry... Not a huge amount of room here.
Then it was off on some nice Laos country roads. Finally a flat, straight road, no potholes, just some traffic to deal with. It felt very very odd being able to do 100km/h in Laos. 

There was a toll bridge closer to Vientiane, that had a list of prices on it, I assumed I'd have to pay, but I followed another bike that just went around the barrier so I decided to do the same. I think the guy in the booth was going to open his window and talk to me, but no one stopped me so I kept going.

Now finally I'm back in Vientiane in a room with a toilet that seems to bubble occasionally.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Luang Prabang back to Veng Vieng!

So my cold went away after 4 days of pretty much lying down and only appearing for food. And by then it was two days to Christmas. so I figured I'd just hang around and wait for that to be over with before moving again. I did manage to take some photos though. And by some I mean lots...

Another bamboo bridge.

Front of Vat Visounnarath

Side of Vat Visounnarath

And of course with all the lying down doing nothing I started playing with HDR's and Panoramas some more.
HDR from same spot.
HDR of a sunset
Panorama of a bamboo bridge
This is out the front of the national museum, I don't think it's an actual working temple though, it didn't have a name.
And then back to non HDRs... They were annoying me and I can't get them quite right.
Elephant on the side of faketemple(tm)



Another non HDR view!

More seven headed naga. Thailand had five headed naga's with very few seven headed in places. Laos only seems to have the seven headed variety. Or seven in one mouth, like above... Does this actually count as eight?

The top view of the markets.
And then it was time for Christmas. Here's a photo of my lunch:
Beer. And two glasses of Lao Lao. Which is 50% alcohol. Which meant the rest of Christmas was spent lying down...
And then finally, on Boxing Day, it was time to leave. My original plans were to head north, but because I had spent so much time being sick I started to head south again as I have a plane to catch to Vietnam on the 3rd of January. And as I'm an expert in panoramas now, here are all of them from yesterday:

I made it to Bor Nam Oom guesthouse which is five bungalows next to some hot springs on the side of the main highway. I'd read about it the day before as I was trying to stay near that awesome mountain. They have small little bungalows next to the hot springs and it's popular for cyclists as it's a days riding from Vang Vieng. I stayed in the one closest to the road but I didn't get much sleep because of the traffic. All through the night there were trucks and often they would pull up and leave the truck idling while the driver went off to swim in the hot springs. I think by 3am the traffic stopped completely but then it started back up at 6am. But it's still a good spot, maybe stay in the bungalows further away from the road though.

This was the view from the front of the tiny bungalow in the morning.

The sun just appearing over the stupid wires.

And the hot springs! Steam coming off it in the morning. On the left side of the road is the restaurant, cheap good food! And beer!
All the locals use the springs as their local baths so there is a stream of people coming to clean themselves, their clothes, and their teeth in this water. I wondered how much of the scum on the bottom of the pool was made up of what other people washed off themselves. It's not too hot though, probably mid twenties, but that's much warmer than the winter morning.

Then for today it was a quick 77km run to Vang Vieng. The cyclists that were staying there were also headed there, but I beat them here because I'm awesome fast! But I did also lie to them about how far away Vang Vieng was, my GPS told me 53km, but then once I got on the road it corrected itself to 77km... Well at least I'm not pedaling 24km more than I thought I was.

Just down the road from the guesthouse I found this view.
More roads

More Mountains, and fields.

Then I turned around and saw this!
And now I'm in Vang Vieng again. Found a place that is half the price of what I paid last time I was here. I'll stay here two nights then stop one more time before getting to Vientiane again for new years eve.

Sunday 18 December 2011

Wat Xieng Thong

Yesterday I went up to Wat Xieng Thong to have a look around. There's a 20000kip admission on most places here so I figured I'd go to the biggest first. It was built in 1560, and has been renovated many times. There's a sign up there now about current renovations financed by the US embassy in Laos.

Panorama view

Normal view.

This was built into the west wall. I don't think there was a matching one on the other side...

The mirrored tiles. These ones are new I guess, the older ones are not so reflective anymore.

On the back of the temple.

A door!

On the smaller builting behind the main temple (don't know what it's called)

The main doorway into the temple.
After that I went to the bakery and got a really good cheese and ham croissant... Then I went back to the guesthouse because of this stupid cold.

The street closer to Wat Xieng Thong

A building.
Then eventually it was time to feed again, and it was conveniently time for sunset.

From where I ate my fried rice last night.
Yesterday when I was looking at google maps for somewhere else to go I found this nice easy straight road west to Hongsa. This would be easy enough to deal with while I have this stupid cold. I found a guesthouse to stay at all, everything looked good, except the directions on the guesthouse never mentioned coming from Luang Prabang via this road, which is odd because looks like the easiest way there. Then I zoomed in to google maps to see if the road was dirt so I could guess how long it would take to get there and found that the road doesn't actually line up properly with the satellite image. So I checked the other map that I bought, and that clearly shows there are no roads in that direction... Lucky I didn't just set off. But after researching this more I find out there is a road under construction, maybe.

But anyway, I'm staying here until this cold goes away.