Dedicated to a wonderful Mother Jean Noble 31/5/1929 - 20/8/2007 - may we never take our mothers for granted. - Goodbye Mum


The picture on the left, one of the most cherished figures in Laotian history is Fa-Ngoum, who unified Lan Xang (Laos) in the 14th century. He is responsible for the introduction of Theravada Buddhism to Laos, Thailand and other surrounding countries. Those interested can google this fascinating man. We know so little about this landlocked country that we look forward, very much, to exploring the land and it's people. The Lao currency is the KIP, there are about 5,500 Kip to 1 Aussie Dollar. We will probably reach parity with the Kip before we leave :-)

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Laos Information - Jan 09

Prices in Aussie Dollars

Monday 8th December Udon Thani Thailand to Vientiane Laos
Figures recorded on Thailand's last page k's Average Speed kph Cycling time Hr(s) Min. Max speed. kph Max temp 29°C
Undulating Road Conditions: Very Good Overnight Accom: (72,000 Lao Kip) $13.50 Standard, VERY Poor

We arrived on the Lao side of the friendship bridge just as it was getting dark. Wrote the customary pages of drivel required of all travellers that cross borders (With the exception of Europe). Paid the US$30.00 EACH ($48.00 Aussie) plus US$1.00 “overtime” fee (Which is fair). For the AUD$100.00 Australian dollars we both have a visa for 1 month.

We cycled about 8 of the 23 or so k's from the border towards Vientiane... As it was dark and about 8 pm, before we took a room for the night. Lee speaks fluent Lao and did her best to get the price as low as possible. You can just see the sink at the back of this picture, it has no drain, the water drains on to the floor.... Of course I did not know this – did I? So, I poured copious amounts of water onto my cycling shoes, when I washed my hands, before my brain registered that my feet were getting wet... Duh!!!

Well we are knackered, now so will Catchya later.... Oh.. BTW, there is no internet available....

Tuesday 9th December Near border to Vientiane Laos
15.55 k's Average Speed 12.34 kph Cycling time 1 Hr(s) 16 Min. Max speed. 28 kph Max temp we recorded 26°C
Undulating Road Conditions: Good Overnight Accom: (100,000 Lao Kip) $18.50 Standard, Fair.

We cycled into the city and searched for a cycle shop to fix Lee's mirror, which I broke taking the bikes out of our room.

We need a mirror on the left side, as they drive on the “wrong” side of the road in Laos :-) As we do not have the language difficulties, we quickly found a suitable replacement. It is far flimsier than the original and does not protrude out quite far enough, but it will “just” do the job....

Not well today – sore throat and slight fever, we will watch the progression – if any and decide when to move on.

Wednesday 10th December Vientiane - Capital city of Laos
k's Average Speed kph Cycling time Hr(s) Min. Max speed. kph Max temp we recorded °C
Undulating Road Conditions: Good Overnight Accom: (100,000 Lao Kip) $18.50 Standard, Fair.

We were unable to cycle on due to Mal's raging sore throat and slight fever. Feeling slightly better today I walked in the sunshine, and had a vegetarian lunch. Returning to our hotel for a lie down, before overdoing it and setting things back... I am itching to see Laos outside the city and I am VERY frustrated we could not cycle on.... We are heading south... The first stop should be Pakxan.... as always that is only “the plan” :-)

First impressions: Prices are MUCH higher for food, water and accommodation. At least this is true for the capital Vientiane. The roads are not as cycle friendly as Thailand's roads, however, this is only a “Vientiane” observation. We have also figured that it is best to get the best possible rate for “KIP”, the Lao currency – and pay everything in Kip. Most restaurants, seem to accept US$'s and Thai Baht, however take a hefty slice of the differential between the currencies. Laos's currency, at the moment, is quite stable so we will use Kip where we can.

An Aussie dollar bought 8,000++ Kip earlier this year and now gets about 5,500. The Thai Baht was 1=254 Kip just 10 weeks ago and now is down to 1=240. Placing money in a Lao bank can earn up to 16% interest – a staggering return. Even at the border we could put money in a Lao account at more than 12% interest. I do not understand investment enough to take advantage of this HUGE return........ But, some of you may do. You can “google” all the answers for yourself.

We have been unable to figure out an internet connection, even internet cafe's are reluctant to allow us to connect with our laptop. We have bought 2 G.P.R.S. (General Packet Radio Service) Capable SIMS for our PCMICA “Air Card”, even after phoning each of them we get “Registration Denied”... We can only hope we get more joy in the country areas??. IF NOT, we will continue recording our diaries, daily and upload when we can. We were off line for weeks in Australia, crossing the Nullarbor... But still wrote daily – of course until you read this you will not know!

Thursday 11th December Vientiane - Capital city of Laos
k's Average Speed kph Cycling time Hr(s) Min. Max speed. kph Max temp we recorded °C
Undulating Road Conditions: Good Overnight Accom: (100,000 Lao Kip) $18.50 Standard, Fair.

Mal is suffering from a dose of flu, so we remain another day. We decided to give the internet another try today, no cycling, we used the “Tuk Tuk's”. We have now got a GPRS connection but it is too erratic to be of much value. As we cycle south we may get a better signal in places – we will just have to wait and see. Whilst we can slowly collect email (text), we are unable to upload. Both of us are desperate to move on, so may attempt 20 or so k's tomorrow, as long as Mal does not feel too sick to try.

No pictures today......... Catchya Later....

Friday 12th December Vientiane to Baan Naa Sorn
48.03 k's Average Speed 14.73 kph Cycling time 3 Hr(s) 16 Min. Max speed. 34 kph Max temp we recorded 31°C
Undulating Road Conditions: Poor Overnight Accom: (100,000 Lao Kip) $0 Standard, Stay with a family.

Hope springs eternal not feeling well, but desperate to start cycling, we decided on a go... If we only do 20 k's so what.. What we did not figure, is the total lack of accommodation in Lao villages. Met this guy with 9 Grandchildren, he has a daughter in Canada, who he sees every now and again. He wanted to take a couple of Grandchildren, but Canada said NO.

The first hotel/guesthouse is about 75 k's from Vientiane... Too far for me in my weakened state.. After about 40 k's or so I told Lee I was done in – raging throat and slight fever.... What you need to understand here is, I get the worst symptoms, the heaviest colds, and suffer 5 times more than anyone else. I also need 24 hr nursing care... This is true you know.... :-)

Anyhow I could not cycle the 75 k's – too unwell... Soooo we called into a Temple and asked the monks could we camp for the night... They agreed and allowed us to put up our mozzie net in the Temple proper... We also checked this with the “Head of Village”.

We will sleep on the floor, under the net...

It is now 6.30 pm and they have finished a lengthy “chant”, not sure if there is another tonight.

It was most helpful of them to allow us to stay here.

However, this was not to be – unknown to us, the villagers met somewhere in the village and came to the temple about 8.30 pm. They said it is not permitted for a woman to stay in the temple. They told us to leave.

This appears totally opposite to Thai Temples, as those following these pages will know. “Theravada Buddhism” is common to both countries... Why the difference? - I and Lee – who is a practicing Buddhist – do not know.

It was late and I was unwell, however, the hatred most religions have for women, Christians, Muslims, Hindu's etc.. etc.. took priority.

So we packed everything and cycled on..

By now it was cold 12°C and I had a fever. We cycled a further 10 k's and I said to Lee, “lets find somewhere to put up the tent” “not sure I can cycle another 20 k's”. This proved difficult, so I stopped outside a family's home. They had a large fire burning in the front garden, most homes we saw did, Lee asked in Lao, if we could pitch our tent right there in the front garden...

They listened to our story and opened up their home, made a bed for us, offered food and drink...

They were so very clearly, dreadfully poor – we were totally humbled. Their hospitality was lifesaving, as I was obviously unfit for a further 20-25 k's in the night, with no guarantee the hotel would either be open or have a room available. As it later turned out it was only 14 k's.....

Saturday 13th December Baan Naa Sorn to Baan Hai
14.41 k's Average Speed 13.52 kph Cycling time 1 Hr(s) 4 Min. Max speed. 28 kph Max temp we recorded 26°C
Undulating Road Conditions: Poor Overnight Accom: (40,000 Lao Kip) $7.50 Standard, Poor/Fair.

Breakfast was elaborate and delicious... All meals are eaten whilst seated on the floor, only the more well off will have a table and chairs. Most meals we eat are eaten seated on the floor, the exceptions being most (not all) restaurants.

They refused ALL attempts to compensate them for their hospitality...

I have “set back” my recovery somewhat in my desire to move on – really should have remained in Vientiane another day... But, life's like that, also “life” is designed to hit you hardest, when you are least able to cope.

There are rare exceptions, like the pensioner hitting the lottery, sadly these are all too rare. However, we would not have met the wonderful family had we (a) not moved on and (b) not been thrown out of the Temple. So there is always a plus – if you look for it :-)

The family all get together and strip down “green” bamboo. The small strips are used to tie “bushels” of harvested rice.

After they are bundled they are put out to dry a little in the sun, where of course they are on display to be sold...

The ladies of the family are here.... “Mare” (Mum) is 64, her youngest daughter (left) 26... others I do not know... Of course there is Lee :-)

We intended only cycling to the accommodation today, where a much needed rest is in order. Also not being certain of the next accommodation opportunities, stopping and finding out for sure was a big priority.

Today is a minor milestone, I have completed one week of my “pragmatic” vegetarian diet. It is difficult to become a total vegetarian, as many of the local people do not understand it's concept. I just do my best and include eggs for protein... There does not seem to be beans of any type available other than the fresh “Snake Bean” - so common in Asia.

All the “carb's” can be a little fattening, however, the exercise may just compensate for that – time will tell... Oh... becoming vegetarian has nothing to do with catching the flu, In recent weeks I have been surrounded by people sneezing, barking, coughing and exhibiting all the signs, plus Lee has had a very mild dose, no fever, but a much more pronounced cough. Catchya Later....

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