Photo-Story Laos

We didn’t manage to post any pictures of Laos while we were on the road, so here are a few from the trip, with captions. We’ve also worked in plenty of others into previous posts, so sift through if you want to see any more. We’ll do the same for our travels in SW China in the next week or so.


The roads were generally very quiet in Laos, even Highway 13, which links Luang Prabang and Vientiane. Certainly peaceful enough to ride two by two and chat.


It was December but still, the sun beat down, making the climbs tougher than we expected. The first couple of days rollercoasted up and down from one valley into another. Up and up…


Then back down again. Fast and swoopy. Road bike territory.


We had our own on board sound system, so didn’t need the cheap copy Karaoke CDs and VCDs sold in every roadside truckstop. Laotians like nothing better than to crack open some beers and (drunkenly) sing the night away.


There’s plenty of fresh fruit on sale too. You’ll need to sharpen those bargaining skills, as prices spike at the sight of Westerners. Tourism has mushroomed in the last five years (apparently in 2007 it was over 1.4 million, up 37 percent from the year before), with a slew of negative side effects on Lao culture – yet Laotians are still a very welcoming people.


Religion is predominantly Buddhist, with some Animist tendencies too. Offerings, often in the form of a soft drink (and in this case some deodorant), keep spirits happy and thirst quenched. And clean.


I love photographing food, a sure way of getting a laugh from bemused local stall holders, who then call me over to take photos of their produce.


No, not for making slurpies. This is where motorbikes fill up with oil and fuel.


Much of the day was swamped in a drowsy heat haze – the early morning and late afternoon light more than made up for it.


Offering respite from the heat, it was also cooler then, especially at altitudes above 1000m.


Nine metres. That’s attention to detail for you. Actually, the toilets were pretty good in Laos. Better than China, for sure.


As we headed south, villages and towns became more developed. Concrete appeared, though most houses were still made from thatch and bamboo. M150 is a Thai version of Red Bull – I guess it keeps long distance drivers awake…


Rivers play a big part in life for Laotians, both for transport and food. Towards the end of the day, the boys were out hunting with their homemade wooden spearguns and masks, trophy fish dangling from their bicycle handlebars.


In fact, Lao children are omnipresent. They welcome cyclists with unparalleled enthusiasm and zeal, using some kind of 6th sense for the approach of bicycles. Most of the time spent riding is with one hand on the handlebar, the other waving in reply.


Interesting choice of shirt though…


We were back on the tourist trail. The hangout of Vang Vieng wasn’t really our scene, but we couldn’t fault the setting of our riverside cottage. The cost? 3US dollars. The view? Priceless, as they say.


And the ride over to them was fun too…


Laos is made up of over fifty ethnic groups, split up into three categories according to the altitude at which they live. This group of women in traditional dress were practising for a festival.


Most people head for Luang Prabang. Although its World Heritage status has opened the floodgate to tourism, the colonial architecture is still well worth seeing. Most of the Mekong-fronted houses have been renovated into boutique hotels and restaurants though, which has sucked much of the local life from the centre.


Jurassic Park? The limestone peaks between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng poke in and out of the midday haze like some lost, prehistoric world.


I love the red dirt tracks that criss cross the country. But after our off road adventures with Christof in the north, we kept mainly to blacktop. In light of our wheel mishap, I didn’t fancy carrying the bike another 40kms…


Not what you want a day and night’s walk from a main road…


Still, back on the main road the surfaces were surprisingly good, and the mountain scenery even better. Unfortunately, we noticed a lot of rubbish slung out from bus windows had collected by the roadside. People don’t yet seem to distinguish between banana leaves, which are used to wrap up snacks, and plastic bags which they’re put in. Or even nappies…


10 per cent of Laos’ GDP is from foreign aid. It relies heavily on foreign NGOs, who educate villagers in the importance of water sanitation and improve infrastructure by installing wells and taps. They’re the ones cruising round in the shiny new Toyota Hi Luxes…


Recycling: Beer bottles are reused for Lao-Lao, an intoxicating homebrew made from rice whisky. The bottle behind contains traditional medicine, also to be drunk with alcohol. Doctors orders.


Mua Thai (kick boxing) and Manchester United. What more can there be to life?


Laos is a popular cycling destination. These guys from Australia were touring ultra light. Road bikes, 25c tyres and old-school Carradice saddlebags. One even had a standard double, with an 11-25 cassette. Respect.


Our seven dollar room in Vientiane was simple but oozed retro-cool. I could easily have whiled away a few more days reading on the veranda, but it was time to move on…


One kilometre to go. We finished the ride by crossing the Thai border to Nong Khai, then picked up a night train to Bangkok and a flight home.


4 Responses to “Photo-Story Laos”

  1. 1 USMom January 1, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Great pictures, Cass! I’d like to have a whole gallery of all of them. Do you paint? You’ve got the eye and composition of an artist. Have to say I really like the ones of the little blond on the bike the best. They could honestly exhibit at some upscale London gallery, and I hope that happens for you.

  2. 2 David McGrath September 30, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    You have done a great job with your photography and congratulations on completing the ride. I am excited for my trip as I am going to Laos later in the year with my recently completed touring bike. The widest tyres i could fit in the frame were 700 x 28c and I have been stressing about it. Most people seem to use much wider. Like the Australians in your photo I wont have much gear, so i feel a bit more confident now my setup will be ok. Did those guys say how their bikes help up on some of the looser dirt and gravel roads?

    What sort of wheels did you bust (how many spokes, what type of rims) and how?

    happy trails.

  3. 3 To Clean Oil You Need Special Equipment May 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Hello, for all time i used to check weblog posts here
    early in the daylight, since i love to find out more and more.

  4. 4 adult bikes August 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    Can you tell us more about this? I’d care to find out more details.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Please check out our main website for details on our bike trips to the Indian Himalayas.

Blog Stats

  • 135,673 hits

%d bloggers like this: