After two interesting and relatively relaxing weeks in Luang Prabang, I hopped on my bike towards Vientiane. This is a well known route for cyclists. It was going to involve some heavy climbing, but would be rewarded by stunning scenery including karst mountains.
First day: 80 km and over 1500 m elevation to Kiukacham
The first day I had to climb over 1500 meters in altitude over 80 km distance. It was tough, but at least the grades were doable (much better than in the mountains of Thailand). The scenery was pretty good but nothing special yet. What was special, was that in every town I passed, kids were smiling, waved, and said “Sabaidee!” (Hello!). Some came running out from a hut, afraid to miss saying hello to me. They kept me smiling and going.
I met a Swiss couple of my parents’ age, perhaps a bit younger. They bought mountain bikes in Chiang Mai and were going to donate them at the end of their trip in Vientiane. Generous of them! And I got respect for them making it up the mountain that day too, where we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset.
Second day: 80 km and 1500 m elevation to Kasi Hot Springs
I was afraid my sore muscles were going to make this a very difficult day. But somehow, after warming up in the first few kilometers, they felt stronger than ever before – I was surprised by my own seemingly endless source of power. The whole day, I just kept on going with relative ease.
Along the way I met another 2 cyclists from the Netherlands. Finally! They started in Vietnam and were cycling in the opposite direction. They were “even older” than the Swiss couple. See? Age doesn’t have to prevent you from going on this type of adventures!
The scenery started becoming more interesting, and eventually stunning, thanks to the rising karst mountains. This type of mountain is very different from the ones I had seen before, like the Alps, Caucasian, and Atlas Mountains. I coasted down one of the most epic descents in my life, taking over trucks and buses which were crawling down in first gear.
I ended my day at the Kasi Hot Springs and enjoyed a bath. I was joined by some monks and a funny local who was just walking around and making conversation. “You are here first time? Wow! Where you from? The Netherlands? Wow! You cycled here from Luang Prabang? Wow! You superman!”
Third day: 100 km and some climbing to Vang Vieng
The scenery during most of this day was still incredible and it had a mystical touch. As I rolled down to Kasi and Vang Vieng, I was constantly fully absorbed by my surroundings (besides focusing on the roads, obviously).