Surprisingly, riding out of Bangkok was easy and fast. I was surprised how easy it was to cycle in and out of this super busy metropolis. I rode to Ayutthaya in no time where I spent a day exploring the quiet, slow pace streets and its temples. Being the ancient capital of the Kingdom, there are quite a few temples in and around town worth visiting. My time in Thailand running out, I couldn’t spend more than a day there and had to make a dash to the border towards Savannakhet in Laos.
I intended to cross over Laos rolling on the Friendship Bridge II but things didn’t go that way. Arriving at the immigration stall, I noticed that there was no motorbikes around; only cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. I handed my passport to the official who ask me how I was travelling. He’s reply to my answer was “Impossible to cross the bridge by bicycle; too dangerous.” I thought of making a run for it and try my luck anyway, but he simply refused to stamp my passport. I directed me to his supervisor into a different building. The chief officer there explained, in very good English, motorbikes and bicycles weren’t allowed on the bridge for safety reasons; the bridge is too narrow. After trying to convince him in friendly matter, I agreed to try and find someone with a pickup truck welling to pick me and my gear and cross the bridge. He stamped my passport, thanked him and went on hunt. After an hour, a friendly Laos dam engineer agreed to pick me up. For a minute spent crossing the wide 2 lanes bridge, we were alone. I didn’t see any danger for a cyclist or a motorbike crossing that bridge.
Once on the other side, the Cambodian visa process was a breeze. I rolled into Savannakhet on nearly deserted roads until I got to the town center where traffic picked up. The slow pace and quieter roads of Laos were a contrast with busy and fast pace roads of Thailand. After spending a few days with fellow cyclists in Savannaketh, I was excited to take on these quiet roads and get in touch with the friendly Laos people in villages.
Despite the scenery of repetitive similar forest and fields, I enjoyed the ride up to Vientiane mostly because of good quality food and friendly people in the many villages dotting the way. One late afternoon, I rolled in a small town looking for a guesthouse for the night. As I rolled towards the entrance of one, I could hear music pumping from a large speaker, laughs and the sounds of empty beer bottles clinging onto each other. As soon as I rolled in the front fence, the group sitting at the table gestured me to join in. A feast was going on with fish cooked on the traditional charcoal BBQ, fresh green papaya salad, a large bucket of sticky rice, large portion of sticky noodles and 2 cartons of large Beer Lao was waiting to be consumed. As I sat down food was thrown in front of me, a glass of beer was poured and the discussions started. Despite the language barrier, there was understanding of my story and laughs were frequent. For about 30 minutes, I had a mouth full of food or skulling down another glass of beer. My glass was refilled immediately after either taking a sip or finishing it. After about 2 hours of non-stop alcohol consumption, my head was spinning. I went to my bungalow earlier than before and drunker than I’ve ever been for a long time. I woke up in the middle of the night realizing that I didn’t take a shower, smelling of a mix of alcohol and sweat. The next day, my head was surprisingly in good shape. No hangover and energised. So I jumped back on the bike, slowly making my way towards Vientiane, the Capital.