The unique flora of Southeast Asia

Wunschlos zufrieden

What else could we ask for?

Country: Laos
From Pakse to Don Det
Lesson learned: Yes there are bike tires sold in Laos’ third biggest town. But they are not easy to find.
Laughed about: The weirdest and loudest temple party
Most wonderful miracle: Our own little swimming place in Don Det
Food we ate: Noodle soup, cookies and pork chops
Greatest challenge: Dengue
Days on the bike: 3
Kilometers cycled: 157.7
Average Kilometers per day: 52.57
Total Kilometers cycled till Don Det: 10575.99
Total days travelled till Don Det: 610

Laos by bike part 5, May 2013
We stayed five days in Pakse, in southern Laos, and worked like crazy. In our little room we had a couple of faunal visitors, such as an army of ants who ate all our cookies and lunch and a couple of geckos who pooped from the ceiling onto us. But we did not really care too much, since we had no idea which other animals we were about to meet.
After a few days we made our way to the very south of the country. Intermediate destination: the 4000 Islands on the border with Cambodia. After a few meters I recognized that my back tire wobbled back and forth uncontrollably. Would there ever just be everything fine with my bike?

 

Der Mantel ist durch.

Enough is enough.

At least we were still in town. We stopped right outside the big market where I took of the bumpy outer tire. All cables were frazzled.
In the south of Laos, the moped has replaced the bicycle as a means of transportation. Accordingly, it was difficult to find a replacement. A moped rider came over and observed me how I was checking tube and tire. Then he grabbed my tire and got me onto his moped. We drove up and down the entire market, visited seven stands and shops and finally I held a new 26” off-road tire in my hands. Cost: 4 €

On the way

On the way

After we had fixed everything there was an hour’s driving time remaining until sunset. Fortunately, we found a small temple where we asked permission to hang our mosquito net. Most of the monks were children. They watched every single one of our moves and giggled with each other until we crawled under the mosquito net at 7 pm. It was quiet in the temple and started to read my book until someone suddenly turned on the music. We listened to Laotian pop music with English choruses. When the singer sung loudly about a “Sexy Lady”, the volume was even rising. From now on Roberto and I had to yell at each other to communicate. Two minutes later the first firecrackers were set off.

We were quite confused. Then the music died down. For a moment we thought the strange party was over, but then a big bunch of children and adolescents filled the temple. The only left one small space free: our little mosquito-net shelter. Somebody prayed through a microphone and all children joined in the chant. Ten minutes later, the prayer was over, the music returned louder than ever and the kids tested their skills on the bass drum and the gong, which were respectively one and two meters away from us. Some other kids played tag, a few smaller ones danced and the entire temple was quickly converted into a big playground-discotheque. Only an old drunk man took notice of us. He stared through the mosquito net onto the two long-noses that lied on the floor in pajamas and stared back to him – not less confused. Roberto and I could not put ourselves together anymore and we burst out in laughter about the entire situation. The old man observed the whole thing for a moment, and then a young monk pulled him away.

Zwei der jungen Mönche am Morgen danach

Two of the young monks

An hour later it was all over, the music was off, the people were gone and only occasionally a few firecrackers exploded. We were entirely confused but nevertheless fell asleep quickly.

Unterwegs gibt es viel zu sehen

Much to discover

By 6 am we were back on the bikes. The ride was quite boring. Most of the forest was cut down, the villages were situated on the riverside, quite far from the street and the street was completely empty. I got bored. There was not a lot we could to, so I started playing games with the speedometer. How far may the next street sign be away, how far to the next antenna? I also tried to always look at the screen of the speedometer when I reached a repdigit. Usual number as 11.11 or 22.22 km were worth one point, special numbers as 12.34 or 111.11 even brought 2 points.

Reservoir unterwegs

Reservoir on the way

At noon we were hungry and thirsty, but the villages were still rare. When we finally discovered a roadside restaurant, we were not picky. “Do you have food?” I asked hopefully. “Yes”, the woman nodded. “Great. We’ll have two portions please”.

Eine angenehme tierische Begegnung

One of the few species’ that are not eaten in Laos

That was a quite risky venture in a country where rat, bat, squirrel, insects, beetles and frogs were sold during shortage of other meat. But we got what we already had for breakfast: noodle soup. At least once a day we had a bowl full. The alcohol for our little stove was almost empty and the ants had eaten all our provisions. They even managed to open plastic foil!

Here in the south we had not seen a fruit stand in quite a while, so we were forced to completely change our diet. Now 80% of our diet contained of noodle soup and the remaining 20% were mostly cookies and sodas.

Auf der Suche nach Essbarem

Searching for food

By 5 pm the sky got cloudy. The wind blew stronger and a few scattered drops were falling from the sky. With the time we had learned to listen to the signs of nature. We pedaled harder and soon we reached a small creek. Here in the south all bridges came with a small wooden hut. Probably it was used as a shelter in case the bridge broke. We sat down inside, waited ten minutes and then suddenly it started to pour. The roof had some holes but inside the hut we were quite dry. The thunderstorm came closer and one lightening touched the earth less than 300 meters away from us.

Gut dass unsere Sachen wasserdicht verpackt sind

Every day I am happy to have waterproof equipment

I wondered: would a lightening prefer a 30 meter tall iron pole or a 50 meters tall wooden pole? I never found out. Shortly thereafter, I saw a phenomenon that I have not seen ever since in Laos: people who were in a hurry. Three mopeds stopped outside and five passengers came running towards us with their entire luggage. They were very surprised to see us. Soon we all sat down all together. When the rain was over, we all got back on track. Soon it was going to be dark and we were lucky to discover another temple.

Das kleine Wartehäuschen füllt sich

Our little crowded shelter

By the following morning we had little more than 40 kilometers to go, but the road continued to be rather boring. It was hot and I was sick and tired of the noodle-soup-breakfast. Soon we reached the pier, squeezed our packed bikes down the narrow rocky path onto the beach and found a boat that would take us to the island of Don Det.

Am Pier im letzten Dorf am Festland: Ban Nakasang

At the pier in the last mainland-village: Ban Nakasang

After five writing-days in Pakse and a few days in the sun on the bikes, we now treated ourselves with free weekend. Actually it was only Thursday but we really did not care.

Ein paar Tage Urlaub

A few days off

Our “weekend” took longer than 2 days of course. One of the main reasons for our extended stay was another small animal: the dengue mosquito.

Roberto muss sich ein paar Tage allein amüsieren.

Roberto having fun by himself.

Thanks to its sting, I spent a few days with a high fever and bone pain in bed. I was lucky to have Roberto around who cared for me  24/7.

Many of the other days we spend cycling. The bike was the perfect means of transportation to explore Don Det and Don Khone.

Schnell zurück. Wir wissen Wolken, Wind und Donner mittlerweile gut einzuschätzen

With the time we have learned to read the clouds. This one yells: “Go find shelter! Quickly!”

We cycled through crumbling bridges and the jungle, passed rice paddies and water buffalo herds until we got over to the waterfalls where you can look up onto the Cambodian mainland.

Morgens um halb acht sind wir die einzigen Besucher

At 7.30 am we were the only visitors

On the west side of the island we found a small, well protected swimming area, where no other traveler ever showed up.

Verstecktes Paradies im Paradies. Auf dem Weg zu unserer Badebucht

Hidden paradise inside a paradise. On the way to our private bay.

With our new friends from Mexico, Chile, Spain, France and Japan we cooked Spanish tortilla with lettuce and celebrated on the large terrace just above the Mekong.

Paradiesische 4000 Inseln

Did you know there is wifi in Paradise?

Mr. Tho and his wife Lin who run our guesthouse, helped us with the preparation and consummation.

Tortilla-Schmaus mit unseren Freunden

Tortilla-night with our new friends

On the last evening we enjoyed a feast. For two weeks we had been walking past a restaurant every day. And every single time I had been drooling like a hungry dog. Now we finally sat inside it. I pampered myself with two pork chops with mashed potatoes and a Beerlao. Wow, that was quite different to the daily noodle soup.

Badestelle gleich hinter den Wasserfällen

Another bay right behind the waterfalls

By the following day we made our way towards the Cambodian border. On the road we spotted plenty of domestic animals. You may think of elephants, monkeys, tigers and parrots now. Unfortunately during our first four months in the region we did not see a single one of these species in the forests. Instead we experienced the other, less well-known flora.

Mit dem Rad durch Don Khone

By bike through Don Khone

Apart from the dengue mosquito, ants and geckos we have made acquaintance with the following highly interesting species:

– White moths that gathered in groups of thousands at night around any type of light sources (especially in Don Det, Laos and Nong Khai, Thailand)

Nachtfalter. Nacht für Nacht füllen sich Plastiktüten unter den Lampen mit Litern von Faltern.

People hang plastig bags under their lamps. By the following morning they have collected liters of moths in them.

– Living rats that were everywhere in the streets of Bangkok, Thailand and Stung Treng, Cambodia and fried rats that were sold next to squirrels in the poorer areas of Laos and Cambodia.
– The roosters that were crowing every morning at 4 am (anywhere in Southeast Asia)
– A bat in the stairway of the Cambodian town of Stung Treng, which fell from the ceiling into my neck.

Die wollte wohl kuscheln

Probably it wanted a hug

– Cockroaches in the cities. They were just everywhere. Probably half of Bangkok’s cockroach-population had been living in our shabby room in China town.
– Frogs that were on the streets as soon as the rain started. In the dry season they loved to stay in our bathroom in the Thai island of Koh Mak instead.
– Dogs that barked at us and our bikes or sprayed us with their fleas. In Stung Treng, Cambodia, we saw one that was eating a stuffed diaper baby – with all the filling.
– Pigs and water buffalo, that ran up and down the streets all confused every time a storm approached

Wiederkäuende Wasserbüffel

Chewing water buffalo

– We saw many snakes along the roadside. But most of them were harmless and flat as pancakes.

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