Sleepless through dinosaur territory

Palm trees everywhere

Palm trees everywhere

Country: Thailand and Laos
From Nong Khai to Savannakhet
Lesson learned: Do not travel SE Asia without a mosquito net
Laughed about: Some old dinosaur statues in the middle of nowhere
Most wonderful miracle: Poo’s children who played the ukulele
Food we ate: Ant’s eggs, noodle soup, donuts, sushi and fried rice
Greatest challenge: Finding sleep at night
Days on the bike: 7
Kilometers cycled: 489.41
Average Kilometers per day: 69.92
Total Kilometers cycled till Savannakhet: 10160.44
Total days travelled till Savannakhet: 596

Bike in Thailand: From Nong Khai to Savannakhet, Mai 2013

After just two kilometers of riding, fat chubby drops of sweat started to run down my face. In Nong Khai we had enough shade, but now on the road we rode directly under the unforgiving sun. With this heat we are not able to ride more than 15 km without a water pause.

We were not the only ones to load our bikes heavily

We were not the only ones to load our bikes heavily

Luckily, in Thailand every 8 kilometers we reached a village with a small shop. Most shops were equipped with a big full box of ice cubes to cool down your water.

We had started late and I was surprised to see 52 kilometers on our speedometer at the end of the day. Thanks to the free drinking water in most shops.
In the evening we looked for a decent campground on the Mekong. We found one inside a Buddhist temple, a tip given to us by Poo, a man who drove his moped with his daughter nearby. Poo spoke English and asked us to follow him to the temple. After some minutes of talking to him and taking a picture together Poo decided to invite us to him home where we could sleep on his terrace.

Poo, Roberto, Numsai and Bifern

Poo, Roberto, Numsai and Bifern

After taking a shower and changing to cleaner cloths we ended up cooking together with his mother-in-law and listening to his daughters Num Sai and Bifern play the ukulele. Another day another beautiful family we get to befriend.

At 9 am we woke up. So much on “waking up at 5 am to start cycling in the cool of the sunrise”. Poo and his wife Got prepared a huge and delicious breakfast for us. “You will need that if you want to ride all day!” said Poo with his characteristic charm and well intended attitude. We’ve heard this before and yet again we still cannot find a way to thank them for everything they have done for us.

Poo's family had treated us like old friends. We hope they can come and visit us one day as well.

Poo’s family had treated us like old friends. We hope they can come and visit us one day as well.

On the roads there was little shade only. We found ourselves climbing up small hills. Again, we cycled small segments with a lot of water breaks. However our day is a very productive one 95 kilometers. After the success of the previous day, we asked again at a temple for a space to camp. To our surprise, we were led into a small room. There we had a wooden platform (bed) and a fan just for ourselves. That night we felt blessed, a tremendous storm hit the area with tons of lightning and pouring water. Somehow the monks knew and we were safe that night. Rain was good for us. It lowered down the heat in the morning. But the sounds of the devastating thunders kept us awake for several hours and lightening came closer and closer until the thunderstorm was directly above us. The big drops on the tin roof lulled me after a while, but when the thunder hit most of the time I jump in my wooden bed, Roberto is no different on the floor. As if that wasn’t enough we fought against a mosquitoes and beetles attack.

Sunset at the Mekong

Sunset at the Mekong

I wonder if one of the buildings had a lightning rod? Wasn’t there a tree right next to our hut? Was it the largest tree in the area? Would our bikes be okay outside with so much rain? After a while of wondering I fell asleep.

By the following morning we found the monks and returned the keys of the room. We tried to thank them as much as we could (Lao for thank you very much: Khop Chai Lai Lai) but did not know how to. We did not even have food left to share. We finally got on our bikes by 7 am. It was a cool morning and the wet cold air lasted for nearly 3 hours before the sky cleared and the sun shone hard again. Soon the thermometer rose to 43 ° C but the air remained moist and we felt like cycling through a giant steam bath. We had lunch break at a food stand at a village entrance. The big wooden bus stop was spontaneously converted to our bedroom.

Small road along the rver

Small road along the rver

After a few minutes, Roberto fell asleep. He was too tired and did not care anymore for the heat and animals. I guess he did not sleep well last night. After another exhausting day we found shelter in another Buddhist temple. This time we spent the night together with a few travelling salesmen on the floor under a wide umbrella. The salesmen brought tents with a big mosquito net, a rice cooker and a fan. We only had our tent, but we decided to sleep without it because of the unbearable heat. That was a bad idea. Although the temperature was not as hot as usual we were attacked by mosquitoes, cockroaches, spiders and beetles all night long.

One part of the way was completely green

One part of the way was completely green

That morning we woke up early and were ready to ride at 6.30 am if it wasn´t for a little problem. My tire was flat. So we ended up leaving at 9 am after fixing the tire and having some breakfast.
The first ten kilometer we cycled along a quiet street just off the Mekong River. The main street was not very busy either, but sometimes it ran around 3 kilometers away from the river. Just before noon we discovered a strange phenomenon: The sun was surrounded by a wide grey ring. Did that have to do with the heat?

Was there a rainbow surrounding the sun?

Was there a rainbow surrounding the sun?

Between 11.30 am and 14.30 pm cycling was a painful activity, the last half hour before lunch was the worst: there was no more shade and the hills were steep. Our thermometer showed an outstanding 60 ° C in the sun. The road shimmered and even the field workers wore masks like the ones bank robbers wear to protect their faces from the sun.

Best buddies

Best buddies

After about 60 kilometers we spotted giant dinosaur statues on the side of the road. They appeared very surrealistic. Later we found out that there was a National Park that held a museum of fossils and footprints of these creatures who used to roam the earth on this region. We found noon-shelter and food on a small restaurant. The fried rice was good and we ate like starving wolves. After the meal we sat down on the floor under a roof and the owner of the restaurant brought us two pillows and a fan. We slept for two complete hours.

Delicious nap.

Delicious nap.

Our bodies started to adjust to the heat and now we are able to cycle around 20 to 30 km before having an actual break.

We reached a town by the name of Tha Uthen where we found a supermarket to buy bread, tuna and two limes before we rolled down to the Mekong river. Along the river there were some camping possibilities but none of them suited for our needs. The heat was tremendous and our tent was too hot to sleep in it. There was also a big chance of rain so we could not really sleep under the stars. We looked for a small place with a roof to protect us and asked some of the locals. Somehow we ended up with what will be yet another friend we made on our way the intelligent and charming Nooy.

Dinner at Nooy's.

Dinner at Nooy’s.

Nooy and her son Omsin invited us to spend the night with them. Nooy wanted to sign up for a family exchange program with Italy and Germany, and we are a good training opportunity for her. She spoke good English and that made a big difference on the kind of interaction that we could make with her. Together with Nooy’s sister and parents we ate ant eggs, fish soup and the traditional sticky rice. We were tired, but with so much fun going on we loved Nooy’s idea to sing karaoke. We sang and danced around the living room until we were left with no more energy. We slept like babies in of her visitors’ rooms.

Karaoke with Nooy and her sister

Karaoke with Nooy and her sister

By 6 am the alarm clock rang. Nooy conjured up a huge breakfast. We were incredibly lucky, it is the truth. We said goodbye, but we extended her a formal invitation to visit us either in Mexico or Germany. We really meant it when we said it and she noticed that.

Well fed and rested we cycled 30 kilometers before the first break and 53 until the lunch break. Today we cracked the magic of the official cycled 10,000 kilometers with luggage. Since we had no speedometer over long periods of time, I guess we really cycled around 11,000-12,000. Plus day trips, visits, city tours and shopping without our baggage.
Exactly at 10,000 kilometers we found ourselves next to a Buddhist temple, so we decide to give thanks and bring some food to the monks and ask them for a blessing. Not that we needed more, I was already happy on giving thanks in the temple.

10000 Kilometer

10000 Kilometer

We had lunch in the shop of an elderly lady where we drank cold soy milk and ate the leftovers from breakfast, the Nooy had packed us.

After 92 kilometers we chose to stay in That Phanom and to pamper ourselves for the 10,000 mark with a night in a guest house. After asking around we found out that most guesthouses were overpriced. But thanks to a nice man we found a perfect place to sleep.

The next day we woke up late but we had only 50 kilometers left to go to border town of Mukdahan. The Mekong Bridge to Laos was located some kilometers North of the city, but we still wanted to spend a night in Thailand and buy electrolyte powder, canned food and other groceries that you cannot get easily in Laos or Cambodia. You may have noticed by now: we are slow travelers.

Water, shade and minerals! The perfect place to sit down for a while.

Water, shade and minerals! The perfect place to sit down for a while.

On the next day we passed a huge supermarket and had an incredible breakfast: Noodle soup, sushi, donuts and ice cream. You may laugh now but we were craving for calories and sugar. The offer in Laos would be leaner and more expensive in between towns. In the supermarket, I also found sandals on which the toes were not exposed. Roberto had yet lost a toe nail on the bike and that was the reason why I drove up here in winter shoes instead of flip flops. Now I had airy sandals with toe protection.

We met Remi, Jennifer and Alain from France in Savannakhet

We met Remi, Jennifer and Alain from France in Savannakhet

A strong wind blew towards us at the border, and while we still changed Thai Baht into U.S. Dollars (for the border) it started to rain. We enjoyed the refreshment. Some meters further our stamps were sealed but the officer told us that we could not ride over the bridge. So a nice man took us along with his pick-up truck to the Laos side. We finally arrived to the Lao border town of Savannakhet and we looked for a place to stay.

Dinner with Andee and her younger brother Daonimith

Dinner with Andee and her younger brother Daonimith

We wanted to apply for the Thai Visa and leave the next day (with a weekend in between), but we ended up staying five nights. That was perhaps one of the best ideas we had, because that way we get to meet our good friend Andee, the daughter of the guesthouse’s owner. In Savannakhet we hardly met other tourists. The old city was full of buildings from the French colonial period and the biggest attraction of the city was a tiny dinosaur museum with French-Lao descriptions. On our visit we were fortunate enough to meet the paleontologist Bounxou Kentavong.

Paleontologist Bounxou Kentavong founded the museum

Paleontologist Bounxou Kentavong founded the museum

He explained what we did not understand and even gave us a personal tour of his museum. We got to touch real dinosaur fossils, incredible! He gave us a brief but interesting explanation about how excavations took place and how he uncovered fossil bones with his own hands. Most of these fossils were over 110 million years old. 110 million years in our hands. It was flabbergasting.

Other tourists

Other tourists

 

6562 Total Views 2 Views Today
  1. Superb photographs- a very well designed blog with very interesting stories.
    Good luck with your cycling

    • admin admin says:

      Thanks a lot Bob! It is good to hear from you! We will keep you updated.
      All the best from Laos,
      Annika

    • admin admin says:

      Thank you Bob for your nice comments. We send you a big hug from Cambodia.

  2. I enјoy гeaԁing through an articlе that can maκe
    men and women think. Also, many thankѕ
    fοr permitting me to cοmment!

    mу page ѵacation in ChiangMaі (Elisha)

    • admin admin says:

      Hello Elisha,
      I am happy you enjoyed the post. Have a great day in Chiang Mai,
      Annika

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*