Pearls of wisdom from our bike adventure

Roman and I are just back from an awesome little road trip adventure through southern Laos (more or less Lonely Planet’s “Southern Loop” if you’ve got the book). We rented a little Honda in Pakse and spent four days on the road, rolling around the countryside, checking out some interesting towns and villages, and getting acquainted with the rainy season in southeast Asia. 😉

I’m having some computer-related technical issues at the moment so I’ll do a proper post with pictures about the trip later on, but here are some notes in the mean time.

Lessons from the road

In case you are planning to do your own bike trip around and on Laos’ Bolaven Plateau during the wet season, here are some nuggets I learned/rediscovered that may come in handy:

  1. A little sun goes a long way in southern Laos.
    Especially if you’re fair like I am (even if you are wearing SPF 70!). Covering up for those hours on the road is advisable.
  2. Changes in altitude may significantly affect temperature.
    While we were sweating in the valley, we were shivering in the mountains. An additional layer of clothing would not have gone amiss.
  3. What appears to be light rain becomes heavy rain when you are driving through it on a bike, even at slow speeds.
  4. What appears to be heavy rain is not something you want to drive through on a bike in southern Laos.
    Trust me on this one.
  5. Travel with extra plastic bags.
    You never know when you’ll need someplace to put trash, last-minute waterproofing for your gear, or impromptu galoshes when your shoes get utterly and completely soaked.
  6. When you are in the middle of no where, you haven’t seen another soul for ages and there is no hope of a bathroom for miles and you finally give in and decide to pop a squat in the great outdoors, ineveitably someone will manage to suddenly show up while you are in the middle of your business.
    Seriously, I am two for two for this happening to me in Laos and not feeling too great about that 100% track record.
  7. Passengers are advised to hold on.
    Even when the road looks decent, you never know when the next bump, pothole or patch of bad road will occur. It’s best to have at least one hand holding on at all times, preferably two.
  8. Any right of way you assume you may have as a driver of a motorized vehicle will be entirely ignored by cows, goats, buffalo, pigs, chickens and dogs.
    Don’t expect them to take any notice of you, let alone move out of the way.
  9. While oncoming traffic is infrequent, do expect it approach from the middle of the road or in your lane.
    This is especially true on blind curves.
  10. When crossing paths with or being passed by buses and trucks, brace yourself.
    You will be hit in the face with a spray of stinky air, dust and grit. It’s best to hold your breath and keep your mouth firmly shut.
  11. Bugs in the face are inevitable.
    As above, keeping your mouth shut is advisable!
  12. Enjoy the view!
    Beautiful farmlands, dramatic mountains, gorgeous skyscapes, lush forests, stunning waterfalls, impressive coffee plantations, lovely villages and lots of smiling Laotion faces are yours to discover!

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