Day 12 - Back to the Land of Smiles - Summer Thaime - CycleBlaze

August 2, 2018

Day 12 - Back to the Land of Smiles

Vientiane to Udon Thani

"Uh, this isn't a small problem as you said."  The guy at Laos Bikes took a look at the Montague I brought in for servicing and made a bunch of repairs.  Apparently, ever since the nasty rain in the mountains, there was a slight grinding sound on the front and rear disk brakes. I figured it was a minor issue, but the guys showed the brake pads were totaled and needed replacement. Alright then, do it. 

They did a marvelous job on that work including greasing up the chain and derailleur as well as washing off all the grime. Once rolling out I was amazed at the difference and how well the bike was performing. We got chatting and apparently you can rent decent bikes at the shop, and they also organize tours. I had to laugh at his 50-60 km a day suggestion for his tours.  Who even does that?  He caught on and said, "For strong guys like you we do 150 km a day." Now we're talking. I asked him if it was possible to return the bikes in another location. He said normally not, the bikes have to be returned in Vientiane, but he has friends in other places that could arrange to put them back on buses.

Riding to the Friendship Bridge was an easy 20km cycle where I got some waves and hellos, then the entrance appeared to the bridge.  You just never quite know how these border crossing are going to happen.  The Laos side was the easiest, just fill out a form and get stamped out. There were tons of people milling around and of course the bicycle was the big attraction. It's like really people, you haven't seen anyone do this before?  One guy said, "Wow, you're going to cycle all the way to Canada?" I just laughed and said, "Not to Canada, I'm going to Thailand." This isn't the first time I've heard this.   Newsflash:  there is an ocean between continents so it's not exactly possible.

Crossing the bridge was great fun.  At first I thought they wouldn't let me do it, but it was a great relief that the rules still haven't changed. Every other friendship bridge (I think there are 5 in total now) requires that you put the bike on a bus.  And all three of the northern land borders without a bridge are in Sayaboury province that Laos has now forbid bikes from using. So besides this crossing here, the only other place to my knowledge that you can ride across directly is the Chong Mek crossing in the south nearby the 4000 islands. It'll have to be another trip.  Put all this together, I really think the Laos authorities are trying to stop cycle tourists *on purpose*.  It would be the most logical explanation for the decline in traffic as mentioned earlier.  

Once on the the Thai side it was crowded and took at least half an hour to get through. It's always confusing where the bikes are supposed to cross. The vehicle lane or pedestrian one? Nobody really knows. The only thing to do is assume you go across as a pedestrian and then see what happens when you do this.

Time to get used to a lot of this
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After getting through it was an awesome ride on the main highway right to Udon Thani. Compared to the Laos roads this was in far better shape and I could really pick up the pace. But the downside was it became a lot more boring, and this would definitely continue for days on end. With Laos there is tons of action on the side of the road to stop for, and lots of waves, greetings, etc. There still is to some extent in Thailand but it's subdued and the feeling of adventure goes down. Still, those 7/11 stops are surely appreciated as well as the more open-minded atmosphere of the people in general. Laos, although friendly, is also very conservative. The only way to experience all this things is to get on a bike and tour.

Once in Udon a hotel was easily found and not much else to do except go to bed and get ready to pound out a ton of distances over the next few days.

Today's ride: 85 km (53 miles)
Total: 843 km (524 miles)

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