8 December 2011
As it's only 85km today, and there are good breakfast options in Vang Vieng, I don't rush onto the road. The first place I seek breakfast has staff far more interested in clipping their toenails in the restaurant than noticing customers. Next door is cheaper anyway. Eggs, bacon, baguette, coffee, check out, bike, road, gone.
Seven kilometres south of Vang Vieng I stop to take a photo of a cement factory. All the signs are in Chinese. It's a very Chinese scene, factories surrounded by countryside. Sometimes it's oddly beautiful. Mao encouraged this on the grounds that factories in the Chinese interior wouldn't be vulnerable to bombers. I forget whose bombers. So, Mao's take on factory placement lives on just outside Vang Vieng. Only when I put my camera away do I notice the No Photo sign. At least they're embarrassed about it.
The road surface continues to be poor. I'm not as sore today, physically or mentally, so at first I cope with it well. As the day wears on it gets old again. I try to start a game of measuring the length of sealed sections to see what the longest I get is. I get bored of the game well before I get to a stretch longer than a kilometre.
So, sorry kids, I can't wave and I can't high five, because I'm struggling to keep my bike on course over the smash. And to the kid who "took" a high five by smacking my hand while it was still on the handlebar, I hope that when you bring someone crashing to the ground, they beat you soundly.
I've been theorising that this road and the country somehow reflect each other. Why pedal when the next rough patch at which you're going to have to brake is already in sight?
Poor Laos, the most bombed country in the history of the world, colonised by the French, run by the commies, overrun by NGOs, now in the midst of a rapacious Chinese economic invasion. What to do? Sit around in orange robes and chant, I guess. If this country had anything worth having, it wouldn't exist.
There's a glimmer of hope at 61km down, when lovely concrete surface appears, complete with road markings. It lasts about a kilometre. My iPod battery dies. Low ebb.
I'd heard Phonhong was short on accommodation options. It's true. The first place I find has a sign but no people. I search further down the road. No luck. I run the numbers to see what my chances are of making Vientiane before dark. On this surface, zero. I come back to the first place to find someone coming out of the door. They explain the place is closed. Search again. I'm just about to give up when I see a sign pointing up a steep slope to the aptly named Mony guesthouse. The joker there wants 100,000 kip, 80,000 for no aircon. 50-60 thousand would be about right. He's just explained there's no power, so what's the difference anyway? I go back down to the main road. I'd read there's a low quality place to stay 9km south of town. Gonna have to chance it they're still in business. I get just past where I'd earlier turned around and see a guesthouse sign. It's clearly being renovated, but I see curtains at the windows and reckon it's worth a shot. Forty thousand, I'll take it. It's not the worst room I've ever stayed in, but then that place had bullet holes in the walls.
95km, 17.5km/h, 5hr23min, 1721km