LAOS
After skirting briefly back into Thailand we entered Laos at Vientiane at The Friendship Bridge. The exit from Thailand was as simple as the entry and also the same at the Laos side - taking only one and a half hours in total - nearly an hour of which we spent at the Duty Free where we saw our first bottles of red wine in yonks............it was heaven. Having decided that as it was Cliff's birthday coming up we
went in search of birthday treats. We found two bottles of French red wine and a bottle of Taylor's Special Ruby Port (this being extremely expensive at $10 for a bottle - the local whisky being 6000kip per bottle (36 pence - for 750ml !!!! )). Mundane things done we left the border very happy people :-)

We were expecting the roads in Laos to range from sealed tarmac roads to dirt roads. Leaving the border we were confronted with dug up tarmac - oh no not already. However, this was the only bad road we met in Laos - they are amazingly good - although we never ventured onto the real back roads. We had heard several horror stories about them - Lisa breaking a leg on the mud, Jason (who we met in Bangkok) falling off a bridge into the river and being trapped for a while with his bike - a BMW R1150GS - on top of him, although unharmed it was a close one. Apparently according to Jason the worst bit of this was the locals laughing at him when he explained that he tried to use the bridge - everyone else just crosses the river !

Anyway, our first stop was the capital Vientiane. The only thing we new about this was that there had been a statue erected in honour of the very first King in Laos - not a great man by all accounts but something for the Laos people to admire as, as BBC World News reported on the event - "nothing really much happens in Laos - ever". We stayed several days as we arrived on the 10th of January and waited until the 13th to leave - Cliff's birthday being the 12th so decided to take it easy for a few days. We spent the first day meandering around looking at more Wat's (temples) coming across a monk that had very good English who explained some of the finer points to us - like what happens to all the stuff people leave as gifts at the Buddha's feet ??? We take it he explained - at least he was honest ! We have decided that monks in this part of the world - that is the East are only there for the cop out life - they don't actually have to do anything if they don't want to........wonder if they take women recruitees ????????

The "new" King statue - complete with unveiling curtain.
Detail of window shutter and foil leaf tree at Wat Inpeng.
The Lao Revoluntary Museum was a must visit place. The write ups of it were all correct - boy did they hate the Americans - calling them and their men / Lao sympathists as the "imperialists and their puppets". Most of the photographs and other memorabilia showed a one sided view of the whole situation - but, hey, it's their country. One picture in particular struck us - the caption reads as in the side box.
"US Imperialist 10th Fighter Bomber F105D shot down on 5/11/1965 by a militia man of Phang District, Xieng Khouang province, named That Chantho, 26 years old, using a rifle"
Cliff's Birthday was spent in the usual tradition - working on the bikes !! We fitted some cheap Chinese alarms to them that were fitted to all the local scooters - all for $50 for both bikes - AND they work.............. We haven't worked out the wiring yet but on the scooters you can even start the bike by remote !
From Vientiane we headed North towards Luang Prabang. Several people we spoke to said that this would be a hard days ride in one hit so we stopped at Vang Vieng. Beautiful river setting but too many backpackers - in fact we have decided this is where the "yuppy" backpackers go. We wandered for the afternoon - having arrived early in the afternoon and left the next day, planning to come back this way and maybe do the float down the river on a tyre inner tube, stopping at the numerous "beach" bars on the way back down.
The local bus - who needs bridges anyway - and he made it through like a professional.
We made it to Luang Prabang the next day - the former capital of Laos.
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