Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km)

Day 17: Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km) Distance travelled so far 860km “Up on the downside”

So what happened last night in Nakam?….Well we cooked rice with our brand spanking new Laos rice steamer. Our campfire lasted about an hour but we chatted for another few hours…learning some unusual new skills…For instance, we can now cry phonetically….Why not try it yourself….It easy!!!!!…..Ok just repeat the following phrasings in a whimpering, squekey, falsetto fashion….1,2,3…….

Be e e ee eee!!!

Ge e e ee eee!!!

Oo Oo Oo Oooooo!!!

Neeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

Niff…Hiff….Mmmmm!!!!!!

Kuy kuy Huh huh….heee!!!!

We decided to call it a night after our bouts of phonetic crying and crazy laughter. The night was cold and our tent pretty tight but we huddled in together like sardines in tomato sauce. Myself and Brian’s new air-matresses worked a treat…They are very comfortable but I must admitt it was hard to watch Michael bedding down on his 1/4 inch floor matt…We still have to find a shop that sells proper air-beds….Very soon Michael…very soon!!!

The morning (6:30am) came quickly for us and boy was it cold…..My sleeping bag, a Dueter “comfortline” had demonstrated that its capacity to shield against cold weather was pretty minimal. Likewise with Mike’s sleeping bag…..It has become apparent to us that we need further protection from the cold. Brian on the other hand thought his Northface sub-zero kept him too warm…He complained, saying that he sweated too much during the night!!!! (he proceeded to rub this in our faces all morning). Check out our mornings pictures!!!

Brians Sleeping bag
Snug as a bug!!

Miserable
Miserable!!!!

Day 17: Nakam – Vang Vieng (80km) Distance travelled so far 860km “Up on the downside”

After morning breakie, we hit the road for about 8am. We cannot over emphasise enough how beautiful Laos is….It is so tropical and picturesque..Simply breathtaking. However when you try to cycle here….It is very very challenging. We found this approx 5km into our morning… The climbs are relentlessly steep but fall in our favour every once in a while. The spectacular scenery is all around us…There are jungles and mountains everywhere…

First hill of the day

It is hard to believe that mountain climbs of this nature are ahead of us all the way to China……It is not a prospect which we relish, but we feel pretty good on the bikes….we are injury free and the spirits are still very high…which is the main thing. After a soup lunch in a very strange “deliveranceesque” mountaineous location, we hit the roads to complete a very lethargic last 24km…..and again the mountains were very unsymapathetic to us…..Huffing and puffing and of course stopping for pictures/rests we finally reach Vang Vieng for about 3:30pm….

Vang Vieng is very classy….surrounded by hills and seems filled with trekers…We cycle on an old air-stip which runs through the middle of the town when a boy named Sue (I swear!!!) gives us a flyer for guesthouse in the town. He is about 10 years old and speaks good English…He guides us driving his motorbike right to the door of the guesthouse…..It costs us 80,000 Kip for the night (about 7 euro)….The room is class…Very clean and with a great hot shower….and after Vientiane and our nights camp in Nakam…We chat with some locals over some beers. Vang Vieng is a bit of a party spot so we are in a catch 22 whether to go to bed after our heavy day’s cycle or throw on our trademark Fogerty shirts and swagger down Vang Vieng’s busy steets…..Ohhhh what ever shall we do?????……3 Beerlao’s please…….hhahhahhahahha……..Absolutley great place here and with a great vibe!!!!……Stay tuned and keep spreading the good word about us and the charity…….Over and out for today folks!!!

Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng, Made it!

Udon Thani – Nong Khai, “The Friendship Bridge and Vientiane (Laos) (110km)

Day 13: Udon Thani – Nong Khai, “The Friendship Bridge and Vientiane (Laos) (110km) Distance travelled so far 707km “Boys to Men”

Our night in Udon Thani was pretty good and relaxing . We had food at Steve’s Bar (an English themed joint). The big bonus was that it had anl English food menu which was a welcomed release to the baffling Thai food menus and the culunary mish-mash that lurked within them…So burgers, chips, bacon and eggs it was….which were easily devoured….and with the a well overdue beer or two..

Friendship Bridge  here we come

The morning came quickly for us. We knew that we would have a hefty cycle ahead of us so we were on the road for approx 8am. We took as many back roads as we could as to avoid the main road to Nong Khai (Thailands bordering side just before Laos) and soon we were greeted with our first clay road.

Clay road

The roads to be honest were 3rd rate with many dirt tracks and craters strewn along them putting our biking skills firmly to the test. We spent the rest of the cycle enjoying the rest of Thailand, stopping for “meats on sticks” at one point….The weather today was great (Id say mid 20′s) making the cycle fairly handy.

Friendship Bridge

With Nong Khai and Laos pretty much in our sights at this point and our cycle to the famous “friendship bridge” connecting both countries looking more ominous, we head to sort our visa for Laos. On over the Meekong River we go so…stopping in the middle of it…that splits both countries.

Thailand Laos

We pay 25.4€ for a 30 day visa and head a further 22km (now cycling on the right-hand-side of the road!!!) to Laos’s capital city Vientiane to bed our weary rear ends down for the night. At this point we have clocked up a distance of 100km (another milestone for us)….We reach Vientiane just before dusk passing some interesting monuments along the way….We are very proud of oursleves today for three reasons. 1) We have reached a new country, 2) We feel fit and injury free. 3) We are very confident in our cycling abilities)

100K

We check into a reasonable hotel with three beds for once…..and decide to celebrate by having a good meal, some beers and a Premiership game (Chelsea vrs Manchester United…showing at 11pm tonight)….Our currency has also changed…We are now dealing in Laos Kip. Our next couple of days will be spent organising our next batch of Visa’s namely; China, India, Nepal and Pakistan etc etc…..Talk tomorrow folks and thanks for reading. Please remember to keep spreading the message about us, our website and our charity. Thanks a million everyone…..

Non Bualamphu to Udon Thani (46km)

Day 12: Non Bualamphu to Udon Thani (46km) Distance travelled so far 597km“Big hills…bigger hills and dinasour fossils”

The 3 of us were in flying form this morning.Got up at 7am and prepared for the day ahead. We checked out of our hotel, then headed into town for the days supplies. So down to the 7/11 we cycled and had a couple of coffees and porridge. Brian also picked up a bike stand in the town. Very good investment. We finally got on the road at about 9am and were all singing out aloud to songs, on our ipods, as we left Non Bua Lamphu.

Fairly soon into our journey we came across a very steep climb but with the 3 of us in good form and feeling stong, it was a breeze.. Obviously what goes up must come down, and when we reached the top we encountered a very fast decent. Alot of fun for all, Brian clocking 48km/hr on his speedometer!!!

Hill take 2

About 7 km after this we stopped at the Millon Year Old Fossil shell museum where we got to see fossilised dinosaur bones, foot prints and eggs. Found it pretty weird that a million year old exhibit was enclosed in a shabby, unsecured shed. Nice to see nevertheless.

Dino Eggs

Dino Bones

The remaining 30km were spent on the main dual carriageway to Udon Thani, with a strong head-wind. Cyclists nightmare!!!We carried on to Udon Thani (a very cramped, and busy city). We decided to make our stop for the day here to catch up on the blog, relax and enjoy what is left of Thailand for we will be in Laos tomorrow. Yeahhhh!!!!!

Phu Wiang to Non Bualamphu (75km)

Day 10: Phu Wiang to Non Bualamphu (75km) Distance travelled so far 551km”Banana fritters/dodgy tummy”

We get up and get the bikes ready as per normal and hit the streets…..We have started getting into a routine of heading to 7/11′s (convenience stores) where we know we can obtain bread and hot water for the packaged porridge/oats cereal which we purchased in bulk a while back…..They taste pretty good and with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate give us good energy for about 20 km or so….(after which we normally have another light snack). Todays cycle is fine. Cycled around a closed Dinosaur Park after about 5km in. During one of our breaks….We came across this very strange gentleman in a 4*4…… To cut a long story short……..He was not very sublte in his admiration of Michaels’ new haircut….and was caught on numerous occasions sneaking a peak at our cycling shorts….(the front side)…..Needless to say…..we decided to cut the increasingly weird conversation and awkward silences by getting back on our bikes… The rest of the journey was plain sailing…..apart from the “banana incident”……Lets just say that when you eat banana fritters on a near empty stomach….you should have a squatter fairly near by and preferably one with bog roll!!!!! End of Day 10…..Still very hot but we are getting more resiliant in that we can easily cycle 60km per day…. Rock n’ Roll!!!!
During our short morning breaks we generally like to take cover from the sun in a Thai bus shelter. They’re everywhere.

Thai Bus Shelter

Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School (Kaeng Khrow) – Phu Wiang (60km)

Day 9: 7th January 2009,  Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School (Kaeng Khrow) – Phu Wiang (60km) – Distance so far 476km “The Fab Three”

Woke at 6am. The tent worked out pretty well…Slightly damp from the build up of condensation from the night but didnt really care as there were no mosquito bites. We packed up our gear and to our delight were offered to have a full Thai/Chinese style breakfast (eggs,fruit,rice puff pastry and tea/coffee) at 7am with Phairin (Director of the School). After this, we waited for the school assembly. Then we were summoned by Phairin to the assembly hall packed with 400 kneeling school kids….Phairin spoke to the kids, introducing us in terms of why we were here and what we were doing…….Then it was formal introduction time…We spoke to the assembly, thanking our kind host/hostess and briefly explained our travel intentions. After this we rocked the house with “Twist and Shout” to a huge applause…..We then took loads of pictures with the students and staff. Very humbling morning and felt very proud to have had such an experience. Hit the road with our tails high and put down what felt like an effortless 60km to our next destination….Phu Wiang.

Wollies

Find the Wolly’s!!!!!

Lhasa

Day 40: Lhasa – Distance travelled so far 1,983km “The Potala Palace Experience


Happy Birthday Ray Mears ______. You are a constant source of inspiration to us….with your tinder and old mans beard and also your versitility with bamboo….sheer brilliance Ray….

Check out the vid and pics of our first days tour with Gyamtso…

Us outside Potala Palace. Noice!!!


A woman lighting candles inside Potala Palace


A local gentleman praying in front of Jokhang Palace…and no he hasn’t been squashed!!!


A young disabled boy being assisted up the many steep steps by his elders (Potala Palace)


Mike just about to enter another inner courtyard at Potala Palace


A young Tibetan girl checking out the views from Potala Palace


Steep steps of the Palace


The Palace in all its glory


Worshipers at the Palace (always circuling in a clockwise direction)


Brian with some local kids


Potty training Chinese/Tibet style….A hole in the pants….No nappies required!!!

Chaiyaphum – Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School….Kaeng Khrow (70km)

Day 8: 6th January 2009,  Chaiyaphum – Mattayum Bamkaen Wittaya School….Kaeng Khrow (70km) – Distance so far 416km “Back to School”

Checked out of our hotel. Thanked our very friendly hotel staff for their hospitality and headed for breakfast. On the road for 6:45am and really flew along for the first 20km. We came to a T-junction on the road that had a sign for Tat Ton National Park with waterfalls….so we decided to have a look at it. We went 8km out of our way to what transpired to be a dried out waterfall….

Waterfall

We put this minor disappointment behind us and headed to Kaeng Khrow where we decided to stop for lunch. We thought that we would be able for another 20km but as it was “high sun” and we were running out of water and with no more towns within easy cycling distance, we opted to camp at the nearest and best location we could find…..Bingo!!! Just 10km outside Kaeng Khrow we stumble acorss a busy school which we “chance” asking them for camping water…. What materialised was something far greater…an invitation to camp at the school for the night. The 400 students of the school go absolutely nuts, pearing out of classrooms, giggling alot and screaming aloud at any of our pigeon thai. The teachers including the Head/Director (Phairin) offer us refreshments and make us feel totally at home.

Back in School

They ask us to partake in a 3 vrs 3 game of “Dako” (Volleyball with your feet)…..We played 2 games (The Irish Cyclists vrs The School’s Regional Dako Champions)…..Fantastic game….By the by….We lost both games valiantly!!!! After this, Phairin asks us to speak at tomorrow mornings school assembly. We all agree to do this. Phairin also gives us a dinner consisting of rice, fruit and omolettes. We are bowled over by the sheer genorosity by the school as a whole. We retire for the evening in the confines and security of the school grounds. See you in the morning….

Chatturat – Chaiphum (43km)

Day 6: 4th January 2009,  Chatturat - Chaiphum (43km) –  Distance so far 346km “Rats for dinner!!”

Arose from our resort feeling the ill effects from last night karoke….Flashbacks of Barbie Girl and Ronan Keating’s “loving each day as if its the last” still haunting our morning slumber. We nip down the town on the bikes to the nearest 7/11 to stock up on our daily food supply. Brian decided to cycle 15mins ahead of us as he was nursing a knee strain and wanted to take it handy. We also tried out our solar charger for the first time which worked a charm for Mikes dead ipod. (fully chared the badboy in 90 mins). What a handy little gadget as it “charges while you ride”…Very nice indeed!!!!….After our break…a motorcyclist pulled up beside Brian asking him the usual token questions “where you come from?” “where you go?” Pretty soon we were all talking to this very pleasent guy named Komsan. He asked if we would come to his house (just 1km from the main road to Chaiphum). We of course accepted his kind offer. Komsan’s family, firends and neighbours swarmed around us. They quickly asked us to have food and water. Komsan and his mother prepared a very tasty meal of fluffy rice (their own crop too), omelette, fruit and water. Komsan and his family were farmers.

kumsan

As we were chatting to this lovely family with noticed Kumsans 3 cousins approaching with and unusual specimen in hand. As they drew nearer we realised to our horror that it was a hugh rat, they informed us that rats make for a nice dinner and can fetch 0.73€ in the local market. Niccccccccce….

Rats

The rest of the cycle (approx 20km) was very easy and uplifting. This was mainly down to the genorosity shown to us by Komsan and his family. As we entered Chaiyaphum, we were pulled over by the Police at their Checkpoint….Oh Oh!!!…..They were intruiged by us offerering us water and refreshing towels….We took some photos with them and treked into Chaiyaphum.

Police

We would probably take a rest day tomorrow so we cycle to a very reasonable, but nice hotel (10 euro for 2 nights) outside town. Rest day tomorrow, but well deserved. Whoooo Hooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thep Sathit – Chatturat (60km)

Day 5: 3rd January 2009,   Thep Sathit – Chatturat (60km) –  Distance so far 303km “Karoke Kings”

Up bright and early at about 6am.   All slept well.   Easy route because the roads were undulating (giving us nice rolling downhills) for good sections of the way.  There is alot of sugar cane harvesting going on at the moment so every conceivable form of transport is being used to harvest/draw the crops from the fields.   On the way we stumbled across a mini “new years” celebtration on and the locals went beezerk.  Beatlemania is the only way to describe the reaction.  The Thai locals just scream, ask for photos and hang off us.  Utterly crazy but very funny.

Paul in a Parade

The impact we have left in these small towns has been huge. Being “the news of the day” for the villagers is an unusual feeling.  Reach Chatturat and book ourselves into a really cheap resort for the night.  Crappy one bedroom deal but it had a swimming pool!!!   We close out in Chatturat by going to the resorts’ main attraction….a Karoke bar….In true Irish fashion we sing everything from Barbie Girl by Aqua to Hello by Lionel Richie…..Rem those little classics!!!…Whats that Larry?  Can you guess the year?  Another day over, again very tired and a little tipsy.  We literally pile oursleves into our one-bed motel room to sleep for tomorrows adventures…Goodnight John Boy!!!

Chai Badan – Thep Sathit (62km)

Day 4: 2nd January 2009,  Chai Badan - Thep Sathit (62km) –  Distance so far 243km “Sore Arses”
Woke this morning at 7am and feeling fine.  Had a fruit breakie.  Sorted out the bikes as normal and jumped onto the saddles.  Rear ends are a little sore today, but we struggle on and place the arse blisters and sudocrem treatments firmly to the back of our minds.  There are alot of young Monks on the road, one on his mobile phone!!! (must be having doubts)…. The journey was nice and flat for approx 20km, but quickly we accented 300 meters ino the Chai Badan hills.  We took our time at this climb, so we found it fine.  We have now calculated that the hottest part of the day is between the hours of 1:30pm – 3pm so we always try to take our lunch at that time.   The remainder of our journey was pleasent and we arrived in Thep Sathit fresh and optimistic.   Got a nice cheap hotel room, listened to Lionel Richie, watched the Commitments and had a few beer Loas.  Met with an English bloke named Steve who owned a Car Cleaning Service in Pattya, South Thailand.   Chatted over dinner whilst counting the fine array of bites and blisters we still had.    Itching perfusely we head to the leaba as we have an early start in the morning.