Viang Xai was a charming tiny Laotian town. Apart from a small lake with a stilted lodge, there isn’t much to this town. It was a lovely spot to rest for a few days while I worked on a few things on my bike.
My journey from Mai Chau began badly and only got worse from there. I took a false turn after about 30 minutes on the road and ended up driving an hour out of my way.
I turned at this river for whatever reason and didn’t know I was on the wrong route for almost 30-45 minutes. To get back on track, I had to turn around and backtrack the entire trip. I’d want to blame Google for this, but I’m quite sure I simply took a wrong route and didn’t check my GPS often enough.
There were some lovely views to be seen, but I was starting to feel a little rushed. As a result, it was difficult to appreciate the voyage.
Construction, on the other hand, made it difficult to enjoy the journey. There were miles and miles of dirt roads and construction. The day was hot and dry, and some areas of the dirt road were covered in a fine, soft dirt that caused the tires to sink. My bike tipped over a few times when I was riding it.
There were various spots when all traffic was halted, and they would occasionally let parties pass through. There were also sections where you simply drove through the construction zone, dodging tractors and other heavy machinery. It was draining.
I got some chips with 20% more Tang for lunch, which was wonderful. However, the journey was difficult, and my bike’s sound got worse with each mile I drove. I was certain that I would have to dump the bike and catch a taxi into Laos. I hoped and prayed that the bike would make it to the other side of the border. On the other side, I assumed there would be taxis.
The bike got it to the border somehow, and the customs fee for transporting it into Laos wasn’t too high. I believe it was between $20 and $40. Laos offers visa-on-arrival, and the process was relatively short. I had to wait for a long, and while I was waiting, I came across this moth.
One strange occurrence was that a few minutes after entering Laos, the sky suddenly turned orange and smokey. It was apparently fire season, and they were clearly on fire. The smoke seemed to stay on the Laos side, which was strange. It had an ominous vibe to it. I had a strong desire to see Vietnam, and the smoke in Laos made me wish I was still there.
I arrived in Viang Xai after a long and difficult day of biking. The guesthouse was fantastic. One of the doors in the shot above was my room. Even though you can’t feel like you’re floating, being above the water has a psychological effect that I enjoyed.
When I checked in and went to my room to clean up the dust, I noticed another individual drinking a beer in the dining room area. I went out to have a beer after cleaning up for a while.
We started conversing because the other guy was still out there. He explained that he’d done the identical trip the day before and was aware of my exhaustion. His journey was made more difficult when he got to a border crossing where scooters are not permitted, and he had to drive all the way down to another crossing. He was on his way to India on a road trip.
During our conversation, I noted that my scooter was nearly dead. “Oh, my goodness! Don’t be concerned. Down the road is a fantastic mechanic. He’s a Vietnamese man who is capable of repairing anything! I’ll take you to him the next day.” We also discussed a baggage rack, and he mentioned that he knew a welder who could create one for me. After only one day in town, how did this guy know everyone?
This individual was a breath of fresh air. He was a Frenchman with the best attitude I’d ever seen. I have a proclivity towards whining and dwelling on the negative. This person really helped me put the trip in context and recognize how fortunate I was to be on it.
The following day, I met up with the Frenchman and he showed me about town.
He drove me to the mechanic, who had to disassemble the entire engine. It wasn’t too expensive to replace the part that needed to be replaced. I believe the fixes were $75-$90. I was simply overjoyed that the mechanic realized exactly what was wrong and had the necessary replacement part on hand. I believe it was a gasket or something related to the pistons. It took him the better part of the day to fix it, but he did an incredible job!
I was also escorted to a welder, who made this baggage rack out of a metal fence pole and some square parts for me. With those extra few inches of space, it was like a brand new ride! It was almost as though I’d been upgraded to a limousine! It made such a tremendous difference in my riding comfort.
The Frenchman had left a day earlier than I had. My bike needed to be repaired, so I had to wait. We exchanged emails, and I still get an email from him every now and then about a book he authored. He didn’t make it all the way to India, if my memory serves me well. I believe he had difficulty getting his motorcycle into Cambodia or Thailand.
When I received my bike back, it was in better condition than it had ever been. I was more powerful and quieter. It felt like I was riding a fresh new bike! And the extra legroom on the seat was fantastic. I departed Viang Xai with a greater respect for the ups and downs of the journey, and my bike received some substantial enhancements. In many ways, my stop in Viang Xai was fantastic!
I still had a few stops to make before arriving in Vientiane. For my new Vietnamese visa, I had to drive through a large burning nation. I hope you’ll be able to join me for the next installment!