The Mekong river runs through Thakhek, Laos, which is a border town with Thailand. It marks the beginning of the famed Thakhek Loop. Because I just have one photo from this town, this is a challenging topic to write. I’ll just post it to get it out of the way.
On the other side of the river is Thailand. It appears to be close enough to swim to.
Vientiane to Thakhek was a 6-hour bus ride. I learned a valuable lesson about booking rooms in advance here. I had reserved a room, but when we all disembarked from the bus, I discovered that my hotel was located on the outskirts of town, in the middle of nowhere.
Not pre-booking is always a risk because you don’t want to end up sleeping on the street if you can’t find anything. It’s also inconvenient to be exhausted after a long bus travel and not have a room waiting for you. However, it’s a bummer to book a room just to discover that it’s not close to anything you want to visit.
The place where I stayed felt odd. It was large and had many rooms, but it appeared that I was the only one who was staying there. In the 1970s and 1980s, most of Laos appeared to have been built up for tourists, but the tourists either never arrived or had ceased coming.
One of the hotel’s employees volunteered to drive me into town to get some food. I climbed onto the back of his scooter and he drove me to a suitable location. It was a nice outing.
I already had plans for Thakhek, so I checked out of the hotel after the first night and headed into town to rent a scooter. I discovered a nice deal on a bike rental and leased it. They handed me a map and told me that I could leave my main backpack there. I was apprehensive to leave my luggage alone in a room with so many other bags, but I went ahead and did it. I simply brought a tiny bag with me, which had a few shirts, shorts, underwear, toiletries, charging cables, and snacks.
The Thakhek Loop is where you’ll find yourself. I’m not sure if it took me 5 or 6 nights to finish it.
It was great to get back on the road! I adored riding the scooter for hours, eventually getting to my first destination. Two French tourists were walking one of their scooters back to Thakhek as I was leaving town. Within the first hour or two of riding, it had broken down. My bike was beautiful and seemed to have a lot of power.
I’ll simply share a few images from the first day’s ride. The ride and the first overnight stay will be covered in tomorrow’s post.
In Laos, billboards like this were rather common. Vietnam has comparable billboards, but I believe their artists are better. In the near future, I’ll be posting a bunch of Vietnamese billboards and posters.
The first day’s trip was approximately 100 kilometers. Throughout Laos and Vietnam, I would attempt to keep all of my journeys under 100 kilometers. When my body and eyes become tired, I find it difficult to ride. Plus, I appreciate having the impression that I have a lot of time on my hands and that I can take as many breaks or shots as I want.
In the coming days, I’ll write about the full loop. But when I got back to Thakhek after the loop, I discovered a motel that was actually in town. For a second loop, I caught a bus to Pakse.
We came to a halt on the bus, and these vendors came up to the windows to sell refreshments. It was the first time I’d ever seen anybody selling eggs on a stick.
The most popular items being sold to passengers looked to be meat, eggs, and water.
Laos was also the first country where I encountered these unusual tractors. They may be popular throughout Southeast Asia, but I’ve only ever seen them in Laos. The tractors on the right are 2-wheeled and have quite long handlebars, but the photo isn’t particularly clear. They’re found in rice fields, and I believe they’re mechanical water buffaloes. They can also be driven by hooking them up to wagons. In a day or two, I’ll upload a photo of one on the road.
Water buffalo is a common sight on Laos’ menus. I tried some and liked it. I had never seen it in Vietnam and inquired about it with a Vietnamese individual. In Vietnam, he told me, buffalo are too valuable to eat. Perhaps they’re consumed in some parts of the country? I understand that dogs are popular in some areas but not in others.
Anyway, there concludes my Thakhek post. It’s a hip, tourist-friendly town on the banks of a large river. The Loop to which it’s attached is fantastic, as I’ll demonstrate in my next postings. I hope you’ll come along on the ride!