Riders At The Gates Of Dawn

By Stephen | March 5, 2014

10,956 km so far.

With the temperature due to reach 37C/99F today, and a 100 km ride to Luang Prabang ahead of us, we decided to act like real cycle tourists. This means our alarm went off as the sun was rising at 6am, and we were at morning market to pick up breakfast and lunch before 7am.

Morning market in Xang.

Morning market in Xang.

In 11 months of riding we have never done this before. Most cycle tourists whose blogs we read seem to do it every day.

Fed, lunch packed away, and jackets on because it was still quite chilly, we hit the road by 7:30am. As we headed down the first few descents, our ears were burning in the cold air. We were comforted by the knowledge that it wouldn’t be long before the chill would be a distant memory, and we would be riding soaked in our own sweat.

It felt great to be out in the cool quiet of the morning. By the time we broke for a very early lunch, at 11:00am, we had already covered half our journey.

I’ll Be Your Shelter

We stopped for lunch under a farmer’s bamboo shelter. These shelters are in every field, and offer farmers a place to hide from the midday sun. At this time of day there is usually someone sleeping in them, or children playing. The one we stopped at was in a fallow field, so was free for us to use.

It was the perfect place to get a break from the sun, to set up our picnic, and rest for a while before heading back onto the road, and into the heat of the day.

Our noodle salad lunch from the market. Yum.

Our noodle salad lunch from the market. Yum.

The ride from Xang to Luang Prabang was fairly uneventful. There are a few beautiful wats along the route, and the country slowly changed into the more industrialsed outskirts of a city. Our empty road became busier and busier the closer we got to Luang Prabang, but busy is relative in a country where most vehicles are scooters.

We did encounter a handful of Land Rover, Lexus, and Toyota SUVs with Chinese license plates when we neared the Nam Ou Hydroelectric Dam project, which is 85% owned by the Chinese.

Mighty Mekong

Not far from Luang Prabang we got our first glimpse of the Mekong River. For both of us this was an incredible moment, and reminded us of our first sighting of the Danube so many months ago.

The Mekong has been part of our cultural awareness our whole lives. It played such an important role during the American war, and it is such a great symbol of Southeast Asia. It is incredible to be here, riding our bikes alongside it.

It is strange to feel so connected to and familiar with something we have never seen before. This connection, the mystique of the river, is part of the reason we are planning to take the two day boat ride along it from Luang Prabang to Thailand.

I’m excited to spend some time flowing along, becoming part of such a monumental river.

Soundtrack: Sovert Høyem, Autumn In Arcadia | Neil Diamond, The Bang Years | Wish I Was Here, Playlist 5  

Want to see the route map? View it on Ride With GPS.

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