Laos motorbike diaries – Day 7 (Thakhek to Nakay)

Distance: 110 kms. 

Started the motorcycle loop called ThakhekLoop which should keep me busy for the next 2-3 days. It was a beautiful day along with a fair share of mishaps. 

The first place I went to was a really unimpressive and probably the least impressive cave I’ve ever seen in my life, called Xang Cave. It was just one section really and there was a 5000 kip entrance. Such a rip off. 

The next place was another cave called Buddha cave. I didn’t really see the main cave and went off a different path and saw a nice little lake and cool caves. 3000 kip which was just for the parking and these side caves were free. 

The cave had water inside and I was trying to get in, walking around the side. There was this spot where was leg had to go around. My hands slipped and splash! My left leg went into the water up until the knee! #thehikerinwetshoes

I even managed to get the front end of the other shoe wet on the way out. 

The ride was extremely beautiful. Took time photographing with Phoebe. 

I accidentally went ahead from the next stop which was supposed to be a lake. Had to turn around and come back a few kms. 

The next stop then became another cave. This was a free one. I took this pic at the bottom of the cave. 

While getting out of this one there were multiple rocks that fell down from the ceiling! Scared as hell, I got my ass out of there as soon as I could. 

Went on to the lake. The way to the lake was really muddy due to the rain yesterday. This one section where you couldn’t cross without getting in the mud, I chose to ride in the middle hoping it won’t skid as much as the sides. I was so wrong! I got stuck in the middle with the bike skidding in the mud and water going over the exhaust pipe! Both my legs were in mud midway between foot and the knee. Took a good minute to get my self out of there. #thehikerinmuddywetshoes

The way back was through the same muddy water. This time I tried to walk it out from the sides but got stuck towards the end over a little hump. Not as bad as the previous time though. 

Went to eat at this guesthouse called the Green Climbers. Well this place was the weirdest place I’ve seen so far on my trip. A bunch of prententious hippies with climbing gear, surrounding the place. While I was eating, there were 2 people lying stomach down on top of each other who were soon joined by another guy. There was one guy who jumped a foot down from the eating area. There was one girl who jumped on the bamboo sticks lining the counter where the hostel manager stood and broke the connection with the other stick. There were a couple of guys who were roaming around in their climbing gear inside the restaurant as if to show off? There was a guy who was randomly flashing his dick walking around. Didn’t see it myself but my friend who I am riding with told me this. Then there was this other dude who asked my friend whether he had been climbing here. How the heck could my friend have been climbing here when we just came on the motorbikes 2 minutes ago? Moreover the guy asking the question had been at the place for a week! Weird!

So yeah, my friend and I left this awkward fake hippie place as soon as we could. 

Just when we left, my friend pointed out that my back tire was flat. Jeez this day! I got that fixed by a mechanic, which was luckily close by. 

The ride ahead was even more beautiful. Amazing curvy roads and beautiful sunset while riding in the mountains. 

Stopped 25 kms before where I was planning on stopping, since the sun was down. 

Went out for food and I was proud of myself of speaking some Lao to say that I don’t eat meat, don’t eat egg, don’t eat fish and eat vegetables. Got myself a nice noodle soup. 

Quite a day!

Laos motorbike diaries – Days 2-6 (Don Det to Thakhek)

Ive been on the motorbike for the last 5 days. Finally have a day off because of the rain and time for some updates. 

Day 2 – Don Det to border to Pakse (190 kms)

Day 3 – Pakse to Tad Lo on the Pakse loop (90 kms)

Day 4 – Tad Lo to Pakse completing the Pakse loop (130 kms)

Day 5 – Pakse to Savannakhet (250 kms)

Day 6 – Savannakhet to Thakhek (130 kms)

On the day that I left 4000 islands, finally after staying five nights, I thought it would be worth a shot to fix a problem that we had. The border was only 20kms back. So I rode to the border to try and ask the officials to get ride of the temporary import papers of the motorbike. 

I spent half an hour trying to explain why I can’t really take the bike out of the country. I tried telling them that I fly out of Vientiane on the 1st of April and that a friend would take bike to Vietnam. He asked me “You go Cambodia?” And I kept saying  “No go Cambodia. Go Pakse”. 

I went to the immigration office to try and explain this and after explaining they just asked me to tell my problem to customs. 

In the meantime this guy stamped my form. And when I explained more he wrote something in Lao below the stamp. Finally he gives me the form and I walk away. When I was walking away I thought I really need to find out what he wrote in Lao below the departure stamp. It would suck to go away and then find out that the writing can mess with exit. 

I didn’t want to go back to the office so I chose the restaurant in front instead. When I was walking the guy shouts out my name and calls me back. I go back. He takes my form and asks me to sit. While I sit he draws up a new form and takes the old form back. Shit! Now he is just handing me a new form over with a date 5 days ahead (I entered 5 days ago). I tried explaining again that I don’t need document and the document is a problem. With the story that I have to fly out for the 10th time. He wouldn’t stamp me out. I said friend would take bike to Vietnam and he asked which border, but I didn’t know. He changed some border information on my form. I said don’t need form and I can pay now. He refused to take money though and feeling defeated I drove to Pakse. 

Damn, I had it in my hands! I got a free 5 day extension though. 

In Pakse I did the motorbike loop which is supposed to have waterfalls on the way. This was beautiful with some great hiking, swimming and good waterfalls!

Look at this melting rainbow for instance:

Savannakhet felt like a sleepy lazy town. The population is just 120,000 even though it’s the second largest city in Laos. How amazing is that! This bridge connects Laos and Thailand, in Savannakhet:

There’s not much to do in Thakhek and good vegetarian food is hard to find. I almost puked out my salad at the place I’m staying at. Had street side snacks for lunch and 2 of these burgers for dinner:

I’m actually feeling a bit sad that Phoebe and I would have to part ways soon. Maybe in a week or so if I get a buyer for her. It’s been really convenient to have a motorbike and roam around. Hoping she doesn’t break down in the next week! 

Going to do Thakhek motorcycle loop starting tomorrow. I’ve heard it’s a good one. Takes 3-4 days. 

Phoebe and I made it to Laos, but we are in trouble. 

Aah so this was the second time I was crossing a border with Phoebe. Read about the first one here

From: Stung Treng (Cambodia)

To: Don Det aka 4000 islands (Laos)

Cambodia motorbike diaries Day 10 and Laos motorbike diaries Day 1. 

So, I read about numerous stories about how the border crossing between Cambodia and Laos is rife with scams. There’s one where a friendly guy takes your passport and offers his services for 7-8 dollars. There is the stamping “fee” scam where the officials take 2$ to stamp you in or out. Then there is the one where they let you out on your motorbike from Cambodia but don’t let you in Laos, so you have to sell your motorbike for 25$ in between. 

I was thinking that the worst thing that happens today is I lose my bike. 

When crossing the Cambodian side, I had to pay 2$ stamping fee. I didn’t contest it and paid. 

On the Laos side there was a 1$ fee which was when you got your visa processed before 8 or after 4 but they still took the dollar anyway. Then I paid 2$ for stamping fees again. 

I thought I was flying out of Vientiane on the 9th and the visa I got is till 9th April. Close call. I was hoping that they gave it till 11th April since I applied on 11th March but apparently not. (My flight is on the 8th)

Like the last border crossing I was keeping my bike away and not really mentioning it to anyone. 

When I was leaving the office and walking towards the motorbike, the lady from the office called me out and asked “Do you have moto?”. I couldnt really say no and hence said a very tentative yes. She then told me to get it registered in the other office. 

I thought this is where I pay the bribe. The guy looked at my passport and asked for 6$. I had 3$ in small notes and then just a 50$ note. I asked him whether it was okay to pay just 3, but he refused. So I had to give him 50$ note which he changed for 400,000 kip and returned the remaining amount. 

He gave me a yellow document which was a document declaration for the bike. This was a customs declaration and I tried to tell him that I am flying out of the country but he just told me to show it when I made exit. I also told him I have to sell the bike in Laos. 

I got away from the border and a little realisation struck me that this is not good. I need to get the bike out of the country by 9th April which I can’t do, since I’m flying out. I went back to the office and asked the people there. Suddenly none of them spoke English! All of them pretended to barely understand me and just told me to show the form when I fly out. 

Slowly over the course of the day I figured this is really way worse than it seemed at the moment. I can legally not leave the country without the bike. The document  also said that I was not allowed to sell it. That there was a 10$ per day fine for overstaying. 

I was hoping to fly out from here to India. If I go to other countries that would involve visa fees. Plus I have to come back to Laos again and pay visa fees again. 

At the border there were 3 people who were just ditched by their driver after getting to the border. And now they had to figure out a way to get to a place 150 kms away. 

These borders are so messed up. 

I had a Swedish guy with me as well, and we were doing the same thing together. They didn’t stop him but just stopped me. The visa for Indians is 40$ while for most other places it’s 30-35$, Canada being an exception at 42. 

I have 4-5 options in my mind that I have to choose from. None are particularly great but I’ll see which one I choose. 

I made it to Don Det and it seems nice here. Most of my day has been spent over analysing what to do though. 

I bet the officials at the border were probably laughing over how they acted as if they didn’t know English and fucked the Indian guy. 

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 9 (Preah Vihear to Stung Treng)

Distance: 140 kms. 

Short and sweet ride. Met up with a few friends from Siem Reap again so it was nice. The city was just a stop over for the next day to cross over to Laos from the border. 

There is a nice river in the city so it was good to take a dip in. Probably not the cleanest but who cares :)

I did get some new food in the city. Sticky rice with beans inside a bamboo stick and a fried patty that had spinach inside. 

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 8 (Siem Reap to Preah Vihear)

Distance: 170 kms. 

Left really early today at 7 am to not drive that much in the sun. The ride was really good compared to others that have been in Cambodia. This is just one of the two stops that I am making before crossing the border to Laos. 

Saw a beautiful sunrise in the city and ate really good and cheap food. Mix vegetables with unlimited steam rice, for 1.5$. A person at the restaurant translated for me that I wanted something with no meat and no egg. I went back in the evening and pointed to vegetables and she understood that I wanted the same thing :)

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 7 (Battambang to Siem Reap)

Distance: 175kms 

Phoebe has been leaking gasoline from somewhere. I tried to get it fixed but couldn’t really find a mechanic who understood. I took her to one guy who did some random stuff and took 75 cents. 

I drove anyway, and reached Siem Reap. The place of Angkor Wat where the God kings walked. 

I spent 3 days seeing several temples and sunrises and sunsets from different spots. It was outstanding. I think this post can just have pictures after this. 

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 6 (Pursat to Battambang)

Distance: 110 kms

After starting my ride today I figured that my fuel tank meter wasn’t showing full even though I had filled it up Day before yesterday and only driven a few kms. It was missing 2 litres of petrol maybe. I checked for leaks and there weren’t none. Weird!

I am staying at the Tomato guesthouse dorms in Battambang. It’s 2$ per night! :)

Battambang feels like a nice place. I saw a couple of temples today. One was more like ruins. I love ruins! 

At the other one I played with cats for half an hour or so. I sat down next to this old man, who I believe had them as pets. Another lady pulled me up a chair later on when she saw me. Even though we couldn’t converse it felt nice sitting and chilling with them. 

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 5 (Phnom Penh to Pursat)

Distance: 200 kms

Phoebe got a major repair done. Her gear chain was breaking again and again and the mechanic said one of the parts is causing this. It cost me 65$ to fix her up and another 35 had been wasted before. But I am hoping she will not get me stuck in the middle of my journeys again :(

There is nothing much to do in Pursat and this was my stop only because the drive straight to Battambang is too much. Battambang is 100 kms from Pursat. 

The lazy town Kampot

Kampot deserves a special mention. It’s a lazy town in the south of Cambodia. I stayed 6 nights in this place and could’ve stayed more. 

There’s nothing really going on in this place. But for some reason the place has a charm of its own. 

There’s a river (half river since it’s salty) which you can swim in. 

There’s live music sometimes. 

There’s a national park which is the most horrible national park I’ve seen. Expected to drive some 10 kms but it turned out to be a 40 km drive one way, to a commercial place amongst the mountains with nothing to see at all. 

You can drive to Kep and spend a day at the national park over there or by the beach. 

So you do have some things to do, but the laziness is unreal. I spent 3 nights in Sihanoukville lazying around but wanted to leave afterwards. 

I finally moved out of Kampot to see a music festival in Phnom Penh. If there wasn’t any festival and maybe if there was a fresh water lake close by in Kampot, I could’ve easily stayed more nights. 

Cambodia motorbike diaries – Day 4 (Kampot to Phnom Penh)

Distance: 150 kms

Phoebe broke down for the first time today! 

She’s been leaking a little bit of oil or petrol from below. I wanted to have it checked but couldn’t find a mechanic in the morning. She also needs a wash pretty badly. 

I had a bad feeling today before starting. 150 kms though, so I just went through with it. 

The problem wasn’t in any of those things though. After 120 kms, she suddenly went dead. It was starting but wasn’t moving. 

Jeez, now try to find a mechanic in the middle of nowhere. 

I walked and asked around and found a mechanic after walking a kilometre. 

Apparently the rubber chain inside the gear box went kaput. He took about 30-45 mins to fix it while I waited patiently. 15$ for the fix. Can’t really bargain in the middle of nowhere. 

I went ahead, turned around to give it a test and then went back. It was running a little slower than her usual self. I pushed to it to 80 and then it happened again. Went kaput. I checked maps and I was 3 kms away. 

I walked back to the same place in the scorching heat. He fixed it again. 5$. 

Instead of testing it out, I came to Phnom Penh driving at 40-50 kmph.