Thakhek – Motorcycle diaries

Wanna know how we got stopped by the police and Rebekka made a run for it? Read until the end 😉

After a painful 8-hour ride in a bus whose seats had been moved to accommodate twice more people (Quentin had to sit with his legs in the hallway), we got to Thakhek, a small, uninteresting city in the middle of Laos. We’re here for a good reason: it is the starting point of a “loop” that you can complete with the motorcycle in 3-4 days. So we get ourselves a big scooter and start our journey.

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Riding between goats, cows, buffaloes, pigs, chicken, holes, bumps… Crossing shaky wooden bridges, quick-sands, rivers… We get to see beautiful landscapes, wonders of nature and authentic village life.

We decide to complete the loop in 3 days, which means we cannot lazy around too much (the whole loop is around 400 km long). The first night we stay in a little village close to the famous Konglor Cave. We opt for a homestay, as we are curious to see how people live here. We pick a house that looks nice, walk in and ask if we can stay for the night. The family that lives here offers us to sleep on a big bed that is standing in the middle of the “living room”, aka no wall nor door to the outside, we’re just hanging 4m over the ground with a roof above our heads. Our hosts cook dinner for us but don’t join us. They rather look at us eating, or switch on the TV to watch some dramatic Laotian soap operas. As it get colder we all snuggle together under a thick blanket and keep watching TV until we fall asleep. It’s actually only 8:30 pm, but village life starts early!

The second day we get up early  to visit the impressive Konglor Cave. We get there at 7:30 am and are alone with a French couple! To visit the cave you need to get a boat driver who takes you through the 7 km-long pitch black river tunnel! The first time it was explored, villagers took over four days to cross it (imagine, without electric torches…).
We stop occasionally to either look at some cool stalagmites or to lift up the boat in the shallow water. All in all, an awesome experience, especially considering that we were alone in this massive cave.

After the cave we get on our motorbike again and cruise through the countryside. The temperature suddenly drops from 30 to 15°C. Even with a pullover and jacket we freeze and are happy to get a warm noodle soup for lunch. We also look forward to the bonfire and BBQ evening that we had already booked beforehand. We will not be disappointed. Before arriving at the guesthouse though, we find something fascinating on the way: thousands of dead tree trunks sticking out of dozens of small lakes we drive by. We learn that it is the devastating result of a dam construction nearby, but the area nevertheless remains highly photogenic.

On the third day we drive on a road has been recently renovated and we have fun riding through all the serpentines, feeling like a real bikers (except that we’re on a tiny scooter!).
We stop at some smaller caves that you can explore by yourself. Once again we feel like Indiana Jones looking for some hidden relics, just that instead, it’s beautiful hidden lakes that we find after some climbing, digging and jumping.

Back in Thakhek after our 3-day expedition, we are happy that everything went really well (especially no accident, as we saw quite a few people with arms & legs wrapped in bandages). However, just 200 meters before we reach our hostel, a police officer steps on the road and whistles, obviously asking us to pull over. We’ve heard about the police stopping you and fining you for just any reason they can imagine. So Rebekka turns her head away, passes right next to the cop and drives away as fast as she can! After a hundred meters we hear some whistles again, and one officer is chasing us on his motorbike. As Rebekka doesn’t appear to be stopping, he blocks our path and forces us to pull over. We play dumb but give him our driving licence. He brings us to the police station

28428985_201835357240176_8982546357210316800_n(1).jpgwhere another officer pretends going through the pages of our international licence, and says we’re not authorized to drive a motorbike and fines us 10€. We argue with him for half an hour, asking for his superior, for legal basis, etc. Of course it is useless. Every other minute, the policemen stop another tourist that pays and goes away. It’s a game to them, and they don’t hide their grinning each time another tourist appears. After some shouting and death stares, we give up and pay to get our licence back.

We have some time to kill before taking our next night bus, so we head to the market and on the way are spontaneously invited to join a group of ladies celebrating in front of their house (we didn’t really get why, but probably a newborn baby). They “force” us to chug some beers while one woman generously gropes Rebekka’s breasts and laughs hysterically… We couldn’t have experienced more contrast in one single day!

 

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