Sunday, November 29, 2015
Tat lo, Salavan, Laos
After our first month in Sri Lanka we flew to Bangkok to spend five days dipping into western luxury: of course sushi and other nice foods and drinks, daily massages and for the first time to a 4D cinema, which means moving chairs, light flashes, wind (from the headrest of the chair and the front), smell, water(spray) and even punches in the back during fights. The movie we saw was the latest mission impossible, resulting in a hilarious roller-coaster ride. We also met up with an old colleague of Carolina and did some muay thai box training and muay thai yoga before we continued to Cambodia.

We fly to Phnom Penh to start a biking adventure. We have done a bit of research and we made a rough plan to bike through Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam in around five weeks. Of course we need a bike first, and we know that there is a Giant bike shop in Phnom Penh. We are lucky, the shop just started discounting and they have nice hybrid bike perfectly suited for our needs, and all the other accessories we need. We arrange to ship our big kite bag including some excess luggage to Ho Chi Minh, and ready we are. We start by taking the fast ferry to Siem Reap, the starting point to see the Angkor Wat ruins. Due to the beauty and popularity of Angkor, Siem Reap has grown to a sizable tourist town with a large selection of affordable boutique hotels and excellent restaurants. We stay at one of these excellent accommodations with a pool, ideal to cool off after a day walking around the ruins in the sweltering heat. We stay an extra day to recover from a cold (yeah, even in 30+ weather its possible, it must be from moving in-and-out of AC rooms). The ruins are very impressive, what a kingdom this must have been, but it also feels a bit like Disney land in the popular temples of Angkor Wat and Angkor Tom, swamped with big Chinese tourist groups crawling over each other taking selfies. But we have bikes and through secondary roads we move to the outward temple complexes away from the tourist crowds, finally giving us a bit of the Indiana Jones exploration feeling. On our last day we witness the sunrise over Angkor Wat, an unforgettable experience, the early light really magnifies this magic place. 
Its time to really start cycling. Our route goes from here to the Mekong river, and then up north into Laos. This is through northern Cambodia, and as we discover the definition of rural. Most villages we pass are one street affairs with no electricity and water from pumps.The houses are made of the local hardwood, and are elevated on poles (for floodings, animals and to create a shady spot to rest). Along the road is a circus of travelling salesman: the ice-truck selling big lumps of ice for the cool boxes, these pipi langkous caravans completely loaded with household goods, scooters with food items that honk there horn to notify their arrival. It is great to observe, and the kids beside the road are wonderful, always waving and cheering there few English words, "Hello",  "Bye-Bye", or "Falang" (foreigner) and "Sabaydee" (Hello in Lao). The contrast is nicely illustrated by the pictures of our accommodation in Siem Reap (with pool) and the first guesthouse the day after, with standing toilet which also doubles as the shower and has not been cleaned for ages. On the positive side: the costs are $5, and free condoms are provided. Because of the lack of reasonable guesthouses on this stretch, we need to cover 400 km in three days, with the second day a nice 175 km. Even though we start early (at 6 am, sunrise), the heat is unavoidable and becomes brutal around midday. Carolina is already on a van to the next town while I'm sweating along. Although I enjoy the challenge, it is a bit too ambitious for my recovering body and the cold returns. Luckily we are not far from paradise, the 4000 islands in the Mekong delta, just across the border in Laos.

We enjoy two rest days on lazy Don Det: cooling off in the pool, some sunset viewing with a Lao beer, a trip to the waterfall and spotting the rare Irrawaddy dolphins. Cambodia was already laid back, but this even turns it up a notch. For Lao people it is important to have a job that satisfies, even if it means lower wages, and they really live in the moment. This might sometimes result in a slightly sloppy service in a restaurant, but it never becomes stressful, and it helps us to unwind as well. The next three days of cycling in Laos are better manageable stretches of around 100 km, although there is a decent climb to the Bolaven plateau, around 1300 meters high. The temperature also drops, the Lao find it f*cking freezing and walk around with beanies, but for us it is quite agreeably with night temperatures of around 20 degrees.The french started growing coffee in this area about 100 years ago, so we are able to enjoy some very decent 'bakkies pleur'. And of course the downhill of this plateau was a very fast day, Carolina's favorite day. We arrive at Tat Lo, the waterfalls. We have another rest day to explore the area, visit the falls and see the elephants take a bath. This is also a wonderfully relaxed place, with nice bungalows along the river and easy dips in the refreshing water. The place we stay at is run by two french guys, so we can enjoy baguettes, bonne-maman jam, saucisson, blue cheese and Belgium beers. A nice break, although we really love the Lao noodles soups, even in the morning with meatballs.

Tomorrow we start cycling again, further up north to eventually reach Luang-prabang.  


Marjan Derksen

Wat ziet het er weer uitdagend mooi allemaal uit! Echt geweldig Frans en Caroline! Geniet er lekker van en als jullie weer terug zijn hoop ik jullie ook eens te verwelkomen met lekkere originele nederlandse gerechten in my fusion cooking studio! Wat leuk om te zien dat het zo goed met jullie gaat! xxxmarjan

Nog geen tijd gehad voor nieuwe verhalen, gisteren St NIC bij Reinier en Els, was heel gezellig, vandaag naar Willem, gekeken naar de sloop werkzaamheden volgende week nieuwe badkamer, daarna naar Hans en Elise Huysen in Moordrecht, vanavond net als Chris en Melanie, Willem en Simone Kerstboom optuigen,hij staat komplot met Kersstal en Stadje in de sneeuw met trein. Liefs horen graag weer even