Eric normally hammers out our routes. I trust him, most of the time. We both like big mountains and empty spaces. Neither of us are big city people and we’re fairly indifferent towards most major tourist meccas.
After China, I was up for some easy cycling. Scenic Highway 13, with all its facilities catering towards tourists, sounded perfect. A guesthouse every night. Restaurant meals. A steady stream of fellow cyclists. Some climbs, for sure, but on paved roads with reasonable grades.
“Highway 13?” screeched my husband. “You wanna wimp out on the tourist trail? We can save that for when we’re retired.”
“But the scenery’s great,” I countered. “I’ve seen photos. Everybody raves about highway 13. It’s got to be the most popular cycling route in Southeast Asia”
“Exactly,” he sneered. “I’ve got something much, much better planned for us. The Akka road. We’ll see all sorts of tribal people and there won’t be a single backpacker within a 100 kilometer radius.”
“Yeah, but I’ve had enough suffering for 2014. Let’s just relax for once.”
“That’s what Thailand’s for,” he said with a not-so-subtle note of scorn.
“Anyway it won’t be that tough,” he explained. “There are a few hills and 30 kilometers on a track through the jungle, but it’ll be nothing compared to what we did in China. Come on—where’s your sense of adventure?”
After 8 years together on the road, Eric knew exactly which buttons to push. Appeals to my FOMO generally worked. As did suggestions that I wasn’t up for a challenge.
The road was tough. Extremely tough. I’m not saying I regret it. But in the future, I think I’ll take a more active role in route planning.
Our Laos Route:
Mohan-Boten border crossing from China
Luang Namtha, Muang Sing, Xieng Kok
from Xieng Kok it is a 30 km forest dirt track to Xieng Dao
from Xieng Dao to Huay Xai via Pha Oudom it’s a tough section were only the last 30 km are paved
from Huay to Pakbeng it’s also very tough section with only a few kms of pavement here and there.
from Pakbeng to Sainyabuli it’s all paved but with some very steep hills
Sainyabuli to Paklai on the Mekong is a relatively easy paved stretch
from there a mountain road (steep grades) took us to the Mekong again at Sanakhan
then we followed the Mekong to Vientiane (the first 30 km were unpaved and rather challenging also with ups and downs)