A Bicycle Ride Through Laos
Four months earlier on my new trek mountain bike, I rode from Pattaya to Trad stopping off at the Koh Samet ferry village and Chantaburi along the way. My knees felt like they were going to explode by the time I arrived at Trad; not to mention a really
sore back, arse, and wrists. The two months of gym workouts and concentrated leg exercises apparently hadn't helped for that ride. Later on I was to learn the importance of a correctly set up bicycle.
Anyway, my 46th birthday had arrived and it was visa run time to Vientiane. I had spent the previous couple of weeks bragging to friends that I was going to ride my bike through Laos from the south up to the capital and simultaneously trying
to convince myself that I could do it. In advance preparation I bought a comfy saddle with gel inserts, a spare tube, puncture kit, an Allen key set, a rear pack rack, a set of cheap panniers and a small cycle computer for calculating distances.
I also bought two drink holders bringing the total up to four bottle holders on board. Wow; now I was the proud owner of a bicycle capable of going pretty well anywhere. It was also worth the price of a reasonable Thai motorbike! A friend from
Australia also suggested that I buy a pair of cycle shorts and gloves. I might mention that when I tried the cycle shorts on at the shop they looked damn ridiculous and Borat would have been proud to wear them to a Kazakhstan wedding! They must
be worn nice and tight the kind lady in the shop informed me. Ok, I bought them, but really I don't want people to know if I'm circumcised or not while fully clothed.
My original plan was to take an overnight bus from the Pattaya nua bus terminal up to the Mukdahan border crossing into Savanakhet and start my ride from there, however the nice person at the bus station ticket office convinced me not to
by trying to charge me 500 baht for the privilege of carrying the bike on the bus. This blatant rip-off annoyed the hell out of me and I very nearly chucked the whole idea in. I was so pissed off. Fortunately on the way home I passed another bus
station on Sukhumvit road and thought I would check out their destinations. Ubon Ratchatani seemed an ideal place to start the ride up to Vientiane, it was not far from the border crossing into the Laos town of Pakse just on the other side of
the Mekong river. So I bought the overnight ticket from the very calm ladyboy who had just finished serving a very angry and hostile German who spoke no English or Thai whatsoever. He even shouted at me to buy the ticket for him! I replied in
my very best mangled German "Ich nein nickt spricken ze deutche" ( I think I learnt that line from faulty towers, or was it a throw back to my German class in early school? I had been dying to use that expression for years! The bus ticket
was reasonably priced and an extra payment of 200 baht was required for the bike to transported to Ubon Ratchatani with me. It seemed much more reasonable than paying 500 baht to the previous parasite.
During the next couple of days before I was to depart on the bus to Ubon Ratchatani, I took the opportunity to finish preparations. The bike was cleaned and serviced by a competent bike shop mechanic, and also I changed from using oil on the chain to
a product called ice wax. The wax worked very well and picked up very little road grime or debris onto the derailleur or drive chain later on in Laos. For my own fuel I made up a mixture of 2 parts oats to one part muesli and mixed it with a packet
up skim milk powder. This ensured a healthy and energy giving breakfast each day of the trip. Also I made up a trail mix of peanuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sultanas for snacking on the road. Just to be sure of things, I also bought
a box of twenty sachets of electrolyte powder, vitamin tablets, fish oil capsules and various other lotions and potions suitable for a hypochondriac such as myself.
The night of the departure arrived. I said goodbye to my great friends who were convinced that I would be back within a week on the plane, and hopped on the bus .Very early at about five thirty am, the bus pulled into the Ubon Ratchitani
bus station. I unloaded the bike and set off into the dawn haze of Isaan.
Nice start. I am surprised more people don't cycle around Thailand as it would be a great way to see the country.