Need a ride to the waterfall? Rent a bike. Want to explore the islands? Rent a bike. Want to remember why you love the countryside? Rent a bike.
Riding bikes in San Francisco was the beginning of our love/hate relationship with biking. The stark contrast between each ride was so intense. Leave in the morning for work sun shining, ride home in bitter cold with the wind almost knocking you off, riding over the beautiful Golden Gate vs. fighting commuters but even worse buses on Market street and then there are the hills! But Hey, its all part of the adventure.
When gearing up (pun unintended but awesome) to visit Laos I don’t think either of us knew the extent of how bicycling would re enter our lives. One of the first people we met after crossing the border had ridden all the way from the UK on a sweet tandem that had one recumbent seat in front and one normal seat in the back. We were both inspired and decided that we would try to bike any opportunity that arises.
A big change from Luang Prabang, with the average age 20 years younger and the main activity being drunken tubing down the river we knew we needed to put some physically active activities on the agenda. The blue lagoon is a popular swimming hole and cave about 7km outside of town once you pass over one of the town bridges; the walking bridge is free but motorbikes avoiding the toll bridge make it unpleasant at times. We were lucky enough to stay at Maylyn Guesthouse right on the water and surrounded by beautiful gardens. After we splurged for the mountian bikes, $3.50 vs $1.50. We were off on by far the roughest road conditions we had yet to see, passing looming woman, fraudulent blue lagoon signs and other struggling cyclist we finally made it to the swimming hole. While in the cave I spent some time meditating and Gil built a rock statue that ending up look like a heart, what a romantic! We ended our ride at sunset with hot air balloons filling the sky.
Si Phan Don (4000 Thousand Islands)
Last but not least we arrived at Si Phan Don, a collection of islands at the southern end of Laos on the cambodian border in the middle of the Mekong, where few cars are present and everything slows down a few more notches(for Laos thats REALLY SLOW). Here we were able to wander around 2 quaint islands that were connected by a small bridge that also happen to have one of the most spectacular views of the sunset. Our first day of riding we heading to one of the largest Mekong river waterfalls which wasn’t as colorful as previous waterfalls but feature wild rapids and gave us an opportunity to have a mini photo shoot.
Besides ride bikes while here we drank lots of beer, were too scared to order a "happy" shake, relaxed and fell out of hammocks, Jess got attacked(gently) by a chained monkey and took a boat tour to see the pink river dolphins.
I had read this blog post about a couple that decided to avoid the crowds and smoggy Tuk-Tuks and mountain bike to Kuang Si waterfall approx 33km outside of Luang Prabang. Gil told me I was crazy, I told him we can do anything. The weather was mild and after sitting on a boat for two days we both needed to expel our built up energy. After getting used to the bumpy road and completing our first gradual but terribly long uphill we soared down the otherside of the hill smiling and feeling free! Nothing but farm land, rolling hills and giggling children crossed our path. Not to mention the pot of gold(or in this case waterfall) at the end of the rainbow.
One of my least favorite places we have visited while traveling, I only left the hotel for 2 things in the 24 hours we had in Vientene, for eating and biking. Sadly this town had some of the worst bikes we've rented and the most treacherous and life threatening biking conditions. After about 35 minutes of dodging cars and looking for the local attractions that were “must sees” I rode us as quickly as possible to the river to get a little fresh air and checkout Thailand from afar.