Hard to believe that it has been since Luang Prabang that I wrote last. I kept telling everyone I was going to write when I got back to Italy. As soon as I got back I got a job working at a friend’s custom motorcycle shop. When I wasn’t working I was either battling Italian bureaurocracy or preparing for our next motorcycle trip (which we have just returned from).
I have decided that the best way to catch up is just to post a ton of pictures with long captions. I am going to start before we arrived in Southeast Asia with some pictures of Japan
In Tokyo we Stayed in Asakusa, one of the older parts of the City.
Tokyo really exemplifies the Japanese ability to integrate the traditional withthe modern.
We had a Japan Rail pass which we used to take the Shinkansen (known to the west as the Bullet Train) up to Hokaido. We slept and ate in this awesome little ski lodge in Niseko. Every night they organized a trip to a different Onsen (hotspring). It snowed like crazy while we were there but was considered and overall light snow year.
We also spent a couple of days in a traditional Ryokan near Nagano and went skiing on the Olympic Ski slopes…
And went to see the monkeys that live near a hotspring near Utuoshi. But, after four months in the Antarctic winter in Japan got old quickly…
And we welcomed the heat and chaos of Southeast Asia. We flew into Bangkok but only spent enough time there to organize our train tickets and visa for Laos. In a couple of days we were in the capitol of Vientianne.
Though I failed to mention this to most of my family for fear of worrying them, we travelled by motorcycle. We rented a Honda XR 250 Baja; a super bike for the terrain. A buit uncomfortable on the cheeks but we never felt a lack of power. Since lodging and food is so cheap, there is never a need to carry camping gear which, in addition to the wife, can make a small bike like the Baja a bit hard to manage.
There are many nice roads being build by the Chinese in Laos at the moment but the majority of the roads are still in pretty rough shape.
Even some of the larger towns have only dirt roads in them.
Traffic is a relative rarity but the traffic that there is tends to be either very small (motorcycle) or very large (truck). What I found to be more dangerous than other motor traffic was livestock and people in the roads. The main thoroughfares are lined for miles and miles by little villages and there are always dogs, chickens, pigs, cows, and water buffalo crossing the roadway in apparent oblivion to motorists. Even the villagers don’t seem to consider motor traffic too much of a threat and are often seen lounging in the middle of the road or laying out stuff to dry on the asphalt.
Having the motorcycle gave us a level of freedom that backpackers simply cannot obtain on public forms of transportation. We were able to get to places where there was no public transport like this hot spring. Having the bike really allowed us to see a great deal of the wilder parts of Laos in a short amount of time with a minimum of logistical nightmares.
But like many parts of SE Asia, it lived for the most part of the last century under the bomb. This stupa in Luang Numtha was toppled during the Indochin wars. Laos became the most bombed country in the history of the world during the Vietman Era when the US waged the “secret war” against the Pathet Lao. There still remains tons of unexploded ordinance all over the countryside which makes exploration of places off established paths unadvisable. So for the most part we stuck to the main roads.
It was the hot, dry, smokey season in Laos while we were there as you can see from this picture of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang.
And this one of the Nam La.
Desipte a nightmareish modern history, the Lao (like the Thai) are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Unfortunately, I usually take mostly land scape shots (like this one in Vang Vieng) and don’t have many pictures of the village life in Laos.
The rainy season finally arrived during the last two days of our trip. We had to scurry around the markets looking for rain gear. We had a couple of days of very cold and wet riding but we made it back to Vientianne and finally Bangkok in time for the annual water festival Song Kran where people throw water at each other in the streets.
But the middle of April we were back in Italy…But I’ll save that story for another chapter.
Tags: NZ & Asia 2007, Travel in Between