"The time to relax is when you don't have time for it..." - Jim Goodwin
|(Having breakfast by the waterfront)|
Date: 20 December 2014 (Saturday)
Route: Veng Vieng - Vientiane - Udon Thani
Distance: 247 km
Hotel: Pruksasin Hotel
We had breakfast at the hotel cafe by the riverside while watching the hustle bustle of activities of the morning.
|(The morning briefing and a group photo)|
|(Riding out of Vang Vieng)|
|(Beautiful formation of clouds in the sky)|
|(Passing a lone cyclist heading the same way)|
After the usual morning briefing and reciting of prayers the gang started riding around 09:05 heading towards Vientiane using the Route 13. After half an hour of riding on the trunk road we stopped at the fish market by the lake. Here the locals sold salted fishes, assorted ikan pekasam, belacan and some other local delicacies.
|(Stopping at the fish market by the lake)|
|(Assorted dried fishes, the local delicacies)|
|(The Nam Ngum Lake)|
Another half an hour of riding we stopped for refueling and toilet break. The road is not as winding as before but the weather was still chilly. The road conditions were better but some stretches are still unpaved and some are under perpetual road constructions. We also stopped at Hinheup Bridge built with cooperation from the Japanese Government and had some photo opportunities on the bridge.
|(Waiting in a queue to fill up petrol)|
|(Off-roading again for a short distance)|
|(Hinheup Bridge with assistance from Japan)|
|(A Laos-Japan cooperation)|
|(Ready to ride to Vientiane)|
|(A typical Lao house)|
Fifty kilometers before Vientiane we passed a Cultural Village but we decided to ride on although it was part of the itinerary to visit the village. The group arrived in Vientiane around 12:45 after thronging heavy traffic when entering the town center. Vientiane is the capital of Laos, situated by the Mekong River with a relaxed, sleepy atmosphere.
|(Another 83 km to the capital city)|
|(Stuck in the traffic jam once we enter the city)|
Our first stop was at the large statue of King Anouvong, the last King of the Lao Kingdom of Vientiane situated at the center of Chao Anouvong Park by the Mekong River to take some photos.
We then we rode to the Victory Gate also known as Patuxai, a local rendition of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe.
|(By the Mekong River)|
|(The imposing statue of the King)|
|(The iconic Victory Gate of Vientiane)|
While having our group photo taken in front of the Victory Gate, a Laos Police Officer approached the group and requested all photos taken with the banner to be deleted as it is not allowed to place the Laos Flag at the back of the Victory Arch. The policemen also confiscated our banner but we managed to get it back after a lengthy negotiation by our guide and the police escort.
|(Our second time here)|
|(A group photo at the Victory Gate)|
|(The Golden Stupa in the middle of the city)|
After the incidence we passed by the Stupa and had a brief photo session. By noon we rode out of Vientiane towards the Laos border. At the border, although we have our guide to assist in group clearance, we still need to queue at the counter. We were charged B750 for bike, rider and pillion and this time we crossed the Friendship Bridge into Nongkai Thailand border without any escort.
|(The entrance to the Friendship Bridge)|
|(Getting our documents ready to depart Laos)|
At the Thailand border, although crowded, the border clearance was smooth and simpler. We needed to submit our passports and arrival white card and pay B200 per person. We also needed to submit the completed vehicle custom/conveyance declaration form to the Custom counter. A copy is kept and to be submitted when we exit Thailand later.
|(Riding the Friendship Bridge, un-escorted)|
|(The crowd at the Thailand border)|
|(Crossing Thailand border with ease)|
We stopped for refueling and had a light lunch of chicken pie from 7-eleven as it was already late afternoon. We arrived Udon Thani around 16:20 and rode straight to the Muslim Restaurant next to the Masjid Quwatil-Islam. While some ordered food, the rest of us went to perform our prayers at the mosque. Udon Thani is the fourth largest city in Thailand.
|(Performing our prayers at Quwatul-Islam Mosque)|
|(Riding into Udon Thani at night)|
|(Arriving at Pruksasin Hotel)|
Tonight we checked-in Pruksasin Hotel. After a short rest we walked to the night market selling products catered mostly to the locals. There was a large crowd watching the football game between Thailand against Malaysia on a big screen. By the sound of the loud happy cheers of the crowd, we already knew that Malaysian team was losing the game.