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Azub Twin World Tour IV: Vietnam; Laos

Here are some news about our recumbent tandem ride around the world. In summary, we left Hanoi (Vietnam) end of november 2013 to reach Phnon Penh (Cambodia) 7 weeks later. We got visits on the way, nice rides in the Lao mountains, a karaoke new year’s eve and an unfortunate event that changed a bit our plan for the future.

Few figures: 7500km on the bike, 8 months on the road, 12 countries, 953 678 smiles-waves-hellos-sabaïdi, and a lot of fun.

We exited Hanoï the 28th of november, a bit earlier than planed. Hanoï could be considered as a nice city, but it is really noisy and packed. A few days there were enough and we were eager to hit the road to cross to Laos. The road to exit Hanoï looks like the ones to get into it. 6 lanes, a lot of machines with or without engines, huge trucks. The kind of road that you like to leave as soon as possible even if not really dangerous.DSCN7126 (800x600)

20km outside Hanoï, the road gets smaller and it starts to be a nice ride toward the beginning of what will be a mountainous path to Laos. DSCN7129 (800x600)

We have seen a lot of rice paddies waiting for the next crop seasons. Temperature is quite confortable end of november and we pile up kilometers easily. That would be the last stage before long that our average speed reaches around 20-22km/h.DSCN7177 (800x600)With rice paddies, usually come water buffalos. The younger are always kind of shy. They tend to be quite stupid when passing by trying to run off in any direction, sometime toward the danger…DSCN7190 (800x600)End of day in a small town of Hoa binh, peacefull and quite town. Very nice to exit busy towns.
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On the way, we met squeleton man, alias Bill. The guy took a few months holidays and just started to ride around south east Asia. Quite impressed by our bike, we will get to town together and share a beer a box of beers (he is english afterall…).
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A view from the guesthouse, the light is quite nice compare to the misty clouds that can be seen on the coast.
DSCN7148 (800x600)The next few days will be very spectaculars. We got into the vietanmese mountains. Scenary is beautiful, legs were sore at the end of the day.

DSCN7195 (800x600)That’s the point that was supposed to be the highest of the day… It ended up that our altimeters was completely out, and we got a few more hundreds to climb up.DSCN7199 (800x600)At the top, a good downhill to reach the valley and more rice paddies, more water buffalos. Life of a water buffalo seems to be quite easy by the way (before it is chopped down to make soup).DSCN7242 (800x600)

A few wooden bridges lay there and you can wonder how come no one goes through the rotten planks.DSCN7277 (800x600)Others parts are under renovations for what seems to be ages. At the end of the day, no need to have sun screen, the dust layer is enough to protect you against the sun.DSCN7303 (800x600)Asia like you would think of it back in Europe:
DSCN7346 (800x600)When there is no rotten wooden bridge, vietnameses manage with bamboo rafts. Mac Gyver would be proud of them.DSCN7354 (800x600)

In a small town, if you let an Azub Twin for a few minutes, all the villagers gather around to check it out.DSCN7343 (800x600)Rice paddies, mountains, a small road: a few days of our life in vietnam mountain.

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Dirt roads can be easily messy whenever some water fall down. That made a huge traffic jam in one of the most remote road of vietnam…

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Schoolgirls on their way to study. They have sometime to ride for 10km on quite hilly roads to get to school. Usually, on some rusty single speed old bikes.
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The 4th of november, we reached the Laotian border at the Nameo checkpoint. Crossing is quite easy as it is possible to get a visa on arrival in less than an hour. Laos is our 11th country !DSCN7438 (800x600)Beginning of Laos is quite similar to Vietnam. We contacted their electrical company to get rid of the electrical wiring on all our pictures. No answer to date yet.
DSCN7446 (800x600)We met our first 10 to 18% climb up roads. Our average speed dropped to 8-11km/h. Meaning that a 80km stage took around 8 hours…DSCN7451 (800x600)During downhill, the breaks overheat and we had to cool them down with whatever water we could found to be able to keep going safely.DSCN7456 (800x600)Laos is a bit more dry in the mountain during december.DSCN7464 (800x600)Free cattle are walking freely everywhere to some unknown destinations. No clue how the owner can gather them at the end of the week.DSCN7480 (800x600)

Since Laos, we are quite happy to get in budget guesthouse every night. No need to struggle to find a place to camp, and on top of that, nights get really cold in the moutains: 0°C.
DSCN7505 (800x600)For the past 6 months, I was annoyed by my Kamelback pipe. I used to place it at the top of the ventisit, but it jumped 5 times a day, usually not at the best time. So I came up with a fantastic piece of engineery.
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The Laotien mountain villages are quite poor. It is not unusual to see small kids keeping away the animals from drying rice.DSCN7523 (800x600)Guesthouses are not always easy to find because villages are sometimes 100km distants from one anothers. At our average speed, 100km means 10h riding which is not really holiday anymore. So instead of guesthouses, villagers can propose you a room for the night.
DSCN7535 (800x600)Style in Laos is a bit far away from european standards. But when it is cold, who really care? DSCN7565 (800x600)

Drying our clothes in a small room in the middle of nowhere after a really difficult day. DSCN7605 (800x600)The road quality is quite ok, the only danger is when you cross a truck right in the middle of a virage. They used to honk way in advance because once in the virage, they can’t stop without risking to put them on the side. We could be so slow that we just have time to get enough space to let them pass. DSCN7573 (800x600)Our request to supress the electrical wiring from the landscape did not reached destination yet…DSCN7588 (800x600)After 10 days of really high mountains, with 1000 to 2000m climbing up everyday, we are quite happy to be back in the plain.  DSCN7620 (800x600)

It is not actually a plain but more a plateau because we are still at 800m high but our road profil starts to be flatter.DSCN7630 (800x600)DSCN7633 (800x600)In Phonsavan, 6:00 am, Manue is quite happy to start her day. It is supposed to be a “resting day” with a 50km stage, no big hills.

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We met Melissa on the road that day. She started from Barcelona 3 months ago and rode for 8 500km… Quite ashamed of our just 7000km in 7 months, we exchange a bit of information for the road to come. She told to not miss the next village otherwise there is nowhere to sleep for the next 100km.DSCN7668 (800x600)Keeping that in mind, we continued and got some very long downhill. Too long. We missed the village with the last sleeping option for miles.DSCN7707 (800x600)Realising that, we called the power rangers to support us in the climbing up of the next few slopes. Those kids were completely amazing. With heir single speed rusty bikes, they raced with us for 15kms before giving up in a very very steep one.   DSCN7725 (800x600)The last picture of the day. After that, we just tried to pedal quick enough to reach the next town (Phou koun) before night. Figure of the day: 130km, +2000m, 11hours rides. We had our shortest evening ever: arrived at 6:30pm in town, sleeping at 7:00pm.
DSCN7742 (800x600)After that, anyone that is saying that a recumbent bike or recumbent tandem is not able to cross mountain, I am ready to confront him on a race through lao mountains…

Phou koun was the last big mountain stage. Two days later, we reached Vang Vieng, sort of Cancun-like town full of parties, bars, and restaurants ! Quite dephasing when we come from the remote countryside but with a really nice view.

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For Christmas, we got some familly coming over to Vientiane. A great meal of foie-gras, cheese and saucisson topped by Champagne. DSCN7814 (800x600)We took a few days of legs resting. Planned: temple visit,DSCN7878 (800x600)Mekong river cruise at sunset,DSCN7957 (800x600)And a motorcycle loop in the north visiting luang prabang.DSCN8129 (800x600)Manue, directly from the Dakar rally race, the Laos small ferry boat.
DSCN8244 (800x600)1st of January, time for serious business. We have 1 450km to ride in 18 days to reach Phnom Penh in Cambodia to welcome Stephane’s mum. Profil is super flat because we will ride along what is known by cyclo tourists as the Mekong-Express.

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The 1st january evening, Laos people were still partying for new year’s eve in a street karaoke mode. We got invited by dozens of famillies and ended up drinking beers with ice cube in some karaoke party, no one speaking english but every one making sure the phalangs’s glasses were never empty! (phalang = westerner)

DSCN8322 (800x600)Remake from “lady and the tramp” with a chineese noodle soup.DSCN8354 (800x600)

Mekong river is really beautiful at sunset. Just at the other side of the river is Thailand. DSCN8377 (800x600)

We did ride 400km in five days, so right at the good speed average to reach Phnom Penh in time. But we got a very bad surprise on the last days: Stéphane got some huge pain in the achille’s tendon. Verdict from the hospital nearby: no more riding for weeks. If no rest, there is a risk of complete rupture of the tendon necessiting an evacuation to a more developped country for surgery….DSCN8358 (800x600)That change quite a lot our plans (even if we don’t really have a plan). After a week wondering how to go forward with our trip without risking deeper health problem, we decided to continue by public transport until Bangkok. That is not going to be always very funny, but that seems to be the price to pay to be able to ride again starting from mid-February.

Manue has taken the lead on the bike while Stephane stay idle at the back. As it is really not easy to carry on with a huge dead weight, only short distance can be done this way. And that is when being is Asia smooth a lot things. We did have to learn how to take a Tuk-Tuk with a 3,5m long tandem:

DSCN8671 (800x600)DSCN8672 (800x600)Back to dismantle the bike into pieces,DSCN8682 (800x600)

Put the bike in a low bunkers bus,DSC04360 (800x450)Or set the tandem between cabages and other unidentified goods,DSCN8690 (800x600)Before puting it back on a tuk-tuk after a 15h bus ride through Cambodia. DSCN8696 (800x600)

We can now assess that the Twin is quite public transportation proof whatever the country. It is not always easy, but managable. And seeing the face of a tuk tuk driver when looking at the bike has really no price :).

We are now in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and we will take 3 weeks to reach Bangkok “on foot”. After a break in bangkok, the plan is to continue riding south untill Bali then reach Australia.

By the way, if you readers have any plan to get from Bali to Australia without taking a flight, we are open to almost any suggestion. After a lot of research, we have no idea how we could do that yet…

Video bonus 1 : ride in Vietnam  :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PHozJ1kEMDs

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHozJ1kEMDs&w=640&h=360]

Video bonus 2: ride in Laos :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=C7HY7Jcpv9U

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7HY7Jcpv9U&w=640&h=360]

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One Response to “Azub Twin World Tour IV: Vietnam; Laos”

  1. Josh says:

    We saw you on road near ferry pier to Koh Lanta island in Thailand. Hope to see Thailand part here

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