Viang Xai was a nice little town in Laos. There isn't much to this town besides a little lake with a stilted guesthouse on it. It was a pretty place to stop for a couple of days while I got a few thinks on my bike taken care of.
My ride from Mai Chau started out bad, and it only got worse from there. After about 30 minutes on the road, I took a wrong turn and ended up going about an hour out of my way.
For some reason I turned at this river and didn't realize that I was on the wrong road for about 30-45 minutes. Then I had to turn around and backtrack the entire way to get back onto my route. I'd like to blame this on Google, but I'm pretty sure I just made a wrong turn and didn't check my GPS frequently enough.
There were some pretty landscapes to see, but I was really feeling like I was running late. So it was hard to enjoy the ride.
But what really made it hard to enjoy the ride was construction. There were miles and miles and miles of construction and unpaved roads. The day was hot and dry and the dirt road in some parts was this super fine, soft dirt that the tires would sink into. My bike fell over a couple of times while riding on it.
There were several areas where all traffic was stopped and they would let groups through every now and then. There were also parts where you just drove through the construction and tried to avoid the tractors and other heavy equipment. It was exhausting.
For lunch I had some chips with 20% more Tang, so that was nice. But the trip was rough and my bike kept sounding worse and worse for every mile that I drove. I thought that for sure I was going to have to abandon the bike and take a taxi into Laos. I kept hoping and praying that the bike would make it to the border. I figured there would be taxis on the other side.
Somehow the bike made it to the border and the customs fee for bringing the bike into Laos wasn't too much. I want to say it was about $20-$40. Laos does a visa on arrival and the whole process went fairly quickly. I did have to wait for a little while and I saw this moth while I was waiting.
One thing that was weird is a few minutes after riding into Laos, the sky suddenly turned orange and the sky was smoky. Apparently it was burning season and they were definitely burning. It was weird that somehow the smoke seemed to stay on the Laos side. It felt kind of ominous. I really wanted to be in Vietnam, and the smoke in Laos made me wish I was still in Vietnam.
After a super long, rough day of riding, I arrived at Viang Xai. The guesthouse was pretty awesome. My room was one of the doors in the photo above. Even though you can't feel that you're over the water, there's a psychological effect of being over the water that I liked.
When I checked in and went to my room to wash off the dust, I saw that there was one other person in the dining room area having a beer. After some time getting cleaned up, I went out to have a beer.
The other guy was still out there and we started talking. He said that he'd made the same trip on the day before and knew how exhausted I was. His trip was worse though because he went to the border crossing that doesn't allow scooters to cross and he had to drive all the way down to this other crossing. He was on a trip trying to drive to India.
As we talked, I mentioned that my scooter was almost dead. "Oh man! Don't worry about it. There's an awesome mechanic down the street. He's a Vietnamese guy who can fix anything! I'll take you to him tomorrow." We also talked about a luggage rack and he said he knew a welder who could make a rack for me. How did this guy know everyone after only 1 day in town?
The guy was a major breath of fresh air. He was a French guy and he had the best attitude ever. I have a tendency to complain and think about negative things. This guy really helped me put the trip into perspective and to appreciate how blessed I was to be on the trip.
The next day I met up with the French guy and he showed me some of the town.
He took me to the mechanic and they had to take apart the whole engine. The part that needed to be replaced wasn't too expensive. I think the repairs were about $75-$90. I was just excited that the mechanic knew exactly what was wrong and had the replacement part. I think it was some sort of gasket or something to do with the pistons. It took most of the day to fix it, but he did an amazing job!
I was also taken to a welder and they created this luggage rack for me out of metal fence pole and some square pieces. It was like a whole different ride with those extra few inches of space! It was like I'd been upgraded to a limousine or something! It made such a huge difference to my comfort on the bike.
The French guy left a day before I did. I had to wait for my bike to be repaired. We exchanged emails and I get an occasional email from him about a book that he wrote. If I remember correctly, he didn't make it all the way to India. I think he had problems getting his bike into Cambodia or Thailand.
When I got my bike back, it ran better that it ever had. I had more power and less noise. It was like a brand new bike! And the extra space on the seat was like a dream. I left Viang Xai with a renewed appreciation for the struggles and joys that I was experiencing on the trip and my bike got some major upgrades. My stop in Viang Xai was great in many ways!
I still had a few more stops before Vientiane. There was a big burning country that I had to drive through for my new Vietnamese visa. I hope you'll join me for the next post!