Laos, Thakhek

The Loop

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I'm going slowly... slowly down the road

As recommended by the many I rent a motorbike and go on the loop around Thakek 🙂 I don’t meet many people on the way east. And being who I am it’s not enough to go the traditional route. Non. Kimo doit essayer le graaand loop. What a fool I am sometimes. A friend said it’s possible to actually go around the lake and even though I normally don’t listen to other tourists this one seemed trustworthy. Or maybe only like minded… and because of this creditworthy enough to give it a try.

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I go like 40 km/h average. But as I go east and east I cannot find a good road to go north around the big lake with the many dams. I ask some people at the petrol station and at houses on the roadside. Some don’t know some say it’s not possible to go that way.

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Here I decide to u-turn... 50km to the Vietnamese border... I go back to the traditional route after trying out two dirt roads, both leading to villages and dense forest

I have to accept that I have GPS and also a quite a detailed map at hand but still there seems to be no proper way to pass the lake with dams (Nam Theun 2 alone produces about 6000GW/year, most of it exported to Thailand) on the east side – well maybe with an dirt bike, yes – and drive through Nakai Nam National Park. Since I am on my own and only equipped with a scooter I don’t do it and accept the fact that today I go 100 km in vain and remember the fact that the map is not the territory. Right said RAW.

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Slash-and-burn-slash-and-burn

The first time I come across the construction of dams is in fact when I intend to take a boat from Nong Kiaw to Luang Prabang. According to Lara at Kajsiab project (Huayxai, Laos) it was possible for more than a decade. When I finally get there a week or so later I am informed that now too many dams render the passage by boat impossible. Which means I take a bus from Nong Kiaw to Luang Prabang.

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My life as leisure monk is put in intermission. New life springs forth as a wandering wondering dharma bum about to hike PhouSi mountain in the distance.

At present I am going the loop with a scooter and I see lots of trees and thickets cut and burnt down to get (more or less) fertile land. To produce crops or to let cattle graze there? On short term people have sustenance. In the long run, though, deforestation and slash-and-burn method will lead to desertification and erosion and in the process to droughts and floods. Anyway, thoughting is provoked, stirred up. Me no care. Is not my mind. Is nature’s way.

I go to the Nam Theun 2 Visitor Center and help someone translate an English letter about tax declaration to the Ministry of Finance. It’s amazing what happens if you talk to people. Opening up all these opportunities to help.

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The next day I start off with the same group. We pass several towns wave to children on the way. Sabai dee sabai dee, indeed. In the afternoon we reach Baan Nahin. I decide to join another group. We go to Nam Sanam Waterfall together. Like the group i joined the previous day, they happen to be French as well. Nice. c’est bon faire une randonnée pratiquant cette langue mélodieuse.

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The next day I join a different group. Like the group i joined the previous day, they happen to be French as well. Nice. Et bon voyage pratiquant cette langue mélodieuse. We go to Nam Sanam Waterfall together.

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At around 5 pm we decide it’s a good time to return. The guy at the entrance wants some more money. Reason is unclear. I think he means it’s for taking care our motorbikes were not stolen. We light him a cig and wave goodbye. Kob jai lailai. La khon!

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We rest here. Good clean cheap rooms. Happy -and therefore friendly- owners.

We stay for the night at Baan Nahin cuz it is a
ready getting dark and we are hungry. There is no question about leaving the 40km ride to Konglor cave for the next day.

The next day we don’t quite make it for sunrise hehee… we leave at around 9am. It’s like that when you go with a group. Everything takes a bit longer. And that’s alright. Because firstly, we are in Laos. A and secondly, piano piano we va lontanoo, right!?

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