Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vangvienne to Kasi

It's always a relief to be back on the road after a period of rest. It's especially so after the place of rest is a place like Vangvienne. The main tourist drag in Vangvienne is lined with tourists restaurants playing endless episodes of Friends. Some of these restaurants have "happy menus" which offer a variety of drug laced menu items. Maybe that's how some people actually enjoy watching Friends.

The road to Kasi provided the beginnings of the best riding I have ever done. We rode between large green peaks and only encountered moderate hills on this beautiful day. The riding was easy and enjoyable. Even after getting a rather late start, sixty kilometers just disappeared and we arrived in Kasi at midday.

We encountered a few usual suspects for lunch.

More pho with lots of greens. At this point I had started to finally fall in love with this dish. More on this later.

After lunch it was more naam oy.

This drink is sweet of course, but has a slight grassy taste which is really quite delicious. I can't think of a more refreshing beverage.

At this point I think it's appropriate to pause and say a few words about traveling by bicycle. When you ride your bike, the distance that you can cover on a given day is not immense, meaning you end up in the middle of nowhere a lot of the time. This fact might make this journal very boring to read for some of my readers, but I thought for the sake of documentation it would be helpful to show that not every place is a postcard. Many people talk about wanting to see and do "Authentic" things in the foreign countries they visit. Does that apply only to exciting and photo worthy things?

Kasi was a sleepy affair with no real sights, no exciting or unusual food discoveries, and no complaints. We wandered the streets, visited the dingy market, made small talk with a local boy with surprisingly good English, and rested up for the coming days.

We had a friendly dining companion that night at dinner.


Alexander Santillanes said...

God, Vangvienne. What a bizarre place. It was worth a stop over on our trip only because it allowed us to arrange a great day of kayaking to Vientiane, but that town is bleak. And the weirdest thing is that I keep seeing articles in travel magazines that make it look and sound amazing! I mean, the scenery is beautiful- but won't people be misled when they expect a lush retreat, and instead arrive to find twenty different restaurants with tvs blasting Family Guy dvds? -X

a said...

Regardless of how or why people end up there, Vangvienne is still one of the biggest draws for tourists in laos. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed that there were many happy and satisfied people in Vangvienne for whatever reason. It brings up some interesting questions/observations about who travels and why.

Alexander Santillanes said...

Ah, well hey- I wasn't meaning to criticize the Friends-loving backpackers who have a great time in Vangvienne. I don't think everyone should travel for the same reasons I do, or like or dislike the same places as me. My contention is mainly with the magazines that have described the town as a lush and secluded retreat, which, to me anyway- it isn't. -X

a said...

Maybe I didn't make myself clear. Sorry about that. Actually, feel free to criticize those folks who partake in what I see as very destructive tourism. The kind of tourism that encourages the drug trade and generally destructive development, in the long run doesn't really help anyone in Laos. Vangvienne is a hellhole that I will happily describe as such.

As I get older I have a harder time being a rich western tourist in a poor country. I just got back from Cambodia, so I've been thinking about this a lot lately.