Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle

Fall/Winter 2015

Dreamscapes Travel & Lifestyle Magazine

Issue link: http://read.dreamscapes.ca/i/586302

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Page 51 of 63

DREAMSCAPES FALL/ WINTER 2015 52 T his is largely due to the govern- ment crackdown on Vang Vieng's notorious river tubing after 27 tourist deaths in 2011 (a figure that some argue to be under-represented). Not being one for tubes in the first place, I yearned to experience a piece of the Indochina peninsula that wasn't overrun with knockoff sunglasses and cocktail buckets. And what could be more whimsi- cally adventurous, I reasoned, than exploring the villages of rural Laos while straddling a motorcycle? I therefore turned my attention to Laos's languid countryside and, in particular, the inexpensive motorbike rentals in Thakhek. However, my excitement began to waver when my travel companion Pat returned from test-driving our steed—a 100 CC four-stroke Zongshen—with an apprehensive grimace. "The gearbox is reversed, the panels are scratched and loose, the bolts rattle and the steering is crooked by about 15 degrees," he reported. "Where's the second mirror?" He glanced hastily at the rental shop owner, who was counting the 240,000 kip ($33 CAD) we'd paid for the four-day hire. "I tried adjusting it and ... well, it's in my backpack." Timorously, we mounted the quivering beast, scrutinized the blurry map (a photo- copied hand-drawing provided by the shop owner) and set off into the dusty yonder. NOBLE STEED OR SICK PUPPY? We departed Thakhek and headed east past razor-faced karsts and scraggly-topped plains. The recent construction of an area hydro station had flooded the surrounding woodland; skeletal trees loomed above the glassy waters. The smoke of distant clear- burning lingered in the air as the road twisted and writhed up a steep incline through tangled jungles. Riding through the gravel on the Zong- shen was like riding through the Himalayas on a spaniel, and I clung to Pat as we bounced and skidded. The tarmac ended SLOW UP DOWN BY SUE BEDFORD TOP: Bountiful farmland borders the Annamite mountains. Sue Bedford OPPOSITE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM: Shadows creep amidst the looming columns in the Konglor Cave. Camilo Torres/Shutterstock.com A young monk wanders the blacktop in a remote village. Sue Bedford OVERSHADOWED BY THAILAND'S WORLD- RENOWNED BEACH PARTIES, VIETNAM'S RUSTING WAR RELICS AND CAMBODIA'S ARCHAIC KHMER TEMPLES, LAOS IS OFTEN SNUBBED BY BACKPACKERS TRAIPSING ACROSS WHAT EXPATS DEEM "THE BANANA PANCAKE TRAIL."

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