Let's Rent Bicycles In Luang Prabang, He Said...

by - 3:00 PM

"It'll be fun,' he said. My dad (who's probably reading this. Hi dad!) often has good ideas when we're traveling. This wasn't one of them. But with us being so stereotypically Dutch it almost hurts, we just had to rent bicycles. I mean, when in the history of anything had bicycles not been a good idea? Well, we were about to find out.

On the day we were going to rent our bikes, I had a tiny little storm cloud above my head. I was sure that a nice bicycle ride would lift my spirits. I was in Luang Prabang, in the north of Laos, the first place I've ever immediately called 'picturesque' in my mind. I already saw myself cycling through streets lined with colonial era guest houses and banana trees, along the Mekong river.
My dad had different plans. He'd heard about a waterfall on the other side of the Mekong, about 15 kilometers away. I grumpily agreed. Grumpily because I just had a bad mood. Agreed because I was up for an adventure and just taking the ferry to the opposite river bank already sounded like one.
Not knowing what kind of roads we'd face, we hoped to rent some mountainbikes. A few gears would come in handy, we thought. Apparently so did every other tourist in Luang Prabang. We had to settle for some regular bikes instead and went on our way.

As I'd already expected, the ferry ride to the other side of the Mekong was already an adventure in itself. Getting onto that boat included jumping over a puddle and a lot of mud, bicycle in hand, while the loacals watch in amusement when they see you've rented a regular bicycle. The short trip across the water itself was nice and calm. The boat had a bit of an unreliable steering system, but we made it across and back without dying, so I'm not complaining. No, the thing I was complaining about was the freakishly steep incline on the other side of the river. After fently slamming right into it the boat was ready to be disembarked and my dad and I were expected to somehow make it up to the top of a hill that had a road made of freaking broken pieces of rock.
It felt like ages before I made it to the top of the hill. All my hopes of finding a nice smooth road evaporated right then and there. I was pretty sure my dad and I would never cycle 15 kilometers on those roads. Fifteen minutes after reaching the top of the hill the roads still hadn't gotten any better and we hadn't cycled a single meter yet because it was simply impossible. Believe me, when the Dutch can't cycle a road, no one can.
I was getting pretty fed-up with the whole thing. If I'd been alone I would have turned around, taken the ferry back and cycle through Luang Prabang instead. But I wasn't alone. I was there with my dad, who eventually found a place where the road became a more or less solid dirt road. Never before have I been so happy to cycle on a dirt road that occassionally was covered with rocks. It was a flat tire waiting to happen. The tiny thundercloud above my head slowly disappeared though. Then I looked around, realized where I was, and it disappeared completely.

There were water buffolos on the side of the road. Hills far of in the distance. Laos' countryside was aggravatingly hard to cycle through, but also breathtakingly beautiful. I didn't care about all the dust I got in my eyes every time a car passed me by, about the amount of times I had to get off my bike because the hills were to steep to climb. The dust would settle down and I'd see the amazing view again. The hills might be steep, but eventually the road would go down on the other side again. Every time it did I smiled as I soared down the hill, locals yelling at me, probably worried that I'd fall. It was amazing.

Eventually my dad and I arrived at a river, which seemed a little difficult to cross by bicycle. We decided to stop there for lunch and cycle back to Luang Prabang afterwards. We saw locals using the river as bathtub, washing machine and sink all at once. We saw motorbikes get stuck in the potholes of the river crossing, after which my dad just had to try it on his bicycle. Spoiler alert: his feet got very wet.
The river seemed to be a good point to turn around, and so we did. I was just thinking how lucky we were not to have gotten a flat tire or accident yet, when we plummeted down a hill and the chain of my dad's bike flew off. Yup, bike fixing in the middle of nowhere in the Lao countryside, it had to be done. Definitely a unique experience.

After a few minutes of messing with the chain my dad managed to fix his bike and we returned to the ferry. I felt like I'd die making my way back down that slope. I'd hated the first fifteen minutes of the trip, I'd cursed at every single car that passed me by and I was pretty sure cycling in the countryside wasn't the best idea ever. But I'd seen water buffalos. I'd felt free as I'd raced down those hills. I'd secretly laughed my ass off when my dad's bike broke. I'd enjoyed the Lao countryside more than I'd ever imagined. It was the weirdest and probably most dangerous bike ride I'd ever been on, but it was completely worth it.

x Envy

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8 Fellow Ramblers

  1. Wow, that sounds like tough work all that cycling, but it does sound worth it!

    Ciara | www.teatimewithciara.com

    1. Finding a bit of road where we actually could cycle was the hardest part!

  2. That is a lot of cycling to do but it seems so much fun especially racing down the hill on a bike! Such excitement!

    1. I'd give anything to race down that hill again! It's was so funny to see the locals panic a little because of my recklessness, hahaha.

  3. Sounds like you had fun despite a rocky (ha) start and a mini-disaster!
    Cora ❤ http://www.teapartyprincess.co.uk/

    1. It was all the more fun because of the start and the disaster! Those things are what made the story so much fun to tell as well.

  4. Even though it sounds tough, I’d say it was such a fun adventure! It’s all about making memories! Laura x

    1. That's true, and this was an amazing way to make memories. I might have regretted it at the start, but now I am so happy I got the chance to do this!


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