The sun is back this morning as we take to the road, following the Mekong along the sleepy roads of Laos. Though the fiery orb overhead is out in full force today, our ride is breezy, flat, and considerably more scenic than yesterday. Bright green rice patties, lively little villages, and interesting diversions abound.
Riverside Laos feels vastly different from the mountainous north. Here, life seems a little less difficult and a little wealthier, with perhaps a more forgiving landscape, and more abundant resources. One obvious source of income down here is the fishing industry. The villages through which we ride are lined with salted fishy snacks, similar to what they had in Siberia.
Though I don't generally like cooked fish, I love salty, chewy fishy jerky. So, I buy some and put them on the front of my bike, where they dangle like an aquatic charm bracelet. At the first vague inkling of fatigue, I rip off a fish and eat it. Luckily our short ride means I don't resort to eating all my fishies in one go.
Riding into Paksan, we immediately locate the city's giant self-named "Paksan Hotel". The place is totally vacant, and its massive vaulted lobby is an echo-chamber, empty save for a few chairs and a diminutive check-in desk in the corner. While Tara is getting us a room, I wheel our bikes inside for safe keeping.
Our $17.50 accommodations are gargantuan—like, tennis court sized. Inexplicably, the bathroom is no bigger than a broom closet. The shower sprays right into the toilet, garbage can, and sink. Surely they could have used some of this huge room for a bigger bathroom? As I haul shut the ten foot tall curtains running the full length of one of our walls, we can't stop cracking up about how comically unbalanced the room is.
Once we're settled in, and the dust of the day is scattered from our bodies throughout the entire bathroom, it's time for dinner. Both of us are incapable of eating another bowl of noodle soup, so we're thrilled to find what looks to be a Korean restaurant on the edge of town.
After talking ourselves in circles for five minutes with the women working, we give up trying to communicate verbally and they take us to the back, where we can point out what we want from their fridge. Thinking they'll make a nice stir-fry, Tara points out a bunch of vegetables, and what looks to be beef.
For the next hour, the chef (in proper chef hat and everything) sends out dish after dish after dish—one for each vegetable Tara pointed to! There's an incredible sticky sweet eggplant dish, one spicy broccoli stir fry, one dish made of something like green onions, and one of stir-fried beef.
It's the best food we've had in ages, but alas, we are only two people. Though our cycling appetite is raging, we can scarcely make a dent in our rapidly accumulating plates. Well, at least we have breakfast for tomorrow!
After dropping our left-overs at the hotel, we head back out to a market Tyler spied on the way into town. When we arrive, we realize it's a fair, and they have bumper cars! I'm a little skeptical, but Tyler is dead-set on doing at least one round. Once we've figured out what in the world is going on in the circus of loud music and shrieking children, we get a pair of tickets and climb into the dilapidated cars for a ride.