It's a flat day of riding, a quick and easy 70 kilometer jaunt to the capital of Laos. Gone are the mountains that once stood in our way, but unfortunately so too are the little villages that beguiled us so. Here, in the mighty Mekong river valley, the houses are larger and newer; the people are wealthier, and it shows. It's not a terribly interesting day of riding, but oh does it feel good to go fast!
After churning through forty kilometers in the cool morning hours, the sun has climbed high enough to reach optimal death-ray levels. When that familiar rush of heat comes hurtling out of the sky down towards us, we stop by the side of the road for a rest in a scrap of shade at the foot of a sugarcane juice stand.
The kind lady running the stall brings us stools to sit on, and we watch as she feeds the cane through the mechanized metal smashing contraption, squeezing out all the sweet juice. She is really excited about our photo taking, and can't stop laughing as Tyler curiously captures what is probably an uninteresting and mundane task to her.
Seated on tiny plastic stools, sweat slicks our bodies, and I smile, noticing the grease mark on my calf. I've gotten it so many times on this trip that I'm temped to make it into a tattoo. Maybe when we get home.
As we sip our juice, feeling a quick surge of sugary energy rush into our bodies, we watch the children of the sugarcane lady as they play, tumbling atop an enormous pile of watermelons. It's as engaging to them as those rooms filled with colorful balls where kids at home romp around.
When they're done playing in the land of watermelons, the kids begin that age-old traditional game that spans all languages and cultures: the art of pestering your little sister. At least in this case, she'll find a bit of relief from the heat.
Wishing we could hide from the sun, sweat pours from our bodies as we approach the city. Our freshly-tarred wheels cling briefly to the pavement with every revolution, sticky black goo warmed by the afternoon heat. Man, if it is this hot now, I do not even want to think about what life will be like in the months of March and April, or "summertime" in southeast Asia!
With only five kilometers left until we reach the capital, I call us to a halt in front of a motorcycle with an icecream freezer attached to the back. We dole out our change to the vendor, and he digs out a pair of orange popsicles for us. The sweet, drippy, quickly-melting treats help ease our last bit of riding in the heat.
Now just two kilometers from the capital of Laos, I keep expecting the city to start. But, I am pleased to find that Vientiane is much like any other city in this country: relatively quiet and sleepy. The capital just sprawls out a little further, but it still retains that chilled-out, laid-back atmosphere present everywhere else.
Arriving in Vientiane, we do the two-hour-long-hot-and-hopeless-hotel-search, during which it seems all accommodations are either really expensive, total dives, or completely booked up. Eventually, we do settle on a nice room, take showers, and flop out on the bed. Another day down. We'll be here for a few days working out logistics for the next phase of our trip.