Laos, Cycling to Australia 20th January 2012

Garry McGivern is in Laos, cycling to Australia on Friday, the 20th of January, 2012. Mangle, China to Na Mo, Laos. 64 miles. Something seems to have gone wrong today! The mountains have disappeared! Well, they haven’t exactly disappeared. It’s just they’ve not been on my road. It’s the first time I’ve had a flat ride since arriving in China!

I must admit that the past week has been the hardest cycling I’ve ever had! Most mountainous areas I’ve cycled in before haven’t been as intense! It’s been non-stop up and down here. Usually, I’ll climb a mountain, come down the other side, and that would be it for a while. But here, no sooner had I come down off one climb than I’d be peddling uphill again! There was no flat cycling in between at all! Hopefully, Laos is going to be a bit kinder to me.

I arrived at the Chinese border around midday and went into the customs office to get my exit stamp. I just hoped I was right about Laos being visa-on-entry! But the only way to find out was to get an exit stamp and leave China! And with a loud thud, that was it. The customs officer stamped my passport, and I was no longer welcome in China! I returned to my bike and rode the ten feet or so up to the checkpoint. The border guard looked at my passport and looked at me, then stepped in front of my bike and ordered me to walk the last five feet over the border!

No Going Back

Once out of China and in no man’s land, I got back on my bike. The Laos border was about 500 metres down a slight hill. As I cycled down to the Laos checkpoint, I was scouting the area for somewhere to pitch my tent, just in case they didn’t let me in! I reached the Laos border control office. A long building with several windows. People were already queueing at some of the windows, but not at the window I needed! The visa upon-entry window was free, but nobody was there. So I joined the queue that said entry stamp. I’d already filled out a visa form in Bangladesh while waiting for my flight to China.

People queueing at counter windows
The Laos Customs office

Forty-five minutes I waited in that queue! But eventually, I was at the front, standing in front of the customs officer. I handed over my passport, and he flicked through it and said, “Visa?” I tried to explain to him that there wasn’t anybody at the visa upon entry window. But he just told me to go back and wait! After another thirty minutes, somebody turned up. He’d been off having something to eat! Something to eat and a nap, I would have said! And to rub salt in, he never even checked the form! But what do I care? I’d got my visa! It was back to the other window where I was duly given an entry stamp, and I was then onto country number thirteen.

I’m In

I’m staying in a guest house tonight, which seems to be in most villages. It’s only costing me 50000 Lao Kip, which I think is under ten pounds. I need to work out the exchange rate! Hopefully, I’ll get to a city tomorrow and get some wifi. I don’t seem to have a phone signal either!

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