20 December 2011
Today I've gone pretty much due east, towards the Laos-Vietnam border. Savannakhet has a ferry and bridge border with Thailand. I could have chugged across, headed to the beach and skipped Vietnam and Cambodia in favour of sipping Singhas by the sea for a few extra weeks.
Today began with food planning: as on my couple of rest days, I got breakfast at Lin's Café, which seems to be the only place in town with free WiFi and has excellent breakfast options to boot. Then I headed to a banh my stand to pick up three filled baguettes, two cheese and salad, one jam and butter. If this stuff is readily available in Vietnam, which it supposedly is, I'm going to be set.
I plodded out the 30km back up to Seno - it's not much of a climb, but the headwind makes its presence known. In fact, the headwind was the story of the day. For a couple of short periods, I managed to get it on my side, but most of the day it was working against me. I decided to take today and the subsequent days to Hue a bit easier, the plan being to be a bit less ruined each evening, and to run less of an overall deficit over the five days riding.
At a squeak under 50km on the clock I scarfed the two cheese baguettes. Much tastier than noodles and no need to wait for them to be cooked. Ok, I guess you wait while they make them in the morning, but you try not to be hungry then.
Shortly after eating, deteriorated surface makes an appearance. It's not as bad as it has been, but it's still the worst since before Vientiane. Traffic's fairly light, so I can wiggle around some of the bumpy patches, because most of them aren't full width.
The day comes unstuck when I roll into Muang Phalan and find it lacking accommodation. Fortunately, I'd spotted a guesthouse a couple of kilometers back up the road. I head back. It's all boarded up and quiet, the gate closed. Uh-oh. The next town I know of is 60km down the road, and there's about 2.5 hours of daylight remaining. Just about doable if things go smoothly, but I'll have to light up for the last stretch.
I decide to get on with it, and start to crank it. I pass a Japanese-funded 'road station'. It says it has a restaurant, toilets, parking and information. What a thoroughly useful set of services to build in a town with no accommodation! I start to imagine slipping off my shoes, stepping into a tatamied room with private onsen and then heading off to noisily slurp down a steaming hot bowl of udon. This mental picture does not help.
It takes me 7km or so to come across a shoddy under-renovation guesthouse. It slips comfortably into the top slot in the worst-room-of-the-trip charts. I don't care, It's a roof over my head and 7km off tomorrow's ride.
I shower and wash my clothes, and oddly, get a bunch of work done. I go looking for the hotel woman to see if there's something to eat. Another guest sees me and screams. I've got no room key, so I can't go far. Also, I'm pretty sure the village lacks anywhere to eat anyway. Hotel woman starts making me some instant noodles and I grab a beer from the fridge. Other than the guesthouse's infrastructure, these people have next to nothing, but they still have a fridge full of chilled Beerlao. The noodles come in a tomyum-style soup and are surprisingly edible. The jam and butter baguette will survive until breakfast.
117km, 20.4km/h, 5hr44min, 2396km