So I've just finished a peanut butter and salad baguette and a large coffee and thinking about the past seven days. It's already a bit of a blur. It's a grey chilly day here in Luang Prabang, one of Laos' main tourist destinations, and it feels quite weird to be back in the land of tourists. What was once the capital city is really nothing more than a collection of villages, with a fine collection of wats and lovely old French colonial buildings. Thankfully UNESCO has given the town World Heritage status, which has probably saved the town from terrible development, and correspondingly it has brought said tourist by the minibus load. It sometimes feels like the only Lao people here are servicing the tourists. Or they are monks. A bit weird.
I am now beginning to understand how different it is to travel by bicycle. Apart from eating more. Our friend James couldn't have described it better when he told us that once he had a bike he never wanted to walk anywhere - it took too long. And although the bike gave him more freedom he was usually too tired to make the most of it. This we hope will change as our fitness improves. But first things first, let's eat. Luang Prabang is blessed with a variety of eating options, other than the noodle soup and cow pat moo (pork fried rice - linguistically a true false friend if ever I saw one) which we have been living on for a week. We shun the traditional Lao pizza and eat a huge plate from a buffet at a night stall. Along the main street there are baguette sandwich makers (pate, chicken, tuna, peanut butter, nutella, banana, condensed milk - very tasty but a bit sickly altogether). Our bike computer has a calorie counter and we have thousands to catch up on, which makes it all the more pity that we both eat something rotten. Of course, being a man, I take it far more seriously than Gayle, and remain bedridden and full of self-pity for over a day. Our rest stop in Luang Prabang is prolonged a further two days. To add to my woes I discover that I have lost my comfy cycling gloves. I despair. Gayle despairs of me. I despair of Gayle despairing of me. Well, at least it's not my passport. On our second evening we meet Mike, who is on the look out for cycling shorts after those tough hill climbs. We also meet the affable Bernd who tells us he has lost his passport. He will have to make the bike ride back the way he came to ask at the guesthouses for it. He seems remarkably calm about it. Calmer than I am about my gloves.
Lao get up early. They have to - the monks walk the streets collecting alms at daybreak. It's become a tourist sight in Luang Prabang. Strangely we never actually rise early enough to catch it. We do catch up with Gertrude and Rod though, whom we last saw in Bangkok. Gayle summons the energy to visit some of the ornately-decorated wats around the old town. She is stopped by an older English couple who need some help: "Could you tell us where the Mekong is?" So I'm not the only person losing things around here.