Intrepid German adventurer explores Laos by bike

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Gerald Herzog stands by his trusty Honda. Patithin Phetmeuangphuan/vientiane times

AFTER hearing about Laos from some friends and getting information from YouTube, websites and travel guides, an intrepid German traveller decided that Laos’s spectacular landscape was not to be missed and that the country was the perfect place for a motorbike tour.

Gerald Herzog was making a 60-day trip through Laos on a rented Honda CRF 250 motorbike. He enthusiastically described his experiences and the pleasure he had derived from his in-depth encounters with the people he met.

“One of the most memorable events was leaving my bag with all my papers – driving licence, vaccination certificate, insurance and other documents – in a guesthouse,” Gerald said.

“When my friend and I went back to the guesthouse five days later, the owner ran towards me with my forgotten bag in her hands. Everything was still there.”

“I made so many good friends in Laos on my first visit that I really wanted to come back,” he added.

His travels took him through mountains, rolling landscapes and a host of fascinating places, which inspired him to visit again during Germany’s grey winter.

He revisited the places he went to on his first trip, to see all the people he had made friends with.

For four weeks he was on the road almost every day.

On his latest visit, he went to Na Mor near the Chinese border and to Bon Tay. The weather was really nice and the mountain roads in the north were wonderful, he said. But from Bon Tay down to Muang Khua, and along to Phonsavanh, the weather become cloudy and cold.

In the mountains it can really be cold. He found himself riding the motorbike with daily temperature highs of 7 degrees Celsius, dropping to 3C at night. But despite the cold, Gerald loved seeing the mist that rose through the hills and the green mountain ranges.

“Thank goodness I knew about the weather from my first trip, so I had enough warm clothes with me,” he said.

In Phonsavan, he visited the Plain of Jars and bombed village to learn about Laos’ history and the impact of the Indochina War. He also visited the Nam Ngum dam in Vientiane province.

In the middle of nowhere

After that he rode to Konglor Cave in Khammuan province and from there to Lak Sao, Nakay, Gnommalat, Mahaxay and on to Saravan province. This was a very long and hard ride. The going was so difficult and exhausting to accomplish in one day that Gerald was close to giving up. But not wanting to sleep out in the middle of nowhere, he carried on.

After finally reaching Saravan, he rode to Pakxong district and then on to Pakxe in Champassak province, which was a nice day on the road and there were no bad surprises.

Then he rode to Vat Phou Champassak to explore this very impressive temple complex.

Gerald travelled through Champassak province, taking a ferry across the Mekong, which he found amazing. Next stop was the 4000 Islands area of the Mekong, where he went to see the awe-inspiring and biggest waterfall in South-East Asia – Khonphapheng.

He found this area to be very picturesque and relaxing and was pleased to have just the right light for taking photos in the evening.

After spending time at the waterfall he drove back to Vientiane, stopping to admire the Stone House and the Great Wall, which he felt were very special and well worth taking time out to see.

Gerald particularly enjoyed the very close contact he had with people in the different areas he passed through.

People told him that he was able to get close to the locals because he was alone. And for the villagers he met he was something of a novelty because they would not normally have any personal contact with someone from abroad.

“One morning I was invited to a temple. I arrived there together with some villagers after the monks had received their food. I was asked to share in the food given by the villagers in the temple. It was very unusual for me to be asked to eat in a temple, and I felt very privileged. It is something I will never forget,” Gerald said. Vientiane Times/ANN