After the blinding dust of the previous day, I awake with a mission to find some riding goggles. Motorbikes are so ubiquitous in SE Asia, that every town, large or small, we've passed through seems to have a shop selling helmets and other riding accessories. Our first stop is the market where you can usually find anything and everything under the sun. We try to use rudimentary sign language to describe what we're looking for, and after being pointed in twenty different directions, we walk away with nothing but breakfast in the form of “meat on a stick” (which was absolutely delicious) and some spring rolls to pack away for lunch. We ride up and down the main drag, stopping at various motorcycle retailers and repair shops, only to find that, despite the cornea wrecking dust that all the local people have to ride through on a daily basis, nobody sells riding goggles. Natasha suggests I try a pair of wrap-around sunglasses instead of the aviators that I've been wearing. We find a pair for a couple bucks and head out of town; our next destination Pak Lai.
Our GT Rider map shows a stretch of paved road leading several kilometers into and out of Xayaburi; it's a few years old and the road has supposedly been under construction since 2004, so I hold my breath as the tarmac passes below our wheels, hoping against hope that it'll last a few more kilometers. But, you know what they say about wishes...the road quickly deteriorates to it's previous rutted and bumpy state. We do see signs of construction all over the place, but as the saying goes, “Things have to get worse before they get better”.
All things considered though, the riding is an enjoyable challenge and the scenery is beautiful. The dust doesn't let up, but the new sunglasses that Natasha suggested help to keep most of it from clogging my vision. We pass through yet more picturesque villages and rice fields, and everything seems to be going fine until Natasha feels that our gear is slipping off the rack. We stop to shift some things around and readjust the bungees, thinking we had just packed the bike poorly that morning. Not five minutes later she tells me to stop again. Something's definitely wrong but we repeat the process and move on. It takes several more stops before I finally take a good look at the bike and realize that the part of the frame that the rack is attached to is sheared in half, leaving the rack hanging down at an awkward angle.
We stop outside a small village to assess where we are in relation to our destination and what we can do about our broken bike, when these three guys pull up and just sit there watching us. They don't speak English and we don't speak Lao, so nothing is exchanged except a polite “Sabaidee” (Lao for hello). I have to admit that it's extremely awkward. It got us thinking though about how we ride through all these small villages where tourism isn't an industry. We're definitely not the first white people they've seen, but we're not an every day occurrence. We get off our bike and run around taking pictures of their children, livestock, and general the goings on of the village, and the people are always friendly and don't seem to resent our presence, but it was interesting to have the tables turned and be the ones on display.
We try some crazy bungee configurations, trying to hold the whole thing together, and make it to Pak Lai without anything else falling apart. After checking in to a guest house, we find an open air restaurant across the street and have a well deserved delicious meal and a beer that I haven't tried yet......which is the perfect end to any day.