Friday, December 13, 2013

There Are Great People Out There...Here Are a Few I've Met Recently

It's funny how I can go for weeks on end without running into anyone on the road. It had been over a month since I'd encountered tour cyclists . Now, all of a sudden in the last couple of week, I'm making up for the lack of conversation and communication during the last month.

It started in Luang Prabang, where I met Dan Weber for a beer. Dan is a friend of Zaida & Isi, two amazing and inspiring tour cyclist I know back home in Barcelona.  I knew I was in for a treat meeting him, anyone who is a friend of theirs is bound to be a neat person.  Dan has been living in Laos for 6 years, and was in Thailand before that for the same amount of time. He works (although pretty much retired now) as a language teacher in Savannakhet part of the year and lives in Luang Prabang during the other months.  Little did we know we were both passionate about ceramics in our previous life (before discovering cycling) and he was born and raised close to where I went to college. We had lots to talk about from art and cycling to Lao history and politics. I of course brought my Laos map and he marked all the interesting roads on my route and pointed out the guests houses as well! I quite enjoyed his company and we managed to escape the touristy part of town to have a few Beer Lao on the Mekong.

Dan Weber & I

The biggest compliment of my trip came when he all of a sudden switched to Spanish and said, "Por qué me ha dicho Zaida que eres un terremoto?". Basically he said why did Zaida say you an incredibly active or hyperactive person?..It made me laugh so hard and then it dawned on me....I'm almost four months into this trip and I've already changed. I still have my "Melissa" energy, nothing can take that away from me, but it's being put to good use on the bike every day. As a result overall I'm just a lot calmer and content because I'm finally doing what I've dreamed of doing for quite some time!

Next, on the road from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan, I met a jolly group of tour cyclists. I couldn't believe my eyes as I was descending...a group of 6 guys pulled over munching on bananas (which they kindly shared) all on Surly bikes!  What fun they were having, 5 Thai and a Norwegian and they all spoke English. We exchanged bits of information about the route we'd done since we were coming from opposite directions. They told me there were a few other couples up ahead of me which also motivated me to keep pedal in' along. I even got the name of the Surly distributor in Bangkok so I can hit up that store in a month for some maintenance.

First cyclists I've seen on the road since China

I never found the cyclists the Thai group told me about but the next morning to my surprise I ran into Manu and Stephane coming towards me on a recumbant tandem. Talk about some adventurous cyclists full of energy. This couple is amazing! They had cycled from Northern France to SE Asia, used the Trans-Siberian railroad to cross central Asia and were eventually heading south. I thought I had challenging days in the mountains, but they were carrying double the weight and on really hilly terrain cycled about 30 to 50 kilometers.  We hung out by the side of the road long enough to share some funny stories and take pictures with the automatic timers on our cameras.  It was refreshing to meet them and they gave me a boost of energy that helped me make it through my day.

What a fun cycling couple from the north of France

Rolling into Phonsavan, I was desperate for an ATM as I had run out of cash and also a WiFi connection. The Thai cyclists had informed me about the Lao SIM cards so I was also determined to find a store to buy one.  After getting cash, I popped into a computer/tech store where I met the lovely family owners. They all spoke English to some degree and were a huge help. They got me a SIM card went next door to buy credit, called the operator, setup my smartphone with the new plan, and let me use their WiFi to connect and post a blog entry.....all while I sat there and ate the fruit they kept feeding me from their garden. They were such pleasant and helpful locals, I hadn't come across such genuine people in awhile who weren't thinking about how to get a quick buck out of the "pfalang". I ended up spending over an hour in their store and they told me about a guest house in the town I was planning of staying that night.

Toui, Ni, Don, No, & Melissa

I continued to meet some really nice local people the following day at my afternoon pit stop. I came to a small town that was 30 kilometers from my final destination and pulled over for a drink. Here I met Vien Sigh who spoke really good English and educated me about the development in the area. All day long I had seen Chinese trucks on the road and signs of development projects from electrical stations to hydropower plants. I'm not so sure what to think about all the recent development happening in the Lao countryside, especially alongside the river, but Vien Sigh was thankful to have a secure job as a result of Chinese development. More importantly with him, I took notes while he told me all the different food I needed to try from the various kinds of fish as well as sweet treats like taro in coconut milk. I've got my cheat sheet in my front handle bar bag and I've even taken a picture with my phone as a backup. He ended up feeding me bananas from his garden and a bowl full of sticky rice and sauces.

Vien Sigh, he was such a friendly guy who kept me company while having lunch
As you can see, I've gone from a period of total remoteness where I talk and hum to myself to meeting a few great people and sharing some nice moments. Since I never know when the next time will be that I bump into a kind and helpful stranger, when I meet someone interesting, I have no problem staying and chatting for longer than I intended.

No comments:

Post a Comment