We started the day with foe and double café lao. We passed countless kids on their way to school in early morning mist. Girls wore long skirts with a thick, decorative trim at the bottom. Most of them were commuting on bicycles. As we rode past tall grasses and burned fields we saw several groups of local villagers heading on foot towards Vieng Kham. They walked slowly on the road, some carrying heavy loads of goods for sale, others carrying their small children. They seemed somewhat uncertain of us, and many responded with no more than a faint, reserved smile to our greetings. A few looked back as they continued on their way. We couldn't quite figure out where they were coming from.
We met our first of many cyclists of the day - a solitary Swiss. We chatted with him for a while, exchanging information about the road ahead and places to stay. We stopped for some lunch in the town of Pakkading, and chatted with an American couple cycling towards Vieng Kham. They each carried front and back panniers, heaps full of stuff strapped on top of the back rack, and handle bar bags. We naturally enquired if they were carrying camping gear. She responded with: you would think so, wouldn't you? We are carrying lots of books. They left us feeling confused.
On the ride from Pakkading to Paxan we met 3 French cyclists carrying backpacks instead of panniers, an Austrian couple pulling bobs, and heard of 2 more cyclists on recumbents, the last of which we missed. So many cyclists in Laos, and so many different approaches to the same problem.
We passed many brick-firing and tobacco processing areas on the way before arriving in Paxan. We headed straight for the BK Guesthouse, as we heard it was cheap and clean. The owner greeted us with a laugh, as several other cyclists just left this morning. He was stoked over all this unexpected business. He was somewhat disappointed when we opted for the cheaper, fan-cooled room, but he continued to be friendly chatting with us about his daily routine of exercise, eating 27cm of very bitter bark daily to prevent malaria and keep him strong, and about his restaurant a mere 50m away.
We ended the day with a walk down a road towards the Mekong-front. From there we could see the bright lights of Thailand.