I took the Asian Highway 131 from the Ho Chi Minh Highway in Quảng Bình region towards the border with Laos. The road was good with excellent mountain views. I loved it. Camping close to the road I found that I had picked up a leech when I sprayed my legs with deet. The leech (‘Larry’) immmediately fell off and wasn’t a problem but my leg did not want to stop bleeding. I had to apply pressure to the bite for some time to stop making a bleedin’ mess. For some way the road followed the river Gianh but then climbed and dipped through a series of valleys dotted with small settlements. It was quite different from the Viet Nam I had already seen with deep jungle and old wooden stilt houses. It appeared timeless. The thick lush vegetation created a green carpet in every direction. I imagined how difficult it would be to cut a way through it. This was my first experience of real jungle and appeared quite a forbidding place. I stopped for food in a village and was spoilt with the most delicious cooked meal of catfish steaks, prawns, omelette and rice.
The Cửa khẩu Cha Lo border area is a slightly messy collection of buildings. Just before the administration building there is a glass fronted hotel and a small ring road with storage warehouses. My arrival was fairly late in the day and would liked to have spent a night at the hotel. But it was locked and empty. I did a little circuit of the buildings, got my passport stamped and found myself cycling along the lengthy road towards the Laos checkpoint of Na Phao. Border crossings are always so exciting! The Laos checkpoint was even more of a mess. I found a collection of wooden huts housing the various officials either side of a muddy road that had been churned up by construction vehicles. I had to climb wooden planks to reach the visa office. I had to wake the undressed official asleep in his bed in a small room at the rear of the office. $30 dollars and I had a shiny Laos 30 days visa. The whole process took about ten minutes and everyone was very friendly. Unfortunately I did not take advantage of an offer to change currency. With the light fading I needed to get a little distance between myself and the border and find a discreet place to wild camp. Turning a corner I cycled past a newly built border office building and then began my descent into Laos. Stopping to camp I was presented with a magnificent sunset view of the valley below. I fell asleep to the noisy sounds of the jungle. Laos!