Anne and I fritter 3 languid days in the postage-stamp sized town of Luang Prabang, Laos. We sample the local brew, which is advertised as, “Any beer you want, as long as it’s Beer Lao!” We experiment with discreet execution of food sickness. We observe locals washing laundry, without success, in the chocolate-colored river.
These activities exhausted, our pores seethe with the suppressed impishness of Doc Brown in Back to the Future. When a motorbike shop materializes in our path, we scurry inside to hire a bike for the following day.
Morning comes. Anne, regretting our impetuous rental, reviews our route to Kuang Si Falls with all 3 bike-shop employees and acquires 3 maps. The map features a single road. Anne finally boards vehicle.
The hot pink Hello Kitty motorbike inspires a quick photo shoot. [Photos to be submitted to Harley Davidson should it develop a Girly line.] We spend 5 minutes attempting to flip on the motor, and another 5 practicing our steering and singing the theme from Top Gun.
The salesman, once cavalier, now sweats and reaches out gingerly as if to say, “Don’t go.”
I turn the handle, which doubles as an accelerator: Blast off!
At 10 minutes, we exhale and switch drivers.
“This is not like a regular bicycle,” I warn as I hand over the wheel. Anne looks like she’d been tasered.
“No shit Sherlock,” she responds.
At 15 minutes, we remember the gas tank and return to town to fill it. Further along our route, we spot 4 gas-deprived drivers sucking their thumbs on the roadside. Apparently, it would be absurd to sell gas on a 100 km road.
Finally Kuang Si Falls rises before us.
The falls offer the first clean water we’ve seen in the country. It’s a good thing, because I immediately slip on a muddy patch and brown my bikini in an unfortunate way. The rest of the day, we rope-swing into the natural pools and shower under waterfalls .
Anne lets me drive the whole way home. I warm up to the motorbike, it warms up to me, and we take the road at double our original speed (approximately the pace of a sprinting dog). Two boys whizz by laughing.
I shout, “Here we, here we, here we go!” and light the jets. Anne clutches me like an overly affectionate Kuala bear.
“You’re afraid to swing on a rope, but you’re not afraid to race locals?” she wheezes. But we’re winning.
Fresh air cools our sun-speckled checks, and the peripheral foliage throws an earthy must into the breeze. We began the day as cab-hailing yuppies. But Kuang Si Falls – or the road to and from it – baptized us as rural cowgirls. The reigns rumble comfortably in my hands.
At the day’s end, our bike glides gracefully into the shop.
Anne and I tip our helmets, turn on our heels, and strut into the sunset.