Somewhere back in the beginning of my dreamin’-n-schemin’ for the Ho Chi Minh Trail Ride, I quoted General Dwight D. Eisenhower saying, “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.” Later, as President, Ike said, “In an emergency, the first thing to do is take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window.”
Well… we have found ourselves in the middle of an emergency and the HCMTrial Ride plan is certainly out the window. So I begin to plan again. My current “planning” is for this coming November.
I’m the kind of guy that can find a silver lining in almost everything. So it is in this case:
Silver Lining #1 – I checked today’s weather and it will be near 100 degrees(F) out on the HCMT. (102 in Vientiane). It would have been “toasty” in the days we would have been there this month. If the new plan takes us there in… say the middle of November, the highs will be in the mid 80s and lows in the mid 60s. November will be a much better time to ride.
Silver Lining #2 – If we are there in November, it will be before the “slash & burn” season has begun. During slash & burn, most of the region is smokey and otherwise great photo-opps are just hazy grey. One of my goals is to get drone pics of all the areas of significance. November will be a much better time for that rather than this April. April is in the worst of the slash & burn season.
Silver Lining #3 – There were a few guys wanting to go, but couldn’t go in April. Now, they may have a chance to go.
Silver Lining #4 – My schedule for April limited how much time I could spend in Laos. I was required to be back home by 15 April. That meant only 14 days of exploration. With November as the new target, the schedule can be extended and we may be able to go a few places that were omitted.
So… with all that said, here’s the new planning. Since November is the beginning of the “Dry Season” it makes sense to wait till then to go. Any attempt to go earlier would likely result in impassable places. Even late October might be ok, but for the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the Second Indochina War, not much started moving in October. Then, right at the first of November it was like the “Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona, Spain. But on the HCMT, it was the “Running of the Trucks.” Therefore, for the new plan, I’m picking mid-November for the “Running of the Great HCMTrail Ride.” (Yeah, yeah, I hear ya… it’s corny.)
Ummmm… actually, except for date changes, there’s not much to changing the plan. The itinerary will remain essentially the same. I may add in a few days. I really wanted to see and go through the Kong Lor Cave. That takes an full extra day but I think the experience will be worth it.
I also want to be able to go “off script” a bit. With a couple extra days we could make side trips and even venture into some unexplored areas. With that said, for now, I’m adding 3 extra days to the “plan;” plus another day for the Kong Lor Cave. I’ve now picked November 16 as the day the HCMTrail Ride will begin.
I still plan to fly to Bangkok first. For me, November 10 is the new date to depart the US. With all the travel and jet-lag, I’ll spend through the 13th in Bangkok to recover. Then I’ll fly to Vientiane on the 14th. Allowing a day in Vientiane, we head out on the 16th.
None of this is cast in blood yet. Don Duval may want to suggest changes. But I’m not going to wait long to make new airline reservations. Tickets are as cheap now as they are ever going to be. The chart below shows examples of costs to Bangkok (BKK) from various airports in the US. Note that all prices shown are round-trip.
- Los Angeles (LAX)– $589 (American Airlines)
- Atlanta (ATL) – $1007 (Delta & Korean Air)
- Chicago(ORD) – $607 (Delta & Korean Air)
- New York (JFK) – $552 (Asiana Airlines)
- New York (JFK) – $657 (Delta & Korean Air)
- Boston(BOS) – $723 (Cathay Pacific)
- Dallas – $760 (Delta & Korean Air)
- San Francisco(SFO) – $606 (EVA Airways)
- Miami (MIA) – $746 (Qatar Airways)
- Fort Walton Beach (VPS) – $1067 (Puddle Jumpers-R-Us)
Of course you can fly straight into Vientiane for around $200 to $500 more. As one example, you can fly Chicago to Vientiane for $908. My price checks came from Expedia. You can check for yourself on your favorite site.
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