5 weeks in Laos

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Mar 14, 2003.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    FEB - MARCH 2003

    Chiang Mai - Chiang Khong (1 night)
    Chiang Khong - Huay Sai (2 nights)
    Huay Sai - Pak Beng (1 night)
    Pak Beng - Udom Sai - Luang Prabang
    Luang Prabang (7 nights)
    Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng - Thalat (1 night)
    Thalat - Vientiane
    Vientiane (7 nights)
    Vientiane - Vang Vieng (1 night)
    Vang Vieng - Phou Khoun - Phonsavanh (3 nights)
    Phonsavanh - Phou Khoun - Luang Prabang (2 nights)
    Luang Prabang - Udom Sai (2 nights)
    Udom Sai - Luang Nam Tha (2 nights)
    Luang Nam Tha - Meuang Singh - Udom Sai (1 night)
    Udom Sai - Luang Prabang (3 nights)
    Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng (1 nights)
    Vang Vieng - Vientiane (2 nights)
    Vientiane - Loei (1 night)
    Loei - Chiang Mai

    Total distance = 6,800 kms

    This route seems a bit weird, but I was going to Laos to ride escort for a big bicycle tour




    that ran from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. After the tour finished I returned to the North, planning to just do the Plain & Jars & Xam Neua, before heading down south to Pakse & the Cambodian border area. But true to from, events overtook me, & I "hung-out" a lot in the North renewing old acquaintances


    & checking out new roads & new town developments.
    I could have done with another 7-10 days to go down South, as originally planned, but I was 1 week over on my visa, 3 weeks over on my bike import papers, and down to US$200, after I discovered the Thai Farmers Bank in Vte, the only bank with ATM facilities, had closed & there was no dosh to be had.
    Overall I had an awesome time, its hard not to in Laos, the people are so wonderful & the riding so great.
    Next planned trip will be to try and get in at the bridge, then head down south for another good survey.

    Luang Prabang
    Udom Sai
    Vang Vieng

    Luang Nam Tha

    Dislikes: Pak Beng & Phonsavanh.
    I stay in Pak Beng only because that's where the boat drops you off, with your bike.
    Phonsavanh I dislike because the town is drab & boring. Electric only runs from 6.00 - 11.00 pm, but supposedly it will have 24 hr power from May 2003. pm. You stay in Phonsavanh just to see the Plain of Jars



    , or if you are en route to Nam Kanh and the Vietnam border, or Xam Neua & the caves.
    I had a couple of good stays in Vientiane, and Luang Prabang. And towards the end of, the trip I found that life was indeed getting good (even in the Lao PDR.) It was also a slight relief to get out of the country single and in one piece.
    If you're wondering why so long in the small towns it was because I was GPS-ing them for a Laos map update.

    Route 13, Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng.
    Route 7, Phou Khoun - Phonsavanh.

    Route 7

    I think that route 13 just has the edge over route 7 still.

    Route 13, Udom Sai to Luang Nam Tha.
    Luang Nam Tha - Meuang Singh.
    Route 2, Pak Beng - Mouang Beng, 80 kms of the old road still.
    But to be honest they aint that bad at all. The roads in Laos are getting good quite fast. (I can see the changes easily after 7 years riding there.)
    Special toughie: the 15 kms very steep & winding deserted dirt rail, from Pak Xeng to Phousanam, on the Vieng Kham loop from Luang Prabang. Forget this in the wet season.

    Almost all of it, but have to mention.
    1. Route 13 Luang Prabang - Vang Vieng

    2. Route 7 Phou Khoun - Phonsvanh

    3. Route 13 "the 70 kms of twisties" Vang Vieng - Phonehong,
    4. Route 13 Udom Sai - Pak Mong - Luang Prabang
    5. Route 1 Vieng Kham - Pak Mong
    6. Meuang Singh - Udom Sai. Not so special, but I did not leave Meuang Singh until 4.00 pm and got into Udom Sai at 8.05 pm, hoping to get more fuel & carry onto Luang Prabang that same night. I figured I could get in to LP by 11.30 pm at the latest, however I could not get fuel to top up the tank & carry onto LP. So UX it was for another night.

    A special mention goes to the 350 kms Vieng Kham loop I did from Luang Prabang. Pretty much a full day's ride. I left Luang Prabang at 10.00 am & did no get off my bike until Pak Mong at 4.15 pm, I was riding all the time! The loop goes from Luang Prabang - Pak Xeng - Samsoun - Vieng Kham - Pak Mong - Luang Prabang. There's 121 kms of dirt from the route 13 turn off to the asphalt again on route 1 at Namsoun, & in the 2nd half from Pak Xeng to Namsoun I did not see another vehicle at all - this is not a place to break down or come off your bike alone. The 15kms trail link up from Pak Xeng, east to Phousanam is awesome - a real character building ride on the Africa Twin. (i.e. it gets a little worrisome in places.) The track is incredibly steep coming out of Pak Xeng, and with a high shoulder in the middle of the road your bike sometimes starts to slide off the road, just going in a straight line! But having done it from west to east, I reckon that this should be the easiest way to go, as doing it this way this way the steep stuff is all uphill, coming out of Pak Xeng.


    1. Pak Beng - Udom Sai 3 hrs 10 mins
    2. Udom Sai - Luang Prabang 3 hrs
    3. Luang Prabang - Kasi 3 hrs 40 mins
    4. Kasi - Vang Vieng 0 hrs 50 mins
    5. Vang Vieng - Thalat 1 hrs 25 mins
    6. Phou Khoun - Phonsavanh 2 hrs 30 mins
    7. Phonsavanh - Nong Het 1 hr 50 mins
    8. Nong Het - Nam kanh 0 hrs 15 mins
    9. Phonsavanh - Phou Khoun 2 hrs 30 mins
    10. Phou Khoun - Luang Prabang 2 hrs 20 mins
    11. Luang Prabang - Udom Sai 3 hrs 15 mins
    12. Udom Sai - Luang Nam Tha 3 hrs
    13. Luang Nam Tha - Meuang Sing 1 hrs 20 mins
    14. Meuang sing - Luang Nam Tha 1 hrs 20 mins
    15. Luang Nam Tha - Udom Sai 2 hrs 35 mins
    16. Udom Sai - Luang Prabang 3 hrs
    17. Luang Prabang - Pak Xeng 1 hrs 45 mins
    18. Pak Xeng - Namsoun 2 hrs
    19. Namsoun - Vieng Kham 0 hrs 25 mins
    20. Vieng Kham - Nong khiaw 1 hrs 25 mins
    21. Nong Khiaw - Pak Mong 1 hrs 5 mins
    22. Pak Mong - Luang Prabang 1 hrs 15 mins

    Visas: Laos visas are now issued on arrival at all legal border crossings. US$30 gets you a 2-week visa at the border. I overstayed my 1-month visa, (issued in Bangkok) 7 days & the fine was US$5 a day, with a receipt issued.
    Huay Sai: Keo Oudome Phone Hotel. Wang View Resort for sunset & happy hour.
    Luang Nam Tha: the Boat Landing Ghouse.
    Udom Sai: Linda Ghouse. Keomoungkhoun restaurant (diagonally opposite Linda gh.)
    Pak Beng: Donevilasak Ghouse.
    Luang Prabang: Souansavanh Ghouse. Indochina Spirit restaurant. Soudephone restaurant (best Lao food & Mekong river sunset setting in town for me.) Scandinavian Bakery. Ole Ole pub / restaurant. Duang Champa nightclub. P&T Internet. Shell gas station for bike wash.

    Vang Vieng: Dok Khoun 1 Ghouse. Pizza Falconi restaurant. New Saynamsong restaurant.
    Vientiane: Laos Paris Hotel. Dragon Ghouse. Kopchaideu pub restaurant. Sala Lao beer restaurant at Pakpasak by the Mekong river. Rainbow pub, run by the very beautiful Noi. AI internet on Samsenthai road. Xang Caf? Scandinavian Bakery. Phonepaseuth Ghouse (for breakfast).

    Riidng out to Nam Kanh & the Vietnam border with my mate Don.





    Drinking & riding with the honourable DR G & Robert H in Luang Prabang.


    A birthday party night at the Duang Champa disco night club in Luang Prabang.


    Bumping into Belgian Roland with his Thai registered Africa Twin several times.
    Eating & drinking down at the Sala Beer Lao in Vte with the "boys."
    Meeting another farang rider from Bkk with his BMW on the road between Udom Sai & Luang Prabang. Sorry mate I forget your name, but if you read this pls drop me a line to let me know how the rest of your trip went.
    Meeting Paul Maurice and his mate riding a 250 Baja round North Laos.
    Meeting Ernest, a Goldwing rider from Malaysia in Phonsavanh, but with his own light aircraft, no bike. Nice way to go Ernest, I hope to see you on a bike next time, as I can't afford to meet you with my own plane.

    About 10 kms south of Kasi, approaching a left hand corner & there was a motorcycle lying in the middle of the road. As I got into the corner, there was a guy dead beside the road. (I assumed he was dead as he was not moving, & there was heaps of blood on the road & coming out of his head.) A couple of hundred metres further up the road a truck had stopped & the driver got out to run back to the scene. The bike did not seem to be too badly damaged, & my guess was that the motorcyclist had been sideswiped by the truck, lost control of his bike & hit his unprotected head on the road as he went down. End of the story.
    Not your every day occurrence, finding a dead motorcyclist on the road. I was glad that the truck driver was coming back to investigate & I did not have to stop, especially in view of the recent robbery & shootings on the road. Just 2 kms up the road there was a village, so I stopped to inform the villagers of the accident, suggesting that it might be on of their own people who was in trouble. Two guys on bikes raced off to check it out and I felt a lot more relieved. This one sends a chill down my spine still.

    There's a few good farang 250 Baja riders that have been in Laos for a couple of years, and between them they have ridden just about all the roads in the country, and are a mine of information. The guys are German Niko, French Stan & French Laurent. In Vientiane, they can be contacted via either PVO bike hire in Samsenthai road, Feurd Motorcycle services on T2 road, and / or most evenings they hang out at (my fave) sunset bar restaurant in Vte, the Sala Beer Lao. This is down by the Mekong river, & just upstream a couple of hundred metres from the Pakpasak junction. The Sala Beer Lao has decent music, good food & service, & of course cheap COLD beer Lao.
    Cheers to Niko, Stan an Laurent for their tips, plus beer & whisky drinking company in Vte. You're all good guys, drinkers & riders. But Stan pls stop bogging your bike up to the axles in Mekong mud, the boys don't like the effort involved in getting it out.

    Officially on the Laos side at the Friendship Bridge NO Thai registered bikes are allowed in since mid-January this year. But having been told this I also saw 3 Thai registered bikes in Laos during my trip. All the riders complained about hassles at the bridge - it was not possible to enter Laos on a Thai registered bike at the Friendship bridge - however all the guys DID manage to get in. It would appear to be as if there's been a clamp down on Thai bikes coming over, due to the number of stolen ones getting in. But if you have all the correct papers for the bike - ownership book / import invoices - to prove that the bike is yours, or you do have documented permission from the owner to take the bike out of Thailand, you can still get in, if you are patient & be nice to the Lao officials.
    Note 1. I don't believe you can get in with an unlicenced Thai bike at the bridge anymore.
    Note 2. Non-Thai licenced bikes do not have a problem.
    Note 3. Entering Laos at Huay Sai (Bo Keo) is not a problem, even if you don’t have a plate.

    This report will be tweaked & updated with a bit more detail in the coming days / week. Stay tuned.

    Keep the power on
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  3. boehlerp

    boehlerp New Member

    Hi David,

    I am really not good at writing trip reports ;-(( have taken too few notes.

    I just read your report again on your message board and here is what I could add.

    Border crossing at the friendship bridge: as you said no Thai bikes. It took me about half an hour of polite talking to a nice officer there. It seemed as if they are well prepared to let you through when the papers are OK and you are polite and persistent.

    I was told to get a permission to travel outside Vientianne province at the Communications Ministry. I only found the ministry for Telecommunication and nobody there seemed to know anything. So I skipped this. Had no problems.

    One nice trip I can add to what you have done is Phonsavan to Muang Kham on route 7 and then to Nam Noen on route 6, small road, good surface, 3 cars on good 80 kilometers. Nam Noen to Vieng Kham very nasty broken tarmac.

    Besides this you have said it all already. Vientianne to Lung Prabang is just awesome. Luang Nam Tha is a nice place. The road from Luang Nam Tha to Chaing Khong you said “might be a bit sandy” ;-) Oh well, after about the half way point it was like 5 cm of bulldust with rocks, a bit scary for me, but good fun.

    Have to go again.

  4. Niko

    Niko New Member

    Hi David, pretty good report. Complement. Good rides and all the best NIKO
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    3oth June 2003
    On the same ol' Africa Twin, without a plate, I got into Laos across the Friendship bridge without too much trouble.
    As long as they are sure the bike is yours & not stolen, your chances are good.
    This time I presented copies of the import papers for my previous trips (& there are a few of them), & I was cleared in 45 mins.
    TIP on the Laos side, as you leave = if you have arrived & departed by the Friendship bridge, leave some duty free chocolates for the nice English speaking lady in room 6 of the Customs office upstairs. It's a nice thought, & she appreciates it just as much as I do the efficient import service.

    Keep the power on
  6. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer

    Hi David

    Do you still need to get entry permission from the director at the Friendship bridge? Last April, I had to wait 2 hours until he got out of a meeting because he was the only one who could approve my entry.

    The office where you get the permit to travel out of Vientiane province is on Thanon Setthathirat. This is the street that the Khopchaideau Restaurant is on. It is a one-way street heading east. The office is about 500 meters past the fountain circle, on the left side. If you get to the Honda dealer, you just passed it. Go thru the gate, and enter the building on the left.

    When I was there, no one spoke English. Luckily, I had an old form from a previous trip. Picked it up later that day, cost was 2500 kip -25 cents US.

    I will try the chocolate tip on the next crossing.

  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    There's a new Donevilasak Ghouse.
    Cost is 300 baht. Its clean well furnished & got hot water (when there’s full electric power.)

    PAK BENG – HUAY SAI: The Mekong River in this section is arguably the most beautiful part of the ‘Khong between Jinhong in China & Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam! After 4 or 5 trips on the river here I still enjoy it every time. This is a good way to either start or finish your bike trip in Northern Laos.

    Don’t go on the slow “cattle boat” with all the back packers, hire one yourself & do it “alone.” You won’t regret it.
    In May 2004 I hired a boat & came up stream Pak Beng – Huay Sai for 5,000 baht
    In early August 2004, Simon & Suzi hired a boat & went down the ‘Khong Huay Sai - Pak Beng 3,500 baht.
    At the end of August 2004, Tom Forde hired a big “luxury” pax boat for 6,000 baht did the same trip. Tom was bit extravagant I reckon, but he still thought he got good value for money. That’s how good the river trip is!

    Keep the power on

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