A MTX 200, Lima 20 ( Long Chieng) , and a bit of Lima 85

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by rhiekel, Apr 6, 2015.

  1. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    My friend Joe was in America, and wanted to come over for some riding. We have done
    many rides together in the past. The idea was to do a loop up over to Laos, back to
    Thailand, drop down to Cambodia, then back to Thailand. I was riding a 1983 MTX 200
    which I restored last year. It is a two stroke with lots of power..... To leave on this trip,
    I never touched the bike to get it ready. I just strapped on a bag, and took off....So first
    segment for me was a non stop ride of 900 kilometers from Pattaya to Chiang Mai where
    I would meet Joe. He is riding his XR 250. A rest stop along the way. And yes, there are
    a lot more straps underneath the rain cover holding the bag onto the bike.. :)

    Getting near to Chiang Mai, there is a sort of pass which has a lot of little statues and
    spirit houses for good luck. No idea why there are zebras in the mix.......

    A few days in Chiang Mai catching up with old friends, and then off to Laos. A
    pretty painless border crossing at the one north of Nan , and then head for
    Luang Prabang the same day. We elected to take the shorter dirt cross over road
    near to Hongsa. Met a fellow Canadian motorcycle traveler on one of those toy
    KSR 110 bikes with little wheels. The last time I was on the road it was pretty
    good, and I was on a fully loaded Africa Twin at the time. So near the turn off
    the guy asked me about the short cut. I said it was a good road. Now remember
    he is asking this question of two guys that are on serious dirt bikes......Anyway the
    road was pretty bad from zero maintenance. A piece of cake for us however... Along
    the way, Joe on an easy stream crossing.

    Finally reach the ferry crossing to Luang Prabang. Just as the ferry is about to leave,
    amazingly enough the guy on the KRS rolls up. He must have been hammering to be
    able to catch us... I asked him what he thought of the road. He was really pissed off,
    and told me in an angry tone I had done three years of wear and tear on his bike
    from that road. So I guess no more free road travel advice from me....

    One night in Luang Prabang, then off to Phonsavan for the next night. Next day,
    the windy road to Xam Nua. Keep tight to your side of the road, as the local vehicles
    swing wide into your lane. I knew that, and still had a few close calls... Got into
    there in the afternoon so had time to shoot up to the Pathet Lao cave area. This is
    where the Laos revolutionary government hid from American bombing. A very pretty area.

    The house for the leader. They would stay in the houses, and when the bombs started
    dropping they would run into the caves. The house of course was right next to the cave
    entrance. There was a period of intense bombing where they stayed in the caves for an
    extended time.

    Inside the caves. A sealed door with an air pump pulling through a filter in case of a
    chemical attack.

    A pretty serious blast wall protecting the entrance to one of the caves

    Here is a position where an anti aircraft gun was placed. The black is the gunpowder
    residue. It is a steep climb up from the cave.

    A Russian vehicle. Think it was amphibious , but would not stake my life on it...

    Next morning we departed in the dark at 6:00 AM to head up towards Lima site 85 .
    A fascinating part of the Vietnam war.
    It used to be a really nice road that sort of wandered through the jungle. Now it is a
    massive road construction project. Have no idea why, as the road basically goes to nowhere...

    Contractor was doing some blasting along the way. Blasting times were posted ,
    but we still paid attention to any possible work occurring above the road...

    As we get near, you can now see Lima 85 in the distance. You can clearly see
    why America picked this site to place a radar for directing bombing runs into Hanoi .
    It is naturally nearly impregnable. When the Vietnamese attacked it, they had to
    cut their own path up.

    Getting near to Houyma, an easy water crossing.

    This is the fork at Houyma. The left fork goes a few hundred meters into Houyma.
    The right fork goes towards Pathi which is at the base of Lima 85. However you
    cannot go.....A few hundred meters up the right fork is a pretty serious
    military camp. Another trip we went that way, and were questioned and detained
    for several hours. Nobody knows what the camp is protecting. Am guessing either
    opium growing or illegal logging.

    So next day, back to Phonsavan. Then over to Vang Vieng. This is an absolute
    mandatory stop on the Asia backpacker trail. It used to be pretty nice, but now is
    just jammed with people. Sort of a shame, as it is a really pretty area.
    Next morning wheels rolling at 5:30 in the morning, as our goal was to reach the
    fabled site of Lima 20. It was pitch dark, the headlights on our bikes were crap,
    there was fog, and to add to the fun, a lot of dust thrown up by the trucks. Made for
    a really nasty ride until the sun finally showed up.
    Lima 20 was the main base for CIA operations in Laos. At its peak 50,000 people
    lived there, and it was one of the busiest airports in the world. It has always been
    absolutely off limits to outside people, and well guarded. We had tried
    in the past to get there from the northern access but were questioned and turned
    back. Now apparently the governor of the area has opened it up, and you can ride
    right in !! More information here on Lima 20.
    So the dark/dust/fog morning ride road , we cut off the main highway and head east
    towards Xaysomboun. A lot of dams are being built so the road is pretty good. So a bit
    before Xaysomboun we take the cutoff road that head towards north towards Long
    Cheng, which is where Lima 20 is located. On the way in, road is pretty good due to
    mining activities in the area. Never thought I would lay eyes on this sign....

    About 15 kilometers before the base , trouble starts...
    Due to the road construction, the road has a lot of bull dust on it. Then that morning
    was a heavy rain. It made for one of the nastiest road surfaces I have ever ridden on.
    Sort of like trying to stay upright on gooey ice.


    Sliding sideways on a very slight decline. Supposed to be heading to the right...

    The mud was a bit sticky. It jammed up the rear wheel, had to find a stick and poke
    the mud out to allow the wheel to spin.

    You can see the knobs are not really doing a whole lot of good...

    Adventure footwear... My riding boots had died from excessive water immersion
    from a previous jungle ride. Not easy to find size 14 riding boots in Asia, so just
    took a pair of leather shoes. Was not really planning on doing any hardcore offroad. :-(
    So here you see their death, hastened by the muddy road from hell. I threw them away,
    and rode the entire rest of the trip in open sandals.

    Finally myself and Joe standing on the runway at Lima 20. At last !!!

    As we certainly did not want to go back the same way, we opted to head north to
    Phonsavan on the other entrance to the base. While at the base, some very friendly
    military guys came over and wanted us to go to their office with them. So they just
    asked a few questions , took down our passport information, and wished us good luck
    on our trip.

    Here on the road north. You can just see the backs of the two small peaks that are
    at the end of the runway. The peaks were referred to as vertical speed brakes.....

    So back to Phonsavan just beating darkness. I was completely trashed, just fell into
    bed and zombied out......The next day was a long ride to Vientiane. Joe was on a
    short vacation, so we were blasting along. The following day rode to Surin in southeast
    Thailand. Then crossed the border into Cambodia, planning on a one day ride to
    Phnom Penh. Turned out there was a 100 kilometer road project which made for a
    hellish ride. On a narrow part of a construction bypass road, a car came straight at me.
    I just missed by inches crashing off the road as I was forced up on a loose dirt berm.
    A great meal in Phnom Penh, and then onto Sihanoukville . One night there, and then a
    quick blast back home to Pattaya. Joe then flew out the next day.
    Overall a great trip. Total distance for me was about 5000 kilometers, all done on a
    two stroke dirt bike. The bike is a 32 year old antique, and it performed flawlessly the
    entire trip. If it failed to start on the first kick, it was because I had left the kill switch
    in the off position .

    A tip of the hat to Brian and Oddvar who got in here first without being " connected".
    I know that Auke has been here before because he knew some people. Pretty cool
    now to be able to just rock in by yourself. It is a long way to go if
    you are turned back, so their success in getting in gave us the courage to give it a try.
    At this point I think anyone can just ride in. As long timers know, things in Asia can
    change by the week. So if you want to go, would do it soon in case things change.

    Also in case you want to go, the north entrance is no longer guarded as well. So an easier
    trip would be to come in from that direction. A pretty good dirt road, with a lot of the
    section on the Phonsavan side already " improved " to being an excellent fast road.
    A few little steep sections with loose rocks, so don't plan on taking your loaded up
    street bike unless you have big balls... :)
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A great trip on a beast of a bike Robert.
    Incredible that you are doing it now & still enjoying it just as much on the MTX, rather than your previous "black widow maker."
    This trip must have felt like a crowning glory ride for all your good rides & times in Thailand -Laos - Cambodia - Indonesia.
    Well done & a hearty congratulations.

    Only Phou Phathi still awaits you one day.
    This pic
    is a beauty of that famous mountain

    a big thank you for the post. - good to see you back on GTR again.
  4. mudboots

    mudboots Ol'Timer

    A good read and good photos your little MTX200 done you proud I was thinking of riding my CRM250 from MaeSai to Savannakhet Lao's for a new visa last week but I chickend out thought it would be to far there and back on a 2 stroke you have shown me it can be done 'Good on you I will have a go next time :)
  5. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    Not sure about the CRM 250 , but the MTX 200 has a pretty good counter balancer
    in the engine so is relatively smooth on the highway believe it or not . Had a bit of
    vibration from the fairly serious knobby tires on it. More of a dual sport tire would
    have helped quite a bit. Only hassle is pouring in two stroke oil all the time. Pretty
    easy to find in Thailand and Laos, but not easy to find in Cambodia as not many bikes
    there are two stroke. Top speed was about 95kph with the gearing on the bike. Gearing
    is about right for nasty hill climbs, but a bit low for the street.
  6. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    Bike damage:
    1. Blown right fork seal
    2. Broken mount for left side stand off rack
    3. Tank had to repainted from excessive fuel that ran down the side of it
    after a fill up then a coffee break.
    4. Headlight bulb and tail light bulbs destroyed from the rough roads. For night riding
    the stator would power the low beam headlight and the turn signals. So for night
    riding would leave on the right turn signal so as not to be rammed from behind.
    5. Low oil indicator for the two stroke oil tank failed
    6. Total electrical system failure. The power wire for the ignition snapped off
    at the base of the ignition switch. Good thing an old two stroke bike has
    no need of the power system, and runs perfectly without it.
    7. Tires a bit bald, to be expected after a rough 5000 kilometer trip

    But overall the bike performance was pretty impressive. We were moving fast,
    so no time to stop at a small friendly motorcycle shop to have things fixed. I
    figured as long as the bike kept making forward progress, I would fix everything
    back home. Which I have just done today. I break them, and then I fix them... :)
    Two days after getting back, I took the bike out bar hopping. Somewhat drunk
    on the ride home, the bike starts sputtering and dies. So there I am in the dark
    with a dead bike. Even in my somewhat weakened state, I deduced that since the
    bike always seemed to run perfectly , only a fouled spark plug would stop the bike.
    So I took out factory tool kit I had bought as a lark, pulled out a new spark plug
    which anyone with a two stroke bike carries, changed it out to the amusement of
    some nearby bar patrons, fired it right up, and rode home in style.... :)
  7. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Nice report Robert.

    Nice standing on that runway and looking around the place B-)

  8. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    Would have liked to look around a bit more. Arrived mid afternoon a bit trashed and
    overheated from battling the mud. So really a couple of photos, knocked back a
    bunch of water, had a question session with with the soldiers, and then blasted
    off to try and reach Phonsavan before it got dark. Sure would have been nice to
    tour around a bit......
  9. mactbkk

    mactbkk Ol'Timer


    Re Phu Pha Thi, LS-85, a couple friends and I also visited Houay Ma, old LS-107, but also not to the base of PPT, had been advised NOT to go there. We came in from the west. Had driven up from Vieng Thong aka Moung Hiem aka LS-48, north to Moung Son, LS-59, then turned east towards PPT. The first 10 km or so very difficult then pretty much OK. Headed on east to Sam Nuea, ran into a couple of the new road reconstructions on the way. Long day, but interesting.

    Re Long Tieng, it’s “LS-20A” not “LS-20.” The latter is for Sam Thong, the former USAID base about 45 minutes north up the road from Long Tieng.

    “... we cut off the main highway and head east towards Xaysomboun. A lot of dams are being built so the road is pretty good. So a bit before Xaysomboun we take the cutoff road that head towards north towards Long Cheng, which is where Lima 20 is located.”

    A couple Qs here:

    You cut off of Rt 13N, a bit south of Vang Vieng, and headed east, correct? This via the PBM Houay Xai Mine area? Does that road go up through Moung Phoun, then crossing the Nam Ngum River to catch the N-S road to Long Tieng?

    We were up there last December, Long Tieng, that is, going again next month. Nice drive all the way through to the PDJ.

  10. mudboots

    mudboots Ol'Timer

    Yes the CRM250 has a counter balancer shaft, I have read where some guys have tried taking it out they said if you are only riding off road you don't notice it but on road the vibration was a bit much so back in it went. And yes I have full knobbys on it, I do carry a spare spark plug but so far never had to change it.
  11. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    So we left Vieng Vang in the dark, and were too busy dodging trucks in the darkness to
    really pay attention to navigation. Always remembered passing the big blue sign that
    say Xaysomboun special zone. Was fixed in my brain from glancing at the map the night
    before that the turn was straightforward, and a bit south. So we turned in at the blue
    sign. Go for a ways, and then asked a girl for directions at one of the many forks. She
    laughed and said we had to wait for the ferry at 12:00 . ???????? Turns out my map
    was a bit out of date, and did not show the area flooded by the dam. :) So had to
    go back north and turn off at the other road that goes above the dam area. They
    put in a lot of rocks in the road so they could run big trucks for the dam construction,
    but it made for a rough ride on a bike with weak shocks.....

    Regarding getting to Houyma from the west, I remember Don saying one time he had
    gone in that way. Later when I checked google maps and google earth it did not show
    any roads in that way. Maybe I have to buy his map... :)

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