Chasing the Nam Ou river and talking DRZ

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by pee, Apr 9, 2008.

  1. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Bangkok-Chiang-Mai-Houei Xai-Luang Namtha-Oudom Xai-Sin Xai-Boun Tai-Boun Neua-Ou Thai-Lao China border

    Rider: 1
    Bike: DRZ 400S
    Mid March 2008

    Bangkok-Chiang Mai: a good sleeper on the night train. Cost for the bike: about 1000 Bahts + tips for the guys loading the bike on the train(especially greedy in Bkk).

    Chiang Mai-Houei Xai-Luang Nam Tha-Oudom Xai
    Trip reports have been posted recently with historical pictures... Can't do better than that.

    Oudom Xai-Sin Xai: pleasant tarmac road

    Sin-Xai-Boun Tai
    I was remembering a rocky all weather road. It seems a bit less rocky -except for the 30 kms before Boun Tai.
    In Boun Tai, forget the restaurant guest house near the bridge. It was Lao owned. A Chinese has bought back the business. Maybe the guy was having a bad day but he was unfriendly. The place seems dirty and he overcharged me for the khao-pat (15 000 Kips).
    A much better option for sleeping is the Phonesavanh Guest house: bungalows near a river for 40 000 Kips. Driving north you 'll see a sign board in the middle of Boun Tai. It indicates a road going left. Follow this road about 2,5 kms and Phonesavanh guest house is on the left of the road. You can eat there. A nice bunch of young Lao people look after the place. According to them if you keep going on this road you 'll reach Luang Nam Tha in "2 or 3 hours". I am interested to know if anybody has done that?
    Plenty of options for sleeping in Boun Neua. Apparently the place is "booming"(Lao way); being on the road to China.

    From Boun Neua it all dirt up to the Chinese border. However easy riding except a few muddy part under the trees.
    [​IMG]

    And there are milestones all the way

    [​IMG]

    And villages
    [​IMG]

    Going up the last pass before going down towards Ou Thai
    [​IMG]

    In Ou Thai cheap fuel (10 000 kips/ a liter). It comes from China. The petrol station:
    [​IMG]

    I have spotted 3 guest-houses. I stayed at Phousang Guest House.
    Asking the cute little girl the price is 36 000 Kips. However if you are unlucky and talk to the elder brother it's 40 000 Kips. Who cares however it's nice to check that young kids have not been trained to double-pricing, yet.

    Then from Ou Thai you 'll see all the way trucks carrying bamboo... The Chinese buy everything like everywhere else in the world
    [​IMG]

    There were a few small river crossing as they were working on bridges after Ou Thai.
    Here is the Nam Ou river a few kilometers before the border. The source is not far.
    [​IMG]

    My speedo cable broke so I have to rely on milestones for the mileage. I haven't indicate it before as it is on the Lao Gt Rider map.
    Here is the last milestone before the border:
    [​IMG]
    As in the center of Ou Thai you are between 93 and 94 I can confidently say that there 50 km between Ou Thai and the border.
    After milestone 143 there are about 500 meters. This:
    [​IMG]

    And then the Lao side of the border with Lao bamboo waiting to enter the Empire:
    [​IMG]

    Although this trip is not a loop, it is nice and pleasant. However I am glad I did it in March as it 's probably freezing in December/January.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Cheers Eric
    Good report and interesting pix.
    But don't leave us at the border.... :?
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Pee
    Good stuff there mate, as that's one area of Laos I still want to ride - North from Phongsali to the China border!

    Yeah I’ve heard about the supposed link up from Boun Tai – Luang Nam Tha. My guess is this is an extension of the road on the GT Rider map from Na Tong – Meo Chai (the China border) & then connecting to Boun Thai? I hope to have a crack at it in the next couple of months, before the wet season...

    How was the ride back from Ou Thai?
    Where did you exit Laos?
    Did you over night in Phongsali?
    I heard that there might be a new road being built along the Viet border, from straight east of Hat Sa & north to Ou Tai / Nua? Should be worth exploring for some of the GT Riders (& lurkers on the board.)

    Last but not least, how’s the DR400 running – alright then, no problems?
     
  5. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    David,

    1)About the supposed link up from Boun Tai – Luang Nam Tha.
    It is most probably the extension of the road on the GT Rider map from Na Tong-Meo Chai that you mention. People told me it reaches the tarmac road near Na Tong. How is it? One guy told me "good road"... However you know how Lao guys have often phantasms about our the potential of our bikes, believing we could reach the moon. Another guy (public servant in Ou Thai, a bit older) said that the road is not easy ("lambak")...
    Definitely the only way to find out is to try.

    2)Riding back from Ou Thai was nice and not boring. I like the landscape in this area. Coming back one doesn't see things the same way: different angle, different perspective, different time of the day. Almost felt like another track.
    I slept in Phongsali. However I think Boun Neua would have been a better option.
    Phongsali hasn't changed. Only the Phoufa hotel was undergoing renovation so I picked up a small guest house with safe parking for the bike: "Sensouly Guest House" (40 000 Kips). Albeit the Sensouly place was building new rooms and Phoufa hotel was under renovation I got the feeling that Phongsali is getting marginalized -being 40 k away from the main road to China. It hasn't got the touristic potential of Luang Prabang and it 's getting mummified in its administrative role.

    3)I did exit Lao through the Friendship bridge. No problem.

    4)I haven't heard about the "new road being built along the Viet border, from straight east of Hat Sa & north to Ou Tai / Nua".
    Also interested to hear about it if anyone has had a crack at it...

    5)The DRZ is a beauty. No problem except the speedo cable but this is my mistake. I did replace it last year with a second hand one and forgot to order a new one : som nam na!
    This bike is so much fun that I have just bought a second one. This time a DRZ400 SM fitted with Yoshimura exhaust and modified camshaft.
    If anyone can mention a more versatile bike I am eager to hear. I ride DRZ400 everyday in Bkk traffic, driving around cars like Honda Dream do. I can park in any "small bikes" parking lot. It's also a fun bike on tarmac through the curves of Nan, Loei, etc... And it's a fun bike off road. Lots of torque makes the back tyre stick to the ground easy.
    I would recommend the DRZ for anyone riding in Thailand, Lao, Cambo. I am not after top speed. Not being a tall, strong guy I value its light weight and agility. Not too much horse power, but one could use them all.
    Cheers,

    Rhodie,

    About "leaving you at the border"...
    If you know a way to enter China with a Thai registered bike, please let me know.
    If you were thinking of the way back to Bangkok, trip reports have already been posted about the Luang Prabang loop, Luang-Prabang-Vientiane, etc...
    In Oudom Xay I picked up a guest house away from main road: Khoun Keo Guest House (40 000- 60 000 kip). Good parking for the bike, quiet, overall good value. Unfortunately I haven't found your missing wallet in Oudom Xai :wink:
    In the end to be honest I have to say that I am a bit slack... You see, English is not my first language and it 's a bit of an effort to write long reports. So I tend to stick to the main points... No point being redundant.
    I am an accordion player as your hero Schwartzkopf put it :lol:
     
  6. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Dont get me started....yes, they're a great bike for the reasons you mentioned. Noticed you have a kickstart, is it retro fitted or do you have the "E" model.
     
  7. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Bill,

    My DRZ is a S, 2003 model.
    I have ordered the parts for the kick in France and got it fitted in Bangkok.
    Note: if the battery is completely flat the engine won't run anyway. I am not a mechanic expert but Khun Vikrom Montrichok (Red Baron Sales Manager) explained that to me. I take his words.
    Anyway if you think about getting a kick start for your bike, here are the parts you need:
    [​IMG]
    This invoice uses my dialect but the parts reference numbers won't change.
    It also gives you an idea about the cost: 335€ (before tax) in April 2007.
    Cheers,
     
  8. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Thanks for the info Pee
    Yes, its a good idea for dualsporting, especially if riding solo
    I fitted the kickstart kit to my 2003 "S" last year and its already paid off when I had some stator/charging problems.
    I got mine from Thumpertalk USA for $192. Due to the weak dollar the US seems the cheapest place atm for OEM and aftermarket parts.
     
  9. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    Mate thanks for the post, yea I'm a fan of the DRZ's, I fitted a "Vortex ignition to mine gave me a high range low range feel to it, with a stayintune pipe sounded like a bandit, big an ballsy.

    Stay upright, continue to post us of your adventures....Scott
     
  10. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Hi Scott,
    It looks like we should initiate a DRZ thread...
    I was not aware about the Vortex ignition system fitted on your bike. Thanks for the info. It looks interesting.
    Being a mechanical dummy I try to keep my bike as minimalist as possible; minimizing opportunities for problems when riding away from mechanical support.
    Otherwise I have a Yoshimura exhaust on my DRZ SM, I see the kind of sound you are talking about.('8)')

    DRZ are great however they have a weak point. You might be aware of it already but just in case and for the benefit of others:
    [​IMG]
    The shift lever can act as a knife and damage easily the crankshaft case which is made of magnesium (very light and very soft). Then oil leaks and one need a good epoxy set...
    Luckily this issue can be addressed by ordering crankshaft case cover from Thumpertalk(advice from BarryBqq). Cover is also available for the brake side.
    [​IMG]:
    Maybe Suzuki has fix the problem by now. My DRZ S is a 2003 model.
    On my DRZ SM 2005 I notice that the shift lever is lower and can't damage the crankshaft case anymore.
    Question: is this only on the SM models or do newer S models got the same adjustment?
    It is worth checking it out
    All the best,
     
  11. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    Hi Eric, yea drz's have foibles, my 2 piece bash plate and side cover protector slackened off after a fall an cracked the side case and I filled it with "Metal epoxy", stoped me on the day, but was able to get back to the trailer. Yea those cases seem to be made out of Plasticine, A mate of mine has super motarded his, pipe, cam, ignition system go's hard and is reliable, like the old Xr's, can't kill them with a big stick.

    Ride safe and loft that front wheel....Scott
     
  12. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Pee
    Case savers are a good idea
    I recently got the following from Thumpertalk store
    Clarke 3.9 gal (14 litre tank) $170
    Case Savers $35
    Skid plate $75

    The extra engine protection and fuel capacity equals more peace of mind on long dualsport trips

    [​IMG]
     
  13. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Met a bunch of BMW riders from Bangkok when I was staying in Phou Khoun, they were on the way to China and then into Vietnam.
    They told me they had to arrange it with a (Chinese?) travel agency and a guide would await them at border and go with them along their preplanned route (I think guide in a car, but not sure).
    +++++
     
  14. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    More peace of mind: that's the kind of thing I am after... Although petrol is almost always available I find boring to make most of my stops at petrol outlets.
    Got the engine protection already.
    The aftermarket fuel tank is the very next thing on my list. I have been thinking about it for a while, too long. As far as I remember, we even already had an exchange about the aftermarket tank issue on this board.
    I was considering the Australian made 17 liters Safari tank (which is supposed to accomodate the kick start as the picture below doesn't show)... Not easy to decide when one can't see/touch the actual product:
    [​IMG]

    However the Clarke tank looks good on your DRZ. Any feedback since you are experiencing it now?
    Does it fit well? Does it accommodate the kick start and the fan without problem?

    I also notice your rear luggage on the side of the bike. It looks neat and tidy. Have you made it yourself or bought it?
    Cheers,

    Hi Toolsforfools,

    Thanks for the tip. I guess group/organized tours may be better than nothing. That's not my favorite option.
    All the best,
     
  15. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    More peace of mind: that's the kind of thing I am after... Although petrol is almost always available I find boring to make most of my stops at petrol outlets.
    Got the engine protection already.
    The aftermarket fuel tank is the very next thing on my list. I have been thinking about it for a while, too long. As far as I remember, we even already had an exchange about the aftermarket tank issue on this board.
    I was considering the Australian made 17 liters Safari tank (which is supposed to accomodate the kick start as the picture below doesn't show)... Not easy to decide when one can't see/touch the actual product:
    [​IMG]

    However the Clarke tank looks good on your DRZ. Any feedback since you are experiencing it now?
    Does it fit well? Does it accommodate the kick start and the fan without problem?

    I also notice your rear luggage on the side of the bike. It looks neat and tidy. Have you made it yourself or bought it?
    Cheers,

    Hi Toolsforfools,

    Thanks for the tip. I guess group/organized tours may be better than nothing. That's not my favorite option.
    All the best,
    Pee
    Re the Clarke 3.9gal (14litre) tank.
    It fits OK with some slight modifications
    I had to grind the ridges off the top of the kickstart lever so it would clear the tank when its folded in.
    The threaded holes on the RH side of the tank were slightly out so I had to elongate the holes in the RH radiator shroud, but you cant notice it once bolted up.
    The Clarke 3.9 is designed to clear the fan.

    Some people prefer the lower profile Clarke 3.2gal (12 litre)because it wont castrate you if you fly over the handlebars but 12 litres is only 2 litres more than stock and for me, not worth it

    Acerbis make nice tanks but the fan model wont allow the kickstart and the kickstart model wont allow the fan

    The Safaris are very good quality by all accounts,(havent actually used one) but also a lot more expensive.

    You're right, most times throughout Thailand/Laos/Cambodia there is petrol available often enough to allow a 10 litre tank if you plan well. However its nice not to have to fill up out of Fanta/Coke bottles or muddy bottomed drums.

    Re the luggage, I adapted it and made brackets etc myself.

    The saddlebags are Ortlieb thin dry saddlebags available here.

    http://www.aerostich.com/catalog/US/Thi ... 16158.html

    They're 100% waterproof and only 100mm thick which is good for offroad. They dont hold much but I travel light.
    I had to fabricate quick release brackets that hold them in, otherwise they dont mount properly.
    Can explain further if you're interested in getting some. Its a bit of stuffing around.

    Alternatively, Dirtbagz are very popular, easy to mount, but not waterproof

    http://www.moto-sportpanniers.com/dirtbagz/index.html

    The tailbag is a modified Chase Harper Tank bag.
     
  16. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Hi Bill,

    Thanks for the valuable feedback...
    Regarding the fuel tank: I am not too keen on modifying holes or grinding the kickstart... It looks like I am going to try the Safari tank. Once it's done I 'll post a feedback here.
    I am going to take time to look the links you sent about the saddle bags. I am looking for a system I could switch from one bike to the other.
    If you happen to drive through Bangkok please let me know; we could have a cup of coffee and exchanging infos and ideas.
    Sorry to answer a bit late I just come back from a 3 days loop (Bkk-Tak-Mae-Sarieng-Hot-Doi Tao-Thoen-Thung Saliam-Sawankhalok, etc back to Bkk). Until now Song Kran madness has prevented me to try the new weapon of doom: DRZ SM. The combination Yoshimura exhaust + modified camschaft works very well indeed!
    More power, more torque.
    Thanks again for your answer.
    All the best
     
  17. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Pee
    congrats on getting the SM, wouldnt mind one myself for highway stints.

    Yosh pipes are the best for Z's (subject to noise tolerence) so you did well to get that included

    I have to go to Bangkok soon to buy a new helmet, not looking forward to it but no choice.

    Last time I was in Paddock they didnt have my size (XXL) so hopefully it wont be a wasted trip this time

    I hear fast corner also stock a decent range

    look forward to your feedback re the Safari tank
     
  18. pee

    pee Ol'Timer

    Please don't hold breath about Safari feedback... I have to digest a bit after the SM purchase, which I don't regret: brilliant on tarmac curvy roads.
    I don't know "fast corners". Not always convinced with quality in Paddock... Nothing wrong with them. You get your money worth. They have a silver enduro Araï very light for 17 000 Bahts. As far as I am concerned it's already outdated. Red Baron has a white Araï (light too) for about 10 000 Bahts.
    I often get accessories from Dirt Shop:
    http://www.dirtshopthailand.com/page_a.php?cid=3
    Got my Fox helmet from them (3 years ago: 8000 Bahts). They have a all new range now.
    However I haven't seen saddle bags like yours. So thanks again for the links.
     
  19. STUART

    STUART Member

    I also have the ortlieb dry bags. but not the slim ones. I have the big ones which are still not any too big. I throw them over my drz400s when at home and just used them for two weeks in Laos with a xr250 baja. They work very well, but no so waterproof after going down. I have repaired them with goretex patches since then. My drz has the IMS 4. gallon which actually holds more like 4.2. i did a little wrestling to get the holes to line up,but it was actually really an easy switch. I like the built in shrouds which help to guard the radiators.
     
  20. siinthai

    siinthai Ol'Timer

    I recently bought an Arai TX motard from Fast Corner, 15000B. Had a bigger size in there but a bit limited. Owner very helpful and will get something for you if you have time. TX has a visor that slides up under the peak...just rode CNX to HKT and it was great.
     
  21. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    I recently bought an Arai TX motard from Fast Corner, 15000B. Had a bigger size in there but a bit limited. Owner very helpful and will get something for you if you have time. TX has a visor that slides up under the peak...just rode CNX to HKT and it was great.
    Googled up the TX, seems to be the ideal dualsport helmet.
    UK prices ~$600 so Bt15000 seems fair.
    Couldnt find it on US websites, perhaps they dont sell them over there.

    Did fast corner also sell tinted visors for the TX ?
    How's the visor at higher speed. I dont go faster than 100kmph on the DRZ so would I need to remove the visor for highway cruising ?
     
  22. siinthai

    siinthai Ol'Timer

    Yes they do sell tinted visors!
    The std one has a slight tint which is great.
    I had visor up for most of the trip,wearing sunnies...100-120kph.
    Visor down no problem , has lock in on left side. Went through heavy rain ..no leaks ! :D I found helmut in Aus/Euro sites. none in US
     
  23. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Sorry, I meant the peak in reference to highway speeds. Is it ok to leave on for speeds up 100kmph ?
    If not, can it be removed easily
     
  24. STUART

    STUART Member

    They call that helmet the xd in the us. It can be had in two different types: XD and XD motard. The motard version has some additional vents toward the rear of the helmet. I do not have any first hand experience but my riding buddy has one. He finds that the mx style visor catches too much wind when head is turned and at high speeds. Bad enough that he plans to sell it and get a street bike helmet. I have 2 other friends who love it. It is a great looking helmet for dual sporting. I bought a similar looking helmet made by Index when I was in Thailand and am happy with it. Take that for what it is worth (about a kip).
     
  25. siinthai

    siinthai Ol'Timer

    yep peak is fine..had it upto 140...can be removbed by 4 screws...same as changing visor
     

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