Chicken Killer Run 08

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by tools4fools, Dec 11, 2008.

  1. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Hi all,

    Just returned yesterday from a trip to Laos, first a week to scout around Vientiane, then 20 days in southern Laos on a little 100cc Suzuki 'Smash', covering a total distance of about 3500km (haven't added up the GPS tracks yet).

    I choose this little one as I'm no biker at all, rather a pedestrian who wanted a set of wheels to go down the 'backroads' as I have been on all major other roads during various trips using public transport.

    The route was roughly Vientiane-Mekong road to Ban Phao - route 13 -vieng kham - Hinboun valley -Laksao -Mahaxay - Vilabury - Xepon -Muang Phing
    - Tha Hai - lost in jungle - return to Muang Phing - Savannakhet - mekong road to Pakxong - route 13 to Pakse - Phontong - Don talat - champasak - sukhouma - Mounlapamok - route 13 to don khong.

    From here return to Vientiane by:

    Don Khong - mekong road to Mounlapamok - route 13 and on to Ban Kiat Ngong - Wat Tomo - Don Daeng - back to route 13 and to Pakse - Savannaketh - Mekong road to Nongbok - Thakhek - route 13 to Pakading and Ban khoksa - Ban Pako - Ban Nahay -Ban Naokhoum - route 10 to Phon Hong - Nam Lik Eco lodge - route 13 back to Vientiane.

    Here myself on my little 'chicken killer', the only pic of myself you will see, albeit the little Suzuki will decorate some of the trails in later chapters:

    1) Me on the road early in the morning just north of Ban Pako Eco Lodge
    [​IMG]

    More in the next few days, step by step when I got the pics ready, shot about 7000 on this trip, a lot of editing to do.

    Will try to included details on lodging along the route, main foccus was on Hinboun area and island hopping in Si Pan Don. There's a lot of little ferries down there which open up interesting tours down there, usually the catamaran types with a flat deck, so bigger bikes should be no probs on these as well.

    'nough for now...time to go down town and have a few GT's.

    +++++
     
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  3. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Wow- sounds like FUN!

    Look forward to seeing more.

    (BTW, riding in flip flops is a recipe for pain...)

    Happy Trails!
     
  4. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    100% correct!!!!

    I got advice from a biker (over a few drinks mat blue bananas bar in Vientiane) to insist on a helmet with visor; this was very important...when that truck trailing this hugge dust cloud is coming your way visor goes down and you are fine. What a pain it must be without...

    He mentioned some good shoes as well but I thought if the locals can do with flip-flops I can too...
    If there's one thing I will change on another such trip it will be wearing closed shoes...
    A recipe for pain indeed, and blood, some of those thorns and spikes on the plants are really strong...

    A few of those rubber strings to attach the bag and tripod on rear of seat were certainly worth the little cash they cost - paied 3000kp for each. one more than neccessary is always good as i once lost the bag due to a broken one (well, guess that's what you get for those 3000kp...).

    Maybe I should have invested a few bucks into one of those little 'between your leg luggage racks', could have put my long and narrow bag there, think it would have fit in such a way that it would not have interfered with leg movement for gear and break. that would have left more space on the seat allowing me to move further back and sitting more comfy. Next time I will give it a shot.

    Useful were two large rubbers for attaching my PDA/GPS to the handlebar, two again as if one goes there's still one holding it in place...

    Sunscreen definitely a must too.

    Long sleeve would be a must for the north, south was just doable without, albeit it was quite cool early mornings. I did just go slower instead of getting a long sleeve, but would have been available in any bigger place...

    Didn't bring any spares as thought there would be plenty all over the place as it's a common little bugger. indeed the few things needed were all locally available.

    As for maps I had the GT rider map (which is being used by a cyclist now whom I had met in Pakkading and had lost his own map) and the Gecko map.
    Gt rider is good in a sense that all confirmed roads are really confirmed and classified, but is lacking a bit in the 'supposedly exisiting road/trail'. there are many more than on GT map of course.
    Here Gecko maps does much better, albeit they are not neccessarily accurate...and that's the problem with the Gecko map, you don't know at all if it is 'confirmed' and therefore accurate, or 'unconfirmed' and therefore wildly inaccurate...
    Combo of the two was perfect, GT told me what certainly exists, Gecko was inspiring for the 'let's try this one' inbetween...

    A triple outlet to plug in was helpful too, many of the hotels had 2-3 sockets, but some had only one and then it is a pain in the butt to wake up in the middle of the night to change devices to charge. Camera, two PDA, GPS, cell phone, 2 harddrives...

    That's the equip, ready to go...
    *****
     
  5. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Active Member

    This sounds like a great trip. I've got lots of questions but I'll wait for your report. Well, how about one question? Where did the bike come from? Cost? I know that's two. I'll try to be patient.
     
  6. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    I rented mine from Mimi Guesthouse in Vientiane; there will be other places who do it as well, but you might have to ask around a bit. Many places won't rent out for long tours outside of vientiane, some set a max of 5 or 7 days. But you will find someone, who has no probs if go far, usually the smaller places (not belonging to a big hotel).

    Mimi had only one Suzuki, rest is Korlao.
    I had them write a note in Lao on a official receipt saying that moto was rented out to me for period of time. had the fellows phone number, in any case could call him (lao sim is about 6$ with 1$ on it).
    But if thing would turn completely unrepairable you would just load it on a bus and back to Vientiane that way (same can be done if you want to do a slow one way trip, then just return from Pakse to Vientiane with overnight bus and moto on top...no need for backtracking...)

    Passport stays with company, so get it xeroxed for on the way. Alternatively you might be able to give them a cash deposit, but that would likely have to be the equivalent of a brandnew bike...Overheard a conversation in other bike rental shop where one guy wouldn't want to give passport and was told to deposit 700$ instead. Passport seems better to me, cheaper to replace...

    Recommended was to get Thai made Suzuki or Honda as these things seem to run forever. Korlao (KoreanLao cooperation made in Laos me thinks) is said to be quite good too, but avoid the Chinese scooters; they are much cheaper but have heard a lot of bad stuff about them, including one local who said 'my chinese cannot do trip like this, at about 100km it overheat, no more work, you wait...'

    Cost depends a bit on condition and type, but going rate for a Suzuki seems about 60'000kip per day (aboiut 7$), you can try to get a discount for long rentals.
    Used about 3ltrs or fuel per day in average (guessing), add 22'500-30'000 (3-4$) therefore (prices vary depending where you get fuel, the little plastic bottle stations are obviously more expensive....).
    That's for an overall average of about 160-170km per day (albeit I drove much less most days, but had a few long-range days inbetween ccovering distance on route 13).

    So total cost per day roughly 10$.

    Total spend on spares and repairs was about 125'000 (15$).

    Back to editing the pics that I actually can start the report...
    ++++++
     
  7. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Here we go:

    First stayed in Vientiane for a week, was That Luang Festival at the time, well worth visiting.

    Here few impressions from vientiane;

    1) Family Ride
    [​IMG]

    2) Top Gear
    [​IMG]

    3) Vientiane riders
    [​IMG]

    4) Buddha is watching you...
    [​IMG]

    5) Temple Door
    [​IMG]

    6) Lights
    [​IMG]
     
  8. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    7) That Luang
    [​IMG]

    8) Dressed for the festival
    [​IMG]

    9) Monk
    [​IMG]

    10) At the shrine
    [​IMG]

    11) posing for the camera
    [​IMG]
     
  9. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    First day on the road heading south I took the small road along the Mekong instead of route 13; as I left past noon due to a few drinks the previous night I didn't get very far.
    Soon the road turned into a bumpy laterite road and going was therefore slow.
    People seemd quite surprised a foreigner using this road. I passed beautiful villages along the Mekong river bank, stopped for a drink and later for some noodles in local stores.
    I reached route 13 just past sunset and then drove on for about 5km to Ban Hai where I found a guesthouse for the night. Few retaurants there serve food to those travelling south and I had everything I needed for the night.

    Next day I continued to Phonsone and Phabat and had a look a the temples there.

    12) Wat Phabat Phonsone
    [​IMG]

    13) More murals there
    [​IMG]

    14) More stuff from this pagoda
    [​IMG]

    15) Detail of That Phabat
    [​IMG]

    16) Inside wat Phonnsone
    [​IMG]

    17) Mighty Mekong seen from Wat Phonsone
    [​IMG]
     
  10. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    I continued along route 13 to Paksan where I had lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Mekong. Some army fellows had their lunch there too along with plenty of rice alcohol; they offered me a shot but I refused explaining I had to drive. For them this seemed not underststandable as they all had their cars parked outside...
    Passing Pakading, located picturesque between the river and some jungle covered hills I decided to try to stop here for a night on the way back. For now I continued to Vieng Kham, just covering distance. The I turned onto route 8, towards the Vietnamese border. 11km outside of Vieng Kham there is a guesthouse a a nice little river, sure a better choice compared with the two guesthouse at vieng Kham for anyone staying overnight in this area.
    The guesthouse's bungalows are right on the river, behind the trees to the left of the following picture:

    17) Nam Thon outside of Vieng Kham
    [​IMG]

    I continued however towards Ban Na Hin, the beautiful warm light of the afternoon sun illuminating the stunning scenery:

    18) route 8
    [​IMG]

    19) Just next to the road..
    [​IMG]

    20) local house
    [​IMG]

    21) Traffic...?
    [​IMG]

    22) Stunning scenery
    [​IMG]
     
  11. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Arriving at the Sala Viewpoint, few kilometers before Ban Na Hin, I stopped for the sunset.
    Stunning views from there, next time I will bring a bottle of red wine and a cigar...

    24) Limestone Cliffs
    [​IMG]

    25) Distant mountain peaks
    [​IMG]

    26) Getting late..
    [​IMG]

    27) Sunset
    [​IMG]

    In Nahin I checked in the little guesthouse across from the market, the got only 3 rooms, quite nice but a bit noisey in the morning because of the market. The hardware store next door belongs to the same owner and you can park your bike inside their store which they shut at night.
    ++++
     
  12. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Active Member

    This is great. You sure take some nice photos. Any chance you can tell us some prices of the food and lodging?
     
  13. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    No worries, when I'm done with the trip report I will post a single reply with all the lodgings, restos and their names for all the places along the way, including current prices.
    Thought it would be better that way, if someone needs the hardcore info it will be all in one reply instead of being scattered through the entire report.

    ++++
     
  14. navigair

    navigair Member

    Stunning photographs!!!Thanks for sharing. 8)
     
  15. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Tools4Fools your fotos are really exceptional. Quality, light, sharpness all perfectly balanced and what amazes me the most that you seem to be a 'natural' on your camera as to which motives you choose !!!! A nice report and for sure a lot of fun on your trip !! Keep 'em coming !! Cheers, Franz
     
  16. daewoo

    daewoo Ol'Timer

    Loving this... please keep it coming...
     
  17. siinthai

    siinthai Ol'Timer

    Quite possibly some of the best shots I've seen on the site....awesome !
    What camera are you using ?
     
  18. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    I agree with Si, you have raised the bar for photographs on this site. Great Job. I am also curious about the camera, although I hate it when some think just a good camera guantees great shots. They forget it still depends on who is holding the camera more than the camera itself. Nice job. :D
     
  19. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    Can't say more than it's been said so far,, what a stunning pictures and fantastic report so far.....looking forward read your journey more.

    But generally main roads where good condition or 50-50?

    Fuel what they have in they stations as we been talking to Lao tour as well,but with my TANK it might be mission impossible....
     
  20. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Marco: Why mission impossible, you got a Tiger TANK? Might indeed be a logistical nightmare to refuel that one from those little 'plastic bottle' gas stations.... :D

    On the photography: I'm much more a photographer (but no pro in sense I don't make a living on it) then a biker. What made me getting my own set of wheels is to get to those places and take pics there.

    Until last year I shot film but changed to digital in january. Nikon D3 is my baby, along with 7 lenses,, tripod and two Nexto drives each 160GB to add up to about 12-14kg of gear.

    I used to do fine arts (at school my art teacher told me Im didn't have to attend class as there was nothing he could teach me...) when much younger, but when going on first trip I decided there would be so many things to see that sketching wouldn't do it. Git myself a camera therefore.

    Made friends along the way with 3 professionals (French and American) and went on trips with them, learned a good bit from those fellows. Continued and still continue to try to improve since then and what you see is the result of 20yrs of trying.
    And of course you see only the cream of them lot, sot some 7000 images on this trip, that makes maybe for 1000 different motives, of which maybe 400-500 is going to be 'good shots' and 100-200 of those that will make it into the galleries at the end...

    All images undergo some editing, usually cropping, brightening some shadow areas a tad for more detail there, adding more contrast in areas to improve on clouds for example, resizing and sharpening at the end.

    Lot of work but the result is worth the effort me thinks.

    Thanks for the positive feedback (and sorry to all the dial-up users... :oops:), more to follow once I get the pics ready (which might be slow these days as the parties begin...tomorrow the first one, going to the British Chamber of Commerce X-mas brunch here in Bangkok, that will involve quite some drinkies...).

    Cheers all!
    ++++
     
  21. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    D3! Excellent stuff u've got there! :D

    What camera bag did u bring along, and did you sling it around your body during the trip, or do you strap all those fragile glasses to the bike along the bumpy trails?
     
  22. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    What fragile glass??? You can beat the living daylight out of someone with that 300 f4 and it won't break...
    :wink:

    Seriously, Nikon stuff is build to last (apart from the cheapest gear maybe, but don't know about those as i don't have any) and bumpy road would be the last thing I worry about. My camera and lenses have gone to worse, my gear is used with no mercy...

    I carry usually a LowePro Specialist, allows to be used as shoulder bag or as backpack including waist belt. If shoulder harness is removed it has quite a 'city bag' look so can go to fancy places too...

    On the moto I used the shoulder harness and waist belt. Shoulder harness very loose, the bags weight resting fully on rear seat, the waist belt making sure the thing doesn't move left or right off the seat on bumpy roads. Worked quite well, wonder however how this arrengement would do if you fall with some speed...

    Best would be between the legs on a scooter, if possible to do in such a way that your leg movement is not restricted by the bag.

    *****
     
  23. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    well.... you should just dump the 300 f/4 on the front basket of the bike and beat the living daylight out of tigers that appeared in your path!!!! :lol:
     
  24. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Hi T4F
    Enjoying the rpt but my crappy Ipstar connection in Cambodia struggling to open all the pics. Finally opened them all this morning :D
    Any chance of the next chapters come as new threads, ie part 2,3, etc ?
     
  25. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Sounds like an idea...
    Dividing the topic in several chapter would help the dial-ups a little...
    *****
     
  26. KenYam

    KenYam Ol'Timer

    Great shots F4T well done. Would look forward to read more of your trip and how you found the people, food, roads and accomodation.
     

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