Exploring Southern Laos.

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by brian_bkk, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    G'day All,

    Jim and I headed over to Southern Laos again last month.
    Absolute ripper of a trip and a great bloke to go riding with.

    We wanted to do something different.. Not the normal tracks or now graded roads and stay in the same old Guest Houses.
    This trip we planned to camp as much as needed and seek out new tracks and try and link up some different ways.

    We leave Ubon and cross over at Chong Mek.
    The road works on the Thai side are long completed.
    Dual carriage way all the way to Chong Mek,

    Vang Tao.. Big border crossing upgrade going on.
    Has been going on for a while.. But this time when leaving.. you can really start to see it take shape.

    Then the road is upgraded around 18km on the other side.. If I remember correctly.
    Certainly not to the same standard as on the Thai side..
    Much wider and maybe when they put lines on the road they can squeeze in dual carriage way.

    Same routine as last time when we crossed with Justin.. First dirt road on the right and off we go.
    Getting off that boring 45 min ride on the tarmac to Pakse.

    Jim had done his homework. Plotted out a nice route to Pakse using Google Earth with dirt all the way to the bridge.

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    There was only one bit where we went through rice fields and sure the locals have a work around when the rains come.

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    A nice easy crossing and a rumble through the back way we arrive at Pakse.

    More to come.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
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  3. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    The next day we wake up at a leisurely hour and head off to Tad Fane.
    Jim plotted this one on Google Earth. Again the creative way avoiding as much tarmac as possible.

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    We were not sure if we could get through.. Worse case scenario, go back and up to Paksong the boring way and stay the night

    We did make it and if you look at the map where we join the tarmac for the last bit to Tad Fane. There is actually a trail to the right that will take you around to the entrance of Tad Fane. Have ridden this in the past.

    We decided to push on the last few KM on the tarmac and get some food and decide if we give Pakse to Attapue a bash in one day.
    If we don't make it and it gets dark.. Camp out along the way..

    Last time we rode this in the rainy season around 18 months earlier there were plenty of places to camp with water source.

    Lots and lots of rubber tree plantations after you leave Pakse.. Sad really as this would have all been lovely forest.

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    Some kids along the way

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    Also some fun trails after leaving the rubber plantations.

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    Magnificent views along the way

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    To our surprise we arrive at a gate... This is the entrance to a coffee plantation.
    Luckily no padlocks and we let ourselves out.

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    Getting closer to Tad Fane..
    We try to avoid the tarmac and see if we can follow the power lines running parallel with the road.

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    After a feed and a coffee at Tad Fane..
    We decide to push on down to Attapue..
    If we don't make it due to night fall we will camp.

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    (Last time we did this road down this route to Attapue -
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/38594-Wet-Season-No-Plans-Tour-Southern-Laos-Jun-Jul-2013 )

    Second part of the days ride down to Attapue to come.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Sadly this track has been totally destroyed by the road upgrade :-(

    Now Dry Season.

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    Before Rainy season.

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    More current pictures

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    The wooden suspension bridge at the bottom is still a ripper.
    Also in much better repair than before

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    Even has hand railings now and no missing or skewed planks.

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    Before

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    Riding the bridge


    This time we decided to ride through the river as it was low enough and water crossings are fun too.

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    River Crossing.


    Getting closer to Route 18

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    Very dusty and white out when trying to pass cars



    The home stretch to Attapue.
    Easy ride in the end and in well before dark.

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    More to come
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  5. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    After all the dust and excitement it was agreed a rest and maintenance day was in order.
    For the bikes and us...

    Jim had plotted out what looks to be a nice day loop out of Attapue for the next day.

    It was great to leave the gear behind and just have the tools and essentials.

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    When we hit the last big river crossing with less than two hours day light left.. We were beginning to think it would have been nice to have all our gear with us.

    There was no going back at this stage we would be riding through the bush in the dark for a good many hours...
    I walked the river about 5 times taking different lines. The flow was swift and the rocks big and small and slippery..

    We decide being older and wiser ;-) to walk the bikes across..

    This really is a must do day loop out of Attapue.. One of the highlights of the trip..



    Video clip updated with new sound track as Youtube muted the original.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Its amazing how much of a beating bikes can take & keep going.
    But then again that's what they are made for, not just hanging out around the city.
    You guys really do get out there & do it.
    Well done.

    I'm looking forward to the rest of this epic...
     
  7. xipolite

    xipolite New Member

    Hi Brian. Thanks for the report. Nice.
    Is hwy 18A still unimproved or did they start building the road there? I went through there 2 years ago and had a great time.
    Thanks, Tony.
     
  8. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    Another great report Brian, you two guys are certainly doing some trailblazing over in Laos.

    Brilliant photos and videos mate, makes feel like I'm back there.

    The pace of change in Laos in scary stuff.

    Thanks for the post.

    Moto-Rex
     
  9. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    G'day Tony,

    18 A is still a ripper to ride.

    There is a little more development at both ends.. But nothing that has really changed the old track.
    There has been a bridge over the last river crossing for over a year may be two now. Before you hit the wide dusty road to Attapue.

    The upper road.. I use to refer to this as 18 B but may be wrong.
    This road is more developed than a few years ago.. During the wet the vehicles seem to be using this more now.

    But the core 18A is still a fantastic right up to the river crossing.

    Here is a link to our ride last November.
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/40750-Laos-Route-18-quot-Mud-Sweat-and-Tears-quot

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  10. mgeepers

    mgeepers Active Member

    Hi guys looks like a great ride is there any chance of uploading the tracks? I can't see the way through with the maps I've got and I'd love to follow where you went.
     
  11. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Fabulous region and great adventure … only swimming seems nicer :cool:. Happily, they kept the water crossings to wash the muddy bikes.
    Eager to see the rest of the tremendous pictures.
     
  12. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Hi,

    Any plan to do this ASAP?

    If not.. Expect the tracks will be uploaded to OSM and Auke's map soon.
    Plus David will have the tracks for future GTR maps.

    PM me if you are planning to do the trip before the rainy season and will send them to you as is.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  13. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Nearly forgot. On the way back from the day loop we passed the NEW Attapue International Airport.

    So new it is not even open yet.. Scheduled for some time end of this year - 2015.

    We had a ride around and checked it out.. All looks good.. Just need to staff it and of course.. planes.

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    Cheers
    Brian
     
  14. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Riding south from Attapue to explore the trails along the Lao / Cambodian border..

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    Asked a local for some directions and ended up in a Hydro power plant under construction.. But no short cut...

    Tet. Vietnamese New Year and all the workers had gone home..
    A solitary worker in the tunnel they were digging to put a pipe through the mountain..



    Not sure I am in a hurry to visit this area again.. Lots of logging and incredibly dusty.. some of the worst dust experienced in Laos.
    We were both glad to get back down to the normal dust.

    The entire area was as dusty as hell.. Vid below a great example



    More to come.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Surprise it is due to open at the end of the month - May.

     
  16. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Interesting.. The airport looked more or less ready.

    Every one there was saying end of the year..

    Built by a billionaire Vietnamese for his private plane is the word from numerous people.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  17. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer

    One word: EPIC
     
  18. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Time to head towards Lake Nong Fa and camp in the jungle while trying to find a way through to the North or West.

    We leave Attapue.. Jim had plotted a way that takes us though the rubber plantations then we hit some remaining jungle.
    Sadly.. Looks like all the remaining jungle is being cleared for rubber too... Along the main road for a bit, then back down south towards the Viet / Cambo border

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    Close up of the more interesting track to the east near Vietnam.

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    The bull dust was amazing.. So amazing.. As I pass the cameraman.. He falls off the bike LOL



    More to come.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  19. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    After bulldozing our way through the dust.... We make it to the main road and very happy to be out.

    Then peel off a bit further up the road heading towards the Vietnam border via dirt.
    Then swing a left back up to the tarmac..

    It is a nice ride through here.. But you guessed it.. Logging going on everywhere.
    Jim said the last time he rode through here with Chris it was still pristine.

    Going up a twisty track.. The next thing a Honda Wave comes like a bat out of hell.
    Two up... Just miss Jim and side swipe me.. Whack on my SIDI Adventure Boots.. But no damage done.
    A loud sound as he bounced off me and made a big indentation in my plastic Jack Daniels bottle.

    I looked back and couldn't see any one so guess they kept on going and manage to keep it upright.

    A hearty snack of chick hatchlings on a stick...
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    Pop back out at the tarmac with daylight fading fast..

    We have a choice..

    Check out the border then turn off up towards Lake Nong Fa and find a place to camp before dark.
    or
    Head back to Attapue.
    That would be an hours ride and we would end up in the dark and only have to come all the way back..

    We decide on checking out the border and camping.

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    Lots of trucks waiting at the police check points before the border.

    The tarmac is cut up in parts..
    Need to be on the look out for trucks and cars avoiding the holes and taking bends on the wrong side of the road..

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    We get to the Nong Fa turn off and fill up on fuel before venturing in.. Not sure where and if there is fuel further in..
    Rode this with Rex a few years earlier and know a tank will get you in and out before the reserve light comes on.

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    The pictures look quite bright.. But it was dusk and the sun fading fast.
    Not so easy to find a good place to camp this close to the main road. All the good spots have people living around them

    It is best to be near a water source..
    You can take a bath.. Filter water for drinking etc.. Just nice to be by the river.

    We turn off at the big bridge crossing and make our way to this spot.. Which was an Enduro adventure in its own right.
    Soon decide to move on as there is no where to secure the hammocks so we are off the ground.

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    Trying to find a place out of the way so we don't have any human visitors in the night..
    We pull down this logging track.. It is New Year.. All the Vietnamese workers are gone, the Lao too.

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    Eventually we get to the end of the logging track and make camp..
    Now it is almost dark and we are right in the bush.. Setting up hammocks and getting a fire going by flash light.

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    No water and we had been riding all day. Sticky and sweaty.. Only one thing for it.. "A Pommie wash..."

    Good morning.
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    More to come...
     
  20. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    After a hearty bush breakfast of boiled noodles and salami stick..
    It was time to move on..

    We continue up to Lake Nong Fa.
    An extinct volcano approx 1,200 metres above sea level.
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    The plan is to explore around the area and see if we can find away out to the North or West.....

    The route up from last nights camp site.
    The yellow line to the right is the border with Vietnam.

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    A close up of the good stuff we ended up doing this day...

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    Along with a few steep climbs.. You can imagine how much fun 10 to 20 km was coming back down in bull dust and rocks and twists and turns.

    Easy powering on up..

    Coming back down is never my favourite. Just like my first time here with Rex.. I nearly lost it once or twice coming back down.

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    This area is also opening up big time.. When I did this ride a few years earlier with Moto Rex.
    It was a lot more remote, less villages in between and a lot less exploration of the environment.

    More to come....
     
  21. Goran Phuket

    Goran Phuket Ol'Timer

    Love the report. Time to consider some serious off-roading and learn with experienced guys.
     
  22. fir_chan

    fir_chan Member

    Great Ride and Photos!!

    True Enduro Riding to these parts!! Would love to tag along if ever possible.

    You guys are probably pretty fit to be able to do this. Does these type of riding require you guys to be super fit? I am thinking so!

    Goran, got bitten by the off road bug! Not sure about going into those tracks with the GSA. I would only dare venture into these tracks with the smaller trail bikes 250-400cc.

    If we could get some nice tracks going down south Thailand, we could have much interests from the Singapore/Malaysia contingent as well.
     
  23. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    Hi Fellas.

    If you want to do off-road training.. My friend runs Xtreme Enduro Pattaya..
    There is a resort next doors with pool bar etc.

    He will get you up to speed real quick and have you blasting around the trails back of Pattaya..

    Hmmm Fitness LOL.
    You definitely become bike fit.. But if you work out at the gym or swim etc.. It will help a lot.

    The key is to drink lots of water.. take rests when you need them and also electrolytes.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  24. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    After leaving the camp we reach to a check point with a new big army building to the right.
    They didn't seem too happy to see us.. Asked for passports..
    We obliged and waited and waited while the army guy looked through..

    Obviously with no idea what he was looking at.
    Then allowed us to pass, luckily.

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    Auke and Chris were not allowed to pass less than a week later..
    So even here it can be pot luck with the officialdom.

    To make things official.. He went back and put his uniform on.

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    They have to put the uniform on or they have no right to stop you..
    - This was from a Lao friend.

    Happy faces along the way..

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    Passing the mine on the way to Lake Nong Fa.

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    Modernisation is coming and so is the power.
    They were upgrading the single power lines for double power lines..

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    Lake Nong Fa

    It is a steep climb up here in bulldust and rocks.. Not to be attempted in the rainy season unless you like challenges.

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    There is fuel for sale at the village near Nong Fa.
    Very expensive fuel !

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    We tried a track that is going in the direction we want to be heading.. Google Earth looks promising..
    The locals said no go.. We pushed on until we were stopped by a permanent fence with the top wooden log nailed in.

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    Off trying to explore other routes..

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    A mine in the middle of no where.. Again, the end of the trail.

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    On the way up to Nong Fa we noticed a very big and nice graded road going west.
    We head back here and check it out as all the other routes didn't work out. But it was fun exploring this area.
    So remote and lovely scenery.. Except for when you get closer to Vietnam.. The logging is intense.

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    It is getting late and time to setup camp.

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    Jim was awake before me and the locals had parked a Wave near our camp.
    Came back with a small rifle.. They had been hunting.

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    Filter some water for drinking and off we go to see where this track takes us and if we get get out to the west.
    The idea was not to back track if possible and find new routes that we hoped could be made in to a nice loop.

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    More to come..
     
  25. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

    After a good feed and decent nights sleep in the hammock.
    It is time to see where this new track takes us.

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    We made it to the river, but it was not possible. Local on a wave.. Just doable.
    Well.. If you were really determined you could have.

    While we were waiting the locals crossed and took 3 or 4 of them to push one Honda Wave up the the rivers edge to where we were standing.
    Also the boats used are very small and operated by kids.

    We were afraid of our over sized bikes and bodies would end up in the river..
    A long way from any where to get help.

    The edge of the track and still along way down to the rivers edge.
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    Jim looking for a way through... You can see a track on the other side of the river.
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    Get your bike off the boat in the muddy river then get it up the river bank, then up what we named Suicide Gorge.

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    A couple of months later we came back from the other side of the river. Just to link these two up.
    No boring farmland out here.. Steep and twisty with loose soil and rocks.

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    Suicide Gorge from the other side of the river

    Ride report here for that trip
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/41150-A-Southern-Lao-Odyssey

    The graded road was really in good if not great condition.. But right at the edge, just stopped..
    Became steep and twisty with loose soil, rocks and hard to get any traction..

    Getting down was OK.. But getting back up was tough..
    We could hear the locals revving the the Honda Wave and stuck in the soil and rocks at the steeper parts of the climb
    There were two of them getting the little wave up the hill.

    My first attempt was lets just say feeble.
    When this remote I am more cautious..
    But this loose stuff needed a bit more Umph in the spirit of the weekend rides with Xtreme Pattaya Enduro.

    So after having a couple of slow motion goes and help from Jim pushing.. We get the KLX up to the first part of the mountain.
    Knackered we take a rest, Jim's turn... Again knackered and we take a rest.

    Jim heads on up and one drop of the bike but does it...

    My turn... Click Click.. No power.. Oh no.. What is going on here..
    Jim walks back down and we try a few things.. But no go.. Has to be the battery.

    I always leave my GPS on and never had an issue before.. (Later confirmed with Rex this was still the original battery. New battery in Bangkok after the trip and all good)

    We try to bump start it.. but no go... ONLY one thing for it... Roll the bloody bike back down the hill where it took so much effort to get it up.
    It worked, managed to bump start.. I ride it around a little trying to put what charge the battery will hold back in..

    This time no pu55y footing around and charge the hill and make it up... Phew.. (In the video)
    Catch my breathe and make it up the next part to the top.

    Except for the Honda Wave that crossed..
    We did not see one other vehicle on the entire stretch of road all the way back to the main track up to Nong Fa.

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    The ride back up from the river. (The camera lies on the angle as usual)



    There is a stream not too far up the track. We stop here to cool off.
    It is hot out.

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    This is a stunning track.

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    Snake for lunch
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    Just before getting off this track on to the main track.. Left Nong Fa, right back to the highway and Vietnam border.
    It starts to rain.

    I stop to cover some gear up on the bike.. These kids come along.. Obviously I am a very scary person..
    Playing with them, running along side and they sprinted.. But were smiling.. not terrified.

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    Chucked it down for a good few kilometres.. But then came good before the real steep stuff down off the mountains.
    We made it to the tarmac and headed back to Attapue..

    Bike and body maintenance time.

    More to come.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 14, 2016
  26. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    Amazing report Brian, its got me backing my bags.

    Suicide Gorge and the surrounding trails look like good fun. Pity about all the logging that's going on in Laos.

    Brilliant photos, and ripper video of you guys getting up the BIG hill.

    Looking forward to the next instalment,

    Moto-Rex
     

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