GTR 2013 Mekong Boat Trip Houei Xai - Luang Prabang a bit more.

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    MEKONG BOAT TRIP

    Sailing the Khong from Houei Xai - Luang Prabang is a very popular tourist activity in Laos. These are usually a two day trips with a night in Pak Beng, a place that used to have a terrible reputation for a dump of a town on the banks of the Mekong. Pak Beng has improved a lot over the years, but if you're doing the Khong by boat then IMHO opinion the only way to go is with your own boat & in a day. Put your bikes on board & sail down the Khong in style, eating & drinking as you go. No phone calls & no emails to answer - a totally stress free relaxing day.

    I've done it a few times before

    Early Mekong Boat Trip

    The Mekong Boat Lost Rider Trip

    Losing my Laos Cherry...

    Laos Expedition 2004

    it had been a few years since the last one & with proposed dams for Pak Beng / Luang Prabang still on the cards I thought it's time for another one before it is all gone.

    The Mekong is a magnificent river with amazing changes of scenery & riverside village life that has not changed for generations.

    But you need to pick the right time to go.

    1. Wet season is no good - too much water, with maybe rain & low cloud cover so you can't see anything. The problem with too much water is that the river floods to the muddy forest clad river banks & you don't see any of the amazing rocks & rapids on the river.

    2. Cold season is not good because there is often too much fog on the river, making navigation slow & dangerous. With reduced day light hours & a slow speed you can't do Houei Xai - Luang Prabang safely in a day. It is a 2 day trip; & for me 2 days gets a bit boring.

    3. Hot season sometimes there maybe not enough water & too much smoke again so you can't see anything.

    So the optimum time to go is usually sometime in the last week of Feb - the first week of March.

    And so it was.
    Bungy, BrianBkk & TonyBkk have already submitted reports.

    You can check out their reports here

    Bangkok Weekend Warriors ride Laos ---- In style.

    Laos, The Boat, Birds, Bikes and Booze trip!

    Cruising the Mekong and Riding through Laos, February 2013

    It was a ripper trip, not without a few hiccups, but still great fun & extremely enjoyable = let's do it again.

    No need for a big boat trip report from me, as the other guys have written & photographed it beautifully.

    So here's a few pix to keep it rolling.

    The skippers wife praying to the spirits before the boat sets sail.

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    note the boat skippers daughter's Honda Click stowed on the bow.
    The bike had just been in Chiang Rai for repairs, as it can't be serviced properly in LPQ they claim!

    On one of my early Mekong boat trips, they tried to set off with the AT on the bow.
    It looked like this
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    not a good idea & eventually we settled on this
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    but now we've got it down pat & it looks like this

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    the boat can seat 40 people, but the plan always is to have less than 15 on board & not more thahn 10 bikes absolute max.
    Anymore bikes or people & it gets crowded on the boat.

    This trip was 8 bikes & 13 pax - pretty much perfect.

    Early morning departure

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    you haveto get away early - on time - at 7AM to beat some fog that comes around 9AM at some rapids downstream.
    Don't get away early & you get caught in the fog, can't negotiate the rapids, & have to tie up to wait for the fog to clear.
    Then there's the danger of not reaching LPQ before dark & having to sleep on the boat somewhere.

    The new bridge at Chiang Khong

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    The viewpoint on R1155 overlooking the Khong

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    The pic with the Snail below was taken at the viewpoint just a few weeks earlier.

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    The boat stops at Pak Tha, to check in with the police, before carrying onto LPQ. You get to take a quick break here & take some pics on the rocks in the river

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    A happy Ambassador & Ambassador-ess

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    Last edited: Jul 5, 2016
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Low early morning light & a touch of fog.

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    an unchanged river side life

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    sandy beaches & rocks

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    Pratu Siam & Pha Tang in the distance.

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    doesn't look quite as dramatic from the river does it?

    Into a narrow channel & some rapids

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    The boat skipper on duty

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    note the heavily blessed steering wheel.

    Cruising past a rocky cliff face

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    The skipper's wife & daughter cooking lunch on the stern

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    & what a terrific meal they cooked up!

    Its a good boat with 2 smart clean flush toilets.

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    No squatting over a hole on the stern, like I've done before!

    The view from the toilet porthole

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    Upstream from Pak Beng & the new bridge construction site

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  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Another more "luxurious" cruise boat on the river,

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    but I'd rather be on a traditional long Mekong boat.

    Fai & the delightful boat skipper's daughter

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    soon to have her own boat for running cargo up & down the 'Khong from Chiang Saen -China.
    Supposedly 50,000 baht profit a trip. There's good money on the 'Khong!

    A Mekong beach peanut crop.

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    later on in the day

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    it was a long care free happy hour!

    Peace & tranqulity...sabai sabai..

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    From dry to wet season the 'Khong rises & falls metres

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    a navigation beacon in need of repair, but not damaged by a collision with any boat.

    Amazing coloured rocks

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    often on either river bank, the rocks were of totally different colours & composition.

    Down into the water twisties near Pak Ou.

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    Pak Ou - the mouth of the Pak Ou River

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    & just a few kms upstream on the Nam Ou another dam is being built!

    The majestic Mekong

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    Arrival time in LPQ was 5.30PM, on schedule.
    The boat pushed it way into the concrete ramp & bikes were unload amongst the crowd.
    & away we went

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    Thanks guys & gals coming on the boat trip. It was a beauty & I enjoyed the fresh easy going company on the cruise.

    Dinner that night beside the Khong at Phak Dee Bakery the ex Soudaphone.)

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    Day 2 was down.
     
  5. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Thank you David for putting up photographs of good memories, after your excellent organization and coaching of the trip. All of us had a good time … some took more pictures, others had more beer … all had great fun and delighted in the privilege to smoothly cruise down the Big River in a breathtaking and ever changing panorama.

    Most participants have posted a selection of nice images, while I feel bad to be very late. However,as the trip is now well documented, nothing is really missing and friends, who were not on board, can also rejoice by watching the published material.
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Days 3 - 7. hanging out in Luang Prabang, one of the places I always find hard to leave.

    Luang Prabang has been a world heritage town since 1995

    Its always worth taking your time in LPQ & going for a stroll down the narrow streets & along the river.

    Wat Xiengthong

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    It was Macha Bucha day & a full moon whilst in Luang Prabang.

    Wat Xiengthong, Macha Bucha night

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  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Cruising the riverside....some innovative Lao parking.

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    on the prowl with Jurgen

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    The UNESCO office

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    Wat Senesouk

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    Ancient Luang Prabang Hotel

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    Luang Prabang - living museum

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    back at the ranch, Robert, Ian & Richard got a Chinese send off.

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  8. tehsk30

    tehsk30 Ol'Timer

    just awesome...loss of words to describe...hope to b able to do what u have done in near future myself...keep up the nice adventures...
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Luang Prabang Central

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    clever guys at the Wuttisak Clinic.

    For me, one of the big delights of LPQ is food - wining & dining in the fresh air, plus Sunset happy hours by the 'Khong

    Many people love Joma for brekky, but for me it the Scandinavian

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    less crowded & noisy in the street than the Joma area.

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    this is the 3rd location for the Scandinavian & each time Sune moves because they try to double or triple his rent when the lease is up.

    Interestingly I understand that Joma's lease is soon up & they too are looking for another property.

    My fave riverside restaurant in LPQ is still at the Soudaphone location, but now called he Phak Dee Bakery.

    Jurgen & Fai enjoying dinner at the Phak Dee

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    The big trees by the river are truly beautiful

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    It's incredibly relaxing, chilling out by the Khong watching life & the river slowly go by.

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    A new "discovery" this trip was the Viradesa Sunset restaurant.

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    We met here most days for happy hour.

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    another happy Ambassadorial pic

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    Miss Noi, daughter of Viradesa Sunset

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    whose Mum speaks good English, having gone to Russia as a teenager to learn to driver cranes. Those were the revolutionary days. When she came back from Russia there weren't many cranes in Vientiane / LPQ, so she went back to Russia again to learn some business management. A lovely tale & a lovely Mum & daughter.

    The LPQ night market

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    The LP Wine Bar was another cool spot to hang out at night in the main street, but passed the walking street night market, & so its a lot quieter & more relaxing.

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    Hospitality rocks in LPQ with friendly easy going care free people.

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    I endeavoured to return the hospitality at the Oudom Souk, sponsoring a staff lunch one day.

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    maids, reception & ex owner.

    Miss Mee was the day's bartendee

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  10. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Second in command, just after the boat's captain, our 'fearless leader' (Tony and Brian dixit) safely sailed the modern 'Mekong River Expedition' (the first one was in 1866) through turbulent waters and particularly rapid flows of 'Beer Lao'.

    Thank you again David for organizing this masterpiece of a trip.

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  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Back to some culture & a few more temples

    Wat Mahathat

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    Wat Mai

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    Wat Visunalat

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    Wat Visunalat Chedi

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    Wat Aham

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    Wat Pak Khan

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    Wat ____?

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    Wat ____?

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    Wat Senesouk?

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    Wat Siphoutthabat

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    Wat Manorom

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    Wat Manorom Chedi

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    And
    another Wat____?

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  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Still going & a bit more culcha in LPQ.

    THE TRADITIONAL ARTS AND ETHNOLOGY CENTRE

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    Info on ethnic groups in Laos

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    Info on Akha in Laos

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    Info on Hmong in Laos

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    Info on Tai Dam in Laos

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    Info on Kmhmu in Laos

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    The TAE Souvenir Shop

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    There are so many different ethnic groups in Laos it is often confusing to know who is what.
    A visit to the TAE Centre in Luang Prabang helps understand what you are riding through sometimes.
    The centre is well worth a look & see.
     
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Ock Pop Tok - Lao Weaving Exhibition Centre in Luang Prabang

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    Ock Pop Tok has an excellent weaving display - information

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    HEMP FACTS
    Hemp comes from the cannabis sativa plant, just one of several different varieties of cannabis. Most people are familiar with the rasta and indica varieties which are known universally as marijuana, derived from the Mexican slang. Both these varieties are high (all puns intended) in THC, the active ingredient needed to get 'high'. Cannabis varieties that contain THC are illegal in Laos and many other countries.

    Hemp does not contain THC. It has been cultivated the world over for more than 12,000 years. The latin name for hemp, sativa, means useful. Hemp can be used for many things such as fuel, cloth, paper, food, oil, rope and sail canvas. It is widely regarded as the crop for the future because it has such a low environmental impact. It can be grown and processed without any chemical treatments and yields three times more raw fibre as cotton. Oil made from the seeds can be burned as fuel and has fewer emissions than petroleum.

    What is hemp used for?

    Daily Clothing - trousers, shirts, jackets, head scarves, hats, protective leggings, belts and shoes.
    Household Items - Blankets, bags, string.
    Ceremonial Use - Funeral clothing, and new year's clothing: highly decorative jackets, skirts, trousers, sashes and shoes. Strips of fabric as banners in shamanic practices.

    VILLAGE WEAVER PROJECTS
    Village Weaver Projects are a series of initiatives that create economic opportunities for artisans in rural locations. We help develop ranges of handicrafts that combine craftmanship and tradition with artistic creativity and market knowledge. Our team of weavers, dyers, designers and tailors transfer their skills to aid artisans make a better living from handicrafts. Currently this work takes place in 11 provinces. Combining a passion for these deep-rooted cultures and the handmade traditions with our business saavy we are able to create thriving village enterprises. In most cases we work with a government or NGO partner.

    OMA WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Oma. Language Group: Sino-Tibetan
    Province: Phongsaly Project start date: May 2002
    The Oma are one of Laos' smallest ethnic groups, with only a few villages in Phongsaly province. Cotton growers, indigo dyers and exquisite embroiderers result in their traditional clothing being both colourful and unique. The remote locations of their villages make trade difficult, but since early 2002 when the Lao Women’s Union invited Ock Pop Tok to support the purchasing of their handicrafts we have maintained a creative and financial input into the production of their handicrafts.
    Headscarves and jackets that are still made and worn on a daily basis by the Oma can be found in the gallery. One woman, Amee, travelled to Luang Prabang on a few occasions to work on product designs that she in turn has taught to her fellow compatriots. Have a look for bags and purses that show off their incredible needlework.

    LUANG NAMTHA WEAVER PROJECTS
    Ethnicity: Khmu, Lanten, Akha. Language Group: Mon-Khmer, Mien-Yao, Sino-Tibetan
    Province: Luang Namtha Project start date: 2004
    Veo’s brother, Dr. Phouvieng, is a doctor based in Luang Namtha. Working in the field, he realised that there were mutual opportunities for the remote communities and his sister’s enterprise, Ock Pop Tok. Dr. Phouvieng starting buying a variety of handicrafts; tapestry cotton skirts, jungle vine bags and bamboo paper, and sending them to us. In turn we sent back comments and requests, could the bags be bigger, the paper wider and so on.
    Jungle Vine: a non-timber forest product (NTFP) is an eco friendly product, its grows wild in the fields' fallow year and although the process to make yarn is laborious the finished product is an example of great resourcefulness.
    Look for the jungle vine bags in our shops.

    KATU WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Katu. Language Group: Mon-Khmer
    Province: Salavan Project start date: Jan 2010
    The Katu, skilled weavers and cotton growers needed some help re-introducing natural yarns and dyes back into the production of their textiles. As with many communities that have little access to secure markets, the incentive to work with costly materials is low, and weavers turn to cheaper and easier options and start using synthetic materials. Many of our projects start by re-introducing natural fibres and dyes, we buy the product and thus demonstrate that there is value in working with high quality materials.
    By invitation of the LNTA our team journeyed to the south to embark on a series of trainings that would build skills and confidence in working with natural yarns and dyes.
    Check out the beaded scarves, skirts and home-wares……..uniquely these communities also weave with banana tree fibres…….

    AKHA WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Akha. Language Group: Sino-Tibetan
    Province: Phongsaly Project start date: 2003
    Cecile Pouget who had moved to a small village with her husband, an EU worker, and their two young sons set project Akha Biladjo up 7 years ago. Cecily needed to do something that was both fulfilling for herself and entertaining for her sons. Working with the Akha women in a nearby village they collectively started stitching kids toys and books out of local fabric. The designs took off and local markets were found, thus was born the Akha Biladjo project a self sustainable way of using traditional skills to generate good steady income. Cecily now lives in Cambodia but the project is self-managed and is one of the success stories of handicraft development in Laos.
    The product range continues to grow with initiatives likes Ock Pop Tok requesting new designs and working with the women on new product ranges.
    Check out the dolls, necklaces, key chains and other fun fabric animals ……..

    TAI DAENG - TAI PUAN WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Tai Daeng, Tai Puan. Language Group: Tai Kadai
    Province: Huaphan, Xieng Khouang Project start date: October 2001
    Every now and then a textile so exquisite, so unique shows up on our door step, the first of these was back in 2001, when a trader from Huaphan Province brought to the gallery a long cloth of ikat and supplementary designs. Veo a textile connoisseur was rendered speechless. Ethnologists write that Lao textiles can be traced back to specific villages because the design is so representative of that unique culture or family. We decided to put that theory to test. 5 of us set off for Huaphan, textile in hand looking for the woman that had made this cloth. To cut a long story short we did indeed find that artisan, the connection had been made with a remote community and together we started working on reproducing textiles that took in some cases 6 months to produce. This was how the Village Weaver Projects started.
    Now working with dozens of villages in Huaphan, Xieng Khouang Provinces you can see the fruits of these looms….on the walls of our galleries ……see if you can find the reproduction of the textile that set the whole project off………..

    HMONG WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Hmong. Language Group: Mien-Yao
    Province: Huaphan, Xieng Khouang Project start date: June 2005
    Hemp an almost magical fibre, (the Latin cannabis sativa means useful), is cultivated by the Hmong peoples of Laos. The bark of the plant is used to create cloth and the seeds to make oil. In 2006 we decided to tell the story of hemp in an exhibition at our Fibre2Fabric Gallery. Research trips took us to some of the most isolated mountains in Huaphan Province where we found Hmong communities farming hemp. Using melted bees wax darkened with indigo paste the women draw intricate designs that are then dip dyed in indigo vats to create striking blue and white cloths.
    These cloths form the basis for stitch work resulting in cloths that are used for skirts, baby carriers and all manner of items. Here at the gallery you will find the love balls used in the New Year game of pov pob, skirts and repurposed items like pillowcases.
    To learn more about hemp visit our Living Crafts Centre, meet Mae Tow Zu Zong a Hmong batik artist.

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    TAI LUE WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Tai Lue-North West. Language Group: Tai Kadai
    Province: Bokeo, Oudomxai, Sayabouly Project start date: 2009
    The Lao National Tourism Administration (LNTA) hired the Ock Pop Tok team to develop handicrafts in their target tourism development villages. The first part of the training is to demonstrate a demand for homespun cotton. The Tai-Lue are experts in cotton growing but skills are waning due to lack of viable options for selling their products. We lead natural dye training programmes followed by product diversity development. The local tourism offices sell their products and often a local market place is created for visiting tourists to stop and support their work through purchases. As you travel around Laos, make a point of stopping in at the local tourism offices to see what activities are being promoted and how you can support the production of local handicrafts.
    The fruits of these labours can be seen in items such as cotton elephants from sayabouly, tapestry love gifts and rugs from oudomxai or bags and skirts with colourful motifs from Bokeo.

    TAI LUE WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Tai Lue – Nam Ou. Language Group: Tai Kadai
    Province: Luang Namtha, Phongsaly Project start date: February 2001
    The Tai Lue of the Nam Ou and Tha waterways are masters of the indigo and stick lack dye (blue & red respectively). Back in the early days, Ock Pop Tok was looking to expand its repertoire of natural dyes and had heard of a village in Nam Bak district, Ban Na Nyang that may potentially be able to help us in that area. On arrival it was instantly apparent that the journey was going to be worth it. The village is a model of traditional cultural life, set in a lush river valley the elegant stilted houses stood over looms, cotton ready for spinning spilled out of baskets and colourful yarns dried in the sun.
    Lue villages like Ban Na Nyang posses incredible weaving and dyeing skills but lacked market opportunities, now Na Nyang is a thriving cotton weaving village with many hotels and businesses placing orders. Ock Pop Tok has taken the weavers of Na Nyang to many provinces, their story is inspiring for other weavers to hear.
    Look for lengths of naturally dyed fabric or scarves or bags…

    PHOU TAI WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Phou Tai. Language Group: Tai Kadai
    Province: Savanakhet Project start date: Jan 2010
    The Phou Tai cotton farmers are masters of the ikat technique. Using natural dyes weavers obtain contrasting motifs. Traditional skirt fabric is re-purposed to create home-wares adding diversity to the products range securing better market placement.

    TAI MOEI - TAI CHAI WEAVER PROJECT
    Ethnicity: Tai Moei and Tai Chai. Language Group: Tai Kadai
    Province: Khammouan Project start date:
    Tai Moei and Tai Chai weavers in Khammouan keep their traditions alive weaving colourful ikats and ceremonial cloths.
    Far far away on the southern borders of Laos and Vietnam Tai Moei and Tai Chai women weave highly colourful and intricate designs. Traditional silk skirts showcase complex ikat motifs with detailed supplementary borders. The ceremonial cloths are unlike any other in Laos, as they are made on 8 pedal and 2 warped looms. These are some of the most remote communities in Laos, weavers produce for barter markets in both Laos and Vietnam. Cloths are influenced by both national cultures with some textiles featuring the Vietnamese language.

    Working with Mrs Hua we are developing commercial uses for the unusual ceremonial cloths. Traditional monochrome silk motifs are being made on wider looms creating more potential for new markets and steady cash income. Look for these in the gallery as either hangings or home-ware items. The skirts are impossible to miss……hues of pink, purple and red…

    The Ock Pop Tok Shop

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    The Ock Pop Tok weaving centre is well worth a visit when in Luang Prabang.
     
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    TAK BAT - Morning Alms round in Luang Prabang

    If you get up at 5.30AM & hurry down town you can catch the Luang Prabang monks doing their morning alms round.
    The event is one of the highlights - tourist attractions of Luang Prabang,

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    Guide lines for respecting the Tak Bat in Luang Prabang

    • Observe in silence and only make offerings if, for you, they correspond to a religious step that you can take with dignity.
    • Buy your rice in the market, preferably early in the morning rather than with the stallholders on the path of the bonzes.
    • Remove your shoes to give your offerings; women must stay on their knees and ideally wear a scarf over her shoulders.
    • If you’re not making an offering, stay at a distance, in a respectful manner. Don’t hamper the procession of bonzes and the donations of the faithful.
    • Make sure you are decently dressed, with your shoulders, body and legs well covered, especially if you are giving any offerings.
    • Don’t take photos of the bonzes from too near; the flashes are most disturbing both for the bonzes and the faithful.
    • Avoid any physical contact with the bonzes.
    • Never position yourself so that you are in a higher position than the bonzes (on a wall or on steps, for example) its very disrespectful : the bonzes must always be on the highest points.
    • Large buses are strictly forbidden in the protected area of the World Heritage, and create serious problems. Don’t follow the procession by bus. You again risk being higher than the bonzes, which in Laos is a lack of respect.

    Unfortunately it has become a bit of a circus for most of the year.

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    However it is still worth getting up for once or twice.
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAYS 9 & 10
    Phonsavan was the next stop & unfortunately it rained for the 2 days I was there.
    The master plan for checking out all the new Plain of Jars Sites was washed out - it was a cold 14 Celsius & raining. Yuk!
    The Tourist Office was the first stop
    Lots of good info here too now about the attractions of Xieng Khouang & Phonsavan.
    It's all about the bombing & UXO & The Jars.

    THE JARS
    There are now no longer sites 1-3, but sites 1-7!

    Sorry no new jar pics because of the rain,
    but there are some pics here on GTR
    Plain of Jars - Post your favourite pictures here

    plus a wonderful photographic report by Jurgen
    An Easy Road to Laos - 3 Plain of Jars

    Some other info Ive been able to pick up the jars.

    The Xieng Khouang Tourist Office

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    it was a cold & wet day

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    XK is proud of it's bombs?

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    The XK tourist office has a pretty good display on the attractions, culture & history of Xieng Khouang.

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    & they still had an original 2002 GTR Laos guide map up for display.
    They were presented with new 2012 GTR Laos guide maps, but I suspect they wont go up for display, but only be for office use.

    Some of the display

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    The Bamboozle was a welcome new discovery in Phonsavan & is arguably the best food & service in town, for westerners.

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    Happy Hour at the Bamboozle

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    the best breakfast in Phonsavan at the Bamboozle

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    another find was the Lao-Farang restaurant

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    motorcycle hire, good local tourist attraction info
    PLUS
    a decent pizza

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    and they sell the GTR Laos map
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    If you want to know about biking & trails in Xieng Khouang go see Keo at Lao-Farang restaurant.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2016
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DAY 11 PHONSAVAN - PAKXAN - VIENTIANE

    The day before I started the trip I got a tip off that the new road south from Phonasavn - Pakxan was all asphalt with all the bridges complete - no stream crossings.
    Too good to be true? I changed my plan to ride out to Xam Neua & back via Viang Thong - Nong Khiew - Oudom Xai.
    Lets check it out & see......

    The weather was still cold & wet when I set off from Phonsavan & a nippy 14 Celsius.

    Some happy drizzle snaps on the way

    The start of the new cut through the mountains west of Mouang Khoune

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    a good road, but a shame about the weather.

    The big new dam site on the Nam Ngiap?

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    Part of the old asphalt road

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    all good fun on a smaller bike, like a 250, but on a bigger bike you have to work at it.

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    The bumpy, narrow step & winding old road lasts for about 25? kms; unfortunately I lost my all GPS track & photos for the last 3rd of this day's ride,

    But I left Phonsavan about 10AM, arrived in Pakxan around 4pm & was in Vientiane about 5.30PM from memory.

    Now I reckon if you want to do a northern Laos loop use the Pakxan - Phonsavan road to head north & return to Vientiane via R13 & Vang Vieng.
    3 Cheers for the fast improving road network in northern Laos.
     
  17. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Amazing report David !! Sure you all enjoyed it too much & had a lot of fun !! Filled with envy myself for not being able to come with you.........
    Like especially the Mao-Lao parked tuna-can in front of the temple, seems also to have loads of Somchai's there too.
    Food at the Bamboozle looks mouthwatering both the Happy Hour one and the Brekkie. Keep 'em coming, cheers, Franz
     
  18. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    What a fantastic trip you guys have experienced. The boat trip would have been a ripper.

    Great report David. It shows that with all the change in Laos, there’s still so much of its old traditions untouched.

    As you say, with that section between Phonsavan to Thasi all finished, there is now some great loops possible for the road bike riders.
    Thanks for all the updates (food, Roads etc) in this informative report.

    The road network is one of the big changers. These photos were taken only 8 months ago when I rode the road from Phonsavan to Thasi.

    The first big river crossing heading south.
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    And there was only one way to get across.
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    The second river crossing had a bridge on to the bridge.
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    20,000 kip to use the wooden bridge.
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    Moto-Rex
     
  19. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Great report David..

    Lovely photos.

    These type of reports are why GT Rider made it in the Lonely Planet Guide Book..

    Full of information for aspiring riders and boat travellers.. Something for everyone..

    Keep em coming.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  20. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Rex, yep the pace of road development in Laos is mind boggling. Hard to keep up with alright.
     
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    3 nights (days 12-13) in Vientiane. I count the nights in Vientiane because that is my party town to end my Laos rides in.
    Once upon a time in the early 70s before the communists took over Vientiane was the party capital of S E Asia, & slowly but surely the night life is coming back.
    And for me Vientiane rocks at night time. Good food, Pubs, restaurants, discos, karaokes.

    The Nam Phu fountain - the new controversial night spot in the centre of downtown Vientiane.

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    Ms Ning Nong is the singer with her Felicia band; & what a good powerful voice she has.

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    a captivating Beer Lao PG at the Nam Phu.

    The Nam Phu fountan area is supposed to be an open public park, however a lease was given to a Chiang Mai company (owner of Mix? Pub & Restaurant) to redevelop the site & turn it into a night spot.
    Their original plan was to have a two storey circle of shops around the fountain, but such were the protests that they were only allowed to do one storey, & then they were kicked out / lost the contract & no financial refund.
    However an extremely influential person / group took it over & still redeveloped the site into a private business - pub. All the owners with pubs & restaurants around the outside of the fountain are furious, that they have lost their view & now only face a shoddy concrete wall - tunnel. The Kopchaideu even lost their private car park..... sorry we will have that.

    The Kopchaideu

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    the number one draft beer Laos seller in Vte.

    They have a totally new 3rd floor "cocktail lounge" with a sensational view of the KCD & street below.

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    with Inthy owner of KCD & GDL

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    Wind West is my other favourite nightspot, & where I end up most nights.

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    Miss Tukta is the sensational bartendee & one of the highlights of Wind West

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    Miss Pat is one of the singers

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    an alluring couple together when at the bar & I was the last one to leave Wind West on more than one night.
    Vientiane always rocks for me.
     
  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Day 14. Vientiane - Vang Vieng
    A slow potter up the road to chill out central the ex backpackers heaven.

    The Vientiane - Vang Vieng road was a mess last trip, & not at all enjoyable, but it is just about all fixed now & not a problem.
    Only the busy traffic the first 40 kms getting out of Vientiane is a nuisance.

    The Nam Lik river at Hin Hoeup

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    The view upstream to the old bridge

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    I had a pillion, an NGO working for Save The Children Fund in Laos. A smart intelligent lady, supervising funding for their projects.
    We got on well together, discussing the economics & social structure of Laos; & especially over dinner that night with her gaggle of UN executive lady friends in Vang Vieng for the long weekend celebrating International Women's Day. I lost all the debates, & they still drank my whisky. Ho Hum. Ok, I surrender..

    The Nam Lik again

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    My place of stay in Vang Vieng

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    The Inthira Vang Vieng.

    Well worth it.

    Late afternoon balloon flights over Vang Vieng

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    run by a Chinese company, & something on my hit list of things to do inn Vang Vieng.

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    Testing out the big zoom on the new camera, the Canon SX50

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    & the verdict is the zoom is sensational, but the G11 takes better images with a better sensor.
    So looks like I will be keeping the G11 for a lot longer & just use the SX50 for big zoom shots.

    Some young Koreans have taken over the Sunset Ghouse where I took the above pix from.

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    & have a few interesting quotes up.

    Back downstream at the Vang Villa Riverside Resort

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    Some TLC for the lights

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    & it looks like they are a bit behind schedule.

    The VV RV view

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    kids having fun in the river.
     
  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Days 15 - 16. Vang Vieng - Luang Prabang - Sayabouly (Xayaboury).

    A straight forward run to LPQ

    Wat That, Vang Vieng

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    R13 Vang Vieng - Kasi

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    R13 The Nam Khan river, south of Luang Prabang

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    I hung out in LPQ for another 3 nights.
    There was one final Viradesa Sunset dinner, with the boat skipper planning another Mekong boat trip.

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    It rained the first day while there & I was a bit concerned about riding the Versys out through the road construction LPQ - Sayabouly.
    However the weather cleared & the last day was fine.

    R4 Xieng Ngeun - Sayabouly
    Under reconstruction

    The start at the R13 end

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    a breather with the school kids at lunch time

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    more of the good stuff

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    and I don't think I would have liked riding the Versys on some of this after a day of rain = snot!

    New asphalt towards Muang Nan & the Mekong

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    The Mekong & the Tha Deua ferry crossing

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    note the new bridge in the background.

    The river has two distinct - high & low - seasons here, although this will all disappear with the new dam being bult.
    When the river is low there are wide stony shores.

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    approaching Sayabouly

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    in the background a road going over the mountain - to the Sayabouly dam site.

    Lets go have a look

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    and just round the next couple of corners was as far as I was allowed to go.
    Closed of - no entry, unless you have permission.
    Oh well. Good idea.
    Now wouldn't it be a good idea to take a boat through the damn site while you can?
    That would be history...

    Onto Sayabouly city

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    a Sayabouly city view
     
  24. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Colourful visual memories of the Africa Twin.
    Great trip report, sorry we could not make it.
     
  25. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    A second comment - bis repetita placent -I just enjoyed every bit of this story, partly as souvenirs, partly as an enticement for future rides. The Mekong river cruise was a wonderful experience and your pictures are great documents. Just waiting for the next departure :)

    Let me also add a picture from Phonsavan Tourist Office:

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  26. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Crossing the Khong at Tha Deua in 2004.

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    note the difference in the river level.
     

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