Lao Road Report - top to bottom Jan 2007

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by jimoi, Feb 1, 2007.

  1. jimoi

    jimoi Ol'Timer

    Start date of ride January 17
    Bikes: Honday XR 250 from Fuark, Suzuki DR 250
    Punctures: 2, front tire at 40 kmph, rear in the middle of nowhere
    KM so far this tri: more than 4400

    Houei Xai - Muang Sing
    first 25 km fine, next 100 or so a mix of soft powder, gravel, mud, dust, heavy construction. From Nam Sing to 22 km out of Luang Namtha was the most difficult. 3.5 hours riding Houei Xai to LNT.
    Luang Namtha to Muang Sing:
    Easy.

    Muang Sing to the local border northeast of town.
    27 km of good rough offroad.

    Muang Sing to Long- 17 B, diversion on the cut down road to Vieng Phouka
    Flat out top gear on sometimes paved roads but easy 50 out. The turn that we were directed to slightly after the bridge in Long was a good vertical and in poor condition. We entered about 13:00 and went 7 - 9 KM and due to the hour, decided to give up on this one. The track was narrow and dense jungle. If the rest was like the first, it was a moderately difficult offroad track. A report from a local in Long indicated there was a bridge over the river near to Vieng Phouka.

    [​IMG]

    Luang Namtha - Luang Prabang
    Easy from LNT. The Turn at Na Teuy and the road conditions went down seriously. Lots of pot holes, loose rocks and cuts in the road. This lasted about 40 km(about) and the road surface got better.

    LPB - Sam Soun - Vieng Thong
    Road connection north of LPB is signed, about 20 km out. Packed dirt and flat along a river until Pak Xeng. The map says very steep but I didn't think it was worse than the entry from Nam Meo on the eastern portion of 6. It's all dirt and there are some drainage ruts to be careful with but it was 4th gear + at top speed. BEAUTIFUL RUN.
    At the turn on the hwy , 94 km to Vieng Thong there is fuel and M 150.
    The road is severely patched and some fast approaches to potholes were inevetable. Vieng Thong isn't the garden spot of Laos but the guesthouse on the east end of the market was better than the western end. Indoor overnight locked parking. Cold beverages abound across the street and the food was good. There is an endless supply of Lao Lao as well.

    Vieng Thong - Phonsovan
    Road was a little more broken up until the turn south. FAR TOO COLD> All Fog and elevation changes had no impact. Visability was less than 10 meters most of the ride until 66 km down from the turn at Phou Lao.
    There is heavy road construction the last 33 km of the road until you reach Muang Kham.
    Muang Kham to Phonsovan - power ride. Warm.

    Phonsovan - Paksan
    First 32 km fine. There have been a few reports on this road. The turn is about 500 meters past the fuel station at the top of the hill in Muoang Khoune, go right an off you run on packed dirt/gravel.
    There are few signs here adn in Tha Viang saw no markers for Thathom or Xaysomboune. There is fuel all along the way, guesthouse in Tha Viang, Thathom and looked like one more in Thasi.
    Missing KM markers from the GT Rider Map:
    Phonsovan - Mouang Khoune - 32.5 more or less
    Mouang Khoune - Thathom - about 71
    Turn after 2 bridges/washes after Thatom 4 km from "town" This is a heavy deep powder dust track, in rainy season - ohh.
    Thatom - Paksan about 82 KM

    Paksan - VTE - Paksan
    highway 13 just sucks because it's boring.

    Paksan - Na Hin(klonglor cave)
    Easy, one note of warning is the uphill sections here are usually filled with big rocks used by truck drivers to keep the truck in place, they just leave them on the road and in late daylight the shadows from the hills tend to make them a little hard to see.
    Na Hin - Call Ralph before you arrive by at least a day to reserve. Upon arrival - tell him exactly when you wish to eat and PRE ORDER. The food is damn good and filling but if you order off the menu, be prepared to drink a lot of beer as cooking time is long.
    horizontal refreshement is avaialble until 22:00 or so I am told.
    [;)]

    Na Hin - Lak Xao - Nakai - Mahaxay - Vilabury - Xepon - Moung Phin
    One day ride if you leave before 8 and pound it out. Na Hin - Lak Xao is fully paved and rollerblade quality. Fuel in Lak Xao, turn right at the roundabout. Road deteriorates after 200 meters. Traffic on this road 1E is heavy and dust dust dust. The only turn is after the lower bridge north of Nakai. Go Left(ish). The road all the way to the cut down to Mahaxay is full of trucks, buses, dumptrucks, watertrucks. After leaving Oudomsak(Nakai) it is a downhill grade with no shoulder and tightish turns where drivers dust you badly. When you reach the bottom of the grade, continue on. When you pass a small restricter dam look LEFT. There is a tall watch tower and go into the Contractor Site. Drive past the guards, back past the SOS clinic and opposite the volleyball courts is a Dust Free place to eat a snack from the Aden market. Good food is available but don't eat in the restaruant. Go to the bakery and store.
    Continue on about 20 km. the road is all dust. When you start to run directly west, look for a condom billboard(it faces west) and turn left here and rip down this packed dirt road until you get to Xaybuathong. There have been a few posts about this as well and I admit I missed the turn. No worries. This time of year the river was low enough to ride and we drove about 33 km on sand/dust/powder until we were across the Xe Nou river by Sopxe. We just found a crossing and went for it. On the other side you can't be far from the main road south, use the force.
    Vilabury has food, fuel and increased traffic on a sometimes paved road. The turn on HWY 9 is 43 km down from the town. Flat out high speed to Moung Phin
    Moung Phin - Pakse (one day)
    those that know my disaster on this road...
    36 km from Phin is the river. Extortion of 100,000 kip to cross, small boats and the bikes were laid flat. The rive is low but not low enough to cross at this time. The entry to the track of 23 is further east from the landing and all sandy.
    In the first village drive to the rightish and you come upon a 2 wheel track. Go south. All cuts lead to the main path eventually. It's a bit rough out here. You need good riding skills here and we were lucky to have mostly all the creeks at a low point but there are some serious uphills after the creeks.
    There is a second river to cross not marked on the map and it was far too deep to ride.
    Moung Phin to the largest village on the southern end - 88
    Moung Phin to the second river crossing 126
    Moung Phin to Salavan turn left 126
    Moung Phin to Salavan 137
    The really hard bits are between the upper river and 25 km south of it. Hella steep washes, lots of rock jumping.
    From Saravan to Pakse is easy - 110 km.

    Pakse - Attapeu via Pakxong
    Easy up from Pakse. At the turn in Paksong the road is like swiss cheese for about 10 km then turns to packed dirt. 40 km from the turn is a sign for the hydro plant, go left. We later learned it may be possible to do the straight ahead but it is not confirmed. The GT map is also incorrect here when you come out on the main road to Attapeu. You exit to the road 40 KM above Attepue, easy ride.

    Attapue - Paam
    out of town headed east. Look for a sign saying Xayong District 16 km, turn left. All dirt with large holes. 14 km along you come to a town with a small river on the right, cross the river is the SAM missle. This path continues north and should be possible to head up to Dong from here but I am unsure about crossing the river 30 km south of Dong.

    Attepue - Pakse via 18.
    the first 40 odd km are easy. The first river 13 km past Sanamxai was a little too deep and boats were cheap. There was no way to get lost on this road. It is by far the most challenging high speed offroad run I've done in Laos. There are many creeks to cross and some serious deep ruts from trucks hauling trees in wet season. The deepest river was about 80 cm deep and slick rocks. Fun.

    Pakse to Thakek.
    boring highway.

    Lak Xao - Vieng Thong 200 km
    Not open to be honest. Going from Lak 5, 11 km east of Lak Xao, there is a small sign saying Cham District 90 KM. From the turn to Vieng Thong is a good dirt road at times and hellish offroad. I would think after talking to Cambobum and several other riders, it is CLOSED 62 KM north of Lak 5. There is a military checkpoint and my riding buddy and I spoke Vietnamese to them, no bribes, a few smokes and we were permitted to go after passports were recorded and bike papers inspected by the Military and the Village Chief.
    I have good notes on this ride but will not post them.
    I advise all riders of low to middle offroad ability and low to medium mechanical not to go. I also think that big bikes are a mistake, there is a bamboo bridge that barely supported me and the DR 250 and I aint that fat anymore.
    Email me directly to get the trips notes.
     
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  3. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Jim
    An impressive and extremely helpful report.
    Any pix?
    Horizontal refreshment in Laos?
    Any off-lie reports forthcoming
    - or does it need further investigation by the indefatigable Dr. Greg?
    Let me know when u r coming 2 BKK
    ATB
    Rhodie
     
  4. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Jimoi
    Good report, well done.
    In Dec I went thru some of the places you went and can second your comments regardings Ralph's good food at Na hin and the DUST on 1E.

    Sam Soun to Vieng Thong sounds like a good ride. How would you compare it scenery-wise etc with Phonsavan to Pakxan via Ta Viang ?
    I did the latter route and was very impressed.
     
  5. Snail

    Snail Ol'Timer

    Does this mean that the oil weeping sprocket eating DR250 is going strong??
     
  6. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    Jimbob, top report, add some pics if you took the box browny,
    Thanks again, Scott.
     
  7. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Thanks Jim, saving your post to my computer for future reference.
     
  8. daewoo

    daewoo Ol'Timer

    Jimoi,

    Thanks for taking the time to write all this up...

    Cheers,
    Daewoo
     
  9. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    AN UPDATE:
    In his in the "Paksan - Na Hin" section of his lenghty and informative
    post, "Jimoi" suggested 'calling Ralph' before you arrive to reserve
    a room' and to 'pre-order food'.

    Below is some additonal information for those who have never ventured
    along Hwy-8:
    -Note: Na-Hin is shown as Kheun Kham on many maps.
    -Ralph's place is called Mi Thuna Restaurnat & Lounge, and is
    located a few kilometers east of the road to the Konglor Cave.
    -Their mobile phone number is (856) 20-2240-182
    -Ralph and his Lao wife, Mon, run the place. Mon is an
    excellent cook. She gives a large serving of the best mashed potatoes
    and gravy I've had in Asia, along with her good western meals.
    -They have 2-rooms and 2-more yet to be completed (currently
    $6/nite) with A/C, A good value. Also currently it's free to use their
    Internet connection. Or, you can stay in the village, a few kilometers
    further down the road for 200-Bt (mossie net, no A/C) if Ralph's
    room are full.
    -Ralph and Mon are very informative about the area and have
    some great stories to tell.
    -Highly recommended...for the rooms, food and info!

    http://www.mongersmedia.com/photopost/d ... _house.jpg
     
  10. Auke

    Auke Ol'Timer

    For those who have little time and for that reason may want to skip the Konglor cave, they work on a new road to the caves. The road is now almost through to the village where the boat ride starts through the caves.

    Last month it took us about 6 hours leaving at 12.30 from Ralph and Mon's place (Mi Thuna GH and Restaurant) and it took about an hour to get to the village along the new road. Managed to be back at Mi Thuna at 6.30 in the evening ready for a cold beer and a very nice meal after going through the cave and back at a leisure pace (the water was low and required quite a bit of pulling and pushing of the boat). In the rainy season it may take a bit longer as the bridges still need to be constructed.
     

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