Laos ADV Pt I, Luang Prabang/Pak Ou/Vieng Thong

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by RichardG, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. RichardG

    RichardG Member

    We flew from Chiang Mai into the old royal Laos capital of Luang Prabang.
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    A roller-coaster ride with the old ATR turbo-prop being flung around in some very big black clouds.
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    As we descended we could see the terrain we would be riding across, crossing the grain of the country
    across cloud covered mountainous terrain, heading east to the Vietnamese border
    before heading south to the capital Vientiane.
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    The twisty roads below, promised a fun time let’s hope the weather will hold off.
    Our plan was to ride east towards Vietnam and the Pathet Lao caves in Vieng Xai.
    Then head to the plain of Jars and on to Vang Vieng before heading back to the capital, Vientiane.
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    Just a travellers’ note – sit at the back of the ATR if you do not already have a Laos visa,
    otherwise it can take 45 minutes to be processed through the visa on arrival.
    Travel Agents in BKK are charging up to 1900 Baht for a $35 visa-on-arrival [$1 Sunday surcharge]


    In town we checked into the Ancient Luang Prabang hotel, a little upscale
    at the beginning of the main drag, with WiFi throughout the hotel.

    Waiting for us outside our hotel were three Hondas – one XR for myself
    with Dad and Thongkhoun, our guide from Green Discovery, on Bajas.

    It was quite late so we walked down the main road for a pizza,
    just in time to catch the sun setting behind the royal family's temple
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    before going to bed early – the next day was to be the first of our Laos adventure and a preparation & work-up day.

    Breakfast was disappointing, so we went down the road to Jomos, a coffee shop that puts Starbucks to shame.
    But the sun was out glinting on the golden stupa above - magical!
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    And the silver hydra-headed serpent steps were beautiful but strange!
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    Then we fired the bikes up and headed north out of town up the main road to Pak Ou,
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    where we found a Hmong village on the banks of the Mekong, entirely devoted to serving tourists.
    Here boats from Luang Prabang made an obligatory before going across the Mekong to the Buddha cave.

    Where we parked up a stall holder selling laos-laos rice wine had small shot glasses line up.
    Thongkhoun passed me a glass – yukkkh!
    He finished mine and his quickly.
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    Crossing by long-tail we walked up the steps to the Buddha cave.
    Inside hundreds of Buddhas of all sizes and some said to be many years old were terraced far back and high in the cave.
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    It is supposed to bring you merit to bring a little statue and then to visit it on auspicious days every year.
    It is also said that the really old ones have become valuable and some have been stolen by collectors.
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    A beautiful place nonetheless, and despite the gaggle of tourists jostling up and down the steps.

    I had thought that riding the bike on the right would be a problem having learnt in Thailand,
    but dad was right and I didn’t notice the difference after a short time.

    After the mele of riding the Chiang Mai moat at rush hour,
    Luang Prabang and Laos
    were proving to be a pleasure and far less stressful.
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    Dad had hired Thongkhounthrough Jim & Quynh of Remote Asia Travel www.remoteasia.com, who is probably the best motorcycle guide in Laos
    and an awesome off-road rider, and who would always be riding up ahead of me.
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    Dad was the tail-gunner!

    KMs Today 57

    Lessons Learnt
    Ride on the Right
    Do NOT Stop for Chickens
    Do Stop for Children, Cattle & Fallen Trees
     
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  3. RichardG

    RichardG Member

    Day 1 Luang Prabang to Vieng Thong

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    Left from LP at 08:30 after coffee and bagels at Joma’s and then we filled up with fuel at the Caltex station.
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    Dropped by mechanics to adjust chains and top up tyres before heading north on Route 13 out of town.
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    Then over the Nam Ou river and the turning to the Pak Ou Buddha cave.
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    Thongkhoun - the Rider in Black - and I were riding up front with Dad riding sweeper at the rear.
    It wasn't long before we started a gradual ascent into the mountains.
    Got to Pak Mong after two hours, a rather squalid junction town,
    we then headed east on what looked like a temporary road [don't be fooled by false expectations!] to Nong Khiaw.

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    Whenever we got the chance we would ride the odd dirt side roads
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    Picturesque on the Nam Ou river. Delightful ride into Nong Khiaw following the Nam Bak river.
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    Lunch at Nong Khiau Riverside Resort (www.nongkiau.com nice Danish owner Eskil).

    I had an interesting entry into the resort, riding down the small track and clipping a sandbag,
    which sent me sliding down the slope ending up beneath the stilts of one of the villas with the XR on top of me!
    Pride rather than physical injury was what was hurt most- more of an eggplant than a face plant!

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    Great views of the Nam Ou river from the resort

    A killer cat was playing with a lizard whilst we ate delicious fried chicken noodles.
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    Having punctured the lizard a number of times he hid in disgrace in a BDU cluster bomb casing!
    A shame we didn't have time stay a night as the food, views and rooms were outstanding.
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    1:15 headed up highway 1C, an unprepossessing tarmac road that in parts turned to apple crumble topping with a muddy custard.
    Dad for ever lagging behind, one moment it was bugs in his helmet, the next it was spiders.
    When he caught up he spluttered:"These knock-off Chinese IRC tyres are ****ing dangerous, you can ride this bike.”
    to our by now long-suffering guide, Thongkhoun. Bikes were quickly swopped.
    Thongkhon did have to agree that the IRC's had little sidewall strength, making corners interesting!

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    Thongkhoun - the best motorcycle guide in Laos.
    Contact him through - www.remoteasia.com


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    Dad & I at an amazing viewpoint along Route 1C
    Few vehicles on the road allowing momentary glimpses to take in the stunning views,
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    Those darkening clouds were the beginning of a cyclone which we were to find out tomorrow!
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    Taking a break - hot & humid
    On the twisties you have to stay with in your side to avoid nasty surprises around the corner.
    The police pick-ups particularly have a tendency to come flying around the corners AND on the wrong side of the road!
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    Filling up in Sam Soun - incredibly friendly people!
    It was a joy riding through the villages in comparison with Thailand. Here the villagers are all beside the road and the kids especially, wave joyously as we pass through. Natural hazards like poultry, dogs and kids should be best avoided. By mid afternoon the sun had disappeared and the darkening gloom heralded rain clouds with spattering drops.

    At one stage coming down the hill I managed to contact a jumping rock, which sent me swerving, legs akimbo. Heart in mouth, I recovered, only to wait for Dad who did the same.

    Along the route there were signs advertising the presence of tigers in the national park Nam Et-Phou Louey “We’re Proud To Have Tigers Here”.
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    The word is that there is barely a handful of tigers left, most of them have been killed off for the nefarious tiger parts trade going to China.

    We got into Vieng Thong just before dusk

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    It was a 9 hour day with stops - not difficult but great fun.

    Before dinner we headed out to the hot springs. Down a dirt muddy road for 2 kms we arrived just in time for evening ablutions.
    The Steam was rising from the picturesque hot springs though a large floating green scum made the warm pool of water uninviting.
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    Under long pipes protruding from the concrete wall locals had come to shower.
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    Supper of garlic fried pork and sticky rice followed by BBQ duck in Vieng Thong’s main restaurant – a fly-blown establishment that required the “Aussie Wave” to clear through the cloud of flies just to eat.
    We stayed at the Dokchampa Guest House (064-314-469, 020-2002-446)
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    clean and adequate, secure bike parking and is better than the other option the Souksakhone.
    Beds are Pathet Lao war issue - if you have a numb bum after hours on an XR, then expect a numb night).

    KMs today LPG 32, 40, 40, 30 Nong Khiaw 46, 21, 95 +5 VT 309

    Lessons Learnt
    Don’t use fake Chinese IRC tyres!
    Do stop for cows, buffalo, pigs and kids!
    Avoid if possible ducks & cats.
    Keep Hydrated.
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Richard
    Thanks again for posting. Life's pretty good when you're on the road riding with Dad eh?
    Please keep you're reports coming. We enjoy reading them & I'm sure you will inspire others to follow in your tyre tracks.
     

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