Laos Ride 2012

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by rob7711, Dec 19, 2012.

  1. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    This 24days ride was completed from 22/11/2012 to 14/12/2012 commencing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand and crossing over at Chong Mek, Laos. The trip from then onwards was from the southern laos, central laos and northern laos and crossing back into thailand at Chiang Khong after which was a southerly ride making my way back to Kuala Lumpur. As you can see this ride covers several regions but I thought it would best serve its purpose to post this RR under the Laos RR since that was the primary objective of this ride in the first place ... to visit Laos.

    Before I proceed with this RR I would like to share this short video clip taken enroute somewhere between Luang Namtha and Huay Sai. This ride could have ended really badly and puts into perspective the ever present perils of motorcycling in this part of our world. Ride Safe always.

    http://s1101.beta.photobucket.com/user/Rob7711/media/Laos%202012/GOPR0661_edited_zps19cec1ee.mp4.html
     
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  3. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Holy shit!! Thankfully you guys are safe.
     
  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Scary stuff.. Glad you are OK..
    You just can't trust these B**tards around bends and over the rise in the road..

    Not sure what to do there.. but for us left side of the road drivers the natural shock reaction is to go to the left..
    Luckily for you in this case that was the right thing to do.. Usually it isn't and you end up in a head on..

    On our Oct trip up to LPQ.. My mate was run off the road by a bus.. The bus came around the bend too fast and on the wrong side of the road.
    hit the bus or go in the ditch.. Few scrapes and scratches.. minor damage to the bike..

    Ride safe and once again. Glad you are OK.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  5. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

    Holy crapola! :take-that:

    You're fortunate that you saw that bus coming a long ways off and that he stayed in your lane while you stayed in his. That could have ended badly!

    Slightly off-topic: does the Versys sold in Malaysia not have ABS??
     
  6. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    The depth perception from the camera makes it seem a long way off but in reality the bus was about 60-70feet away by my estimation. Unfortunately the versys units sold here in Malaysia do NOT come with ABS unlike the Thai models.
     
  7. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 1 22/11/2012 Thur
    We rv at the usual rnr at Jejantas Sg Buloh at 00:00hrs and proceeded to head north on our North South Highway. 2 aged riders plus 1 pillion on 2 versys. This was the beginning of what I termed as the "transport" leg of our ride which was kind off just boring highway ride all the way till beyond BKK. As usual we arrived at Changlun around 05:30hrs and had our breakfast whilst getting our insurance, immigration cards and forex prepared. The border crossing opens at 06:00hrs and we were the first in the queue on the bike line and were through in a jiffy and similarly at the thai side. The weather was great and I love riding early in the morning when world just begins to stir.

    We reached our O/N stop in Chumphon around 13:00hrs local time with a distance of approximately 1,000km and checked into Panantara Hotel which we have frequently used. The hotel is basic, clean and have secure parking all at 550thb.

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    Day 2 23/11/2012 Fri
    Today our destination was Ayuthaya which was 582km away. We arrived arrived Ayuthaya around 16:30hrs and checked in at Phromsuk Place for 700thb. Its located within the old city and We had dinner by the river where the often noisy river cruise boats would ply by. After dinner we rode around the old city to see the old city ruins before turning in.

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    The next morning after breakfast we again rode around the old city and here are some pics in daylight.

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    Day 3 24/11/12 Sat
    Today we are headed for Ubon Ratchatani which was 566km away. The ride was especially good at least to us as we have never been this way before and the scenery was new to us. We made a rnr stop at Lam Takhlong Reservoir where we waited out a shower which poured for about an hour. The views here were good especially at our selected stall.

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    After more Amazon Cafe stops we finally arrived at Ubon Ratchatani around 18:00hrs and we checked in at Hotel 611 Soi 11 which cost 450thb. It was quite good except for the lack of parking and so we ended up parking in the owner's home which was just next door. We had our dinner at a local fav restaurant recommended by the owner at the next soi round the corner.

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  8. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    So far, you guys have been ordering and eating the so called "typical" Thai food as can be found in any Thai restaurant in Malaysia. I hope to see some more Isaan fare as your trip report comes along. Else, let your Malaysian brethren that lives here in Thailand come along the trip and recommend some "real" local Thai dishes :)
     
  9. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 4 25/11/12 Sun Ubon Ratchatani~Chong Mek~Champasak
    Today would be the BIG day for us as we will be riding to the border crossing which was about 97km away.

    We left Ubon Ratchatani at 08:00hrs and arrived at the border crossing around 10:00hrs. We did not

    encounter any problems with thai immigration or customs save for their requirement for a photostat copy of

    our passports which we quickly obtained from within the immigration building. We did prepare copies of our

    bike registration before we set off for this trip. We then proceeded to the duty free area just to savor

    the moment and had a short break. Then it was further on for the Lao immigration (Counter 5) and customs

    (Counter 8) which was a bit more time consuming but nonetheless problem free. After getting our green

    custom forms endorsed at the final custom checkpoint about 100m further on and we are thru by 11:30hrs.

    Laos here we come!

    Remembering to drive on the "wrong" side as we headed for Champasak on the "new" road and bypassing Pakse.

    The scenery was new to us and we rode leisurely whilst absorbing the views and contemplating in

    anticipation of the days to come exploring Laos. We checked into Siamphone GH for 120K kips and lunch was

    by the riverside just a short walk from the GH. After a short nap we headed for Wat Phu and enjoyed the

    sunset on the grounds and paid 55K kips for the entrance fees plus buggy ride. Our dinner again by the

    riverside was a mix bag as insects were swarming and I am sure we probably ate a couple of hundred of them

    pesky bugs along with our dinner.

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    ... and we are in Laos and driving on the "wrong" side of the road

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    ... and encountering the Mekong once again

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  10. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 5 26/11/12 Mon Champasak~Mekong Crossing~Don Khong~Kon Phapheng~Tad Fane
    This morning was another bright and sunny day as we headed to the pier to cross the Mekong. What an experience this turned out to be as we rode down a steep and sandy path to the water edge with our fully laden bikes. We had to traverse another 50 feet along the sandy bank to where the pontoon was moored riding over some sawn logs on to the pontoon. Made it with lots of slipping and sliding and we thought that pontoon was what we were going to ride on. We were wrong for after s short wait we saw this floating contraption puttering and then mooring against the pontoon we were on. It was just two boats (sampan) lashed together with a platform where the bike was to be loaded on and powered by a small outboard motor. Hmmmmm ... this gets interesting and somewhat risky we thought but this was it. Anyways there is no way we could turn around and get back up that steep river bank so our fates were sealed. We took 2 separate "boats" and with a bike on each individually. Arriving at the other end across the river we found that we had to ride over another 3 similar "boats" moored to each other before we could touch dry land. That in itself was another nerve racking go as we had to ride on planks as ramps and other bits and pieces of wood. There's just no stopping or stalling as neither of my feet would reached either side of the elevated planks. When it was all done and dusted ... Phew!

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    So we found us a place to have some breakfast and gather our nerves and to let that experience slowly sink in and settle in our little bag of memorable events. The "what if" scenarios makes you shudder. The lady owner of the place had taught her dog to ride with her on her bike which she proudly demonstrated. Wish I could do that with my doggies too.

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    Our first tank of Laos gas ... lots of decimals

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    The road down to the Khong Islands and Khon Phapheng was good and a slow introduction to the numerous road hazards to be experienced as our trip proceeded.

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    Lunch by a roadside stall ... by now we have learned to look out for the standardized yellow signage that signifys a restaurant in Laos

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    After lunch we headed for the Bolaven Plateau and Tad Fane. The gradual climb was hardly noticeable but the temperature begins to cool. We got rained on just short of Tad Fane ... what's with the weather? We arrived around 16:00hrs and decided to stay at the Tad Fane Resort for a pricey usd27. The twin falls was awesome and a sight to behold. Today's ride was just over 300km.

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  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Sounds like quite an adventure ride.

    Those first Mekong river mickey mouse boat crossings are always a bit nerve racking..what if something went wrong....arh they've got insurance I think not.

    How'd you go at Tad Fane, I've been thee a couple of times times & always though Id stay, but was put off by the "service / staff" both times. Never quite felt welcome, but maybe it is just me?

    Look forward to the rest of the story..

    What tyres are you running on the Versys?
     
  12. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    I guess its the "unsafe" nature of such a mode of river crossing that makes it an adventure. Worrisome but once you have made it safely to dry land it becomes a highlight. Something to yarn over one fine day in the distant future.

    Tad Fane Resort was acceptable once you have lowered your expectations a couple of notches. Service is minimal and only 1 of staff there spoke limited english. You will not see anybody at the reception except for the coffee guy. Ring the bell and eventually someone will appear. The chalets are pretty basic and come with a fan only plus instant hot water shower but clean enough to be acceptable. The real selling point is the environment and view of the twin falls plus trekking if you are up to it. You will have to bear with the van loads of sightseers dropping by to take in the views though but this stops around late evenings.

    I am running Bridgestone BattleWing/BattleAxe combo on the V.
     
  13. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Some great shots Rob..

    Love the south and a bit more easy to get to from Bangkok.. 1hr from Ubon to the border on good road.

    I tried a few other places near Tad Fane.. But they were full of Thai tour buses and the obligatory Bottle of Black and noisy Karaoke that goes with Thai tour buses.
    Noisy and the quiet evening atmosphere gone.. so you end up going back to your bungalow... or becoming part of the entertainment as they get drunker..

    After that.. decided on Tad Fane.. Quiet in the evening and rustic one could say.. Love that waterfall view first thing in the morning.

    Agree about the staff.. They appear to be out to lunch most of the time.. Each time I have been there they screw up the dinner bill.
    If I wasn't honest.. I could have eaten and drank for a lot cheaper than was correct..

    Look forward to the rest of your pics and story..

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  14. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 6 27/11/12 Tue Tad Fane~Tad Lor~Savannakhet
    Today's ride took us around the Bolaven Plateau to visit Pakxong and then Tad Lor falls. We came across some weired looking doggies on the road too. Then we headed to Pakse and continued northwards to Savannakhet on Road 13 with a total distance of about 406km. We stopped for lunch along the way and had some local fare ... obviously we do not know the correct way to eat the sticky rice. Fish on a stick was interesting and the river weed soup was tasty. We also came across a large convoy of china/russia? dumpsters making their way south.

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    Nice doggy ....

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    Tad Lor falls ..
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    Our lunch stop somewhere along the highway

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    We stayed at the Soulinsouk Hotel for 120K kips and had dinner by the Khong that night. The hot pot was a claypot over hot coals but was a bit lacking in portion size so we ended having supper at another shop in town for beef noodles and pancake.

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  15. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 7 28/11/12 Wed Savannakhet~Ban Khoun Kham~Kong Lor Caves
    Today's ride was approximately 306km to Ban Khoun Kham which is basically a small town. There is an ongoing hydro electric power station project in the vicinity with a labour camp just outside of the town. We made an early start so as to arrive at Ban Khoun Kham by midday so that we still have enough time to visit Kong Lor Cave which was the reason for coming here. We checked in at Intiphaya GH for 90K Kips which was basic but had airconditioning and hot showers. You could literally park your bike just outside your door. We dumped our stuff and headed out for Kong Lor Caves. We could not locate the turn off for the newly paved road to the cave and instead followed our gps which lead us through some gravel tracks alongside the river/canal till it eventually joined up with the new road. No big deal but it was our first intro to gravel road riding.

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    Ride out to the cave from town ... couldn't locate the new road so we just followed our gps route. Turned out that the new road was way before the town next to a new petrol station currently under construction.

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    We arrived at the park and paid our fees for the boat ride and guides. Language was no problem as both ourselves and our guides gesticulated and spoke our native tongues and somehow we managed ... and always with a big smile. The guide lead us down to the river bank and a short hike to the cave where the longtails were moored. Soon we were on the water and entering the darkness aided only by the light of the guide's torches. We made a stop along the way and were lead onto shore to view a lighted section of the cave which was well demarcated. The formations in the cave were typical of most caves in this part of the world but were relatively unspoilt. There were numerous examples of columns at various stages of formation.

    What was most awesome of the visit was actually the boat ride and the reality of riding through a 7km natural subterannean tunnel that nature had carved out. There were some sections where the tunnel cave was quite wide and the ceiling height varied ... fascinating. That experience in itself was worth the ride and visit to my mind. Also not forgetting the views of the hills for a backdrop along the way especially just before sunset. Thanks David for your recommendation.

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    We came across this longtail which got a bit stuck crossing over one of the shallow areas in the cave. It was ferrying some cargo whilst going up stream. Our guides pitched in and helped them get on their way again.

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    Approaching the exit and daylight once again ... what an interesting boat ride. Not to be missed.

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    By the time we left the cave site it was already late in the evening and sunset was just another half hour away. We enjoyed the ride out as the views of the surrounding mountain ranges were beautiful aginst the fields that we rode through. An enjoyable day's ride and awesome views to drink in.

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    Dinner was at a restaurant in town which unfortunately unknown to us turned out to double up with karaoke sessions by the local teens. As you can imagine it was a nosiy affair.

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    Views of the Inthipaya GH ..

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  16. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    I am sorry I will get back to posting this RR as Christmas is just a couple of hours away so I wanna take this opportunity to wish everyone here at GT Riders a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays wherever you are. Ride safe always.

    I will be riding up to Chiang Mai from 27/12/2012 to 5/1/2013 so please excuse me for the delayed continuation of this RR. Cheers!
     
  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Stunning scenery & photos in the cave report. I must go back there & take a proper look around.
    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. Have fun & ride safe.
    Please look me up when in Cnx - either via the X-Centre / Kafe / Euro Diner.
     
  18. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Fark. Amazing. Isn't it good to be alive.
     
  19. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Thanks David and yes I will surely try to look you up whilst in Chiang Mai .... AND yes its good to be ALIVE! My guardian angel was surely watching out for me on that one. Cheers!
     
  20. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 8 29/11/12 Thu Ban Khoun Kham~Vientiane
    This morning it rained around 04:45hrs and I was woken up from the crashing of the rain on the tin roof. So much for the dry season. Well at least my ironhorse got a washing. Today we head for Vientiane following the same route we came along Road 8 till it joins up with Road 13 South. Before leaving Ban Khoun Kham we took a short ride heading to Nam Kading to check out a viewpoint.

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    View of the main street of Ban Khoun Kham

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    At the view point outside of the town
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    There were numerous stretches along the Road 13 South that were undergoing repairs and detours were muddy

    tracks that were really greasy due to the rain ...
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    We stopped at Paxxan for a quick bite and found this little gem of a stall. It was selling a noodle somewhat like the Hong Kong Cheong Fun (steamed rice noodle with meat stuffing) but this was the Laos version which was delicious with sweet peanut sauce and ham. One of the food highlights from the trip. Try it if you pass through this area especially in the morning. Its located directly opposite a weigh station just north of town.

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    The ride to Vientiane was a bit boring and not much views except at Pak Kading area. The day was overcast and grey ... not very inspiring but at least it was a bit cooler.

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    Approaching Vientiane ...
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    We arrived at Vientiane and checked in at Family Hotel for 260K kips. Its a short walk down to the river side where we had our dinner that night. We had BBQ food at a street stall and after that we checked out the night market further down the road.

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  21. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 9 30/11/12 Fri Around Vientiane
    We spent the entire day riding and visiting the nearby sites in the city. We then headed out of town to visit the Buddha Park and also to take a peek at the Friendship Bridge nearby. Just an easy day bumming around.

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    ... and a good washdown for the bikes at a nearby bike shop down the street from the hotel

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  22. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 10 01/12/12 Sat Vientiane ~ Vang Vieng
    Today we head out to party town Vang Vieng and the weather was good. We encountered our first police road block about 25km out of Vientiane but no problems there. After a cursory inspection of our driving license (but of course we showed them our Malaysian driving license) and we were on our way again. The road condition was only fair and we arrived around 12:30hrs and checked into Malany Hotel for 120K kips. The hotel is relatively new and the roof was still being renovated though it posed no noise problems during our stay. Rode around town a bit to check out what's happening but we didn't quite fancy a swim in the river. So we just hung out in town and had an early night after dinner.

    I forgot to mention that most of the pics are on-camera geotagged using my spanking new Olympus TG1 p&s camera (though some may not have had enough time for a gps lock) and you can get an idea of the location by viewing them using a free pc application called GeoSetter. It even shows the compass direction of the pic when taken. Cool app. Just google for the app and install to use if you are interested.

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  23. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 11 02/12/12 Sun Vang Vieng ~ Phonsavan
    Today was an early morning start as we wanted to do the Jars sites before sunset. We had a quick breakfast of noodles just beside the hotel and we were off to Phonsavan. The views were great with the chill of the morning air and mist on the hills. The mist was hanging low on the mountains like wisp of cotton candy. There were 2 hot air ballons in the sky just floating over the hills. Can't imagine the views from way up above ... must be fabulous.

    We slowly ascended the mountains but the road condition was only fair with some badly potholed sections. It was an overcast day and some sections was wet due to rain that seems to be just ahead of us. Its probably the longest twisty road I had ridden todate and the average speed was only about 40kmh. There were some sections of the road which was under repair and the detours were muddy tracks but we made it through safely. This same stretch would become my bane on our journey out the next day.

    We reached Phonsavan after 237km around 14:00hrs and checked in at Xieng Khoung Hotel for 180K kips. We dumped our stuff and set off for Jar Site 1. After visiting site 1 I decided to head for Site 2 & 3 on my own. It was 20km of gravel and dirt road. I reached the ticket office and paid the 10K kip fee and the attendant said that I could ride my bike in. However after about 800m the road was getting more and more badly rutted. The rain didn't help any and it was muddy. I didn't fancy tipping over riding on the ridges
    of the rutted road and chickened out instead. I back tracked my way out and decided to try to locate the russian tank instead. After a short search I managed to locate it and was a bit disappointed to find out that not much of the tank remained. Then it was another 20km ride out back to the hotel before sunset. Still it was a fun ride on the dirt roads as a newbie.

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  24. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Day 12 03/12/12 MonPhonsavan ~ Luang Prabang
    We left Phonsavan early in the morning and the air was heavy with mist. It was a little chilly too. We had 380km to get to Luang Prabang today and the road was still wet from last night's rain. At some points the visibility was only about 50 feet and this only cleared around 11:00hrs. The views was fantastic and we passed through many villages and the kids were happily waving.

    Then it was that same stretch of road repair that we negotiated through yesterday but today it was an even more bloody mess from the rain and the vehicles that had ploughed through it before us. It was about 80 meters of churned up mud and I made it through about 70 meters thats when my rear wheel ran away from me and I tipped over. The road was so slippery that I could not even get a firm footing to lift my bike. It took 3 construction guys and myself to upright the bike after which I gingerly rode the bike out of the mess and then parked it for a damage inspection. Just some scraps on the crash bar and rear pannier and a bent foot brake pedal. After scrapping away the mud from the wheels and fenders we were back on the road again. Looking back on that crash it was quite fun and I enjoyed it still.

    Like I mentioned previously the views on this road was very scenic and fantastic. However there is hardly any safe spot or road shoulder where we could pull over for some pics. That's the reason for the limited pics on this stretch of road. This beat yesterday's ride as THE longest stretch of twisties.

    We made Luang Prabang around 14:00hrs and checked into TT First GH for 150K kips (the other recommended GH were full) and it was cozy and comfortable. Its just a short walk to the riverside and we had our bbq/steamboat dinner.

    Leaving Phonsavan early in the morning

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    Checking my bike after the spill ... everything still good!

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    Fabulous views that just makes the whole trip worth it ...

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  25. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Glad to hear no damage to bike and souls. Quick question - were you riding 2 up? If so, would it have been better for the pillion to dismount and to ride through the muddy sections alone? I'm asking because I ride 2 up most of the time but have no experience in off road conditions.
     
  26. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    No I was a single rider on this trip. My buddy was riding 2 up though. The pillion was on foot while he walked the bike across. I will take a minor slow speed spill like this over a high speed crash. Thats why I chose to ride through it. Need the right type of tires though which I didn't really have on my bike. And of course full gear on. Cheers!
     

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