Laos the EZ WAY! Who needs adventure......

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by SilverhawkUSA, Feb 2, 2008.

  1. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Date: 18-January-2008
    Riders: Dave (Silverhawk) & Thim
    Bike: 2006 Suzuki DR650
    Route: Laos- Highway 3-Hwy 17B (Muang Sing)-Hwy 13B-Hwy 13 to 1C (Nong Kiew)- Hwy 13 to Vientiane.


    There were about eight GT-Rider’s traveling Laos around the same time. Some were, like my friends David and Mai, doing some out of the way adventure riding, others were on a schedule traveling many Kms in a short time.

    This trip for me was with the Thai G/F who had made it clear “No racing or foot peg dragging, no mud and definitely no dusty dirt roads!”...... or no ???????? for me!. Ok! Ok!

    Crossing from Chiang Khong into Huay Xai on Jan. 18 was fairly easy. I dropped off my paperwork at Thai Customs on the evening of the 17th so it would be ready in the morning. When I returned I was told “There is a problem”. Never something I like to hear. As it turned out, and it was a good thing I had the G/F to translate, when I returned from the Hongsa Elephant Festival last year my bike paperwork wasn’t entered in the computer as having returned to Thailand. It took about 45 minutes but we were able to clear it up as their error.

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    One overloaded DR650, but it later proved worthwhile

    We crossed to Huay Xai, did our paperwork and insurance with no problem and hit the road. What a road! Route 3 from Huay Xai to Luang Nam Tha used to be called the “Jungle Road” and was avoided by most riders. Here are some photos from the two times I traversed it, 2004 and 2005.

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    I think the other riders will post some more photos of the road, but all I can say is it is an amazing road now. Meant to be a trade route from the Boten border crossing on the Laos/China border to Thailand and the planned bridge from Xuay Xai to Chiang Khong it was now only a little more than 3 hours riding to Luang Nam Tha. Before it was an all day challenge.

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    NOW, it is a great ride and makes a whole new EZ way to get into Laos, but I am also glad that I had the chance to ride it when it was still the “Jungle Road”.

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    I wonder how the locals will adjust. I am sure they are happy the dust is gone, but I saw some near misses with the kids playing in the road

    We went straight through LNT and on up toward Muang Sing. A windy asphalt road that was rather rough but no potholes or dirt. An hour ride brought us to a guesthouse I had seen in 2004 and said I would return and stay.

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    We checked in and found great friendly people and a Laos lady who loves to cook food recipes she picked up traveling the various countries in Asia. We stayed two nights.

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    A great view from the restaurant and the rooms
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    Killer steps

    We did venture on the road to Xieng Khok, but it was extremely dusty and rough, remembering the initial G/F threat we returned after only about 45km and just relaxed. Photos from 2004 here Hill Tribes of Luang Nam Tha

    Next we went up to Boten to see what changes had been made along with the new road. A sleepy border crossing has now been turned into China in Laos.

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    Boten Border Crossing 2005

    A huge hotel and casino complex with more being built and supported by rows and rows of supporting shops. They wanted us to pay for drinks in Chinese Yuan and only spoke Mandarin in the new shops. We went over by the border crossing that still had bamboo huts and Lao people and had some Lao somtom and coffee Lao, payed in Kip.

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    Of course where there are Chinese, the endangered species list is ignored and in danger!
    I hope this area doesn’t turn out like Mong La in Burma, See Travel the Burma Road

    The road from the Boten junction on to Oudomxay pretty much can be described as “terrible”. Constant potholes and sections of pavement removed and filled in with rocks and stones it was pretty rough riding. I felt sorry for Snail on his Ducati who was a couple days behind us, but he later told me it was not that bad for him.

    We overnighted in Oudamxai and then made a quick run to our main destination Nong Kiew on Hwy 1c.

    On the way one couldn’t help but be reminded that Laos is still a Communist country. It was their “National Day” holiday weekend and celebrations and FLAGS were abundant. On the road to Nong Kiew virtually every building and hut was flying a red flag.

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    As we were told by a nice old couple who we chatted with while stopped for a break, “This is the day 40 years ago that we kicked out the enemy and the bad people!” History is written by the victors.

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    Nong Kiew is a sleepy little town with a few guesthouses and restaurants and is mainly a bus stop and layover for backpackers taking the slow boats up or down the Nam Xang River. It is also the source of stunning scenery, a relaxed atmosphere and clean air.

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    Nong Kiau River Side Resort on the right

    We stayed at the recently finished Nong Kiau River Side Resort. www.nongkiau.com
    A little pricier than the other guesthouses in the area, it was worth it for the scalding hot shower and the great view alone. It even had electric blankets on the bed and broadband internet. 31 USD per night and an added discount for staying 3 nights. The nearby Chan-A-Mar guesthouse which is where I have stayed in the past is also nice at 20 USD. A number of other lower price backpacker places in the area of the bridge but I didn’t price them and many were full.

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    I had promised a boat ride to Mueng Gnoi and so we did. Previously they had fast and slow boats but they have now done away with the fast boats as they have in Huay Xai. A good move in my opinion. Although some of the “slow boats” are not exactly quiet it is much better than the roar of the fast boats.

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    Ticket Office
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    Step where?

    They do have a “Catch 22” now however. The slow boat leaves around 11:00AM for Muang Gnoi but there is no return boat until early the next morning. Sooooo….you must overnight in Muang Gnoi which isn’t much except for guesthouses, restaurants and the river. If you are into trekking and caving there is a lot offered.

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    Muang Gnoi

    Of course you can book boats on your own or get your own group together for a price, We chose to rent our own boat. They will wait for you at Mueng Gnoi until you are ready to leave and it is about 45 minutes each way. About 44 USD. Even though MG isn’t much, the boat ride is gorgeous.

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    Just east of town is network of caves used in the war. I had seen part of one before, but this time there were guides who took you on a full tour. I had no idea the network was so large and similar to the caves near Xam Neua.

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    The guides said we could down here but the rail was broken. They would have it fixed in a minute. I said “Maybe next time” and went back the way I came.

    The lady guide again told us with animated gestures how the Americans dropped many bombs trying to “Kill the Laos people” but more than 500 people hid in the caves. This was the local control center for the Pathet Lao.

    Kids at play.

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    ”Did you know that if you touch the spiderweb with a piece of grass one of these runs out?” Like I said, kids at play.

    Reluctantly we checked out and headed for Luang Prabang. Personally I would have preferred to go back the way we had came. For me LPB doesn’t hold much interest after having been there quite a few times, and the ride from Vientiane back to CNX is long.

    In this case we were meeting Snail (David Lek) and his girlfriend so it added some incentive. We had a nice dinner and some night market shopping.

    We stayed one night at the Sabadee Guesthouse which was Ok except for the fact that our room was just swarming with mosquitoes. Before we went out to dinner I closed everything I could and sprayed the hell out of the room with mosquito killer.

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    We continued on to Vang Vieng following Snail and the Japanese GF. She was riding David’s XR250 and was quite impressive. As I tried to follow for the first 30k or so I was soon getting jabs in the side from my pillion and agreed to slow down. We met up again near VV.

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    Vang Vieng 2004
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    Now

    As anticipated V. Vieng was “swarming” with people. We got the only rooms available at the Vansana Hotel but could only stay one night as they were booked. Thim and I then moved to the quite nice Elephant Crossing Guesthouse.

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    I never really explored much in VV before. If you go across a wooden toll bridge there is a dirt road that leads to many caves and trekking areas. Actually, there are many different turnoffs to the caves and they are posted as different names, but they all lead to the same mountain, crossing a large rice field with the different routes marked by “flags” (plastic bags on sticks). We enjoyed just playing around in the rice fields and skipped the caves.

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    From there we headed home through Vientiane and a stopover in Loei. Overcast skies threatened all the way but kept the temperatures cool and comfortable.

    As we climbed the mountains near Den Chai in it started to rain. I thought this was just due to the mountains but as we came down into Lampang it poured. We were on the trailing edge of rain, with mostly intermittent showers and wet pavement all the way into Chiang Mai. My “over packing” paid off as we did have sufficient rain and warm weather gear with us to stay comfortable. Not so lucky some of the other riders still trailing us, David and David????

    NOTE: :shock: Only one real drama, The dreaded wave turning in front of you. As we neared Vientiane I was riding fairly conservatively and fortunately not overly fast. I thought I was being careful passing slower traffic when suddenly a lady on Honda Wave turned from the shoulder of the road straight across in front of us without any indication or even a turn of the head. Thim had only enough time to let out a scream and I only had time to dive across the road for the opposite shoulder and hope my brain calculated those vectors right. My geometry teacher would be proud, I missed the front wheel of the wave by what seemed like centimeters and hung on for an impact into the back of my bike as I tried to negotiate the oncoming traffic both on and off the shoulder. I have no idea how we survived this one. I cannot not think of another time where I was so sure that I was crashing, sometimes luck is with us!

    So anyway, while I enjoy an “adventure ride” as much as the next guys, sometimes the EZ way isn’t all bad either……….Enjoy whatever riding you do. :D

    I just added (05-Feb) what I think is a fascinating follow up to the above info on Nong Kiew. Check it out.......
    Nong Kiew Bomb Strikes!
    :arrow:
     
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  3. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Great Report and Photo's Dave. Would love to come along on one of your Rides as everyone you do seems to be a Special one to me! Pity about the Animals :cry: but Asians and Conservation just don't seem to Mix do they? Keep up the Good work you are a Legend :wink: See you soon.
     
  4. Pikey

    Pikey Ol'Timer

    Wonderful report and absolutely excellent pics Dave. Looks like you had a brilliant time and I am extremely jealous! I remember riding the jungle road with DavidFL a few years ago and looking at it now makes it hard to believe what it was like. Thanks a lot for sharing and glad that your near miss was exactly that - a miss. Take it from me, hitting a Wave bloody hurts!

    Ian, when my shoulder and Bonnie are better, maybe we could make a short hop over to Laos for a few days - can't let these other guys have all the fun!

    Cheers,

    Pikey
     
  5. tropicaljohno

    tropicaljohno Ol'Timer

    Crossing from Chiang Khong into Huay Xai on Jan. 18 was fairly easy. I dropped off my paperwork at Thai Customs on the evening of the 17th so it would be ready in the morning.

    We crossed to Huay Xai, did our paperwork and insurance with no problem and hit the road.


    Hi Dave

    Great write up and fotos'. I wondered if you could explain what is actually required to take your bike over into Laos, as I have been asked this question by a couple of guys here on Phuket, who are keen on taking their bikes into Laos.

    Many thanks

    Johno
     
  6. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    If you have a book and plate in your name ;First, on the Thai side, you must go to the Customs Office in Chiang Khong (in town, not at the ferry crossing). Then you go to the Immigration Office in Town next to the Police station. At both these offices paperwork is completed for the bike only. You will need your original book and a few copies of the book and your passport and visa.

    Then go to the Immigration Office and Customs AT the ferry crossing and get you passport stamped out and show your paperwork to the Customs guys.

    Once across at Huay Xai, park your bike at the top of the ramp by the restaurant. Walk up the stairs on the right of the ramp, turn right and find the customs office. They will check your Thai papers and do the Laos papers. They will then send you to a second office further up the hill for another stamp and signature. Yes, then a third stop for another stamp and you should also get your Laos insurance from the small AGV office there.

    I think I had to pay 200bt to customs in Laos and about 300 bt for insurance.

    BY NO MEANS LET THEM TELL YOU THAT YOU MUST GO TO AN AGENT TO GET YOU PAPERS DONE! This only happened to me once but has happened to others. It took all day and a couple thousand baht. A scam!

    My last two times across the Laos guys were smiling and helpful and I had no problem at all. Actually the above description sounds more difficult than it actually is.

    After this you must go into Huay Xai to the Immigration Office at the small passenger boat crossing and get your visa or entry stamp.

    No one ever actually physically looked at the motorcycle. :roll:

    Jeff-

    Believe me, as soon as the "action" settled down to where I could actually think I immediately thought of you. This made me further realize how lucky we were and just increased my anger at the stupidity of this rider. It is fortunate I couldn't stop and she didn't stop, or I would probably be in a Laos jail now.
     
  7. tropicaljohno

    tropicaljohno Ol'Timer

    Many thanks Dave for such a quick and detailed reply.

    We are having another luncheon for the 'Phuket Boyz' Monday so can pass all the info on to them.

    Talking of accidents, or near misses. After the 2 day drive from Nong Khai, back to Phuket, got within 2kms of our house, when this old Thai man on a Honda Wave, came out of a small soi on my right, headed straight across the road, towards us, didnt even bother to look.

    I blew the horn repeadedly, (was in the Honda Jazz),and he still didnt look up, just hit the trailer mudguard, and bounced off, the old codger didnt fall off, just somehow rode behind us and carried on in the inside lane, going in the same direction as me.

    When I got home, inspected the trailer mudguard for any damage, and noticed a slight scratch on the 'X-Centre' sticker I had stuck on there.

    Have to get another supply of stckers from Ian Bungy on my next visit up there.
     
  8. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Great report Dave. Looks like you had an enjoyabke time up there. Glad to see it.

    "This trip for me was with the Thai G/F who had made it clear “No racing or foot peg dragging, no mud and definitely no dusty dirt roads!”......

    I can still remember chasing the two of you on your 250DR with that thing heeled over and the pegs on the ground. Tell her she's getting too old for you and you'll have to trade her in on a younger model :D if she keeps insisting on the above :wink: .

    i agree the Nong Khiaw resort has some nice rooms. I stayed there for $15 per night but that was during low season and took some bargaining. The views were gorgous on the porch eh? How was the food there?

    Any idea if you can join Muang Noi with other roads/cities off road?

    Once again excellent report and glad to see you avoided the pickups on the road to Muang Sing.
     
  9. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    Dave
    Thank you for posting such a detailed report.
    Great pix and very useful information = Great Reportage.
    I had hoped to stay at the Riverside Resort having eaten there with Richard.
    A perfect lomantic location!
    Sorry to have missed you and others riding ahead but the Guv'nor thought looking for bare-breasted hilltribe gals in Muang Sing was essential in ascertaining the continual creep of "development".
     
  10. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    He was after photos like these. I didn't really see any this trip either. Progress has it's drawbacks I'm afraid.

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    Smug Mug Photos
     
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Or like this
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    Taken in May 2004 on the Xieng Kok - Muang Sing Road.
    Wonder what Iwas thinking about at the time??
     
  12. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    It is what the Baby is thinking ....

    "Dadaaaa........ ?"
     
  13. beddhist

    beddhist Ol'Timer

    I'm a little jealous: when I was there a couple of months ago it was so hazy most of my photos didn't turn out. You seemed to have had crisp blue skies.
     
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member


    Found another snap of the old jungle road & one of my fave Laos snaps of a small hole in the road....

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    Yep. That's the GT Rider standing in the hole, directing traffic. What a road that used to be!

    Comment: Pic posted on his thread as it's a good report & deserves to be back up the top.
     

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