Leaving Laos>C-Mai>Nan>Loei> KKaen

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by cdrw, Mar 19, 2007.

  1. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    Leaving Laos and onto Chaing Mai > Nan > then backroads to Loei then onto Khon Kaen for bike repairs.

    I re-entered Thailand from Laos, at Houei Xie, after I had made the worst mistake of my 8000-km trip. That being taking the road from Oudom Xie to Pak Beng, then the boat to Houei Xie. I was tired and exhausted. I'd read "jimoi's" Laos Road Report which indicated some difficult stretches on the Luang Namtha > Houei Xie road so did the Pak Beng route. A great paved and absolutely _boring_ road!! Then, it cost me 95,000-kip for me and the same for the bike...plus paying locals to carry it to the boat. Darn boat ride cost more than I'd spend for everything on any given day, plus the boat was fully laden with my favorite sort of folks...backpackers ;-). The next day was a Sunday and the main ferry to Chiang Khong, Thailand wasn't running. Locals were taking bicycles and passengers across the Mekong in small long-boats for 20-Bt each, but wanted 500-Bt to take my motorcycle and wouldn't negotiate!. No thanks! I decided it was cheaper to just spend another night in Houei Xie and get the ferry in the morning. Unfortunately I learned that Monday (Mar 4) was a Buddhist holiday and the ferry again was not running. I ended up
    getting stung for 400-Bt to get my bike across the river via a small
    long-boat. The Customs and Immigration folks at Chaing Khong were
    friendly and efficient and I was again on my way after 15-minutes.

    I headed directly to Chiang Mai as I knew from the GT board that there are some decent repair shops there. My chain had stretched to a point of having no further adjustments and the battery (bike has no kickstart) was old and had left me searching for a shop to re-charge it in three different Laos towns. G3 bike shop provided me with a new o-ring chain, drive sprockets, battery and some miscellaneous repair work on the bike. I was now again good to go...

    While in Chiang Mai, I played tourist as well as rode to Pai. The Pai ride was only a R/T and I didn't do the Mae Hong Son loop, as I'd left CM in the afternoon as was planning on leaving CM the next day. I found Pai to be much larger than I expected...and it was filled with cloven-hoofed backpackers [Ack!!]. Had coffee at a local farang-owned restaurant and I loved the sign he has which says "We are not listed in the Lonely Planet because we have good food" He said a few other decent places in town have the same sign and most backpackers go to a restaurant listed in the LP, which has the worst food in town. Years ago I found the LP to be quite helpful with directions, but most of their recommendations for tailors, restaurants, G/H's, etc., were without merit.

    From Chiang Mai, I wanted to see Nan for two reasons. One I'd never been there and secondly I'd previously been involved with a project to send winter clothing & blankets to poor families in the Nan region. The latter project was created by an Immigration Officer I know in Pattaya (he was born in Nan) and I wanted to share my pix of Nan with him [yes...I also wanted to reinforce the relationship, should I ever need his help!] In Nan, I got lost trying to find
    things; such is common for me in larger cities, but did manage a few of the sights listed in TAT's "Unseen" book.

    Rather than mostly taking the major highways south of Nan (11 & 12) to get to Loei, I opted for what seemed like a much shorter back way. In fact my route proved to be 200-km shorter, and far more enjoyable,
    than taking the major highways. From Nan, I went south on route 1026 to Na Muen (abt 95km). At the far end of town I stopped at the police station, and asked directions to Pak Nai. Turned out a short distance after the station, there is a sign (on the left) for the road. Another 22-km and I was at the boat landing for Pak Nai. At the end of the main road, I saw 3 small roads ahead, but no boat there, but on the right, across the water were some boats. A local said to go
    back up the main road a few 100-meters and take that road which leads
    to the landing. I arrived to find two trucks on what I thought was the boat. I drove on the boat, paid 100-Bt, chatting with the other passengers and away we went...but the 'boat' was really just a barge...and I was shocked to see that it was being pulled by a small underpowered long-boat, tethered to the barge with a single rope.
    http://www.mongersmedia.com/photopost/d ... _barge.jpg

    I had been erroneously told that the boat made the journey to Nam Pet,
    which was many kilometers away. I feared it would take many hours at
    the slow rate we were going. Turns out the barge is only pulled about 3-km to another landing, where the road to Nam Pet begins. It was maybe 40km to Nam Pet..the road was good except for two short sections (3 and 6-km) of dirt. At Nam Pet, continue onto route 1239, which takes you all the way to Na Haew. A nice winding road, with stops for a wildlife park and waterfall. In Na Haew, take route 213 to the main highway 203, which goes to Loei. Total distance from Nan was appx 396-km, compared to abt 600-km using boring highways 11 & 12.

    About 150-km before Loei, I discovered my rear brake pads were shot
    and grinding on the rotor. I'd hope to find replacements in Loei...but such was not the case. I found Loei to be a strange town, in that most of those I spoke with did not understand my Thai, which was fine everywhere else, including Laos. There are no moto shop in Loei (IMHO) to work on anything other than the typical small moto, so the next day I went to Khon Kaen. I hadn't planned to visit there, as well as either Nong Khai or Udon, but found Khon Kaen to be a very hospitable and farange friendly town. I will return at a future date to better explore that city.

    For big bike repairs, Khon Kaen is excellent. A post on the GT board
    suggests the "Sub A Nan Motor" bike shop, but it has moved a few door
    from its' previous location to a very nice shop at 4-6 Robmuang Rd,
    just behind the Sri Nuan Wat, in the SE section of city. A big shop loaded with big bikes. Unfortunately, they did not have the rear brake pads I needed, and I was referred to a small shop not far away on Potisan Rd. The latter shop, whose name is in Thai, was able to get the brake pads I needed and I was back on the road in less than a hour after arriving. Cost: 200-Bt

    Look at the city map pix for locations of the two shops:
    [hopefully these links will work...]


    ***Oops...wrong title...but pix below is a MAP to the shops:
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