Martin's South East Asia Trip chapter 7 - Laos and Isan

Discussion in 'Global Trip Reports' started by martins, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. martins

    martins Thai tourer

    Here is the next chapter, this time Laos to ISAN on my summer 2008 trip.
    There are pictures on my home page if you want to follow the trip.

    I stayed at a nice Hotel in the center of Luang Prabang where they took my bike inside (in the restaurang) during night just to be safe. There are definitly another class of service in Laos but it's OK. There was a market all along the center street where all the peasants arrive to sell their handcrafts. I spent much of the night speaking with a monk in one of the temples in town. He asked me to come in when I passed by and apparently wanted speak English . We compared our different cultures and had a real nice evening chatting at the temple yard. I also visited a large river boat laying on the dock side in the river to check the possibilities of taking the bike south on the river for a couple of days but all boats was heading North and it was off season.

    I left Luang Prabang after just a day as I felt a little bit uncomfortable with all the touristic stuff. From Luang Prabang and south the road was remarkable better then on the North side but not really good. There still was a lack of maintenance and a lot of holes. There was a lot of mountain driving and I really enjoyed the trip with short stops in tribe villages and a lunch on the highest point on the road between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng where I was headed this day. Good roads but no speeding due to village life on the road, holes and things falling down from mountain sides. People really lived on the road, just like I can imagen it's been in the old days. I spend the day in the mountains and arrived late afternoon to Vang Vieng,the village that of some reason had became a bagpackers paradise. The town was quite different from the rest of Laos and adjusted to fit the western youngsters who enjoyed western life in cafés monitoring old videos wit "Friends" on the TV 24 hours a day. It felt more of a fun park than a genuine Laos village. The river was full with people in tubes enjoying beers and whatever. I resisted from staying a day tubing because of the weather, it was a cloudy morning and I rather spend the day on my bike instead of the water.

    The roads on the last part down to Vientiane was quite straight and the further south the more of colonial houses and western style villages and the less of huts that was the absolutely most common way to live in the north. I arrived to Vientiane mid day and found a nice place to stay in mid town, did some sightseeing and took a real coffee in the Scandinavian café, I missed the coffee! The town was really nice and I can imagine that the colonial people enjoyed it in Vientiane during the French period. Quite different from Thailand, I recommend a visit to at least Vientiane if you are in the neighbourhood. Close to Vientiane there is a bridge (friendship bridge) over the Mekong river to Thailand so I decided to cross Isan on good Thai roads instead of struggling on Laos roads southbound. The border crossing started to be routine now, just check out your temporary import permission and get a new one for the next country.

    Of course immediately after crossing the bridge I got a speeding ticket (without ticket) on the Thai roads. However it was a friendly ticket and the Police liked the bike and we chat for a while. Whoever, they did not anted to be photographed, wonder why :) The tempo raised a lot on straight Thai highways and I put about 500 km behind me before stopping in Kalasin, a small town in the middle of Isan. There was a good road Hotel just outside the village and I drove in to town to gather the famous Isan culture. I did in a small Karaoke bar with all the local guys take turns on the scene to sing their favourite tune. I did not understand much but enjoyed, when I was asked to take the scene I firmly declined. It was a quite evening but of course there was a deserted night club in the basement of the Hotel. After a quick beer I slept well, back in Thailand.

    The next day was a road day, I drove national roads crossing Isan country down to Ubon Ratchatani, also here amazingly good roads. Just like home in Sweden. Arriving to Ubon I stopped at the firs tyre workshop I could find asking for a rear tyre as it became quick worn on the Laos rough roads. I did not take a chance on finding such tyre in Cambodia where it should really be needed if I waited some more miles. The guy in the shop took his bike and escorted me all over town til we found a shop with a biker running it who promised to order one from Bangkok and replace it the day after, those nice Thai people! I spend the night taking a walk in town visited some bars chatting with nice people. One thing I really remember was a nice nightclub/disco where a got a neck massage while peeing in the bathroom. A nice way to earn some extra money for the local guys without being intrusive. Thailand really is different!

    The tyre arrived the day after and I headed out of town in a quite strong rain, something I started to get used to. But better 30 degree water than 50 degree heat inside the bike clothes and helmet. I headed for Laos again, the south part with the 4000 Island where the Mekong starts to split in a delta and later on south to Cambodia. But that will be the next chapter. Thanks for reading, see you!

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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good on you for carrying on with your trip report. :)
    1. Re tyres: Yes the roads in Laos always seem to chew up your tyres – always go with new ones or good ones, nothing less than half worn or you will start getting flat tyres in hot remote places. In Thailand a new tyre is nearly always just an overnight truck trip from Bangkok.
    2. Love your description of Vang Vieng: “more of a fun park than a genuine Laos village.”
    3. The first neck massage in the” horng nam” when you’re standing there taking a pee is always a “revelation” :lol: & yeah “Thailand really is different” & in a good way too!

    When are you coming back to Chiang Mai to live? We need more Africa Twin riders, so you’ll have to trade your Transalp 700 in for an AT 750 before you come. Ha. Ha.

  4. martins

    martins Thai tourer

    Yeah, for sure I'm coming back to Thailand (north) for living. I have to terminate all old stuff in Sweden first which will take a while. I'm coming over this christmas to set up a business and prepare for the moving. Next winter I will definitely spend in Northern Thailand, if the business is working out I will stay permanent else I will return to work in Scandinavia over summer. Any tip about good flats (with Internet) just outside Chiang Mai? And yeah, I would love an Africa Twin, anyway I will need a bike in Thailand.

  5. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    Tjena Martin

    Finne Här.

    Nice report,, sadly i dind know that you are on the way to Ubon, could help you out with tyre as well,,, but as always people who are asking will find the way.

    Other this is amasing me,, how did you managed to get speedig ticket in Thailand with the bike,, i have drive pass through so many speed checks and every single time(knock the wood) police just turn away and stop only cars...last one was on the way to nong Khai, i drove behind pick up 140Kmh and behind the bend was men in Brown and they stoped pick up and didnt even bother to look at me.. :wink:

    any how,, you pop in Ubon or close by next time,, drop me a line...

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