My Houey Xai loop trip report

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by fm2002, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    First would like to thank all who helped with my trip. Special thanks goes to MotoRex for meeting with us in CM and giving us some first hand info.

    I also would like to give a big thumbs up to Mr. Pop rentals. Pop himself helped us out with all the paperwork gave us chain lube (free of charge) and also provided us in case we needed a spare brake lever and gear shift. As you will see in my report they were also more than fair when we returned both bikes that were damaged.

    Day 1
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    We left CM at 10am arriving Chiang Rai, with a stop or two along the way at 1pm. Had some lunch and headed for Chiang Khong. We arrived at 2:40pm. We decided to stay in CK for the night and get a early start the next morning.

    Day 2

    Arrived at Customs at 8am. Office was empty, but around 8:15 a lady showed up and helped us out. Immigration was pretty easy and so was the formalities at the waterfront. We got very lucky as the ferry was just about to leave. We hopped on. The Lao side was packed with backpackers so the Visa and Immigration process took awhile. All in all it took us from Thai start to Lao finish, around 4 hours. Headed out of Houei Xai around noon to Pak Beng. The road to PB wasn't that bumpy, but it sure was dusting. Not much new to report here except after 3 hour and 50 minutes we arrived Pak Beng to have a late lunch. We were told that the river was very low and they had stopped the boat tours. So should be no problem with getting rooms after 5pm. At least until the rains start.

    I also would like to add that if you depart HX after say 12 noon I would stay in Pak Beng for the night. We decided to push through to Oudom Xai. We departed Pak Beng at 4:45pm arriving Oudom Xai at 7:30pm. So we were in the dark and cold for the last hour and a half. Also the bugs were really bad and I was picking them out from everywhere. The most important thing is in the dark we missed a very scenic road.

    Day 3 Oudom Xai to Boun Tai

    Our original plan was to go all the way to Muang Khua from Pak Beng on Day 2, but that didn't happen. After reviewing the route we would have to back track from Muang Khua in the same day so I decided to head straight to Boun Tai. We got a late start 10am due to my friend waking up late. The first hour to Sin Xai was a dream ride; twisty up & down cutting up through a peaceful dew laden valley. We continued to climb. Alot of the flowers were blooming and the aromas were wonderful. We turned left off the asphalt and headed to Boun Tai. The road was nice.

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    We arrived Boun Tai at 1:50pm. We looked around for a place to stay and found out there were only 2 places. One where we stayed and another which as explained was much dirtier.

    [/img]http://i737.photobucket.com/albums/xx19/fm2002/dsc_0024.jpg

    The rooms had no electrical outlets or switches to turn the light on and off. The light you see in the pic basically comes out of the wall and comes on at 6pm and goes off at 6am. Don't get me wrong I can rough it with the best of them, but all they needed to do is mop the floors, changed the sheets and put a swith and outlet in the rooms and it would improve the place immensely.

    After we checked in we went in search of food. Again we found there were 2 places located right next to each other. One was a genghis khan bbq place which we ate first (lunch) and the other was a papaya salad and bbq (dinner). We ended up for dinner just drinking beer Lao.

    Day 4 Boun Tai to Muang Sing

    Awoke to a foggy cold morning. Headed out at 8:30am. The first 2 hours were good road and the best mountain scenery so far:

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    Forgot to mention. In the first part of the ride there was this steep descent and the road was the powdery dirt type. My friend which has no off road experience had his first fall. Nothing hurt so no harm no foul. We emerged from the jungle around 12:30pm at Na Teuy. Had some noodles and a future GT Rider wanted a ride:

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    The road from here was good asphalt and we were able to open it up and make good time arriving Muang Sing 2:45pm. Checked in to our hotel:

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    Had a much needed shower and went next door for a cold beer and a massage. Later on had dinner in town, a few more beers and to bed.

    Day 4 Muang Sing to Xieng Khaeng to Ua La (phonetic spelling)

    We hooked up with our guide Somphome at 8:15am. When I saw his bike, a very old Chinese 2 stroke I had serious reservations if it could make the trip. I expressed this to him and he said not to worry. Not much of a choice so off we went at 08:30am. The road as we climbed was nice and basically you get up the top and follow the ridge:

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    Here's a pice of the so called police checkpoint at the top of the ridge. It was really blowing that day:

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    Along the way we stopped for lunch. It consisted of sticky rice, jungle greens and as our guide explained "jungle dog". Which he started up a fire and bbq'd.

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    After lunch I found out that our guide had brought not a single stitch of food and we would be completely reliant on the jungle and/or the villagers along the way.

    We arrived at Xieng Khaeng at 12:40pm:

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    We had to hang out in XK for a bit while Somphome notified the police and the army of our next two days in the deep mountains. We got back on our bikes and headed back towards the bridge, but instead of crossing back over we continued on past the famous Stupa and headed up the hill to Ua La (phonetic spelling). The road was really cool. Very tight single track almost trial like that weaved up and around for approximately 13kms.

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    Here's a pic of me waiting at the gate leading up to the village of Ua La.

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    We arrived at the village. Here is a pic showing the GPS coordinates:

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    The village we would be staying was Akha and very poor. Even though they were poor they seemed to be happy. Especially the kids.

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    Around 5pm our guide told us he was going into the jungle hunting with the headman for our dinner. The f*%kin guy didn't show up until the next morning and empty handed. We had a dinner of jungle greens soup and rice. Here's some pics of the headman with his homemade flintlock rifle before heading out:

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    A few more shots (not staged) of the village guys playing around with costume:

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    We were homestaying in the headmans house and the procession of gawkers continued on into the night until finally we had to lock the door around 10pm. There's nothing like falling asleep to the sounds and smells of the pigs snorting and the buffalos pissing below you.

    Around 4am I had to take a piss so I put on my headlamp and went outside. As I was doing my business for some unknown reason (maybe it thought I was going to feed him or I was in his territory) a water buffalo charged me. It was not a pretty sight. Here I was in the pitch dark, my you know what still hanging out and a huge water buffalo coming at me. In my haste to get away my headlamp fell off and I ran right into a piece of wood sticking out and I went down seeing stars. I lived with only a bump and a small gash. Funny !

    Day 5

    The next morning we awoke and had to arrange for the villagers to take our bikes back down to XK where we would collect them after our trek. We headed out and up through the fog around 8:40am. It was cold and a brutal climb. Wasn't sure my friend would make it, but he did and after about 2 1/2 hours we started a equalling brutal downhill descent. That's the mighty Mekong in the distance below.

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    We stopped for lunch at a small village Long Pa (phonetic spelling) guarded by flintlock yielding youth:

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    The downhill was brutally steep. My knees were burning when we finally emerged from the jungle to one of the most awe inspiring sights I've ever seen. The Mekong river as I've never seen before:

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    We stayed right next to the Mekong in a village called Ban Sai. A beautiful little village right a small river that flows into the Mekong. It's population around 100, but with a monk monastery and temple. When our guide asked how old the village was nobody knew. This village had more money. From what, well perhaps from a beautiful white flowering plant ??? They have also recently started to pan for gold on the Mekong.

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    Day 6

    We had a great nights sleep and a decent meal. We paid for a duck so we had fried duck with noodles and rice. Our boat to take us back to XK was suppose to arrive at 8am. 11am it finally arrived. We arrived back to XK after about a 45 minute ride. Time to get back on the bikes. Oops wait a minute my guide forgot to tell me; they crashed my bike when they returned it to XK. Not too big a deal; a broken mirror, bent brake lever and the rack on the back broken. We loaded up and headed out about 1:10pm.

    Crossed the bridge turned left and once back to HWY 1507 turned right towards Chakhamleu. This road was single track but pretty. I can't explain here what route we took, but I did take detailed notes. There were alot of veer left go right etc. etc. At one point our guide was unsure of the route and we ended up taking a wrong turn. However this was great luck as we happened upon a village in the middle of a party. It was explained to me they were Akha, but I had never seen this type of traditional head dress by the man.

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    I was informed we had to go as we still had a long way to go. We hadn't gone far when my bad feeling about our guides bike came true. It died. No matter what we did we couldn't get it started. Our guide was at a lose as to what to do. Well I wasn't going to spend the night on the mountain or village so I told him to leave it. Surprisingly he agreed. We put his gear on my friends bike and he jumped on the back of mine. It wasn't long after this we hooked into to the main dirt road that lead down to Muang Long. My guide whose original job was a surveyor for the government was the one who actually did the survey for this road and many others in the area. Here is a pic of the town details where the road down to Muang Long starts:

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    At this point I wasn't too happy with our guide so let's just say he was in for the ride of his life. I flew down that hill. A few times too fast and I'm sure he was happy when the journey finally ended. We arrived at a pretty big village called Huay To Kao (phonetic spelling) where we gassed up. Along the way we stopped for milk and cookies :)

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    We finally rounded a bend and I could see Muang Long town below:

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    We arrived Muang Long I guess around 5-5:30pm. It looked like a cool town and I suggested we stay there instead of driving in the dark to Muang Sing. Our guide said it would be alright and I mistakenly assumed the road was asphalt. As soon as we gassed up and headed back towards Muang Sing the road turned to that talcom powdering dirt. To make it worse it was rutted underneath. So he we were after about 30 minutes out in darkness, rutted slippery roads, and because I was out of tear aways my googles were covered in bugs to the point I had to take them off. We had to slow down to at least 40kmh and didn't make it to Muang SIng until 7:30pm. I had to chuckle because I had destroyed my guide. He also owns a restaurant next to our hotel. After we showered we went over there for a beer and asked where he was. His wife said he was not coming out as he was out cold and in pain. Served him right to go into the mountains so unprepared. I forgot to mention he ran out of money up in the mountains and had to borrow from me.

    Day 7 Muang Sing to Luang Namtha to Nale

    Woke up and had breakfast in town. As we were having breakfast the famous 3 old ladies of Muang Sing (I nicknamed them the Witches of Eastwick) came cruising by our restaurant. I had already met these ladies on a previous trip and told my friend about them. He decided he would buy some, let's say "souvenirs" from them. Here he is in deep negotiations:

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    We had a very nice drive back to Luang Namtha. It was cold, but real relaxing. We decided to check into our hotel and drop our bags off before heading to Nale. It actually got colder after we arrived so we had a short break of coffee and bannana nut bread. At 10:45am we headed out. What a great road this was. It was in good shape and not too tight so you could really cruise along at good speed. The whole time your right next to the river. Really nice road ! As was the case for most of the trip I would race ahead and stop every 15km or so and wait for my friend. At one of these stops I had time to snap this self portrait:

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    After a few more stops along the way to wait for my friend I arrived at Nale. My plan was to try and do the loop crossing the river here and going over the mountain to Vieng Poukha and back to Luang Namtha. So I knew I had time in Nale before my firend arrived so I looked for gas. I found the gas and started to wait. The wait got to about 15 minutes so I decided to go back and look for him. I finally found him. His was sitting with a husband and wife in front of the little grass hut. His pant leg rolled up showing a bloody knee and his bike parked next to him. He explained to me he came over the hill too fast, triied to down shift but put into neutral instead, caught speed and decided to lay it down. He said he was ok except for his pride, but his bike refused to start. Again I tried to do what I could but we couldn't get it started. So back to Nale for me insearch of a truck. I found a truck, but couldn't communicate with him. Luckily I had phone signal so I called a friend who can speak Lao and they settled everything. 400,000 kip. Here are a few pics of the event:

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    Got back to the hotel and after a shower and a quick phone call to MotoRex to ask if he knew what might be the problem with the bike my friend arrived. I took him to the hospital and while he got a few stitches to his knee I had his bike picked up by a local mechanic. Went back and picked up my friend and we went to have dinner. We ate at a Indian restaurant that turned out to be really good. Before we were finished our bike was back and seemed to be ok. The funny part here was it cost around $9 USD to fix his knee and it cost exactly $9 to fix his bike. We thought we were good to go.....

    Day 8

    Long day planned Luang Namtha to Chiang Mai. Loaded up early and tried to start my friends bike. It wouldn't start. I was pretty sure it was electrical so I knew it wasn't good. Mechanic picked it back up. After a hour or two I went to his shop and ended up calling Pop Rental and the two of them talked. They ended up taking alot of stuff off and about 12noon got it started. Still really not knowing what the problem was. We loaded up and took off. Long story short we made ti all the way to Chiang Rai. As it was almost dark and we were pretty worn we decided to stay there.

    Day 9

    Next morning same thing bike won't start. We ended taking the bike to ST Motorbike rental and they directed us to another shop. This other shop took a look at it and said they had no idea. ST ended up offering to load it up in a truck and take it back to CM for 2500 baht. They were very nice.

    So off I went on my own. It was nice to just go without having to wait and had the KLX pegged the whole way. On one downhill stretch hitting 130kmh. I had had a great trip with a few close calls, but never a mishap. I was about 16km from CM and about 2 kms from leaving the mountains when I'm not sure what happened, but someone had dropped alot of oil in the road right on a turn. I was doing 90+ when I hit the oil. I was down in a millisecond and my bike and I went sliding. At first first I was sliding on my right hip and I remember thinking oh this going to take off some skin. What saved me was I leaned back and luckily was able to put my weight on the plastic elbow pad in my jacket. My bike ended about 20 ft. in front of me, but we both had crossed both lanes and ended up in the shoulder/grass on the opposite side where we started. I stood up expecting something to be wrong. I couldn't find anything, not even a scratch. My bike suffered some damage, but under the circumstances I couldn't believe I was going to walk away from this. In front of me there were 2 vehicles that had gone further and now where down in the jungle. I bent my throttle and break lever back pushed the starter and I was out of there. I stopped at the gas station below just to chill out and thank Buddha to be alive !!!

    I got to CM dropped my bags and went to see Pop. I heard stories to be afraid of this situation, but honestly I didn't care what he was going to charge me after walking away from my accident. I shouldn't of worried as they turned out to be great. I had destroyed 1 mirror, break lever, rack, grip, damaged the right peg and numerous plastic sidings and probably bent the handlebars. After they looked at it and found everything I just listed they charged me ONLY 500 baht ! I was a happy camper. My friend had a very similar experience.

    Well that's it. A great trip.

    David I hope there's enough pictures for you.[/img]
     
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  3. dirthonk

    dirthonk Ol'Timer

    Cracking story!

    I love the way you dealt with that rogue guide and gave him the treatment on the back of your bike! brilliant I can picture it so well, serves the idiot right!

    Nice pics and anecdotes aswell, a real interesting read...
     
  4. daewoo

    daewoo Ol'Timer

    Thanks for for taking the time to post up such a good and detailed report...

    Also good to know that Pop did the right thing about the damaged bike after hearing so many horrow stories from the beaches down south...

    What an adventure you had!

    Cheers,
    Daewoo
     
  5. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    To add to it I went by his place early the next morning to pick up something I had stored at his place and he was hurting pretty bad. I ended up giving him some coedine to help allieve his back pain.

    Sad part is he could be such a great asset. He was originally a surveyor for the government and actually did most of the surveying for the roads in Muang Sing and Muang Long Districts. He is under funded, knows very little on how to be in the tourism business, but he knows all the roads.
     
  6. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    He should of charged me more and I would of gladly paid it. Given the fact he's the only one that will allow you to take his bikes to Laos I'm surprised more haven't written about him.
     
  7. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    fm2002 ,
    thanks a lot for sharing the story..nice journey. :arrow:
     
  8. tonykiwi

    tonykiwi Ol'Timer

    wonderful

    thank you
     
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    fm2002

    :D :D Love the photos & a ripper trip report.

    You guys sure were lucky. A couple of spills, totally inexperienced dirt rider, no food or water, bad guide & then leaving your bikes for the natives to ride out whilst you went trekking. :shock: :shock:

    Sounds like you won first prize in the lottery. I bet you can't do it all like that again & get away with it.
    But would you try to do all the same things & trip again knowing what do you do now??

    Great stuff & I'm glad you pulled it off, because my advice would be don't, not like that again.

    Your mate who fell & survived on the Nale road must be thrilled to be home in one piece. :D :D

    Many thanks for the contribution.
     
  10. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    Actually don't bet against me David. Now that I've been there and done that with just a few changes it's very doable. In fact I have an side story to this trip. I'm planning to do it again.

    I have travelled alot in Laos, but never had I experienced such poverty. As most of you know the area where I was is where alot of the Poppie grown in Laos came from. About 8-10 years ago because of pressure through promised aid from the U.S. and others the Lao government has eradicated the poppie. However you feel about this policy is not important, but what is is what the negative affect has been to the Akha. The govt. basically took their only crop they had to make money away from them. Their efforts so far to find something to replace it have failed. This means they are very poor. And the more remote the village is (meaning USA or EU aid can't get to them) they poorer they are.

    It's just an idea right now, but I plan on going back on a fun trip, but bringing with me medical supplies to these remote villages. I have some friends that have experience and may be willing to fund such an operation. If I can pull it together I'll post info here and maybe we can get a few to come along, have some fun and at the same time give something back.
     
  11. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Ol'Timer

    What an action packed Laos trip, and what a gutsy effort by your mate, to learn to ride in the dirt over in Laos. :shock:
    I really like the area around Muang Sing, although as you found out, your got to watch out for those buffalos. Funny story! :D
    Thanks for the great photos and report. And good luck with the next trip over there.

    Moto-Rex
     
  12. Fishenough

    Fishenough Ol'Timer

    Great inspiration for those of us with decades of MX playing, yet too cautious now to play like you two did!! And your plan for an upcoming trip sounds like a smashing idea.

    Sounds like your KLX was de-restricted, could you get above 8500 rpm in 3,4 an 5? Two of Pop's KLXs have for sure met a soldering gun, wire bybass type de-restriction...... :wink:
     
  13. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    That was only once obtained on a steep downhill :) However I was talking with the Kawasaki dealer in Pattaya and he told me you can buy a new chip for the KLX250 which increases the top end speed to 150kmh !
     
  14. Actually don't bet against me David. Now that I've been there and done that with just a few changes it's very doable. In fact I have an side story to this trip. I'm planning to do it again.

    I have travelled alot in Laos, but never had I experienced such poverty. As most of you know the area where I was is where alot of the Poppie grown in Laos came from. About 8-10 years ago because of pressure through promised aid from the U.S. and others the Lao government has eradicated the poppie. However you feel about this policy is not important, but what is is what the negative affect has been to the Akha. The govt. basically took their only crop they had to make money away from them. Their efforts so far to find something to replace it have failed. This means they are very poor. And the more remote the village is (meaning USA or EU aid can't get to them) they poorer they are.

    It's just an idea right now, but I plan on going back on a fun trip, but bringing with me medical supplies to these remote villages. I have some friends that have experience and may be willing to fund such an operation. If I can pull it together I'll post info here and maybe we can get a few to come along, have some fun and at the same time give something back.
    :idea: Sounds a great idea count me in.
    Also what a great trip report ! are you a journalist by any chance?
     
  15. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    As mentioned if I can put this together I'll post it here at Gt Rider. Be great if we can get a group of riders to go !
     
  16. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    I had great fun with your post, opened whilst going through « GTR Laos » to prepare some « excursions ». I am now considering to rent a POP KLX, as I know that Kawa replacement parts are affordable :). However, my first choice would be slightly less jungle and something resembling a pavement (even under construction). Anyway thank you for the adventurous story and the information about what has to be expected.
     
  17. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

    You could stick to semi pavement and still have a great adventure. There are so many options and there are guys on this forum with extensive knowledge of the roads.
     
  18. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Yes, I am doing some more homework now. Finally it seems that there are feasible itineraries with an ER6n (it has the same cheap replacement parts than the KLX, but I do not need the experience twice). From what I can read in all reports, Laos is definitively a lovely riding country. Thank you again for your information.
     
  19. blackb15

    blackb15 Ol'Timer

    Great report really intresting. I think however I will try and have a more mundane trip but still enjoy.It looks a fascinating place and roads.

    Cheers Safe riding

    Paul
     
  20. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Again, a very nice trip and report, that I was happy to rediscover, as I am also heading toward Houey Xai in 10 days. I will also stay on "moundain" trails with my ER6, so no chance to see this itinerary.

    I hope that the backpackers crowd will be low at that season :(! My experiences from crossing at Muang Ngeun (45 minutes) and Chong Mek (less than 30 minutes) were enjoyable "land crossings". Let's see if Houey Xai river crossing is also fun.
     

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