My Laos Trip ( Aimed At Uk Audience A Bit Tongue In Cheek)

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by blackb15, May 25, 2016.

  1. blackb15

    blackb15 Ol'Timer

    As I was lying outside Warwick Hospital having tripped up on broken pavement when I was delivering blood there (as a volunteer on the blood bikes) then as I fell down the second time having tried to walk on my leg, I finally decided yes it must be broken and that was the end of my long-planned ride from England to China and Thailand in August 2015.

    Fast forward five months, after a lengthy recovery period on crutches etc, and in the interest of rehabilitation I caught the plane to Thailand instead of riding there. I tried out a variety of motorcycles to see which was best (ie. the least painful) for my leg, and it turned out to be a Honda 500 X hired from the excellent C and P Chaing Mai .After several short trips around Thailand , I decided to do a 10 day trip to Laos. I knew it would be difficult. I wasn't really supposed to be riding the bike yet, and was still on a stick,but what's the difference between four and the 6 six months my doctor had advised. Also Laos has a lack of good hospitals and the advice is to get back to Thailand for medical treatment if you are unlucky enough to need it, but what could possibly go wrong?

    It's a two day ride from Chaing Mai where I had based myself, to the border with Laos. On route I was overtaken by three pick-up trucks the last one driving like a maniac. I stopped briefly to take a photo of the sign (beware of elephants) and then round the next bend found all 3 trucks rolled over on the side of the road. I stopped to help some of the people, but others were beyond help. A sobering start to my trip!

    I stopped overnight at Udon Thani a nice city with plenty of night life. The border crossing at Friendship Bridge seemed to be easy at first, and I wondered why people told me it would be difficult to temporarily import my hired bike, until I got to the Laos side and realised that the Thai side had not stamped my passport. This meant driving back on the wrong side of the road, trying to get through a one-way system and persuading the Thais that they had made mistake (Thais don't like to lose face). Four hours of deep joy and 90° heat, all in my protective motorbike clothing, and I was eventually allowed through at this point I realised dehydration was a serious issue here.

    The difference on the roads in Laos was noticeable immediately, with potholes and stones all over the place, in some places there was no road at all! This was the main road into the capitalVientiane, very challenging riding to say the least! The bike was brilliant. I was less brilliant. The capital Vientiane was awesome, big French influence there, so fantastic food and my hotel was right on the Mekong, so eating on the river was a really good experience.

    However it was amazing how long it took to get everywhere. I did a loop to Vang Vienn and then Phonsavan then Luang Prabang as I wanted to go the plain of jars which is one of the oldest sites in Asia, it's like Stonehenge, but the 60 miles quite often took 4 to 5 hours to ride.


    The road etiquette is basically 'Big is right' over there and I got forced off the road for an oncoming bus on one occasion. As I braced myself I realised me versus a 52 seater bus may not be my best plan in life.

    On another occasion, I was just about to overtake a truck but there were cows on the road which is a frequent occurrence there and one cow ran straight in front of the truck, who swerved as the cow hit him. He could easily have hit me and the whole situation was not pleasant experience, there were livestock all over the roads, nothing was tied up - water buffalo, pigs and dogs were commonplace.


    The scenery was fantastic and I rode through hundreds of little villages, lots of children wanted to say hello, waved at me, it was a really good experience although it was hard to find anywhere to stop to eat or drink.

    I arrived in Vang Vein which was an experience, it's a bit of a backpackers paradise, a place where they tube down the river, drugs were available at a some of the local bars and it was a very weird atmosphere but no problem, just interesting.

    The plain of jars was absolutely fantastic, the jars are absolutely huge, nobody knows how they got there, or who put them there. It meant some proper off-roading to get to some of the sites, but it was still brilliant. The town I stopped at next was Phonsavan which was less interesting, although I went to a huge night market where apart from the usual live fish and animals for sale at a stall, there were lots of rodents all dead (what appeared to me to be road-kill). There were definitely porcupines, bats, skunks, big rats and some other things things I couldn't identify, it absolutely stunk and when I tried to take photos the stall-holder got very agitated, so there were probably some protected species there as well.The food in Asia is varied I eat spider,crickets various bugs ,frogs and other things I really didn't want to know what they were.

    I then headed up to Luang Prabaang, the road now going straight over the mountains and more potholes and gravel than actual road but still had absolutely fantastic views (think your best day in Wales Ireland Scotland or the Lake District). When I got there I was staying on the Mekong again and had a great meal, drink and food. Everything is really cheap over there one pound was worth 12,400 Kip so it's really difficult working it out after a few beerlao (local beer). Luang Prabang is known as a cultural capital of Laos and a very old city. It again sits on the river and was a really interesting place. It was quite quiet where I was, the food was different to Thailand not quite as spicy and to my mind not quite as good, but still enjoyable.

    Unfortunately at this point the weather changed to lots of unseasonally cold rain, and I made a schoolboy error of not bringing any waterproofs. My sat-nav was connected to the cigarette lighter on the handlebars but obviously had no protection from the elements (always dry this time of year). I was awaken by the noise of heavy rain on the roof of the hotel which is not a good start to the day. At one point on the ride it seemed I was riding down a river bed and I honestly thought I'd gone off the road as the mist was so bad. All the other vehicles, mainly lorries were doing 10 mph and constantly sounding their horn. They just drive wherever there is some road surface, so kept coming straight at me. It was the most dangerous time of my whole 5 month trip by far, I couldn't see where I was going and was very pleased to return to Vang vieng to celebrate my survival, get warm again drink cold beer and reflect on an interesting ride.

    On the way back to Chiang Mai from Laos, I decided to stop near Sukhothai historical park which was a very old city in Thailand. It was fantastic to see the temple ruins, some of the best I've ever seen with some incredible sites and all very old. I was allowed to ride round on my motorbike helmet-less as it's spread out and two or three times the size of Wembley, with big lakes.

    I was stopped by the police on one occasion, I thought it was for not wearing my helmet but it wasn't - it was to chat about what a nice bike I had, where I was from etc. I met a lot of friendly people at the temples, it seems to attract them and ended up chatting to the monks again which is really interesting, as they follow rules for every bit of their life.

    I did many more trips over the course of my 5 months in Thailand visited Cambodia and Malaysia also ,it was a fantastic experience with some of the best motorcycle roads I've ever road and some of the nicest and friendliest people both Thai and western I have ever mee a lot via GT riders ,but the most challenging was the Laos trip, and I would thoroughly recommend it to people looking for a challenge.

    Safe riding

    Last edited by a moderator: May 26, 2016
    Cycle Wallah and Ian Bungy like this.
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good write up Paul. Glad you had a fantastic time. I was wondering where you had got to after our last chat at the kafe. Now I know - you were on the road enjoying yourself.
    Well done. I'm pleased it all worked out OK.

    See you back here again soon I hope.
    Ian Bungy likes this.
  4. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

    Great Story Paul. Nice to meet up with You also the Couple of Times We did. At least You got in an Adventure Ride after all. Pretty Impressive given the Circumstances and Hope You are back to Full Health soon so You can come back for some More! Well Done.
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Ive inserted some of your images.

    RE the Plain of Jars.......the mystery has now been "solved."

    The search at Site One, which boasts more than 300 stone jars, stone discs and markers, uncovered three forms of burial: internment of whole bodies, those of bundled bones, and bones inside ceramic vessels.
    “It’s just so fascinating the amount of effort that was put into the mortuary aspect of the culture at this time,” said Dr O’Reilly.

    Team leader Dougald O'Reilly of the Australian National University School of Archaeology and Anthropology says that the team is finding various types of burials. "There are pits full of bones with a large limestone block placed over them and other burials where bones have been placed in ceramic vessels,” he says in a press release. “Our excavations have also revealed, for the first time at one of these sites, a primary burial, where a body was placed in a grave.”

    O’Reilly told the BBC that, although the work has just begun, firmly establishing the purpose of the jars is a big first step. “I don't think there is any doubt now that these jars were related to mortuary ritual,” he says “There is no evidence for habitation around the jars.”

    The bodies weren’t buried with sacred objects or artifacts, so it’s difficult to figure out the status of the individuals buried near the jars or where they came from, but further excavations and genetic analysis of the remains over the next several years will finally help shed light on the Plain of Jars culture.

    More infos here

    New Findings on Lao Plain of Jars Help Unravel Ancient Mysteries

    The ancient mystery hiding in these jars

    Lao Plain of Jars new findings may help solve the mystery

    Researchers Crack Open the Mysterious Plain of Jars | Smart News | Smithsonian

    Researchers Renew Efforts to Solve the Puzzling Plain of Jars Site

    Here's a drone's eye view of site 1
  6. blackb15

    blackb15 Ol'Timer

    Thanks very much for doing that and the update re plain of jars really interesting.Ian it was great to meet and I really enjoyed popping into your place great staff and food.My previous operation has not worked so having it done again in September after I have done a ride to Eastern Europe .I am over very early January for a few months and look forward to meeting up again.One of the highlights of my trip was the GT memorial ride despite the difficult I had riding ,again I meet great people.
    Safe riding
    Oddvar likes this.
  7. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    Great drone video. Shows the bomb craters well too.

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