On a 3,736km adventure through Laos

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by Pauche, Jan 23, 2009.

  1. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Did a road + dirt trip in Laos in Dec 2008 from Houei Xai to Pakxe in 15 days on a XR250 Baja from Jules Classic Rental. Special thanks to those (you know who you are) who had contributed excellent up-to-date information for the successful planning of this trip.

    Here are some infomation/tips to share, for the benefit of those who are planning for a trip to Laos.
     
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  3. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Trip Itinerary
    Day 1: Chiang Khong - Houei Xai – Vieng Phoukha – Luang Nam Tha
    Day 2: Luang Nam Tha – Boten – Oudom Xai – Muang Beng – Oudom Xai
    Day 3: Oudom Xai – Pak Mong – Nong Khiaw – Luang Prabang
    Day 4: Luang Prabang – Pak Ou Cave – Kuang Si Waterfall – Luang Prabang
    Day 5: Luang Prabang – Pak Xeng – Sam Soun – Vieng Thong
    Day 6: Vieng Thong – Phou Lao – Sam Neua – Vieng Xai – Sam Neua
    Day 7: Sam Neua – Phou Lao – Muang Kham – Phonsavan
    Day 8: Phonsavan – Phou Khoun – Kasi – Vang Vieng
    Day 9: Vang Vieng – Vientiane
    Day 10: Vientiane – Paksan – Khoun Kham - Kong Lor - Khoun Kham
    Day 11: Khoun Kham – Lak Sao – Nakai – Gnommalath – Mahaxai - Thakek
    Day 12: Thakek – Seno – Muang Phine – Toumlan
    Day 13: Toumlan – Saravan – Pakse – Champasak
    Day 14: Champasak – Veun Kham – Don Khong
    Day 15: Don Khong – Pakse – Paksong – Pakse
    Day 16: Pakse - Vang Tao - Chong Mek - Ubon Ratchathani

    Route Map
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  4. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Road Report

    1) Houei Xai - Vieng Phoukha - Luang Nam Tha - Na Teuy - Boten
    Good sealed roads, winding & sweeping corners though the mountains, offering scenic landscapes. One of the cleanest and best roads in Laos, through there are some broken roads at certain sections. This is the main link for trucks plying trade between China and Thailand. Avg riding speed 60-90km/h.
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    2) Na Tuey - Oudom Xai
    Narrow, dusty unsealed tracks, with lots of potholes and loose granites. Easily smoked out by trucks. Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.

    3) Oudom Xai - Muang Beng
    Good, fast, sealed roads. Just have to slow down for the animals at main the villages. Avg riding speed 70km/h.
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    4) Oudom Xai - Pak Mong
    Semi sealed roads/tracks with lots of potholes. Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.
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    5) Pak Mong - Nong Khiaw
    Fast, sealed roads. Avg riding speed 60-70km/h.

    6) Pak Mong - Luang Prabang
    Fast, good, sealed roads. Traffic gets heavy and somewhat dusty from the Pak Ou turnoff till Luang Prabang. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h

    7) Luang Prabang - Pak Xeng
    Good red dirt, dusty at times, easily managable. Few sections just hada landslide and excavation works are in progress on some parts. Avg riding speed 50km/h.
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    8 ) Pak Xeng - Sam Soun
    Good dirt, winding and steep accend climb, but track gets narrow on certain stretches, which is pretty dangerous when u turn out from a blind corner and an oncoming vehicle comes right into your path head on! However, the views are fu*kkingggg excellent!!! There is a narrow strip at the top of the mountain where you have sweeping views of the landscape on BOTH the left and right side as you look down the mountain!!! Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.
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    At this junction, you need to turn left to get to Sam Soun. Once you hit the tarmac, the left turn brings you to Vieng Kham, the right turn towards Vieng Thong.
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    9) Sam Soun - Vieng Thong
    Lots of huge potholes on the broken tarmac at many sections. The road is sealed towards the Vieng Thong side. Avg riding speed 60-80km/h.

    10) Vieng Thong - Phou Loa
    Great sealed roads, but was fogged out at 1600m above sea level, and got myself a little 'wet'. Avg riding speed 50-60km/h.

    11) Phou Loa - Xam Neua
    Nice winding roads with lots of elevation changes. Furthermore with some fog, the road is slightly damp, so its easy to slide around! However the scenery makes up for the tough conditions. Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.

    12) Xam Neua - Vieng Xai
    The steep and winding downhill section was great fun, better still if you have a challenger on a 100cc honda that sits two/three, and rides it hard like a MotoGP bike! Avg riding speed 60km/h.

    13) Phou Loa - Nam Noen
    This is one of the most beautiful section after days of riding. The landscape is undescribable on words. Sealed road, winding, steep, and foggy at times. Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.

    14) Nam Noen - Muang Kham
    Good sealed roads. Avg riding speed 60-70km/h.

    15) Muang Kham - Phonsavan
    Nice open terrain boasting the Xieng Khouang Province's natural colours. Roads are excellent, flat, sealed, and fast despite an avg elevation of 1200m above sea level throughout most part of the province. Avg riding speed 90-100km/h.

    16) Phonsavan - Phou Khoun
    The first 60km is continuous high speed, sealed tarmac roads. Avg riding speed is 100km/h. Subsequently is mountainous winding roads that are wide and sealed. Avg riding speed 50-60km/h.
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    17) Phou Khoun - Kasi
    Excellent scenery of the mountainous roads, especially at one of the viewpoints marked on the GT-Rider map. Traffic is pretty much on this section. Avg riding speed 40-50km/h.

    18 ) Kasi - Vang Vieng
    Many sections are under road constructions. Generally its flat, straight and boring roads. 80-100km/h.

    19) Vang Vieng - Vientiane
    Fast, boring section, with some parts under road construction. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.
     
  5. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    20) Vientiane - Paksan - Ban Lao
    Fast highway, sealed good road. Avg riding speed 100-120km/h.

    21) Ban Lao - Khoun Kham
    Route 8 is quite well labelled with clear distinct road signs in English. Roads are winding and sealed, however there are 3 bridges under construction, so its singled laned and muddy there. Don't miss Sala viewpoints at all cost!!! Avg riding speed 60-80km/h.

    22) Khoun Kham - Kong Lor
    First 2km is dirt. Subsequently the brand new tarmac road is so perfect, you can take off a jetplane! Avg riding speed 100km/h.
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    23) Khoun Kham - Lak Sao
    This is the road to the Vietnam border. Fast, sealed road, with strong crosswinds so strong that you need to hold your handlebar tight to prevent 'sailing' off the road. Avg riding speed 100km/h.

    24) Lak Sao - Nakai
    First 20km is some bumpy and dusty dirt road. Subsequently is mostly fast dirt section. Dusty though. Avg riding speed 20-60km/h.
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    25) Nakai - Gnommalath – Mahaxai
    Nice sealed roads, fast and straight. A huge dam is under construction for a major project. Avg riding speed 80km/h.
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    26) Mahaxai - Thakek
    Nice sealed road, wide and spacious. Few sections under construction. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.

    27) Thakek - Seno
    Fast highway. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.

    28 ) Seno - Muang Phine
    Fast good sealed road. This road connects Thailand and Vietnam. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.

    29 ) Muang Phine - Toumlan
    The first 35km was fast dirt road, took me about 1.5hrs, avg riding speed 60km/h.
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    Then there was a huge river where I had to pay 50k to cross on a single boat where the bike was made to lie down on its side. There was a bridge that was destroyed but had never been rebuilt. Getting up the slope on the other side of the river is tough due to the soft sand and steep gradient.
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    The next 38km was a hell of a ride. There are steep rocky terrains like you have to do rock climbing on your bike, as well as I had to cross about a dozen river/steams in the process. Most of it are like steep gradient downslope, through the river/streams, and up the rocky/uneven slopes again. There were certain sections where the bamboo terrain was quite narrow and I had encountered a couple of fallen trees in the path. So I had to detour and 'bash' through the scrubs/bushes on the side. It took me 4.5hrs to cover 38km where I had a homestay at a village (18km before Toumlan) as the sky is turning dark, while I rode with a flat rear tyre for about 10km through rocks and rivers. Avg riding speed 10-40km/h.
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    30) 18km before Toumlan - Saravan
    Few river/stream crossings and a little uneven at times. Other than that its good dirt. There is another huge river crossing 28km after Toumlan, however there is a boat with platform here for motorbike crossing. Paid 20k for the boat. Avg riding speed 40-60km/h.
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    31) Saravan - Pakse
    Good sealed road. Avg riding speed 80km/h.

    32) Pakse - Champasak
    Good sealed straight road. Have to cross the Mekong River to get to Champasak. Paid 10k for a boat ride on a platform. Getting up the slope on the Champasak side is a little tricky with soft sand on the upslope. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.
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    33) Champasak - Voun Keum - Don Khong
    Good sealed straight road. Have to cross the Mekong River to get to Don Khong. Paid 10k for a boat ride on a car/truck platform. Avg riding speed 80-100km/h.
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    34) Pakse - Pak Song
    Nice sealed road with gentle upslope till 1200m elevation where you can feel the air is getting cooler. Great ride up through the Bolevan Plateau to visit Tat Fane and chill out for a cup of home grown Laos coffee in Pak Song.
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  6. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Accomodations

    1) Luang Nam Tha
    Zuela's Guesthouse & Restaurant: Hot Water (HW), fan, Pte Car Park (Pte CP), T:086 212059, 70k/night
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    2) Oudom Xai
    Vivanh Gusethouse: HW, fan, Under cover parking (UCP), TV, 60k/night
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    3) Luang Prabang
    Vouthivong Guesthouse: HW, fan, Pte CP, TV, 90k/night
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    4) Vieng Thong
    Souksavan Guesthouse: HW, fan, UCP, T:314478, 50k/night
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    5) Xam Neua
    Kheamxam Guesthouse: HW, fan, T:312111, 50k/night
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    6) Phonsavan
    Koukham Guesthouse: HW, fan, Pte CP, 50k/night
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    7) Vang Vieng
    Dokkhoun 1 Guesthouse: HW, fan, Pte CP, TV, T:(856-20) 225 4370, 70k/night
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    8) Vientiane
    Ekalath Metropole Hotel: CW, fan, UCP, T: 213420/213421, 60k/night
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    9) Khoun Kham
    Mi Thuna Guesthouse: CW, fan, Pte CP, T:020 2240182, 60k/night
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    10) Thakek
    Khammoune Mekong Hotel: HW, fan, Pte CP, fridge, cable TV, T:250777, 100k/night
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    11) Champasak
    Khamphoui Guesthouse: HW, fan, Pte CP, T:252700, 30k/night
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    12) Don Khong
    Souk Sabay Guesthosue: CW, fan, Pte CP, very clean, 40k/night
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    13) Pakse
    Thaluang Hotel: HW, a/c, Pte CP, cable TV, 80k/night
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  7. Jules

    Jules New Member

    First of all, as Jules Classic Rental, I would like to thanks Paul for his amazing trip book. I guess this will be useful for many people coming in Laos.

    Again, discovering Laos on a bike will give you a unique opportunity to discover Lao people and their wonderful country.

    To make this trip successful and not being disappointed it's important to know, not to forget, that LAOS is a developing country. Don't expect to find here all the services you may find in our Western countries. And it's good like this! Part of the FUN, part of the journey, part of the price to pay to be part of Laos during a short while.

    As a bike rental operator I would like to recommend some "serious" people I like to work with

    FUARK: he's my competitor but he is serious and have good bikes... when we are out of stock :wink:
    ASIA REMOTE TRAVEL: JIM & QUYNH are... simply the best. With or without a bike.
    GREEN DISCOVERY: Not as "tailor made" service as Jim and Quynh but professional people with a wide range of services.

    Promotion for friends is over, thanks again Paul.

    Cheers
    Jules
     
  8. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Hi Thierry,

    Thanks for the excellent bike, the great services (for my special arrangements), and for making this trip a success. It was also nice meeting you in person after emails have been bouncing to and fro for weeks.

    I went to the French restaurant at Nam Phu that you recommended. Had an excellent dinner there. It was really good.

    Thanks!

    ........................... more pics to follow!
     
  9. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #1 - Winding road with sweeping views along Route 3 near Vieng Phoukha
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    #2 - Nam Dee Waterfalls in Luang Nam Tha province
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    #3 - Typical scene along Route 2W to Muang Beng
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    #4 - Sunrise on Route 13 near Oudom Xai
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    #5 - Limestone Caves in Nong Khiaw
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    #6 - Wat Phusi in Luang Prabang
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    #7 - View of Luang Prabang town
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    #8 - Sunset in Luang Prabang
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    #9 - Colourful night market in Luang Prabang
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    #10 - Handicraft items at the night market
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    #11 - UNISCO World Heritage Town
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  10. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #12 - Boat trip on the Nam Ou River
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    #13 - Visited the Pak Ou Cave
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    #14 - One of the many buddha statues in Pak Ou Cave
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    #15 - Fairytale-like Tat Kwang Si Waterfalls
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    #16 - Another tier of the Tat Kwang Si Waterfalls
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    #17 - The final and highest tier of the falls
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    #18 - One of the daredevils jumping off the falls
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    #19 - Collecting alms in the morning at 6am in Luang Prabang
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    #20 - Kind people offering sticky rice for the monks
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    #21 - Monk at Wat Mai
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    #22 - Door carvings at Wat Mai
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    #23 - Wat Xieng Thong
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    #24 - Wat Ho Pha Bang
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    #25 - Refine architecture at Wat Ho Pha Bang
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  11. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #26 - Superb landscape near Pak Xeng
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    #27 - At 1000m above sea level, cool temperature & nice breeze
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    #28 - On a mountainous Route 6 to Sam Neua
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    #29 - Sam Neua Valley
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    #30 - The local wet market in Sam Neua
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    #31 - Vieng Xai is rich in history, and the town is filled with Dok Houm Deng (direct translation = red blood flower)
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    #32 - Rainbow over Xieng Khuang Province
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    #33 - Plains of Jars Site 1
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    #34 - The most scenic section on Route 7, near Nam Chat
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    #35 - On the most scenic viewpoint along Route 13, near Phou Khoun
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    #36 - Winding roads skirting around the mountains on Route 13
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  12. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #37 - Tham Jang Limestone Cave
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    #38 - Magnificent view of Vang Vieng from an opening in Tham Jang Cave
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    #39 - Green blue lagoon at the Tham Phu Kham scared cave
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    #40 - A 200m steep climb into Tham Phu Kham Cave to see the reclining buddha
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    #41 - Water sliding, tarzan swing, tubing, canoeing, and all day boozing-fun at Tam Nong
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    #42 - If you can't afford a trip to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Patuxai is a look-alike
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    #43 - Ceiling of the Patuxai
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    #44 - Vientiane in mid-day
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    #45 - Pha Tat Luang - A symbol of the Buddhist religion and Lao sovereignty
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    #46 - High-walled cloister with tiny windows as a defence against invaders in the 19th century
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    #47 - Looks like a gilded missle cluster from a distance
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    #48 - Sunrise in Vientiane
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    #49 - That Dam - Stupa sitting at the centre of a quiet roundabout
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    #50 - Painting for sale along the Mekong riverfront in Vientiane
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  13. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #51 - Limestone Caves along the Hin Boun Valley
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    #52 - Entrance of the Kong Lor Cave
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    #53 - Limestone structure within a 7km deep Kong Lor Cave
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    #54 - French-era shophouses in Thakek
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    #55 - Sunset in Thakek
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    #56 - Sunset on the Mekong river bordering Thakek (Laos) and Nakon Phanom (Thailand)
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    #57 - Wat Phu Champasak is an ancient Khmer temple that has been worshipped since the mid 5th century
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    #58 - UNESCO declaring the complex a World Heritage Site in 2001
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    #59 - Modern and traditional monks
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    #60 - Uo Moung is a Tomo temple ruin built in the late 9th century, believed to be related to the Wat Phu
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    #61 - Khon Phapheng Falls is the largest and most awesome falls on the entire Mekong River
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  14. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Here are few more miscellaneous pics to share:

    #62 - Spider taken at Tat Si Kwang
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    #63 - Typical street scene in Thakek and other parts of Laos
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    #64 - Portable 'mama-shop' captured at the Bolevan Plateau in Pak Song
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    #65 - The best porridge I've eaten - at the morning market of Luang Prabang
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    #66 - Danish pastry at Bakery Restaurant, Luang Prabang
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    #67 - Seafood pizza at Bakery Restaurant, Luang Prabang
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    #68 - Cream of broccoli at La Cave des Chateaux, Vientiane
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    #69 - A refreshing cup of home grown Lao coffee from the Bolevan Plateau at Pak Song
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  15. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    #70 - Old lady with baby in Luang Nam Tha province
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    #71 - Cute little girl at Pak Ou Cave... she demanded for 'photo money' after this shot
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    #72 - Rice seller at the morning market in Luang Prabang
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    #73 - Hard day at work, Luang Prabang
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    #74 - Hmong New Year festival in Vieng Xai
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    #75 - Playing ball game to build up the cohesiveness among themselves
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    #76 - Cute little girls in traditional Hmong dressing
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    #77 - Baby in the back, at Sam Neua market
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    #78 - Kids with a home-made skateboard when Playstation doesn't exists
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    #79 - Kids with cool poses, in Sam Neua
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    #80 - These kids laughed at me trying to get my motorbike down a steep slope of soft silky sand
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    #81 - Most memorable moment - My homestay with these villagers near Toumlan when my journey was delayed due to a flat rear tyre.
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    -------------------------------- THE END --------------------------------
     
  16. Pikey

    Pikey Ol'Timer

    Absolutely stunning photography. Thanks for sharing. Terrific!

    Cheers,

    Pikey.
     
  17. scotty007

    scotty007 Ol'Timer

    Fantastic photos!
     
  18. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer

    WOW, man, those are nice pictures, well done.
     
  19. tools4fools

    tools4fools Ol'Timer

    Good shots, good report!

    Love the last shot in particular, brings back the memories of all the overnight stays in the villages.
    Think will build my next trip in a fashion to 'end up' in little villages purposedly...Great fun.
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  20. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Thanks for the comments.... glads you all enjoyed the photos.

    tools4fools, thanks for all the info that you have given me earlier! I had wanted to try the dirt section to Don Khong, but due to time constrains and other factors, I gave it a miss.

    cheers!
     
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Pauche
    Brilliant stuff - photos & info & tips.
    Thanks a zillion kip for the contribution.
    Glad your bike worked deal out well with Thierry at Jules Classic bike. He did take a bit of a chance & you never let him down. Well done.
     
  22. Pete_Tallahassee

    Pete_Tallahassee Active Member

    Pauche ,

    Thanks so much for the report and pictures. The one of all the people is fantastic. You have a good eye for photography.

    Pete
     
  23. Ally

    Ally Ol'Timer

    Pauche

    Well done. A great report, stunning photography and excellent content for every readers benefit.

    Take care

    Ally
     
  24. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    2wheels
    You little beauty. Go for it & write it up. This should be a great trip & could well be your first trip report.
    Watch out for the Chiang Khong / Houei Xai closures on weekends & public holidays. You need to cross on a regular working day.
    Take plenty of photos, make a few notes & wack 'em un the forum & you'll be a winner.
    Make sure you have a visa too when you cross back into Thailand or you will only get 2 weeks for a land border crossing.
    Take care & enjoy Laos on a bike. It is awesome, "easy" & loads of fun.
     
  25. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Bump for a old thread to help with trip planning.
     

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