Solo From The North To The South Of Laos

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by sgBikerBoy, Jul 24, 2016.

  1. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    Hey everyone! I've just completed travelling almost the length of Laos as part of my solo trip. I started the trip in Singapore and went through Malaysia, then Thailand, and rode up to Chiang Rai before entering Laos at the Chiang Khong - Huay Sai (aka 4th Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge) border. I've posted the links to my blog pages instead of posting here directly as they're pretty picture-heavy. (And I have some trouble posting pics here too - will have to figure that one out another time.) So if you're interested in my Laos travelog, here goes....

    LAOS PDR
    Day 21 – Crossing into Laos. Chiang Khong to Luang Namtha.
    Day 22 – Travelling to Luang Prabang.
    Day 23 – Around Luang Prabang and Kuang Si Waterfalls.
    Day 24 – Out of Luang Prabang into slippery roads. Bike fell and hurt my right knee.
    Day 25 – Travelling to Vang Vieng.
    Day 26 to 27 – Vang Vieng to capital city of Vientiane.
    Day 28 – Kong Lor Cave and Thakhek.
    Day 29 – To Pakse and Vat Phou.
    Day 30 – Bolevan Plateau loop and meeting a Singaporean.
    Day 31 – Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) and Kone Phapheng Waterfalls.
    Day 32 – Crossing from Laos to Cambodia at the Vuen Kham – Stung Treng border.
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good to know everything is going ok.
    You've been a busy man.

    If you want to post the full trip on GTR I think a copy & paste off your blog might work ok - give it a go.
     
  4. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 21
    Repost from my blog at: The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 21

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    11 Jul 2016, Monday. If you’ve been following my adventure tracks so far, you might have guessed that I’m trying to head into Laos. So I woke up early this morning in anticipation of the typical border hassles, especially at these relatively remote borders.

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    Woke up to a beautiful sunrise. View from my hotel room. You can see Laos just across the Mekong river.

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    Good morning Laos! Here I come today!

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    A little bit of bike maintenance. I forgot to ask Nat from the Piston Shop if they inflated the tires for me. So I did a quick check this morning before crossing the border.

    Since I was in Chiang Mai, I used the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border, aka Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge IV. Here’s what happened:

    Chiang Khong (Thailand)
    1. Went to immigration counter. Was asked for passport AND “bike immigration papers”.
    2. I only had the bike’s (temporary import) customs papers. I was never issued the bike’s “immigration papers” at Sadao (the Thailand side of the Malaysia-Thailand border).
    3. Immigration office shook his head and asked to to head inside the main immigration office for assistance.
    4. Main immigration office’s officer shook his head and said something in Thai – seem to be blaming Sadao for incomplete paperwork.
    5. He said, “I do paperwork for you.” So he proceeded to fill in the incoming AND outgoing “bike immigration” paperwork. Gave me both copies. 200baht WITH official receipt, plus 20baht for photocopying my passport and driving license (first time I was ever asked for my driving license).
    6. Went back to immigration counter to complete passport exist visa and handed the outgoing “bike immigration paperwork”. I kept the “incoming” copy. Was asked to pay 200baht, but I insisted that I already paid the 200baht inside the main office and waved the receipt at him. He waved me off without collecting the money.
    7. Immigration escort required 500baht to escort me to the Laos border. Paid him.
    8. Moved ahead to the customs counter. Surrendered my bike’s “temporary import customs” papers. Demanded 100baht from me. I asked for receipt. He said no receipt. I insisted that I need a receipt if I have to pay the 100baht. He finally said, “OK. No problem. I give you service.” and shoo’ed me away. Scum!
    9. Followed Thai Immigration escort vehicle over to Laos border. It was a truck with the word IMMIGRATION printed in bold and the Thai flag on it – so I guess it must be an official vehicle.
    Huay Xai (Laos)
    1. Went to immigration counter. Was asked to fill in immigration arrival / departure form.
    2. Filled up the form and returned it to the immigration officer together with my passport. Gave me 30days visa without asking. Was asked to pay 200baht. I asked for receipt, and he initially said no receipt. I insisted for a receipt and he grudgingly gave me one. Serial no 00004. I think I was the 4th guy in the history of this immigration counter to successfully obtain a receipt. I’m not even sure how official this fee is.
    3. Moved forward a little more and reached the Laos customs counter.
    4. Was asked for the Thai bike exit paperwork. Gave to counter lady. She informed me that she could only give me 15days of permit for my bike. But I told her I’ve got a 30-day passport visa, and requested for a 30-day bike permit. After some long delay with multiple conversations with her superior, yet still ended up with 15-day import permit.
    5. Customs demanded a 100baht fee. Again, I asked for receipt. He said “no receipt”. I insisted. He then pointed to the bike import permit papers and said, “this is receipt” and sort of signalled that he was about to take that back if I don’t pay. I paid the 100baht.
    6. Welcome to Laos. Total bill – 1,000baht.

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    Welcome to Laos PDR!

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    Laos – the 5th country on sgBikerBoy’s 2016 trip!

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    The scenic view of northern Loas.

    I needed some Laotian Kips, and so I rode to Huay Xai town – which is about 10km from the Friendship Bridge IV – in search for a bank. The notes here are ridiculous – I whipped out 200USD and got back over 1.6mil kips. I’m Laotian a millionaire! Feeling rich now!

    Of course, the first thing I noticed when I entered Laos is that they now drive on the right side of the road. I had better get used to checking traffic from the correct side. Thankfully, traffic from the Friendship Bridge IV at Huay Sai border to Luang Namtha was very, very light. I think I spotted more heavy trucks than passenger vehicles.

    Next, if you thought that the roads in Thailand were bad? Loas’ worse! The roads here are so laden with potholes – some of which were as large as my entire chest, and some as deep as 2 to 3inches – that it’s practically impossible to avoid. I don’t think they’re termed “potholes” – they’re practically “mini sinkholes!” So I had to brace myself every now and then. Potholes aren’t the most fearful stuff on the road – it’s the uneven road surface that runs PARALLEL to the road. Imagine a newly paved road surface. Now imagine that before its cured completely, trucks start moving on it, making depressions on the road. And then cars of varying tire widths also follow these tracks – effectively creating a somewhat rounded ditch along the road. And if the 2-wheeler bike gets into one of these “ditches”, you start to wobble like hell. Made worse is that you’ll find it extremely difficult (if not sometimes practically impossible) to get out of the ditch, as we all know to never attack a raised surface at less than 45deg, much less at an angle close to 0deg! Welcome to Laos roads!

    Apart from the poor road quality, the view here in northern Laos is splendid! If you liked northern Thailand, you’ll absolutely love northern Laos! Scores and scores of greenery, carefully manicured paddy fields, and flanked by mountain ranges. I’m not sure if there’s Spring here in Laos, but if they do, I’m absolutely certain the flower bloom will make turn this place into a mini paradise!

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    The main crop in northern Laos is rice. You see paddy fields everywhere.

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    The villages in northern Laos are sparsely populated, and very, very basic. I’d estimate around 70-80% of the houses are made of wood and bamboo. Bricks and concrete seem are relatively uncommon – probably reserved for the wealthier folks.

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    A typical dwelling in norther Loas. And this is one of the nicer ones. Almost all houses are built on stilts. I wonder why.

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    Tribal villages with houses like this pepper along the highway from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha.

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    After all the border crossing hassle, I stopped by a restaurant along the highway for lunch. This is one of the most decent-looking restaurants along the road from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha.

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    Fried rice with chicken. 20,000kip – I don’t feel so rich anymore.

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    Informational tombstones in Laos telling you how far you are away from some major towns or cities. Nope – no informational signboards that I was so used to seeing in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and practically everywhere else in the world.

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    Refuelling is an easy decision here. Either petrol or diesel. No RON91, RON95, E10, E20, VPower with different pricing bullshit here.

    Northern Loas seem untainted by tourism. The towns (more like villages) you find along the highway are nothing like those in Thailand. No guest houses, no nice restaurants, no advertisement signboards. Just basic wood and bamboo dwellings with very light touches of concrete. In most places, as you approach a major town or city, you’ll start to see buildups along the way. Human settlements tend to start around towns and cities and than expand outwards. But there was none here. So when I was approaching Luang Namtha, I was getting worried. Is this really a “major town”? Will I be able to find accommodation?

    Finally got into Luang Namtha, and yes – I did manage to find a decent hotel room for 100,000kips a night. Luang Namtha is a sleepy town in northern Laos that’s very near the Chinese border. They don’t even have a supermarket here.

    So it’s been 2 days since I collected my repaired Pulsar from Chiang Mai. And because it’s a rebuilt engine, I’m aware that I’ll have to do my engine oil change soon. Checked my odometer, and I’ve done exactly 555km since I collected the bike. In Thai, the number 5 is pronounced as “hah”. So 555 = hah hah hah! Oh! But I just realised I’m now in Laos, not Thailand.

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    Found a local motorcycle repair shop in Luang Namtha. That’s my bottle of Motul 3100 with 600ml of remaining oil from the engine rebuild.

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    The mech working on my Pulsar. He didn’t have an 18mm socket and almost wanted to wring my oil drain nut with an adjustable wrench. I stopped him immediately and whipped out my own 18mm wrench and passed it to him. I cannot afford to risk a rounded nut up here.

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    I committed an engine oil sin by mixing oils of 2 brands AND different weights. Unfortunately, I forgot to purchase an additional bottle in Chiang Mai and have to make do with whatever they have here. The Bajaj manual calls for weight 50 oil. They only have 30 and 40 here. So between the choice of mixing oils or extending the drain interval until the next major city (another est. 1,000km to Vientiane), I opted for the former. 35,000kips for 0.8L of SAE40 Suzuki oil. At least it’s JASO MA compliant.

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    The night market in Luang Namtha is nothing exciting. You can see the ends of the entire area just by standing in the middle.

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    My first Laotian dinner. Fried rice with pork and a beer Laos. 25,000kips for the meal.
     
  5. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 22
    Repost from blog at: The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 22
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    12 July 2016, Tuesday. Since I was already quite far up north in Laos, and was only about an hour’s ride from the Yunnam Chinese border, I thought I’d just go check it out. I’ve always been curious about border towns – they typically buzz with human activity – trade, tourism – both cross border and international, shops, and sometimes other dodgy activities.

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    9km more to the Yunnan border.

    Honestly, the border was a little underwhelming. It’s used more by Laotian and Chinese trucks carrying construction sand and granite than passenger vehicles. After experiencing the expensive border crossing from Thailand to Laos yesterday, I wasn’t in the mood to explore another one. Also, my research has suggested that I cannot simply ride into China – to get approval, I’d need to apply for some permits and also hire a local guide. Too much hassle, no thanks.

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    I stopped and turned around at the Laotian customs border.

    The hotel didn’t come with breakfast, and it was approximately 8am. So I headed back to the nearest town on Laos’ side in search of breakfast before making my way to the next nearest city, Luang Prabang.

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    Passed by this motorcycle repair shop. Very, very basic bike repair shops are commonplace in Laos.

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    No surprise that many eateries here cater to the Chinese.

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    Enjoying a bowl of noodle soup. The eatery owner was very surprised when she found out that I wasn’t a Chinese national as I could converse with her in Mandarin.

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    Awesome views as I head towards Luang Prabang.

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    Couldn’t resist a selfie moment – yes, i was there. Here’s proof! Hmph!!

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    After all the mountain snake passes, I was actually feeling exhausted. When I passed a town, I was so glad. Stopped at a local bubble tea shop for a quick break.

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    Beware of falling rocks. Also, beware of the fallen rocks.

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    I hope the villagers from here don’t have to go to court. They’d get thrown out. But thankfully, they weren’t named “gone case village” instead.

    The ENTIRE ROUTE from Luang Namtha to Luang Prabang was a mountain snake pass. Yes, there were a couple of bigger towns along the way (which made excellent break points), but otherwise it’s all rural country side.

    …and then SUDDENLY, a kid bolted out from nowhere and stood in the middle of the road, DIRECTLY in my path of travel. Head turned towards me, eyes wide opened, and frozen in his tracks. I hit my brakes, slowed down just in time and managed to avoid an accident. Phew!

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    Yeah – I was referring to this little guy here… Bad kid, bad kid! Didn’t your mother teach you how to cross the road! Okay, I’d admit. It wasn’t THAT close to an accident.

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    Slow traffic.

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    Checked into a hotel here in Luang Prabang and noticed the owner (used to) ride a Pulsar too! According to him, there are several dealership in Vientiane. None in Luang Prabang.

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    The highlight of my day is always food. Here’s dinner – the most expensive I had in this trip. 95,000kips – about SGD16 or USD12.

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    Sunset along the Mekong river.

    Luang Prabang It is a city in north central Laos, consisting of 58 adjacent villages, of which 33 comprise the UNESCO Town Of Luang Prabang World Heritage Site. It was listed in 1995 for unique and “remarkably” well preserved architectural, religious and cultural heritage, a blend of the rural and urban developments over several centuries, including the French colonial influences during the 19th and 20th centuries. -Source: Wikipedia

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    The UNESCO monument in Luang Prabang.

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    The Luang Prabang night market against the temple Haw Pha Bang in the backdrop.

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    Night market vendors displaying their wares. I noticed that the Laotian are extremely neat and organised. Practically every store took pride in displaying their stuff for sale in a very, very neat fashion, it’s almost clinical!

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    Even the food vendors caught on this clinically neat trend.
     
  6. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 23
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 23
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    13 Jul 2016, Wednesday. I decided to remain in Luang Prabang for one more night. So this gives me some time to explore the area. Woke up at 5am in the morning to witness the traditional daily alms giving ceremony, but I didn’t get to see too many monks. In fact, I was waiting in my room with my balcony door ajar, waiting to hear some commotion – my signal to dash out to watch the ceremony. I didn’t hear any. So I walked out to the balcony only to see the last remaining monks briskly, swiftly and very silently walking by. Ahhh… Maybe tomorrow.

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    The morning market.

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    I concluded that the Laotians are super tidy people. Look at how they take the effort to arrange the veg on sale for the day.

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    Another stall in the morning market. They sell everything here – from fresh meat, to rice, to vegetables, to fruits, and even the more exotic stuff like eels, frogs, larvae, and live birds.

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    Breakfast in a local French restaurant. Panini! Many restaurants in Luang Prabang cater to the western tourists.

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    The nice lady at the entrance allowed me to park my bike within the compound of Wat Xieng Thong. I think this is the main temple in Luang Prabang. Entrance fee – 20,000K.

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    There are multiple structures within the large’ish compound. This is one of them. The door is locked. See that blackish patch there? I postulated that it must be the area where most people will attempt to push the door open. It’s exactly at the face of the guy on the right door. I guess they must have been sick of people slapping this poor fella that they’ve decided to lock it up.

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    Inside the main temple of Xieng Thong, I spotted a horizontal beam hanging from the ceiling. It was painted in gold and had carvings of dragons on both ends. On one end, I noticed a blue plastic plumbing stuck to the bottom of it. I guess this must be where they collect dragon piss.

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    Sculpture of Buddha sitting high up within the main temple Xieng Khong.

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    Detail of a structure within the temple.

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    Multiple statues of Buddha of various sizes and heights.

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    Carving on one of the temple doors. This must be Buddha with his wife before he gained enlightenment.

    No trip to Luang Prabang will be complete with a visit to the nearby Kuang Si Waterfalls. It’s 22km away from Luang Prabang, but estimated to take about an hour to reach. And so off I went.

    Barely 8km into the trip, somewhere along a remote stretch of road – as in no settlements around, but tuk tuk filled with tourists and locals on the scooters do ply this road, I felt a sudden loss of engine power. GASP! I had to throttle harder than usual to get moving. And every time I changed gear, I could feel the bike throwing me forward.

    Shit! Really?!

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    Getting myself stranded. Again.

    So I found a safe stretch – to give enough time for the vehicles from both the rear and front to spot and avoid me – and stopped by the road check. And as I was approaching the kerb, I felt a sudden deceleration force.

    Put my kickstand down and looked back. My rear brakes were smoking!! Turns out, my rear brakes have seized up!

    Oh dear, dear, oh dear. As the rear wheel have locked up, I couldn’t even push the bike closer to the kerbside. So I set the bike on the mainstand which helped somewhat to make it lean a little less into the main road.

    I tried rotating the rear wheel, but it was frozen stiff. Now what?! Desperate, I tried to turn on 3G data on my phone, and thought I’ll scream for help online. But it turns out that there’s no cellphone reception in that area. Really??!

    So what do I do now? I was starting to cook inside my helmet and my riding jacket. Perhaps like what we used to say during my military days – cannot think with the helmet on. So I removed my helmet and the riding jacket.

    Think! Think! What shall I do? Bleed the brakes out here? No way! I don’t have replacement brake fluids. Check the brake fluid level? Looks okay to me. Seized piston? I don’t know – too hot to touch.

    Then I started pumping hard on the brake pedal. And after several pumps, I tried rotating the rear wheel by hand. Ahh! Seem a little looser now. But still binding. So after several pumps with me literally using almost my entire body weight to depress it, the rear brakes started loosening up! It still doesn’t rotate as freely as I know it to be (I had just done chain maintenance in the morning and the feel of the free-spinning wheel is still fresh in my mind), but at least it’s now rotatable.

    So, should I carry on to the falls? Or should I head back to town? Arghh… WTH. I’ll just carry on with the trip and use my front brakes. Take it slow, and I should be fine. Of course, I kept reminding myself that if I ABSOLUTELY had to use the rear brakes to prevent an accident, JUST USE IT.

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    I reached the parking area at the falls. This little guy demanded 2,000kips for the parking fee. After I gave him the money, I demanded for a photograph in return.

    According to a local legend, Kuang Si falls, also known as Tat Kuang Si, were formed by an old man who dug deep into the earth and found the waters of Nam Si. And when the waters flowed into Kuang Si, a golden deer made its home under a rock in the falls. The sound of the water falling onto this rock created an enchanting sound that drew people from as far away as China to the falls. So Tat Kuang Si got its name from here – ‘Tat’ means waterfall, ‘Kuang’ means deer, and ‘Si’ means dig.

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    This is the lower level plateau of the Kuang Si Falls.

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    Another view of Kuang Si falls.

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    The waters in Tat Kuang Si appear emerald in color due to the high calcium carbonate content.

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    The main fall in Tat Kuang Si! This is probably the most amazing waterfall I’ve seen in this trip so far!

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    …and so, how could I miss a selfie moment! Cheese!

    And after reaching the main fall, I’ve read from somewhere that there’s a higher-level pool. And so I saw the stairs to the right of the main fall, and started climbing. Then I reached a crossroad. Now left or right? I rolled the dice and decided to go right.

    It was a tough climb, with very slippery mud roads. Thankfully it hasn’t rained recently, and the ground was relatively dry. And when I reached the summit, I saw….

    …nothing! There was no view, no pool, no waterfall. Only a wide patch of farmland, with a farmer and her daughter plucking weeds, tilling the soil and planting seeds.

    What?! I spent 15 mins climbing this and nothing here? So I just hung around a little while in a vain attempt to justify that climb.

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    Should’ve taken a 4WD up instead of climbing.

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    Chatted with the farmer and her daughter. Then I asked for a picture.

    Then I started making my way down the same path. And when I reached the bottom, I saw a group of tourists taking the left path up. (Remember? I went right?) Okay – this must be it! So I followed them up. OMG! This is even more treacherous than the previous climb! I had to take frequent breaks in between as I was running out of breadth and energy – remember I just came down from a climb.

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    Almost there… Just some wooden bridge to cross.

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    I went for a swim! The water was cold!

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    Searching for food after walking down from the Kuang Si Falls. 5,000K each stick.

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    As I was chewing on the satay, I made friends with the stall owner’s 3 daughters – Grumpy, Baby, and Happy. I took this photo, printed it on my LG Pocket Photo printer and gave it to them. Grumpy still wasn’t impressed.

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    Instead, the mother was impressed and requested for a few more pics… See? Grumpy doesn’t smile.

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    …and Happy was just so sweet.

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    Happy was very happy after receiving her very own pic.

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    After dipping into the pool up there, I decided to skip this outdoor pool.

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    When I got back into town, I headed to a mechanic to get my rear brakes serviced. He cleaned out the banjo bolts, the rear master cylinder, and topped up the brake fluid. 80,000kips.

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    I wandered around the remoter part of Luang Prabang, and spotted someone cooking over a fire wood stove.

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    Luang Prabang at sunset.

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    Luang Prabang, sunset, and the Mekong river.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2016
  7. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 24

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 24
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    14 July 2016, Thursday. So I woke up at 4:30am this morning, determined to witness the morning alms giving ceremony I missed yesterday. Left my room around 5:15am and walked towards Sisavangvong Road in Luang Prabang.

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    Local vendors have set up these stools and mats mainly for tourists to participate in the alms giving ceremony.

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    Opportunistic locals setting up stalls like this for tourist to purchase sticky rice and / or sweet snacks for the alms giving ceremony. I’ve heard that the monks would have preferred if the tourist bought the rice from the morning market as the rice from these vendors are sometimes of questionable quality.

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    Tourist prices. Obviously.

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    Ooh… I spotted this really well-maintained retro car.

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    And like clockwork, I could hear the temple bells ringing at exactly 5:40am – sunrise. The monks started coming out from the temples and made their way to the streets.

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    It was a very sacred and quiet event as the monks walked silently through the streets to collect their alms. Each monk is given a pinch of sticky rice – roughly about the size of my thumb.

    Tourist are encouraged to participate in the ceremony only if it’s meaningful to them. The monks won’t mind being photographed, but would request the tourists to not get in their way. Also, no flash photography please – something some tourists just didn’t understand.


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    Monks lining the street to collect alms.

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    They move swiftly and silently to collect their only meal for the day – barefooted.

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    As I prepared to leave Luang Prabang before 7am, I noticed a nice number on my odometer.

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    Stopped for breakfast along the way. Saw this tissue packet. Somebody obviously forgot about the placeholder.

    The MAIN ROADS here in Laos are horrible, horrible, horrible. There are no highways, no freeways. It’s mountainous snake passes all the way to the capital city of Vientiane. As if that’s not bad enough, potholes, loose gravel, sand traps, and mud blobs booby trap the entire route. And then a rain cloud descended and it was misty and foggy. And the floor was wet and super slippery.

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    1,290m (4,232ft) above sea level. And yes – that was my max speed. 36kmh.

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    It’s 1:05pm and I limped my way to a Chinese eatery and guesthouse near Phou Khoun. Bad weather and slippery roads. I don’t want to ride no more. Just over 120km from Luang Prabang, I decided to stay the night here.

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    At 1,369m (4,491ft) above sea level. That’s rain AND fog. And some very slippery roads.
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    The little remote town.

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    The reason I decided to call it day. Mud patch. =( Nope, no further comments.

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    The right side of my E22 cracked open. I had to strap it down to prevent the cover from flying off.

    Thankfully, I was on full gear – except I didn’t have knee protectors on. That’s another story on this one. So some bruising on the right patella and I’m limping a little now. After resting for about 2 hours, I tried going out for a light walk earlier and the knee seems okay – just a little sore. Will probably be okay by tomorrow. Thankfully, the biggest damage is a just a bruised ego. The Givi side box, the engine guard, the mirror, the bar-end and the brake pedal can all be easily replaced.

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    I pushed the bike into the restaurant / guest house. Pulsar will rest here tonight. I hope the weather clears up tomorrow. It’s been raining and foggy the ENTIRE day.
     
  8. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 25
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 25
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    15 July 2015, Friday. I woke up with disappointment this morning. I had hoped for the weather to turn good and the fog to clear. But unfortunately, the roads were still wet and the fog remained thick – not exactly the best conditions for motorcycle travel, especially on a mountain snake pass filled with loose gravel, sand and soil patches. But instead of getting stuck here, I decided to trod on.

    So I packed my stuff, and hurled it onto my bike. Bid the nice staff at the guesthouse goodbye and continued my journey through the thick fog. At first, I was doing speeds of below 30kmh, taking extra precaution not to fall. I think my already injured patella will go if I impacted it the third time in 3 days. Thankfully, the roads started drying up, and the fog started lifting as I descended from the mountains towards Vang Vieng.

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    Finally! A stretch of straight road!

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    …and some beautiful views too!

    The roads started getting less winding as I approached Vang Vieng, and I managed to pick up some speed. Nevertheless, perhaps the recent drop was still fresh in my mind, I was still riding super cautiously.

    And then I hit a patch of wet, slippery tar. It was like riding through a patch of oil spill, and I could smell the fresh stench of recently applied road tar. Steady, steady… you can do it… and I somehow managed to wobble through it without falling. Yeah!

    And so, after getting a room and some lunch, the first thing I did when I reached Vang Vieng was to head to a bike wash – my very first bike wash in this trip. I had to get rid of the tar before it becomes permanent.

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    The Pulsar getting some pampering.

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    The pressure wash just didn’t cut it for the sticky tar. Had to get a can of bug and tar remover. Look at all the dissolved grime! 20,000k for the wash, 50,000k for the can of tar remover, and 10,000k for the tar cleanup labour. Total bill for the Pulsar pamper – 80,000kips.

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    Headed to the (not so) Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng. Tourists were thronging the place.


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    There’s a steep climb to the nearby Tham Poukham Cave. Headlamps are mandatory. I was halfway up the climb when it started raining. I decided to descend as the slippery path is not going to be easy on my already injured knee.

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    Ziplining! No I did not try. Too old, too uncle, and too chicken for this.

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    The Blue Lagoon seem to be a mini water playground built around a natural pool of water. Here’s a water slide. 10,000kips for unlimited rides.

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    On my way back to town, I hit slow traffic.

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    These guys just won’t let me enjoy one of the rarer nice stretch of road. One of them even threw dung as I approached it. I’m so gonna have beef for dinner as revenge.

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    The nice stretch after clearing the slow traffic.

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    Spotted a local fishing by a roadside river.

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    Apart from the Penang bridge in Malaysia, this is the only other toll bridge I crossed. 10,000kips.

    Vang Vieng sits somewhere in the middle between Luang Prabang and the capital city, Vientiane. While the northern towns of Luang Prabang and Luang Namtha seem to have a larg’ish population of Chinese (which makes sense as northern Laos borders Yunnan, China), the town of Vang Vieng seem to have a large population of Korean tourists. Even the many touristy signboards everywhere contain Korean characters to cater to this group.

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    Bad roads. And this is INSIDE town.

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    Due to the bad roads, some prefer to travel on ATV’s. Available for rent.

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    Beef larb with sticky rice, pork spring roll, and a fresh coconut. Revenge never tasted that good.
     
  9. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 26 and 27
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 26 and 27
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    16-17 July 2016, Sat-Sun. And so I decided to set off for Vientiane – the capital city of Laos. Breakfast in Vang Vieng in a nice little cafe with wifi somewhere near my hotel. Needed that wifi to update the blog as the hotel’s wifi was horribly slow.

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    Meet Nicole from Ohio, USA. She’s here on a work-holiday programme. Works in the cafe in exchange for food and accommodation. No pay. Great way to “tour for free”. Almost.

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    Mr Tuth runs this motorbike rental shop. Just an “R” away from “Truth”. He has automatic bikes, manual bikes, and…. oh, oh. Now we know where the “r” in the truth has gone to. STAY AWAY! =P

    I was worried about the roads from Vang Vieng to Vientiane. If the roads remained what I was used to in the last couple of days, I think I’ll have to re-plan my Laos trip. I typically plan for my travels based on an average of 70kmh. But in the last few days, I was probably travelling on average at half that speed. Thankfully, the roads to the capital city started getting better and straighter as I approach. And for the first time in many days, I see speeds of 80-90kmh on my speedometer!

    Then my rear brakes started binding again. Not as bad as before, but noticeable nonetheless. Okay – just a couple more kilometres to go before reaching Vientiane. I’ll go check out the Bajaj dealership when I arrive.

    And then I reached Vientiane, only to find out that Bajaj has pulled out Laos and there are no more dealers. What a bummer! I did some quick research, and everyone recommends Fuark Motocross – the only reliable “big bike” service centre in Vientiane. Programmed the coordinates in my GPS and headed there with all my luggage in tow.

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    Fuark Motocross motorcycle repair shop. Mr Fuark wasn’t around.

    So, for the 2nd time, I cleaned out my rear brake master cylinder. These guys seem to be a little more knowledgeable than than the mechanic I used in Luang Prabang. I hoped this resolves the brake binding issue.

    After I sorted out my accommodation in Vientiane, I headed to the KTM dealership to get my broken mirror (and possibly new rear brake master cylinder) sorted out.

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    Brand new KTM machines all lined up.

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    New KTM Duke 200 mirrors on my Bajaj Pulsar 200NS! I actually liked them better than the Bajaj’s OEM one.

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    Duke 200 for USD4,250. It’s TRIPLE this price in Singapore.

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    The KTM knee protectors were going for 50% off. USD15 a pair. I got a set.

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    The friendly folks at KTM Vientiane.

    It’s strange. KTM wouldn’t sell me the rear brake master cylinder for the KTM Duke 200. Reason? They don’t sell it to non-KTM riders. Really? In fact, they had to make a special exception for the mirrors.

    “But, the Pulsar 200NS and the Duke 200 come from the same factory in India!”

    “Sorry, company policy.”

    “Whatever…”

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    Spent the evening walking along the Mekong river. There was a night bazaar and I spotted several groups of locals line dancing along the river. You can clearly see Thailand just across the Mekong.

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    Motorcycle parking at the night bazaar along the Mekong river.

    I continued to explore Vientiane the next morning.

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    The Patuxay (Victory Gate of Vientiane) resembles France’s Arc de Triomphe.

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    Pha That Luang (Great Sacred Stupa) is supposedly the most important national monument in Laos. It is a symbol of Buddhism and Lao’s sovereignty. I see this on every 50,000kip bill.

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    Another view of Pha That Luang.

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    Detail of a stone structure inside Pha That Luang.

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    A newly built temple beside Pha That Luang. Name of temple? I don’t know. It just says “temple” on my GPS.

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    Locals paying respects to the statue of King Sai Setthathirath.

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    Yeah – they let me ride up to just the outside of the temple grounds.

    Then I went to the Buddha Park – a 30min ride from town. Halfway there, I met a police roadblock. Perhaps the Laotians don’t get as many overland tourists, I’ve been getting stares everywhere I ride, and have been stopped at every police roadblock. But this was the first they asked and insisted on seeing my license. No problem. I had them with me. And the police waived me on.

    Halfway there, I lost all brakes on my rear. It seemed that my rear brake master cylinder finally gave in and leaked badly. Now I REALLY got to have it replaced.

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    The Xiengkuane Buddha Park is a major tourist attraction.

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    Stone statues like this are everywhere.

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    Hey! You there! Who? Me?

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    The main gigantic statue of Buddha lying on his side.

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    Hey Medusa! What are you doing here?

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    This guy can’t be too ancient… He’s wearing a modern suit!

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    More stone statues in Buddha Park.

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    This guy looked like he’s been to Pisa, Italy. He’s even learned to lean a little to one side.

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    Lunch. Chicken steak.

    While savouring my lunch, I overheard 2 diners admiring the Pulsar and trying to guess where it was from.

    “I think it’s from Malaysia.”

    “Nope. It’s from Singapore!” I answered.

    So we chatted a little, and I lamented that my rear brake has totally failed and I need to get parts. And one of them directed me to a parts shop in Vientiane which *might* just have the parts I needed. Although Bajaj has pulled out from Laos, some shops may still carry some parts.

    Really! Oh! Thank God!

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    The two English-language teachers in Laos who pointed me to the bike shop that might have what I needed.

    So I headed to the motorcycle parts shop immediately after lunch to check out. Turns out they didn’t have Bajaj parts. But…. They took a quick look at my rear brake master cylinder, went back in to the shop, and came out with a brand new master cylinder of an unknown brand that looked somewhat similar.

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    Errm…. Can this fit?

    After some trial and error, the shop guy sawed off half the actuating stem, drilled 2 holes bigger, trimmed the length of the cylinder reservoir tube, and viola! I have a functioning brand new rear brake master cylinder!

    No Bajaj parts. No KTM parts. No OEM parts. Only something which remotely resembles the original, a little modification and a “can-do” attitude. 150,000kips (SGD25) for the part and the installation.

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    The shop guy working on my rear brake master cylinder.

    Finally! Now my bike’s in perfect working condition again! Oh please… No more bike troubles, please. I’m leaving Vientiane tomorrow.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2016
  10. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 28
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 28
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    18 July 2016, Monday. I left Vientiane with a (finally) (hopefully) healthy motorcycle. No more technical troubles. I set off at around 7am in the morning, as I had planned for a long day today.

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    The first part of my route today.

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    Route to Konglor cave.

    Konglor Cave (Tham Kong Lo) is a limestone cave in Laos, and is sometimes missed by the casual tourist as it’s somewhat out of the way. But hey! Since I have a perfectly working motorcycle now, no problem for me!

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    Finally! Beautiful straight roads! Something I’ve not seen in quite a while! It’s rather strange that just a few weeks ago, I was yearning for some winding roads and twisty fun. It seem that I might have an overdose of it, and this stretch of flat road was very, very welcoming!

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    Welcome to Konglor Cave. Not exactly a very welcoming entrance.

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    Boat tickets for Konglor Cave. 5,000kips for motorcycle parking, 5,000kips for entrance to the park, and 110,000kips for the single-person boat ride.

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    To get through Konglor Cave, first, you need to hop onto a row boat and get to the far bank.

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    …and once at the far bank, you take a short hike to the cave entrance. There you’ll find some more boats.

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    My boatman took some time to locate his boat.

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    …then he has to find his boat motor and fit it onto the boat.

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    …and off we go! Actually, this shot was taken at the OTHER end of the Konglor Cave.

    Inside the cave, it was pitch black. Completely dark, except for the headlamps we had. It’s a limestone cave with dramatic karst formation. The cave has been cited as a “one of Southeast Asia’s geological wonders” – stretching some 7kms from one end to the other.

    The other end is a little village, and I was given about 10mins to explore before we head back on the same route. Nothing much here.

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    …except this little bridge here. No vehicles passable. Even human passage is questionable. Used only by the locals – I suppose no tourists too.

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    My boatride back is on the one on the right.

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    sgBikerBoy and Konglor Cave

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    After Konglor, I headed towards Thakhek – the town that’s somewhat between Vientiane and Pakse – and spent the night there. Noticed that “loop” there. I had to backtrack to head to Thakhek. Konglor’s really kinda out of the way. I arrived in Thakhek just before sunset.

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    How can a Singaporean like me not love Thakhek? They even have a road named after Singapore! Bad spelling, though… The Mekong river is in the background, and Thailand is on the other side.
     
  11. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 29
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 29
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    19 July 2016, Tuesday. I left Thakhek at around 8am this morning, and had planned on arriving Pakse by 2pm – which should give me some time to get a room and perhaps explore the area.

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    Today’s route – Thakhek to Pakse. I’m heading south!

    But the roads in southern Loas are…. REALLY GOOD! Long and straight, seemingly endless roads of decently good quality (actually FANTASTIC by Laos’ standards!) see me doing triple-digit speeds for the FIRST TIME in a very long while! Northern Laos’ roads are typically mountain snake passes. Before that, I was in Chiang Mai / Chiang Rai with a newly rebuilt engine, and running-in procedures forbid me to reach those speeds. And of course, there was a 8-day downtime when my Pulsar was being repaired in Chiang Mai. And before that, of course, I was doing the Mae Hong Son loop – hardly any opportunity to do triple-digit speeds. So yeah – I missed long stretches of good roads.

    So not surprisingly, I reached Pakse earlier than expected, and I found a hotel in town. With accommodation secured, I went for lunch, and then headed back to my room for a short nap before heading out to explore the area.

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    Vat Phou is a ruined Khmer Hindu temple dating back as early as the 5th century.

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    Vat Phou.

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    Vat Phou against the evening sky.

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    This path leads to a really steep climb.

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    The view from the top.

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    Locals praying.

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    The temple, or what’s left of the temple at the top of the hill.

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    Buddha statue and locals praying inside the temple.

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    Another view of Vat Phou glistening from the setting sun.

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    Another prayer site.

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    I’m pretty certain these are not ancient structures, but recent tourist-created ones.

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    Part of Vat Phou undergoing reconstruction / restoration works.

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    Some feeble attempts by tourists in helping out with the restoration works. Yeah – I made a ONE-stone contribution.

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    On my way back, I spotted this eerie looking seemingly-abandoned building.

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    Dinner at Sabaidee Pakse Restaurant…and some online research because good internet WiFi is so hard to come by here in Laos.
     
  12. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 30
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 30
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    20 July 2016, Wednesday. Decided to stay another day in Pakse, as the region around Champasak has loads to offer. Travellers on motorcycles typically do the loop in Bolaven Plateau. The area offers waterfalls, ethnic villages and coffee plantations. I left early in the day as the Bolaven Plateau loops (there’s a big loop and a smaller loop) are typically completed in 2-3days. I planned on completing it in 1 day.

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    I reached Tad Fane waterfall before 8am. The entrance wasn’t manned and I just walked in.

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    The twin falls of Tad Fane plummets more than 100 meters and looks spectacular from a distance.

    Unfortunately, on my way out of the Tad Fane falls, the guy at the ticketing booth turned up and I paid the 5,000kips entrance fee. He waived the 3,000kips motorcycle parking fee though.

    Tad Champee is just north of Tad Fane, but the 2km of road into the waterfall parking area was dirt and gravel road – and my Michelin street tires weren’t too happy. The sky started turning dark, and I didn’t want to risk riding back OUT in slippery roads. So I decided to give this one a miss.

    I headed away from the dark clouds and rode towards Tad Phasouam, some 33km away, still on the Bolaven loop.

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    Awesome view of Tad Phasouam.

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    Tad Phasouam and me.

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    Crossing this creaking suspension bridge made of wood and rattan.

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    Don’t try jumping!

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    Went exploring further and saw this really narrow bridge.

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    Just about a foot wide! Don’t fall!

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    …and the path lead to Keak Ngaew waterfall.

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    Another ultra narrow bridge.

    As I continued on the Bolaven loop, it started to rain. So I headed back to Pakse for some lunch. And just when I had finished lunch, a guy walked up to me and asked, “Are you from Singapore??”

    Hey! I recognised that english accent!

    “Are you also from Singapore?” I asked in return.

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    Daryl is Singaporean who’s now based in Laos! He was rather excited to see a lone Singapore-registered motorcycle in Pakse.

    I didn’t have anything planned for the rest of the afternoon, and so I stayed around and chatted with Daryl for quite a while. Turns out that he runs a bee / honey farm here in Pakse, and he invited me to go over and take a look.

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    Buzzz…. One part of his Lao Honey – Daryl’s bee farm, set against an awesome mountain-view backdrop.

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    He showed me the inside of one of the boxes. Bees galore! In total, he manages to harvest around 400kg of honey every 6 days. That’s ALOT of sweetness!

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    Searching for the queen bee.

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    One of Daryl’s workers pointing out to me where the royal jelly was.

    Daryl also gave me a tour around the farm area. They had avocado trees, durian trees, coffee plants, jackfruit trees, macadamia trees, lychee trees, papaya trees, and probably some others I missed. It’s almost like a fruit farm here. But these aren’t commercial-scale, and they’re mostly for local villagers’ consumption.

    He invited me to stay for dinner. I wished I could, but it’s about 40km from Pakse, and I had to make my way back to town before it gets dark. Thanks for the tour, Daryl!
     
  13. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 31
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 31
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    Day 30 route – travelling south of Pakse.

    21 July 2016, Thursday. I head to Si Phan Don (literally means “four thousand islands” in Laos) today. That’t about the southern-most tip of Laos, where the Mekong river meets with an archipelago, creating a system of rapids. There are many islands in Si Phan Don, the biggest of which is Don Khong – the only island accessible by road because of a bridge built in 2014. However, Don Det and Don Khon (connected by a bridge to each other) are the more popular islands that tourists go to.

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    I arrived at Don Khong before 11am and had lunch there. This little fella was my company throughout lunch.

    Over lunch, and a somewhat decent internet connection, I found out that there is a ferry at Nakasong that might be able to take me and my bike across to Don Det or Don Khon. So I decided not to stay in Don Khong and headed to Nakasong to enquire.

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    The boat at Nakasong to Don Det / Don Khon for motorcycles.

    100,000kips (SGD16.70) for a ONE-WAY trip from Nakasong to Don Det. And I’m not even sure how much it cost to come back to mainland – when I’m at the mercy of their ferry service. Nope. Not worth the visit.

    So I headed south towards Kone Phapheng falls – where the typically calm Mekong river meets the archipelago of islets in Si Pha Don, turning into a rapids of sorts.

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    Kone Phapheng falls – 50,000kips entrance plus 5,000kips for the motorcycle parking.

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    Another view of Kone Phapheng falls.

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    Me with a cup of iced-cuppacino in hand, and on a swing-chair overlooking the Mekong river. Yeah, I spent quite a while in idle daze here.

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    Me and the Kone Phapheng falls.

    I decided to take it a little easy today, and got myself a room in a nearby resort. Haven’t had some of my clothes washed in a while, so it’s laundry day – while the sun is out.

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    How does sgBikerBoy do his laundry? With his motorcycle, of course!

    Woah! It’s almost unbelievable I’ve come this far! Travelled through Laos on a motorcycle – quite literally from the north to the southern tip. Because of my faulty brakes, I missed visiting the Plain of Jars sites though. Wanted to get to the capital city of Vientiane as quickly as possible to get that rectified. Then retracing my ride back to the Plain of Jars site won’t make too much sense too as I only managed to get a 15-day customs permit on my motorcycle (although I had a 30-day visa on my passport).

    Tomorrow’s border crossing into Cambodia is my most feared one. My research suggests that I probably have a 50-50 chance of getting into Cambodia – as they’ve been known to turn motorcycles back. If that happens, getting back into Laos is also known to be problematic – especially after exiting it just minutes earlier.

    Wish me luck!
     
  14. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 32
    The sgBikerBoy 2016 Trip – Day 32
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    22 July 2016, Friday. I made it into Cambodia! After hearing all the horror stories of travellers getting turned back into Laos, or worse, getting stuck between borders in no-man’s land, I was a little worried about crossing this one. But then again, it wasn’t an easy experience, and I was almost turned back into Laos.

    As I only had 100,000kips (approx SGD17 or USD12) left on me, I decided to head to the little town of Nakasong to get some more Kips. The border officials at the Laos-Cambodia border are notoriously corrupt, and I needed to make sure I had enough cash for their “service fee” or “donation” to make things move along.

    But before all that, I needed to get some stuff done on my bike. I asked the 2 motorcycle servicing shops in Nakasong if they sell motorcycle chains, as my current chain is showing some signs of uneven wear. No joy. It was also about 2,000km from my last oil change, and was about time to replace the oil (new engine EO change routine). The first shop refused totouch my bike, and even seem to tell me that he will sell me the engine oil, but I’ll have to replace it myself. Needless to say, I walked away. The 2nd shop was willing to do the engine oil change for me at no additional cost – other than the cost of the oil itself, which was 30,000kips per 0.8L bottle. So I got myself some new oil for the Pulsar.

    Over breakfast, I chatted with a local who took interest in my bike. And when I shared with him that I intended to go into Cambodia this morning, he shook his head and said, “No motorcycles into Cambodia.”

    “Cambodia no allow motorcycle in. Can park in Laos, and walk in Cambodia. Then come back to Laos for your motorbike.”

    Oh oh. Not the news I’d like to hear. A local who lives so near the border seem to be confirming the reports I read online – crossing this border with a motorcycle will be problematic.

    So I went back to my room to pack my stuff, and was deciding if I should trod ahead or turn back around and head into Thailand at Pakse. I decided to give it a try anyway.

    Here’s what happened:
    • Reached Laos’ Vuen Kham immigration. Asked the immigration officer if I could enter Cambodia. He instructed me to go over to Cambodia and asked them. If they allowed, then come back to Vuen Kham immigration to process the exit.
    • Rode up to the Lao’s Vuen Kham border control barrier (approx 20m ahead). Told the Laos officer there that I’m going to ask the Cambodia’s officials if I could enter Cambodia. I stressed that I have not stamped my passport for exit at Laos’ immigration. If so, I will then turn back to exit Laos. He said okay, and allowed me through.
    • Rode up to Cambodia’s border control (approx 50m or so ahead). There is a tent on the left side for “Health and Quarantine Control”. I spoke to the guy there and he pointed me to the immigration box just across the road.
    • Crossed the road, walked over to Cambodia’s immigration control, and asked them if I could come into Cambodia with my motorcycle. Again, I stressed that I’m enquiring and have NOT stamped out at Laos’ immigration. They asked me to check with customs first.
    • Left my bike at the immigration / health and quarantine area, and walked over to customs (approx 50m ahead). This is the part where it gets a little tricky.
    • Customs asked for my bike registration forms (they referred to it as the “green form” – possibly referring to the Thailand registration papers). I gave them a printout of my vehicle registration details and explained to them that in Singapore, the records are all kept electronically with the Land Transport Authority, and this is a printout of the electronic record.
    • The customs guy was a young chap. He said that he needed to consult his boss, and handed the registration printout to him. His boss (the very much older chap) took a look at it and frowned. He said that to come into Cambodia, I needed to get prior permission from Phnom Penh.
    • I cooked up some excuse, saying that Singapore and Cambodia are part of ASEAN, and that Singapore-Cambodia ties are very strong. In fact, IIRC, apart from Cambodia passport holders, only Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore passport holders do NOT need a visa when entering Cambodia. So I told him that “Singapore and Cambodia are good friends.”
    • The customs officer then replied, saying that that may be the case for passport visa, but Singapore and Cambodia doesn’t have a land transport agreement. He said he could “make secret” with me, but was afraid that I might have trouble when I’m inside Cambodia.
    • At this point, I was ready to turn back. I told him I was here as a tourist, and shared with him the route that I’ve travelled so far (Singapore – Malaysia – Thailand – Laos). I told him that while I would very much love to visit Cambodia, I didn’t want any troubles as a tourist and if it was gong to be difficult for him, I would had back to Laos, and then turn into Thailand and give Cambodia a miss.
    • He then asked me which border I intended to exit from. I showed him a map on my mobile phone GPS, and told him the route I intended to take (Stung Treng – Phnom Penh – Siam Reap) and planned to exit at Poi Pet towards Thailand.
    • Surprisingly, he then said, “okay.”
      ”No, no, no. I don’t want you to say okay just for me. I don’t want to get into any trouble if the police stops me.”
      “Police only check passport. Not check motorbike.”
      “What about exiting Cambodia? Will I have trouble?”
      “Exit Cambodia no problem. Only come in need customs papers. You exit Poi Pet okay.”
    • So with that final “go ahead” from Cambodia customs, I went back to Laos’ immigration, and started the process all over again.
    • Cleared Laos’ immigration at the official immigration counter and got my passport exit stamp. Was asked a $2 / 20,000kip fee. Here, a tout stations himself with a table set up just in front of the immigration counter and claim to be able to assist with the passport paperwork. I’ve read that this is a scam. He’s neither immigration nor customs officer. Not even in uniform. But he speaks good english and seem to project himself as an official immigration representative. I saw several tourists handing their passports (and some money) to him.
    • After immigration, I was directed to Customs just across the road. Handed the green form (customs temporary import of motorcycle form) to the officer there. That’s it! Wasn’t asked for any fee.
    • Rode over to Cambodia side. Immigration officer asked me to head to Customs to get customs form and chop.
    • Walked over to Cambodian Customs. The boss said no need for any forms, and called up the Immigration guy from his cellphone. He then said, “okay” and wished me luck. No fees asked! I was surprised! At this point, after all the walking about, I was extremely thirsty. So I bought 3 cans of drinks – 1 for myself and gave the 2 to the Customs officer and his boss.
    • Walked back to Immigration and tried to get my passport stamped. By then the “Health and Quarantine” guy came up to me and asked me to head over to his tent. I’ve read that this “health check” is also a scam and not all necessary. But I complied anyway.
    • While filling up the “health and quarantine” questionnaire, the “quarantine officer” noticed I had a helmet cam and asked me if it was a video camera. I told him that it was for recording of my travels. I think he got scared and didn’t ask me for a fee, gave me a “health advisory” slip and sent me off. I heard from some of the other tourists that they were asked for USD1.
    • Walked back to immigration again. As I had a Singapore passport, I didn’t need a visa. So, thankfully, no visa fees. But I was asked for USD1 for the stamp on my passport. I should have given him USD1 or 10,000kips. Unfortunately, I didn’t have either, and ended up giving him 20,000kips (approx USD2.50). No change. Obviously.
    • Approximate time to clear the border – just over 1hr. Partly due to the fact that 2 busloads of tourists arrived just as I was returning to Laos’ side to go through the exit procedures.
    Phew! I’m in Cambodia!

    [​IMG]
    …and I thought that Laos’ roads were bad. It’s worse in Cambodia.

    Headed to the town of Stung Treng – the nearest Cambodian town from the Laos-Cambodia border. It was slightly below an hour ride to town. Bought some Riel at the bank, got myself a room for the night, and new sim card with data plan – the usual drill when entering a new country. Oh, USD is accepted directly at most places, although I changed it to Riel’s at a slightly better than typical rate of 4,000R to 1USD. But my Laotian Kips were practically worthless here. They would sell Kips for 0.504 and buy them at 0.384. That’s a freaking wide spread!! Probably the 2 most useful currencies here (apart from Riel) would be USD and THB. Expect super lousy spreads for most other currencies.

    [​IMG]
    With a thick wad of notes, I feel quite rich. Until I realise each 10,000R piece is worth approx SGD3,31 or USD2.44 only.

    [​IMG]
    Fired up my trusty TripAdvisor app to search for things to do in Stung Treng, and this is what it tells me. =(

    [​IMG]
    View from the 2nd level balcony of the hotel.

    Parked my bike in the hotel and went walking along the streets. I spotted almost no tourists. Although buzzing with locals, Stung Treng is very much untouched by tourism.

    Had dinner at a local restaurant – which was really difficult to find. It seem that the concept of eating out is not very popular here. And just after I finished me meal and paid up…. pop! The ENTIRE TOWN went black. Yup! Electrical blackout. THE WHOLE FREAKING TOWN! I think this is probably a typical experience, as I spotted some random spots of battery-powered lights in some of the more well-prepared shops.

    I took my time to walk back to my hotel. About a 5-10min walk. And just as I reached my hotel. Lights started coming back on.

    Welcome to Cambodia!
     
  15. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    You've had an awesome ride on that little bike alright.
    Well done.

    The rear brake fiasco going to Kuang Si waterfall out of Luang Prabang was something.

    I really like your fresh perspective on everything too.
    Your comment about the roads in the North made me chuckle, because I reckon they are as goods as Ive seen them in the last 10 + years.
    North Laos Brief Road Summary

    It's really been a gung-ho exciting trip for you, plus you've taken the time to record everything & help others.

    Careful using your Credit Card in Cambodia, mine has just been skimmed & cancelled by the bank.

    Many thanks for posting.
     
  16. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    I guess I ran out of luck when EVERYTHING came together at once - mountainous snake pass, gravel, RAIN + MUD = super slippery, fog, and a rear brake problem which caused me to hesitate braking for that fraction of time, and before I knew it, I found myself lying on the road.

    I've not been using my credit card in this trip so far EXCEPT for that one time in Cambodia. Was for a hotel stay. Did you have any idea where your card was skimmed? Was it at a hotel or a restaurant?
     
  17. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Nice ride and report :)
     
  18. sgBikerBoy

    sgBikerBoy sgBikerBoy.com

    Thanks! The Pulsar 200NS is quite unlike a typical Indian bike. It was designed by Edgar Heinrich who was also responsible for the design of BMW R1200GS and the S1000RR, who subsequently left Bajaj and rejoined BMW.
     
    lipmeng likes this.

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