Solo ride Singapore to Laos (Laos section)

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by phuah, Aug 21, 2005.

  1. phuah

    phuah Active Member

    Hello All!! Here is the long overdue report.
    Have posted part one of the report from Singapore to Thailand in the Thailand section.
    Here is part two, on the ride inside Laos.

    Day 5, Khong Chiam > Tad fane resort (Laos), distance covered 119km
    As the distance that will be covered for the day is short, so go for a boat ride that take me out to the middle of the Mekong River to see the two colours of the river water merged into one. Nothing impressive. Then proceed to the Laos side, where you pay a small amount to get up to the land of Laos. It is a small village where the villagers set up stalls selling cigarettes, liquor with snake or scorpion in it, China’s wine, Laos textiles, etc.
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    After the river cruise, packed up all the stuff and set off for Laos at 11am.

    There is a new bridge that is by the side of the village. Went over the bride and after a few turns, reaches a dam.
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    Stop for some photo taking and asked for direction to the border. And he pointed to the direction that I have come from. So went back the same road, and reaches the border easily.

    There is a building, which is still under construction that lay in the middle of the road. I think it must be the new custom building.

    From a distance it looks like the road end with the building under construction. Went close to the building, and then saw a small road by the left side of the building. There is a gate with No entry sign. But one guy will push the gate to the side when vehicles approached.

    Went passed the building, can see the immigration and custom building at the right side of the road.
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    The place was busy with goods vehicles and peoples crossing the border. People start to crowd around the bike when I stopped in front of the custom building. Have to locked up the bike and not leaving anything on the bike when I do the custom clearing.
    Went to the building on the left to get my passport stamp. The place looks like temporary only as the counter is assembled by just plywood.

    After getting my passport stamped, I made a mistake of not surrender the import/export form. Actually it is not my mistake. It is the mistake of the Sadao (Malaysia/ Thailand) custom officer. When I enter Thailand from Malaysia, the officer told me do not surrender the form, but keep it when I went back to the Thailand/Malaysia border when I returned.

    As nobody stopped me, I just rode through the gate and get into the Laos side. As I cannot find any signs for the custom and immigration so after asking around, found that the custom office is the second building on the right after entering Laos. Parked the bike and while approaching the counter, one guy approached me. Using his limited English, he told me that he is from the Thai custom, and mentioned something on carnet. I told him carnet is not required. He said that he is from the Thai custom. But other that his cap that embroider the word CUSTOM, he cannot provide identification to proved his identity. But he insisted that I followed him back to Thailand side. So I just followed. At the Thailand side, I told the custom people on what the custom officer at Sadao border has told me. It looks like they have not handled such cases before. After some discussion, they kept the original import/export form, and generated another import/export form for me. And the officer that more than 15 minutes to handwrote the form.

    After that, then I proceed back to Laos. Went to the same building, there is a road on the right that direct to the building. Went to the counter, get the arrival form filled and the officer asked me to go to the next counter for visa. Although I know that Singaporean do not need a visa to enter Laos, I still follow his instruction and go to the visa counter for confirmation. After getting confirmation from the staff that mend the visa counter, want back to the same counter. Finally manage to get the passport stamped, with a payment of 100 baht, but no receipt.

    Then I proceed to another counter, which is around 10m by the right, to settle the bike import clearance. The officer initially only allowed the bike to be in Laos for 7 days. But after telling him that I will be traveling all the way north to Luang Prabang and exiting Vientiane, he give me the permit to stay in Laos for 14 days.

    The table next to him is for the insurance. So once the permit for 14 days is granted, the insurance to cover the bike for 14 days is being processed. Pay another 600 baht for the bike clearance and insurance.

    After that, I am clear to explore Laos. First time riding on the right side of the road, everything looks new to me. Could see the houses are quite old and rundown. On the way to Pakxe, could see many paddy fields along both side of the road. As it is the time after harvest and next planting season is not yet started, everything is yellow and brown.
    Feel proud of myself, as I have managed to get to Laos alone by myself.
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    Reaches Pakxe town. Never check the place out but rode through it as I am heading to Tad Fane resort, which is at the side of Tad Fane waterfall. On the way to Tad Fane has stopped for a few times to confirmed that I am on the right track. While I am more and more away out of Pakxe, can se the villages are more and more poorer.

    Went into a petrol station for top up, and surprise that the couples that are manning the petrol station can speak very fluent English. As I have not change any KIPS yet, so I pay the petrol by using bath, and they give me the change in KIPS. And it is the first time I see KIPS. And they give me the change in two stack of KIPS bundle by rubber band. They even recommend me a waterfall that they claimed the biggest in the southern Laos. That is the first pleasant experience with the Laos.

    Based on my information, Tad Fane waterfall is at the 38km mark. They have road sign showing the km number, but the km was written in laos. When I reached the road sign showing 38km, could not see any sign for Tad Fane waterfall. Make a U turn back and asked some kids at the roadside. They pointed further down the road. So make a U-turn back again to move further. Then found the side road is just around 20m further from the 38km road sign. The dirt road to Tad Fane waterfall is 1km long. At the end of the dirt road is Tad Fane resort and Tad Fane waterfall.
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    So finally found my way to Laos and to Tad Fane waterfall. Have seen the picture of the waterfall from the net for many times, and finally see it with my own eyes. Great!

    Check into a room for US$20 or 800 baht. Actually intend to stay for two nights, but the other night was fully booked. Saw two small China made bike in the compound. Alter found out belongs to a British couples, that have bought the bikes from China and have rode all the way down from China. They said that they have no problem clearing the border when the officer known that their bike is only 30cc.

    After finding a proper place to parked my bike, and have a nice shower, proceed to the restaurant for my very late lunch, or afternoon tea. The seating area at the second floor can directly see the waterfall. Nice, quiet and cool place. Even after my lunch, I stay there, sipping the Laos coffee, listening to my MP3, enjoying the view of the waterfall, and jotting down my encountered for the day.

    While walking around the place, meet an American looking for accommodation. End up sharing the room with him, after a nice chat with him.

    After dinner, we sat around the fireplace with other travelers staying in the resort. You can hear people chatting on their traveling experiences and can hear the staff talking about his life in Laos.

    With no TV and Internet and no other entertainment other than listening to the sound of the waterfall, it was an early night.

    Day 6, Tad fane resort > Savannahkhet, distance covered 286.4km
    From Tad Fane waterfall, take the same route as the previous day, and went back to Pakxe. From Pakxe, stay on route 13, which should take me to Savannahkhet.
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    It is all paddy field along the way. Before reaching Savannahkhet, after the junction where there is another road that by-pass Savannahkhet, there are two sections of roadwork. But it is no problem going through.

    Found a guesthouse by the side of the Mekong River, named Nong Soda guesthouse. Room rate was 300 baht per night.
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    It looks like the busiest place is the jetty area where the ferries drop off passenger coming from Thailand.
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    But when the ferry stopped operation in the night, the whole place become very quiet and many of the streets not even have any streetlight.

    So it was another early night.

    Day 7, Savannahkhet > Vientiane, distance covered 483.6km
    It was an uneventful ride. Nothing interesting on the way. Just that hit two sections of loose gravel road.
    For the first section, there is no colour difference between the loose gravel and the rest of the road. So I only discovered that I was riding on loose gravel when the bike started to slide, and I was traveling at more than 100km/h. When I realize it and closed the throttle, I have already cleared that section.
    For the second section, it was around a bend. This time saw it in advance. But the rear still slide slightly as I need to get to the side of the road as there is a van coming in the opposite direction in the middle of the road.
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    Reached Vientiane and found my way to Day Inn hotel. Room rate was U$25 per nite, quite expensive. The hotel look old from the outside, but the room is big and clean. Surprise me.
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    Day 8, Vientiane, distance covered 0km
    Spend the day exploring the city.
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    And have try out the herbal sauna and massage at one of the temple compound but it is not operated by the temple.
    While visiting one of the temples, have a nice chat with a group of young monks at a temple compound. Have read from other traveler’s report that because those monks study English in school so they are keen to practice their English. And it is true.
    After the encountered with the monks, walked to the side of the Mekong River to enjoy the sunset, with accompany of a coconut drink (no Beer Laos).
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    Day 9, Vientiane > Luang Prabang, distance covered 401.1km

    The scenery started to get more interesting instead of just paddy field compared to the passed few days.
    The road passed by a reservoir, with beautiful scenery. Stop for pictures.
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    For the roads around Vang Vieng, around 20km before and after Vang Vieng, there are few sections of the roads filled with potholes. And there are also a few sections that are having road works.
    I start to worry whether the roads will remain in such condition all the way to Luang Prabang. Lucky that the road get better when it started to climb into the mountain area. And the scenery is also getting better.
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    Passes through many hill tribe villages where small kids, pigs, chickens running around the roads. So have to go slow and stay alert while going through villages. And another reason for going slow is that so I can wave back to the kids that are running to the side of the road to wave at me. It is really an experience.
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    From the km indicated on the road sign, can see that Luang Prabang is approaching. But I am still surrounded by forest. But when I hit the town, the whole place immediately open up, and suddenly found myself in a modern busy town, with many traffic, shops, peoples and tourist.
    After topping up my bike at the first Shell station, I get myself orientated to the town and headed for Suansavan guesthouse, which was recommended by David.
    Found the guesthouse, and the room rate was U$10 per day. Chat with the boss, who is a Chinese and having the same surname as me.
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    Day 10-11, Luang Prabang
    Spend the next 2 days visiting temples and waterfall sightseeing.
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    The place was quite and the air was fresh, especially during the early morning hours. For the few mornings at Luang Prabang, I was on the street before 8am.
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    And I really enjoy cool, fresh, quiet and foggy morning. And having the baguette and Laos’s coffee for breakfast is something that I really missed now.
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    Day 12, Luang Prabang> Vang Vieng, distance covered 236.2km
    As I was being advise that the roads will be foggy in the morning, so I moved off in late morning at 11.20am.
    The plan for the day was to go to Phonsavan.
    But just less than 2 hours after leaving Luang Prabang, encountered very heavy fog. Visibility was poor as can only see the road 20 to 30 meters ahead. The visor and the jacket were wet as water droplets flying in the air, and the road was wet and slippery. I am crawling at the speed of 30 to 40km/h. Lucky that I have clear two land slide area before encountered with the fog.

    Reached Phou Khoun after crawling for few hours, feeling cold and wet, I decided to stop at an eating place at the Y junction for coffee break, and deciding what to go from here. The thermometer at my watch was showing 10 deg C. Although the thermometer is not accurate, but I can feel that it is really cold.
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    If the road to Phonsavan is all the way so foggy, then I will have to ride in the night before I reached Phonsavan. And I do not feel save riding alone in such condition.

    So, I have no choice but to go down to Vang Vieng as I am sure that I will clear the foggy area once I rode further down the mountain area at a lower altitude.

    After leaving the village for about 50 meters, saw traffic jam. All the trucks, vans and buses have stopped. Managed to squeeze to the front and saw a trailer carrying metal rods has accident with a minivan at the opposite direction in the middle of a left bent. Believe that due to the long axles of the trailer, the mid section has go over to the other side of the road during the bent and hit the van. These two vehicles have blocked the whole road. Lucky that there are still some space on the side that I can go through. If not, I don’t know how long I will have to wait for the two vehicles to clear the road.

    While riding to a lower altitude, have clear the fog, and could see that the top of the surrounding mountains were all cover with clouds. It is the first time in my life to see such scenery. So take my time to enjoy the scenery and do some photo taking.
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    Before reaching Vang Vieng, have to clear a few bad road sections. This time, it is not so bad, as have the experience of going over it few days back while going up north.

    Reached Vang Vieng, while riding around the town looking for accommodation, saw 2 BMW F650 at the courtyard of Dokkhoun guest house. So I decide this will be the place to stay as I hope to meet up with the riders of the bikes. But end up do not see them till I left.
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    Stay in one of the room at ground floor with the rate of US$4 per night.

    This is the place that I see the most tourists in Laos. The whole place was really for the tourist.

    Day 13, Vang Vieng> Vientiane, distance covered 161.1km
    The initial plan was to stay for 2 nights in Vang Vieng. But after taking a walk around the river area, find out that there is not much thing to do or see. The beautiful scene were along the river.
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    So decide to move off to Vientiane at around noon time. While loading my stuff on the bike, the two BMW were still around, but no signs of the owners.

    Reached Vientiane, try to look for accommodation at one of the guesthouse. But it was full. So go to Lang Xang hotel, having the room rate of US$25 per night.
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    In the late afternoon, while out on the street, looking for laundry service, meet David Unkovich outside Lao Paris hotel. Isn’t it a small world?

    So spend the night with David and Reudi at the Khop Chai Deu pub.

    Day 14, Vientiane
    Next day, rode to visit Buddha Park, and That Luang.
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    Visit a temple on the right side of That Luang and saw the colourful painting.
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    Spend the night with the same group again at the same place.

    Day 15, Vientiane>Chiang Khan, distance covered 231.7km
    Not much problems on clearing the custom at the Laos side, it just take some times. The queue was not long, but it seems to be very slow.

    After clearing the Loas custom, could see the X junction of switching lane from left hand drive to right hand drive.

    Ride on the friendship bridge to cross over to Thailand. Have seen the bridge for many times but it is the first time riding on it.
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    Wasted some times at the Thai custom, because the officers are confused with the import and export procedure for the bike, when they known of I left Thailand at Chong Mek, and now entering from Nongkai, and will be leaving again at Sadao.

    Actually the system is very simple, as long as I enter Thailand, they need to go through the import procedure, and indicate in the import/export declaration form where did I enter and where will I be leaving the country. And when I leave Thailand, submit the import/export form will do.

    Anyway, I still managed to clear the custom after some delay and confusion.

    Back onto the nice and beautiful road of Thailand. After the custom area, head onto highway 2, and turn into route 211, this is a beautiful road that is along the Mekong River. Take my time while riding along this stretch of the road.
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    Reaches Chiang Khan, and check into Thok Hong GH taking the room with attached toilet at the rate of 200 baht per night. As the GH is on the small road that runs parallel to route 211, it is quiet and there is a sitting area on the 2nd floor that can see the Mekong River.
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    Chiang Khan was like any other small town in Thailand, but I like the stretch along the Mekong River.
    The owner let me parked my bike in her house at the other side of the road, which looks like a storage place.

    More photos can be viewed at:
    http://community.webshots.com/user/phuah
    End of part two.
     
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