Southen Laos Trip Report - January 2012

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by brian_bkk, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Facebook recently screwed up all the old URLs to pictures..
    So this has destroyed the post to a certain extent... Until I get time to go and repost the links...
    Here is the link to the album so you can see the picture being talked about in the post..

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.338943082796297.86683.100000418237810&type=1&l=48e323f251

    Day 1
    *
    Night train from Bangkok to Ubon. Started around 9am from Ubon to Chong Mek as the train was a couple of hours late.
    Major road upgrade for the last single carriage way to the border. The road work is quite advanced on the Thai side.. Expect that will be finished by the end of the year. Lao side the road works goes about 9km in from the border..
    *
    No hassles at all with Customs and Immigration on the Thai and Lao side..
    The Insurance is no longer available in the customs office.. This office has been changed around. You no longer walk inside to complete the paper work.. But do this through the little window. Customs are in the same location.
    *
    The check point 100 metres down the road on the right has had a little upgrade. They have a proper little building now.. Also in the same place.
    *
    Insurance now in Pakse and when I went there Saturday early afternoon it was closed.. Tried again Sunday morning and as expected closed.. so took off uninsured.. No insurance office to be found in Attapue.. We tried.. Then we saw an AGL sign in Sekong.. I went in after 8am the next day and the little desk was empty.. The local officials told me to go up the road.. This was another wild goose chase and there was nothing obvious to tell me AGL were in any of the buildings up the road.. I did see a AGL kiosk in Saravan.. but this stage could not be bothered as I only had two more days left…*
    *
    Basically it is very hard to get insurance no matter how hard you try.
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    Met up with Moto Rex in Pakse.. Checked in and a few sun downer beers on the hotel with the roof top bar. Nice local dinner and copious amounts of Beer Lao by the river.
    *
    Day 2
    *
    Started off early and followed the trails all the way along the Mekong. One Canoe crossing later (which felt like were were crossing the Pacific ocean) that wobbled half way through!!.. Then further on down and crossed to Don Khong..* Surprised to see so many roads with tarmac on Don Khong.. Stayed one night.

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    The locals had a good chat and loved seeing their pictures.. That magic box again :)

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    Petrol station along the way.

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    The dodgy canoe crossing.. Thought we were going to end up in the Mekong...

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    Which dodgy bridge should we take ?

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    First real day of riding and I get a flat... again....

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    Squatting so we don't rock the boat...

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    Day 3.
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    Another Canoe to the mainland and a bit of a boring ride up the 13 to the Attapue turn off.. We planned to stay around the Eco Lodge but ended up staying there.. As we were early we crossed the road and made our way to the Ankor period temple and then found lots more wonky bridges and trails. Most of these not on the GPS or Paper map.. The kids looked scared to see us.. then we came out further up ahead on the 13 late lunch and then down to the Attapue turn off. Amazed how many guest houses have sprung up around this area.. Nice ride in to the Eco lodge. We ended up sharing a room as they had one place left and extra bed.. Nice food and relax with copious amounts of Beer Lao before tackling Route 18…
    *
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    The sign says it all..

    Day 4.
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    Route 18 to Attapue..
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    Really amazing ride.. This is the second time I have done this route.. Great fun with Moto Rex as we really worked well together to take pictures and video of each other ensuring we both had some nice memories of the ride.
    *
    Pleased to say that in mid January we made it all the way with out one canoe or ferry crossing.
    First thing I did was to take a dive in the mud… Going through one of the mud bogs and didn’t see the long thick branch under the mud and it took out my front tyre.. Splash.. Very funny at the time I was not very happy.. Then down to the river and a bath for me and the bike..
    *
    One crossing it was a bit too deep in one spot.. The locals wanted to rip us off at 300,000 kip to carry the bikes over.. That just annoyed us.. don’t mind paying a fair price but this is highway robbery.. So after walking back and forth through the river for around 30 mins.. took all the gear off my bike and went for it.. Heard the exhaust bubbling a bit through the deeper spot.. upped the revs and got through OK.. Next Rex rode over like a true pro..
    *Lots more small creeks and some mud to go through.. Then we arrived at the last really big crossing.. Already so wet from my bath earlier went for a walk across the river.. made it half way and then all the way.. Rex followed me over and said.. We can ride this… Do you want to.. It would be nice too.. and off we went.. Video to follow.

    All the following are along Route 18

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    Love the reaction to that little magic box that shows them their picture.. Priceless.*

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    Heavy traffic on the 18..

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    After taking a dive in the mud..

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    Taking a bath in the next river to get the smelly mud off.

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    Checking the river path first.. as there are large rocks about that could easily tip you off if you hit them at the wrong angle.*

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    Then the rest of the ride to Attapue is pretty uneventful.. nice scenery of course..

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    Check in at an OK guest house run by Vietnamese.. very friendly staff..
    *
    Day 5
    *
    Lake Nong Fa.. Well what can I say.. Bit of a disappointment really.. sure it was nice when it was a real trail to get there.. but now the dirt road is steep in parts with nasty gravel in the thick dust. Standing up there looking at the lake 1,200 metres above sea level.. just looks like any other lake until you look behind yourself and see the peeks of the mountains..
    *
    Then the road back.. There is fuel at the entrance and exit only that I could see.. The KLX did it easy on one tank.

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    The best part was the highway from Attapue to the Vietnam border.. really lovely road.. winding, sweeping, up and down.. lovely..

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    *
    One scare on the way there.. I am following Rex around this bend doing around 70 or 80 and I see Rex pull over to the far oncoming lane.. I can’t see anything but trust his judgment and follow.. in the lane to the right is a huge King Cobra half way across the road. really thick body we guessed around 7ft… By the time I get there the Cobra is rattled and rising to the striking position.. Rex also saw it in his mirror.. when I checked my mirrors it had done a u-turn and headed back the way it had come..

    The way to Nong Fa

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    *
    6.
    Attapue / Paam to Sekong. Ride to Paam is uneventful.. The main road out of Paam towards Sekong is really lovely as you go further along.. then there a lots of road works going on.. still lovely scenery.. Then more single trail stuff through pine tree forests before we join up to the main road and road works again. Just over half way to Sekong and having ridden the most difficult part that will took the longest. ¾ down the mountain and trees all over the road.. Then a local turns up with limited English.. We start pulling the trees away as much as possible and plan to ride over the rest.. Rex goes for a walk down the road and said there is a bull dozer up above pushing rocks and soil on the road ahead.. So we all head down and run past the rocks.. They are moving half the mountain.. Road Closed.. The workers gestured No Go.. The local guy makes come calls and said the road will be open at 4pm..* Well OK.. we can still make it before dark so we wait.. The locals share their lunch and fruit with us and me my Fisherman’s friends for dessert…

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    *
    About 3:30 the foreman comes over and our new friends are having a discussion.. The foreman said they need another hour.. I explained in Thai and the help of our new friends that we need to get to Sekong and don’t want to be stuck in the mountains in the dark… He let us go as we had dirt bikes.. Then the adventure begins..
    We had to ride over the trees… made that..*
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    then ride through the rocks and soil sliding from the ridge above..
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    then ride over three big piles of soil in to a gully they had been blowing up the mountain rock..
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    The rocks looked so sharp you could have cut a steak with them.. Then the earth moving equipment made a slope for us to ride up out of the gully up to the next level.. Then the same thing again.. The next earth mover even pats down the earth for us before we ride up it.. Over one more large dirt mound then down to the other side and a lot of shocked faces looking at us riding through..
    sadly no photos or video of this bit.. too busy concentrating on everything..

    Arrived Sekong about 5:15.. 30 mins before sunset.

    Next day Sekong to Tad Lo.. Lovely ride through the trails and a bit of exploring down smaller trails.

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    Stayed at Tad Lo for for 2 nights.. next day went to the bombed out bridge

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    The last day we rode through the middle of the Plateau up to Paksong.. Visited Mr Coffee in Paksong, stopped off at Tad Fan as Rex had not seen the waterfall there before.. Then down to Pakse for lunch with Lana before heading to the border and Ubon..

    Made really good time.. Border to Ubon in 1 hr..

    Below are various pics from the trip:-

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    Bridge 1

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    Bridge 2

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    Bridge 3

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    Alternative to the three bridges.. Muddy and deep..

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    Dust storm from a passing vehicle.

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    Sekong UXO Centre

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    Road to Sekong from Paam.

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    End of the trail.. 3 trees across the path and over grown..
    Don Khong

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    Another wonky bridge.

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    Angkor period ruins near the Attapue turn off

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    Trails around the Angkor period temple

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    Eco Lodge Route 18

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    Elephants at the back of the Eco Lodge in the swamp.

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    Road to Sekong

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    Small village on the road to Sekong

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    Back to Thailand

    I lost track above after day 5.. But we were there for 9 days..
    Will overlay the routes we took in Google Earth in another post.

    Below link has all the picture for the die-hards that can't get enough ;-)
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.338943082796297.86683.100000418237810&type=1&l=48e323f251

    Thanks to Moto Rex for being a great riding companion.. We really had a great trip.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
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  3. bartomeer

    bartomeer Ol'Timer

    I did my insurance at the border it's next to the custom office. I took the door under the red flag and there it was.

    Attached files [​IMG]
     
  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    When exactly did you cross?

    When I met Rex in Pakse he said this change was very recent.
    A matter of days.

    Be good if someone else can check this when going through.
    I asked about 4 officials and no one had a clue.
     
  5. bartomeer

    bartomeer Ol'Timer

    I did cross the border the 25th December (Christmas day)
     
  6. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    That is probably it then.
     
  7. bartomeer

    bartomeer Ol'Timer

  8. Jurgen

    Jurgen Ol'Timer

    Great report and illustrations. I have been in the region but these muddy trails are too much for me (I was around the Bolaven on my ER6). Anyway … reading the write-up is already nice. Thank you for putting all this online.
     
  9. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    I have to agree with Jurgen - those trails, mud, river crossings etc would be far too much for me, but a very interesting report with good photos!
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Brilliant stuff yet again Brian & MotoRex.
    This report is testimony to the reliability of the Kawasaki KLX - what a great little superb value for money bike. :clap::clap:

    The King Fisher Lodge
    http://www.kingfisherecolodge.com/index.htm
    for those who might be interested.
     
  11. rreznik

    rreznik Member

    Great photos and report :thumbup: - I'm sorry I didn't read the report sooner I crossed the same border 4 days ago and could have checked :-(
     
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

  13. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Hi David,
    That day riding along the Mekong was really fantastic. It was your trip report from February that made us want to explore along that route.

    In the video we have some single trail along the Mekong, Canoe crossing and a wrong turn through a village and over a bridge.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  14. bartomeer

    bartomeer Ol'Timer

    His report inspired me to. I made ​​a similar trip as Brian and David between Christmas and new year. It was my first trip in Laos and I liked it. Can wait to go Back.
     
  15. ekobak

    ekobak New Member

    Hi,

    I will be in southern Laos for 2 weeks starting 25 march 2012. Does anyone rent 250 cc dirt bikes in Pakxe? Not really wanting to rent motobikes but may be forced to. just want to tour the Bolavens, etc.

    I know I can rent out of vientiane but flying into Ubon on Fri 23rd/24th and crossing to pakse.

    Is it possible with any mc outfit in thailand to rent and ride in Laos? (for the future). really don't want to ride south from vientiane right now.

    Thanks

    ed
     
  16. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Hi Ed,

    If you are just looking for a Honda Wave etc.. There are plenty of places in Pakse that rent these bikes. Cheap too.

    Last time I was in Pakse noticed there seems to be a better selection of dirt bikes in some of the rental places. Not in the centre but on the other road that leads to the bridge..
    If you want more information PM me and I will see if I can big up the name of the place.. You may want to try and book it just to be sure you don't end up on a Wave..

    Even if you are not doing extreme stuff.. more comfortable on the dirt bike and there are lots of little trails to explore on the Bolaven plateau. More fun crossing through the middle than sticking to the main 'ring' road.

    Not aware of any places in Ubon renting that you can take over the border.. I would just rent in Pakse. You will have much more fun and see a lot more on a bike than trying to use the local bus service.

    There is a bus from Ubon that takes you direct to Pakse.. or if you fly in you can take a taxi from the airport to the border. Then cross and take a minivan to Pakse.
    Coming back just take the international bus to Ubon from Pakse.. leaves every hour and very convenient. Takes about 3 hours total. Any of the local shops can book the ticket for you for a very small fee and save you going to and from the bus station.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  17. Ticino

    Ticino Ol'Timer

    Brilliant report. Quick question - day 4 you branched off 13S up to Attapeu (at Thang Beng/Ban Nongsim). Did anything change on the bridges; I got stucked varios times at the following pix:
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=338945622796043&set=a.338943082796297.86683.100000418237810&type=3&l=48e323f251
    I'm a 4x4 and not a biker; the ferries only carried bikes upto 350kgs. As I am going up to Attapeu twice, three times yearly I would love that shortcut; presently branching off at Paksong accross the plains, passing Katamtok Fall into Attapeu.
    Thanks - Peter
     
  18. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Hi Ticino,

    Regarding the river crossing here

    (January 2012):-
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    (April 2012) river is very low
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    From what I saw and have heard.. You really wouldn't want to be doing this route in to the rainy season it is impassable..
    Even December the rivers are very high and route 18 track very muddy in parts..

    Below link is to a video from our trip in January 2012.. You can see at the begining the river is still high in January.


    Most of the bridges were fine.. But this one had partially collapsed in April (2012).
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    We did catch up to a Thai Pick-up that had made it across further along route 18 (April 2012)
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    The pick-up made it all the way to Attapue (April 2012)
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    Below link to GPS track has a short cut up to Paksong via the dirt road. Cutting out the loop via Thatheng.
    This would be like driving on ice if there has been any serious rain. Fine in the dry.

    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/36495-Attapue-Paksong-Tad_Lo-Sinouk-Coffee-Plantation

    Hope this helps,

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  19. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Just spent the last hour fixing up all the broken links to the pictures.. That Facebook created recently!..

    This trip was the best yet to Laos with Rex and deserved to be repaired..

    Also, lets people see that there is a lot of fantastic diverse riding in the south.. Rivers, mountains.. The south has it all.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  20. 320driver

    320driver New Member

    Absolutely great pictures.

    Can you share the gps tracks please? or do you have an overlay in Google maps or anything. Would be great to see where you have been.

    I want to go back to southern Laos again when I have a better suited bike. I did the trip in October this year from Singapore on my Multistrada. Great for on the road, but nicer to go through the mud next time. Your route looks stunning.

    Cheers,
    Sebastian
     
  21. 320driver

    320driver New Member

    Hi Brian,

    Great pictures! would you mind to share the tracklogs or gpx? Or do you have the route in google earth? Would be great to see where you have been and when I have a better suited bike I want to go again. Was in southern Laos in October on my Multistrada. Great for on the road, but would love to go exploring on a smaller bike. Your tracks sound just perfect.

    Cheers,
    Sebastian
     
  22. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Hi Sebastian,

    Check out the GPS Track section.. All the tracks are there :)

    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/forumdisplay.php/41-GPS-Use-GPS-Tracks-amp-Maps

    Enjoy.. Southern Laos is lovely.. Under rated IMHO.. So diverse, decent accommodation.. Good food on the whole.. and you can still get very remote.

    You can hire dirt bikes in Pakse from Lankham Hotel. When some friends rented.. We spoke with Sern. There is a post with the hotel details on the forum.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  23. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Hi all,
    I need to do a visa run before the year is out and am thinking of riding my Versys from Ubon across to Pakse via Chong Mek. However, I'm not an off road type of guy, must prefer to stay on proper asphalt.

    This will be my first venture into Laos so any advice is much appreciated. Does anyone have any suggestions as to which routes to take and whether it is pleasant to stay the night in Pakse? If so, any recommendations?

    Thanks in advance.

    Edit: sorry, please ignore this post. I think I found the answers I need on another thread. My bad.
     
  24. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Ubon to Pakse is all paved.. and you can do a nice loop around the Boolaven Plateau.

    Ubon to border 50 min to 1 hr not thrashing it.
    Border 30 mins if not too busy
    45 mins border to Pakse..
    Pakse to Tad Fan 20 mins I guess.. and just work you way around in a nice loop.

    Be sure to check out Tad Fan and Tad Lo.. You can stay at both locations.. Both lovely.
    Dirk (AKA Koffie) has moved his coffee shop from Paksong to Tad Fan.. So you should get a great coffee at Tad Fan now

    Enjoy.
    Brian
     
  25. yychow0812

    yychow0812 Ol'Timer

    Thanks very much. I will do just that! Any recommendations for overnights or shall I just see what Agoda has to offer?
     
  26. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer Staff Member

    Depending how long you will go for.. You could over night in Pakse... I would do a stay at Tad Fane and Tad Lo...
    Really lovely relaxing locations with great food and scenery..

    Don't bother with Agoda.. Only thing is.. it is high season.. So arrive early to have a good chance of getting a room at Tad Fane..
    There are other resorts near by.. but this is my fav at this location..

    Tad Lo.. If Tad Lo resort is booked there are plenty of other places you can look at..

    Both Tad Lo and Tad Fane are marked on the GTR map and can be found with a google search..

    You could really keep riding around here on your Versys :) If you have time.. you can stay at Champasak town by the Mekong..
    Nice and close to the Angkor period temple.. Wat Phou.. That really is a nice ruin to explore.. you could fit this in as a day trip easily from Pakse now the road is paved all the way

    Cheers
    Brian
     

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