The enchanting North-Eastern Thailand and Central-Northern Laos.

Discussion in 'Northern Thailand - Road Trip Reports' started by GSForLife, Jan 1, 2012.

  1. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    This is another year end trip done recently by myself with a few fellow bikers from Malaysia which lasted a total of 7 days from Kuala Lumpur until Luang Prabang where I parted with the group and thereafter a remainder 7 days ride by myself to Nan and Northern Thailand. Overall it was a fantastic trip with picture perfect occasions most of the time plus some unfavourable weather condition and wrong timing for photography which are common factors to us adventure bikers, yet they dont really get in the way of us having fun and a great time on the road.

    Here are some preliminary pictures taken along the way which will give you a feel of this trip:-

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  3. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

  4. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    For this trip, it was a ride for the full trip without any shortcut using private transport commonly practice by malaysian bikers. Southern thailand routes (4 & 41) arent that interesting but is necessary to cover. Past experiences with private transport in Hatyai were disasterous and it was thought best not to use them anymore until such time there is improvement in their services. December month is the north-eastern monsoon period and this time we had it quite bad begining from Sadao province until the end of Surathani province.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    A quick bite in the rain earlier in the morning somewhere in phattalung province.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    A commonly seen fruits in southern Thailand & Malaysia. Durians and Salak fruits (snake fruits-a specie of palm fruits).

    Progress was slow and we stopped for the night at Phetburi on the 2nd day into the trip.
     
  5. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    On the 3rd day, the trip started to get interesting with our 1st destination the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Traffic nearing Bangkok metropolitan is quite unnerving so I decided to take a slightly longer route to enter Ayutthaya from Suphanburi province instead. An extra of 30 mins were lost but at least no complication from entering wrong turns in Bangkok which could be much worst from past experiences. No uneventful matters whilst on the road and I'll start with the pictures of Ayutthaya.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Wat Thammarikit. Part of the temple ruin due to the war with burmese army in the past.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    A desecrated main temple hall where the buddha statues were destroyed and burnt to melt the gold plates once decorated these statues (see later a picture of the only temple (Wat Na Phramane) which were left untouched during the war and note the difference).

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    These statues were once built by burmese craftsman. During the war, burmese army destroyed the faces of these statues because to them these works were rightfully burmese art and the thais dont deserve them.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    This is how a main temple hall looked like after the carnage (compare later with Wat Na Phramane).

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    The infamous reclining buddha.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Wrong timing of the day for photo shot (2pm local time).

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    My favorite temple-Wat Mahatat.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    Wat Mahatat.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    Wat Mahatat.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    The brief historical account of the only surviving temple in Ayutthaya - Wat Na Phramane. This temple is majestic and please see the following pictures for yourself.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    Front main entrance-Wat Na Phramane.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Another one-main entrance.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    A small shrine facing the main entrance. Very hindu-ish. Looks like Lord Shiva images.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    The main hall. A beauty indeed.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    The main diety statue (front).

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    The main diety statue (rear).

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    The wooden temple next to Wat Na Phramane. Reputedly a gift from Sri Lanka government in the past to Thai Kingdom. I didnt get the name.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Beautiful work of art.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Handcrafted wooden doors to the "sri lankan" temple. See the artistic work of art.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    Another shot.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    Final shot, needless to say, I was captivated by it.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    The ceiling decoration in Wat Na Phramane.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-01
    What appears to be hindu astrological system symbolism in Wat Na Phramane - the 9 planetary dieties.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-01
    My final photo at Ayutthaya before heading to Ang Thong province-memorial park of King Naresuan.

    There are a lot more to see and "soak in" in Ayutthaya but this can only happen with more time which I dont have.
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Some stunning photos there already; I can't wait to see the rest...bring it on GSForLife!
     
  7. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    From Ayutthaya, we headed to Ang Thong province (56km) to attempt on finding Wat Moung-a temple reputedly with the largest sitting buddha in the world measuring 90 meters tall. I must admit without maps such as GT maps, finding it was a handful. Thinknet wasnt helpful and to a large extent quite misleading on route numbering & networking. With some intuition and sense of direction plus some rough description from ever helpful local thais, the place was found but it was close to dark by that time. So limited pictures were taken which couldnt do justice to the splendour of this temple in its surrounding rice field.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    This temple is visible in a distance of 5km from the roadside. It is a very majestic view. At the right timing, brilliant photos could be captured.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    It was getting dark. Without much time left, I have to take my chances with a hand held shot.

    The gate to the main temple hall was closed by the time I got there. There wasnt any caretaker around who can be persuaded to let me in for a closer look. As night falls, the only possible thing to do then was to retract my steps and head to Ang Thong town (30km) for the night. Road at certain sections was patchy and quite difficult to ride without clear visibility. Got into Ang Thong town (dark sleepy place) and put up a night at the 1st hotel we saw for the next day Loei was our destination with route 2331 as a main sight seeing itinerary.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    The 1st sight of R2331 - again relying on Thinknet got me lost in the way. But it was found after an hour of being lost.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02.
    The viewpoint summit of R2331. It was a superb ride and a very scenic place.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    One of the few group photos taken for this trip.

    After the summit of R2331, we headed to Loei as our next stop. Time was pressing so we descended R2331 from where we entered instead of heading to Nakhon Thai direction as that will be a longer way to Loei than heading to Lomsak town direction from R2372 and from there to Route 203. Route 203 to Loei was a fantastic ride with very nice curves reminiscent of Route 108 Mae Sarieng to Mae Hong Son. Brilliant ride but no photos as time was pressing and I usually wouldnt want to reach my destination too late into the night. We reached Loei about 7.30pm local time and checked into Kings hotel.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    My 1st proper thai meal at Kings hotel. Not too bad but have eaten much better ones.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    The next morning early hour ride (thai time 5.30am) from Loei to Chiang Khan on R201. Very misty condition with visibility averaging 10 yards at times 5 yards. Slow progress but still we need to reach Nong Khai for crossing the friendship bridge into Vientiane on the 19th Dec as that was our permit (from Lao Embassy Kuala Lumpur) deadline.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    The 1st photo of the Mekong river alongside Route 211 on the first light possible (my left hand side view).

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    On my right hand side view.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Arh...my 1st sunrise shot on Route 211. Could have done better, still I think it is a beauty.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    First proper sighting of the mekong in full view on Route 211-approximately 100km before Nong Khai.
     
  8. David Learmonth

    David Learmonth Ol'Timer

    I'm enjoying your excellent photos & report! Not been over the North East on a bike since late 2004. Must do something about that before too long.
     
  9. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Thank you both the David's' for compliments. I have 2 video clips of the NE areas on Routes 1080,1081 & 1256 which I shall post shortly. Much thanks to David Unkovich for recommending Nan as a must ride to me last year. It is a great motorcycling place indeed.
     
  10. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Crossing the bridge at Nong Khai to Vientiane was a grey area in the past. Still is I suppose but with a permit to cross the bridge applied earlier from Kuala Lumpur Lao Embassy, it was a breeze. The whole process took about 90 mins and we were in Vientiane. The first place we visited was Buddha Park. Surprisingly the Lao people speak better english than the thais. Regular fuel (benezene) is costlier than Thailand but it got much better quality-lesser knocking and better power but the roads are dusty & patchy.

    The few pictures of the Buddha Park (entry fee 5000 kips, camera 5000 kips?) -

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    I noticed this object was not an ancient artefact....still it is quite nice photography subject.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Reclining buddha.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Some extra shot at different angle. Quite hindu-ish influence.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Full view from different angle.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Dont quite know what this is...?

    We checked in a guesthouse somewhere in Vientiane downtown. Not too fanciful but it was clean with secured parking for the bikes. That was done around 3pm local time and thereafter off I left for some sightseeing in Vientiane whilst the rest of the group headed to the local mosque for their visit. The fare for local tut-tut was ridiculously expensive...every stop costs about USD6 irrespective of the distances...some was merely 2-3km away. After visiting 3 spots on my own, the fare came up to USD24....3 X 6 plus another USD6 for coming to the guesthouse. Total distance travelled not more than 12km.

    These are the few pictures I took of Vientiane city centre -

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    My favorite place - Ho Prakeo Temple. Most must know the history of this temple. Too bad camera was strictly prohibited inside the temple. It houses some most fascinating ancient artefacts. A must visit.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    The entrance stairways.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    The main doors.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Left hand side of the Temple - fascinating work of art.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Right hand side of the temple.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    That Luang.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Patuxay.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    The ceiling inscription inside Patuxay.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    And my meal for the day....some chicken broth with starchy transparent looking noodles....It took quite an effort to get this order done. Compared to Thai cuisine....it left so much more to be desired. But beggar cant be chooser and I was tired...so I took the easy way out.
     
  11. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Yes, we crossed the friendship bridge on motorcycles - 3 bikes in total. There were reports in the past saying that for malaysia registered motorcycles, one can pass through without any obstacles but I know of some who got stucked for hours trying to get in. As that is Laos, nothing is too certain and at times it can be by the ear thing depending on who you met that day at the immigration counters. So I took the liberty to apply in advance for a "permit" in Kuala Lumpur Lao Embassy to cross the bridge. That piece of letter worked like a miracle with a cost of RM90 (900 baht) for the whole group.
     
  12. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    You have just finalized my next ride GSForLife! Now that I know it can be done I will start drawing up plans for this ride. Excellent pictures you shot here. Keep it coming as I am intriqued.
     
  13. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    An absolute gem of a report. Truly excellent photography. Reports such as these add great enjoyment to so many of those following the site.
     
  14. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Thank you all for compliments and encouragement. I am honoured. Been tied up with piles of work which were accumulated during my recent absence. I will try to wrap up the report shortly. For now, please see the video clip on Route 211. I am not experienced on Gopro editing. The original clip is very clear and good quality. Somehow through some free software editing download, I managed to upload it to you-tube but the quality was compromised. Hope to improve in time and could add some music to spice it up.

    Ps: Ron, thank you for the tutorial on how to upload pics directly from my computer instead through imageshack. If I manage to follow your instruction, I believe all photos relevant to this trip will be uploaded very soon.

     
  15. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    From Vientiane, our next destination was Vang Vieng-Phonsavan-Luang Prabang and thereafter exiting Laos at Muang Nguen to Nan (Thailand). As usual it was early morning start with hopefully, early stop. The rest of the group I was riding with are all muslims so we have different priority & arrangement on food and beverages. We dont eat breakfast together, lunch hardly and dinner once or twice. Being non restrictive on my choices of diet, I took things for granted thinking I can easily get some decent breakfast anywhere on the roadside makeshift stalls like in Thailand....and this was my discovery on the first day ride through Vientiane up north of Laos.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    I saw a quite well patroned stall by the locals approximately 50km out of Vientiane towards Vang Vieng and thought fit to join the queue and ordered this dish. Some common innocent looking vegetable dish...but man, it was nasty. I took a mouthful and the very sourish taste backdrafted into my sense of smell nearly causing my eyes to swell tears. The lovely vendor lady was staring at me sampling her cooking so I cant afford to look rude and had to swallow it....and it was rough. Drank plentiful of water and thank her saying I was full (but I think she aint buying it), paid the bill and I left trying to catch up with the rest who were ahead of me.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Another 60km after the first stop, we stopped by a local market makeshift stalls and saw plentiful of fresh water salted fishes....something quite common to us asians even in Malaysia but the quality of raw food here in Laos was much better.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Very neatly organised...no foul smell.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    A very popular and commonly found Lao food. Cant help being curious, I ordered this same food from a hotel in Phonsavan later on that same night and got punished for it again. Honestly, local food isnt something one should mess with in Laos unless one knows for sure. It was....raw, and just when I thought only the Japs are impatient with their fishes & meat...

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    I found these live fishes most fascinating. In Malaysia, we call them "bujuk" a specie of snake fish very highly sought after for its delicious white & chunky flesh...not raw of course. This specie of snake head only live in clean flowing water and these days they are very hard to come by not to mention very expensive as well. I noticed they were caught by hooks...a testimony of how pure and untouched Laos streams and rivers are.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    We moved on and after 3 hours' time, we reached Vang Vieng. Beautiful sight.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    A view of Vang Vieng from elephant crossing guesthouse. What a delightful view.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Cant seem to get enough of this view.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    And ordered my first proper snack at crossing elephant guesthouse....surprisingly delicious what the local called egg sandwich. (something tells me it must have been the lack of proper food thus far)

    We had planned to stay at Vang Vieng but due to some hiccup earlier we lost a day...so it was off to Phonsavan for the night. The following are the pictures along the way until Phou Khoun (junction to Phonsavan).

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Just a random stop at the roadside. It was about noon local time...not really a good time for photograph but see this image for yourself. Also no filter was used and it was a hand held shot. What a beautiful country Laos is....amazing.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    Another viewpoint along Route 13 shortly before Kasi province. (I did a bit of detouring into some bushes next to the main road to take some photos, cant help it.)

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    The viewpoint after Kasi Province and approximately 25km before Phou Khoun turn off to Phonsavan. The highlight of R13 so many had spoken highly of.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-02
    The other side view of the same spot.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-02
    This signage is visible only if one is coming from Luang Prabang direction to Vientiane. This junction caused me to miss my turn a bit as from Vientiane direction there wasnt any Phou Khoun signage though there were some milestones before the viewpoint spot and another one (if not mistaken) after that...but no signage. But the junction turn to Phonsavan is significant enough. I took 30 mins to correct the wrong turn....that too was because after ponxi there was a landslide and all vehicles were stalled unable to pass. We reached the junction to Phonsavan on Route 7 approximately 4pm local time. It was 133km to Phonsavan and like many had attested here, it is a magical route.

    See the following you-tube to have a feel for yourself.


    On Route 7 to Phonsavan.
     
  16. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Route 7 ride to Phonsavan was brilliant. Nice pavement with very minimal patchy parts. I reached first in Phonsavan town by 6.45pm local time. That 133km of twisty road took close to 2 hours 30 mins to cover. 30 mins later, the rest of the group arrived. We checked into Chittvanah Hotel on the main street of the town. Rooms were ok not too bad and cost about USD15/nite. Temperature was cold at 9'C and it was another quiet & dark sleepy town. We had an early night, up next morning at 5am local time and ready to explore the plain of jars by 6am local time. It was cold about 7'C.

    We reached site 1 of the plain of jars by about 6.45am. It was a bit difficult to see the ways without much light and misty condition but the signages to the jars sites were very clear and helpful. The following are the pictures:-

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The jars at site 1. I noticed the grass were all dead and brownish....dont quite know why but it has a very sombre feel like a chinese graveyard.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Even the only tree that grew in the middle of the jars site looked dead.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Great mystery of Laos?

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    And the cave facing the jars at site 1....it looks eerie. There were asian praying paraphernalia laying scattered, some burnt....common asians religious practice.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    At the entrance to the cave, this hole in the ceiling is immediately visible.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Go inside the centre of the cave, there are 2 holes in the ceiling.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    A view from inside the cave looking out.

    I have no clue or any idea what could possibly be the purpose of these jars except to think that huge efforts were required to make them. And if not because of the damages done to them by the natural elements, vandalism and cluster bombs, these jars would have been quite a sight. I met 2wheels a few days later in Chiang Mai and he told me that the jars sites were most likely burial sites where human ashes were stored in the past and the cave was a crematorium centre. 2wheels is the most prolific writer on this website on the plain of jars and I find his views most interesting and plausible.

    The small canteen at the entrance of site 1 has got some equally interesting items for sale at their display cabinets:-

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Some ivory, wild boar tusk & tiger tooth, weird looking stuffs.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Old swords for sale.

    After site 1, we proceeded to sites 2 & 3 for some sightseeing. Roads to these 2 sites unlike site 1 were dirt trails. Not too rough but there were some deep ruts caused by flowing rainwater. 10 mins into the trail I found that I was all by myself. The other 2 bikes were no where to be seen. I proceeded to the direction of the sites by following the signages about 12km from the main road. I entered site 2 and there wasnt anyone at the gate, so I helped myself to it and went in.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-05
    The entrance to site 2. It was deserted and very cold at 9am local time about 9'c.

    When I was about to enter site 2 on foot, I got a sms from one member of my group. They wanted to head on to Luang Prabang and told me that they would wait for me at the Phou Khoun junction. I felt uncomfortable as I was alone in a dirt trail which was deserted and in case I got stucked I may need help. So I replied the sms saying that I will be right out and tell them to wait for me. There was no further reply and by the time I was out in the main road 20 mins later, both the bikes had left me behind. Hmmm...so much for group support.

    When I was exiting sites 2 & 3, I saw something interesting, a russian tank. I took some pictures but I have no clue why the tank scrap was left there. Perhaps someone could share some light on this?

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Russian Tank.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    A closer look.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The rear view.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The tank hatch?

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The signage on the road exiting site 3 to the main road.

    Out on the main road, I realised the rest of the group had long left me behind, so I took my time riding Route 7 to catch up. It was a very misty morning and a very substantial part of R7 were wet from the mist. Light drizzle were encountered on certain sections and it was cold at times reaching 5'C. I caught up with the group at the junction by about 1pm local time. Nothing much was said about why they left abruptly, I proceeded to eat some food on my own and ready to head on to Luang Prabang. At the ponxi town, the landslide that happened a day earlier was still waiting to be cleared.....we lost 1 hour 25 mins waiting before traffic was allowed to pass.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Road collapse at R13 near ponxi town.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Stucked at the bottleneck waiting to pass through.

    Headed on to Luang Prabang and checked in to Oudom Souk guesthouse by 6pm local time....and to my surprise, I met David Unkovich there an hour later. LPQ is a very nice town. Modern with very nice shops and stalls neatly organised, pleasant weather and fantastic view by the river.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The legendary AT of Northern Thailand.

    That night at LPQ, I had a brief chat with the rest of the group. I felt there wasnt any point that we ride together as the way this trip had been going on the past week, no point we continue to keep each other company. There was simply too many incompatibilities and a serious lack of cooperation between the group. The discussion took less than 5 mins and off I headed to meet David near the mekong river for some catching up.

    The next morning, it was heading off to Nan. I met David in the morning for some decent breakfast (it's always easy when you have a local helping out). I discussed with David on my initial choice of road to Nan-crossing the river at LPQ to start the dirt trail to Hongsa-Muang Ngeun. David advised me against it for simple reason that I was on an overweight bike and there are some 6 streams crossing which can be dicey to heavy bike...more so that I was alone. I took David's suggestion of crossing at Pak Beng (R2W). So from LPQ with David showing me the way out of the town area, I headed to Pak Mong turning left to Odumxay to Pak Beng. Road from Pak Mong to Odumxay of approximately 80km was quite bad and patchy, not to mention dusty with certain difficult slippery sections (fine thick dust with rolling gravels), but doable. R2W on the other hand was a fine stretch of alsphalt but a bit narrow. I reached Pak Beng about 2.30pm local time and boarded a ferry at Pak Kaen (about 12km from Pak Beng). All were alsphalt roads and very good quality...but with a few non threatening landslides. Here are the pictures for the day:-

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The Jedi Master David Unkovich after the breakfast.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    At Pak Kaen jetty waiting to cross the river. 30,000 kips for motorcycle.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Er..which way should I head on to board the ferry and where is the ferry?

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    A smaller bike turned up showing me the way...he will go 1st.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The ferry operator took a smaller ferry since I was the only customer that day....arh...the ferry was evidently too narrow and I cant turn around my bike to head up the river bank...so what to do? 4 laotians and one malaysian must now pull the bike rear side out from the ferry up the sandy river bank and there was a moment I thought I was losing my bike and the load to the river....that was the highlight of this trip to me, but all ended well and it was a satisfying experience.

    The river bank opposite Pak Beng to Muang Ngeun was another 38 km and it was a superb road with very good alsphalt. The same feel to most roads in Nan. I reached the border in Nan in less than 30 mins, got my paperwork done at Laos section (Muang Ngeun) which lasted 5 mins but at the Thai (Nan) section, took me 45 mins...and me being the only visitor at that time.....and I was told to pay 100 baht for custom import paper for my bike?...which I paid as I was too tired to ask why.

    Headed off into the direction of Pua on R1080...and see these pictures.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Route 1080 from Nan immigration right turn to Huay Kon direction.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    View like this one is everywhere on Route 1080.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Final picture for the day before I reached the town of Pua approximately 90km from Nan immigration centre. Pua is a small town, quiet and neat, very uncommercialised. I checked into this guesthouse for a spacious clean room at 500 baht a nite with breakfast, and had my first stupendous dinner. Compared to the past week of accomodation and food, this came as a great relief.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-05
    My delicious dinner at Pua

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The front reception hall to the guesthouse...no english name though.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    And my sinful breakfast the next morning.

    And off I went exploring Route 1081 and Route 1256 of Nan...before heading to Chiang Mai to meet up with 2wheels.
     
  17. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Nan-the adventure motorcycling region.

    I have limited time so I have to be selective on my choice of routes. Routes 1256 and thereafter 1081 turning off to 1169 were the choice I made. R1256 is the location of Bo Klua national park and the turn off is located in the middle of Pua town.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The signage in the town of Pua, less than 300 meters from the hotel I was staying.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The initial stage of R1256, shady trail with lush vegetation.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Nearing the viewpoint summit of R1256.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The main viewpoint of Bo Klua National Park. A beauty.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    It appears that this specie of tree and its flower is the main attraction at the park. I wasnt in luck as the flower wasnt in season. There were many chalet for rent, restaurants and modern amenities, camping sights & trekking trails for nature lover. This place is worth a stay for a few days.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    From the viewpoint of R1256, ride along its trail and one will end up at this junction. I took right turn to ride the final loop R1081 & R1169 before heading off in Chiang Mai direction.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    The begining of R1081 from the turn off....

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    Then it turns into something like this.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-05
    And this.....what a road for motorcycling trip!

    I reached Chiang Mai, a bit late 3pm local time and caused 2wheels some confusion on the waiting spot and timing....you know now why. Ron has been helpful and assisted me around Chiang Mai and was a great company for the next 3 days. We had our dinner at riders' corner that evening.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-05
    Dark beer lao at riders' corner. It tasted like brown ale. Funny how come no guiness in N Thailand?


    A ride through R1081


    A ride from R1081 to R1169.


    Route 1256 - Bo Klua National Park.
     
  18. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Thank you 2wheels for your encouragement and friendship. I notice the "insert image icon" from my desktop here in Malaysia Kuala Lumpur is different from yours. There isnt any option for me to choose other than post my URL link under that icon. No upload option "from your computer" is available. Also the sequence of icons you told of yours me is different in my case. So it is back to upload using imageshack. A bit handful & time consuming but manageable still.

    Your reports on plain of jars are still the most insightful on this forum. Plain of jars is a fascinating place but certainly spooky. In fact most parts of Laos are fascinating. If only I can say the same of their foods and beverages but maybe I havent had the luck.

    Riding alone has it advantages definitely but I still incline to believe that a group trip with like minded friends can give much added joy especially at the end of a day's ride, sharing a meal & a beer with friends makes the occasion so much the better. If only life is simple but it isnt unfortunately.
     
  19. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    I went to Thoed Thai the next day. There was a local friend whom I met last year and we were expecting to see each other. On my way, I made a quick stop over at Doi Thung hoping to get some nice photos of the Thai-Burmese border viewpoint but the weather was bad.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    The viewpoint at Doi Thung. It is a beautiful place if the weather is good. There were also a few botanical gardens good to visit for those who love plants and flowers plus not forgetting their charming female attendants. Good place to soak in for a day.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    I waited for close to half an hour but the bad misty weather showed no sign of abating...so I left strolling past some smaller routes to Thoed Thai enjoying my ride.

    Arrived in Thoed Thai approximately 3pm local time and checked into Rim Taan guesthouse. Went looking for my local friend but he wasnt in town so I took my time exploring the surrounding areas until the end of paved roads into some villages in Hua Mae Kham forest reserve. It was then Hmong new year, small groups of youngsters gathered to play homemade firecrackers, cards game in house compounds, catching pigs for slaughtering were the few eye catching moments as I rode through the village of Thoed Thai towards the forest reserve (approximately 40+ km) but they happened too fast that I missed catching them on my camera lense.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    Hua Mae Kham forest viewpoint...My brief chat with the locals there revealed that hua mae kham literally means beautiful golden flower and I missed the flower seasons about 2 weeks. It seems that when the hills wild flower is in season, this forest viewpoint is quite a sight to behold. (Note, it is a bit difficult to access this hill village on a huge bike, smaller enduro bikes would be perfect.)

    It was getting dark so I descended from the forest reserve and went back to Rim Taan. Cleaned up and went over to Ting-Ting restaurant for my dinner. I asked for recommendation and the lady boss proudly said this dish is one of all time local favourites....

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    A frugal meal....the taste brought back a lot of memories of my childhood some 35 years ago.

    By 8pm local time, Thoed Thai was almost pitch dark. Hardly any activity from where I stayed except some children playing hide & seek game at Ting-Ting restaurant which was a lovely sight, something I was familiar with coming from chinese upbringing but that was a long time ago. Not something I get to see present days in Malaysia. Thoed Thai was quite a memorable stay, a sort of time capsule to me.

    Early morning at 5.30am local time, I was ready to move on. Took a slow ride towards Mae Salong, roads were practically deserted but not too misty with temperature averaging 8-11'C. Just as I left Rim Taan, I can hear the sound from the buddhist temple bells at the western side of the village. Some prayers were being conducted in the early morning. It was an enticing sound. I was hoping to see it but the path to the temple was too dark and part of it was dirt so not wanting to risk any complicaton I moved on. Reached Mae Salong town approximately 6.30am local time and stopped over a stall for breakfast.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Waiting to be served my breakfast.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Succulent pork trotter chinese style which was delicious and very reasonably priced. Perfect meal to go with a pint of guiness...but it was breakfast time and I still have a long way to go before my next stop Chiang Mai.

    On my way to Chiang Mai, I stopped by Fang to visit its famous hot springs and here are the pictures:-

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park. Entry fee 20 baht. Nice park with camping grounds, cafeterias, clean with modern amenities and quiet. A good place for family outing.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Some eggs boiling going on in one of the hot spring pools.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    The main hot spring.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    A broader view.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    And it sprang quite ferociously for about 3-4 minutes at an interval of 30 minutes time.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    A close up view.

    I left the park after being there for about 2 hours plus. Got a sms from 2wheels informing me of another possible avenue for Hmong new year celebration in Samoeng Loop. He asked me to check it out so off I went in the direction of Samoeng Loop trying my luck. As I approached Samoeng Loop from Route 118, I realised the past 10 days of hard riding have starting to take a toll on my strength and I felt tired. I decided not to search for the place and instead checked in to my hotel in Chiang Mai for the much needed rest.

    Met 2wheels and his friend thai friend Golf in the late afternoon (they were at Blue Skies orphanage that day-See 2wheels' report on Santa Rode an African Twin) and they brought me to a fine restaurant in town for dinner at very reasonable price. Couldnt have done it without local knowledge.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Fried chicken.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Purple glutinous rice.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Pork curry.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Tom yum.

    It was a lovely dinner. Could only get such nice variety of good local thai food in Chiang Mai but the thing not so nice was the air pollution in Chiang Mai. It is quite a crowded place with pretty bad traffic congestion. Other than that, it is a nice city surrounded by a valley of mountains.

    I had an early night as usual and the next day 2wheels showed me some local sightseeings the highlight of which was the Hmong new year celebration at Puak Toey (see 2wheels report on "Three Days with Hmong-Part 1-3" http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/35741-Three-days-with-the-Hmong, http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/35753-Three-Days-with-the-Hmong-(part-2)-The-Cart-Races-and-Spectators, http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/threads/35758-Three-Days-with-the-Hmong-(part-3-of-3)). It was one of the most fascinating and memorable trip events ever experienced by myself thus far and I am grateful to 2wheels for making that possible. Regretfully, I was only able to attend the 1st day and had to go back to Malaysia and missed the main events.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Before the ride starts, 2wheels brought me to a local gas station to have my bike cleaned as my bike was filthy. 80 baht for the job.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    Then it was a quick breakfast/lunch at X Centre. A nice set up good for family outing.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    After Puak Toey, we reached this bottles house at some junction in Samoeng Loop.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    2wheels brought me to visit one of GT riders' charity projects - a school for hilltribe children.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    I havent seen this kind of cutlery in a very long time. I only know they are still being used in some prisons/detention centers in Malaysia. Certainly not at schools anymore.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    The main sponsor.

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    By gsa5555 at 2012-01-06
    New cafeteria work in progress.

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    By GSA5555 at 2012-01-06
    Our "tea & sandwich" time at Triple Palms Guesthouse where I stayed.

    Dinner at a nice vietnamese restaurant in Chiang Mai again with 2wheels' help and the food was so good that I forgot to take any photo.

    It was thereafter an unwanted lonely rush yet necessary journey back home to Kuala Lumpur totalling 2200km++ which took up 2 days of riding. Not a wise thing to do but at times, it has to be done.

    Until the next ride. Thank you all for reading.
     
  20. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    An excellent and inspiring rr GS. Have Laos on my "to do" list and your rr makes it all the more compelling. Too bad about your ride buddies. Something unfortunate but I guess pretty common especially on long rides such as these as the bond is sternly tested. I am fortunate I have an excellent ride buddy and we continue to enjoy fantastic long rides. Keep the wheels rolling! Cheers!
     
  21. GSForLife

    GSForLife Ol'Timer

    Thank you Rob for your compliment. But seriously my trip report on Laos is merely at a surface level. There are so many great stuffs on this website that I have had the privilege to learn and so can you. As for this trip group members, we were merely acquaintances from a malaysia biking website and not real riding buddies. I hardly know them but since they were so enthusiastic in approaching me to lead them so-called, I gave in but not before I laid the rules and my style of riding, which of course as it goes without saying then before the trip, a piece of cake to them. But by the time R2331 & R203 to Loei were done (4th day), I knew some were in trouble coping as they were hardly experienced plus certain bike wasnt properly set-up. By the 7th day on our way to Luang Prabang, some were almost in tears, and Sir, this isnt a joke. And as you can recalled from my embarrassing incident last year, I dont take things for granted anymore. Nevertheless as you can see, we made friends along the way and still managed a good time.
     

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