The Luang Prabang Loop

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Feb 4, 2008.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    MY LUANG PRABANG LOOP

    DATES: 13 days. Tues 22 Jan – Sun 3rd Feb 2008

    THE WAY:
    Day 1: Chiang Mai – Chiang Rai- Mae Chan – Chiang Saen – Chiang Khong
    Day 2: Chiang Mai- Houei Xai- Luang Nam Tha
    Day 3: Luang Nam Tha – Muang Sing –Luang Nam Tha
    Day 4: Luang Nam Thai - Oudom Xai
    Day 5: Oudom Xai - Luang Prabang
    Day 6: Luang Prabang
    Day 7: Luang Prabang
    Day 8: Luang Prabang
    Day 9: Luang Prabang - Vientiane
    Day 10: Vientiane
    Day 11: Vientiane
    Day 12: Vientiane - Loei
    Day 13: Loei – Chiang Mai

    THE ROUTES:
    Ex Chiang Mai: 118-1016-1290-1129.
    Laos: Route3A-13
    Thailand: 2-211-27-203-2013-1143-1246-11

    THE RIDERS & BIKES: Davidfl & the Africa Twin. Rhodie & the Triumph Scrambler

    THE WEATHER: The start warm sunny & then cold wet & miserable!

    THE TRIP
    Got away from the Kafe at 10.45 pm. 15 mins before Rhodies preferred departure time.
    We fuel up with 95 at a PTT in town & the first pit stop is approx 140 kms out to top up the tank on the Scrambler. The Triumph Scrambler has such a small tank that Rhodie’s actually had it cut on half & re-welded to get an extra litre or so in there.
    The next pit stop is Charin Resort for the obligatory coffees & pies.

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    It’s here that Rhodie complains about a scuffing noise when he’s riding in left handers. We take a look at the bike & see that the centre stand has actually been rubbing on left hand side of the tyre, cutting into the knobs. A new chunky knobby tyre had been fitted to the bike & my guess is it was not quite the right profile; but then again it could have been the centre stand fitting after the tyre change. First stop after Charin then was an engineering shop 10 kms up the road to fix the bike. Rhodie was not impressed with my idea to fix the tyre & shave off the knobs with an angle grinder & leave the centre stand alone, so the centre stand it was. Not your everyday job in an upcountry rural engineering shop & at first the workers wanted to have a go at it with a blow torch! Eventually the staff understand the problem & what action was needed. Tricky & fiddly, & under pressure from two farang supervisors the lads actually seemed to enjoy themselves, especially watching Rhodie lay his fully loaded bike over & hold it up while they had fun & ground away at his half a million baht++ machine.

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    They must have enjoyed themselves immensely, because when the bill came they only wanted 50 baht. Unbelievable! I forced 100 baht onto them & told them to buy some beers after work & joke about the silly farang motorbikers!

    This done it was a bit of a race straight up to the Golden Triangle for a bit of a photo shoot in the angelic light of the late afternoon.

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    More coming..
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The light was so good at the GT that we lingered a little too long to catch the golden light on the 'Khong for the final run into Chiang Khong on R1129. We did however get some golden light & nice snaps at the Huai Yen viewpoint overlooking the Mekong.

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    In Chiang Khong it was Tammila Ghouse my fave all time ghouse in North Thailand. And, I was so impressed with Rhodie's pix along the way that I even let him take Bungalow # 7 at the Tammila.

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    Bungalow # 7 doesn't look much from the outside, but it's the view of the Mekong you get from inside & outside.

    Rhodie did not disappoint yet again & snapped off a couple of nice full moon shots over the 'Khong looking towads Houei Xai. Here's one of them.
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    Ah yes, full moon. H-O-W-L one of my fave times to be on the road.....some of you attached guys know why.

    Later that night we met up with Mark Rossi & his riding family on the TransMotoSports Super Motard shake down tour.
    Here's the guys, the next morning. Caught buying some oil to top up one of the engines they've been "nursing."
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    A serious bunch of riders if there ever were. One of them included an Aussie freestyle S-X champion, who's done shows in the US / Sing / Bkk & should be heading to Chiang Mai for a show with TransMotoSports in the near future...
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Next day the plan was to clear the border, enter Laos at Houei Xai & overnight in Luang Nam Tha.

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    Exiting Thailand with a Thai bike at Chiang Khong you need to complete the Customs & Immigration documentation in town, before going to to the port & ferry.

    1. Get your customs import / export doc from the customs office downtown in Chiang Khong.

    2. Get your Immigration forms for the vehicle you are taking out.
    These forms are (1) TM2 Information of Conveyance. (2) TM4 Crew List & (3) a TM2 Passenger List if you have a pillion.

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    Check out
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-laos-c ... ssings.htm
    for other general border crossing info.

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    Rhodie looking for "wrong way Robert" at the CK police station. Try this in the west going in the wrong way & all the alarm bells & whistles will go off? Aint this a great country to live & enjoy life!

    In no time we lucked out with the car ferry & over it was to Laos & Houei Xai.
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    Above: Disembarking from the car ferry, Rhodie's black Scrambler got a quarantine spray of the front wheel, nothing on the back & the AT got zilch. I wonder what the logic was / is?
     
  5. BignTall

    BignTall Ol'Timer

    Lovely post David.

    Glad to see the GT rider clan out enjoying themselves. I was getting worried that not much riding was being done. Good to see I'm wrong.

    I figure they heard where you guys were the night before and with Rhodies rep spraying may indeed not be enough :wink: .
     
  6. blkphantom

    blkphantom Ol'Timer

    Nice post David,
    Sean,Napa and I will try to do the loop starting feb 18 or so.Thanks for all the updates. Al
     
  7. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    They sprayed both wheels on the DR650 but not on the ferry. They stopped me a little further up the ramp.
     
  8. tropicaljohno

    tropicaljohno Ol'Timer

    Hi Unko

    Great reading, pity I missed this one..

    I was wondering if you could put the details of getting bike actually into laos, as a "Sticky', and perhaps add Silverhawks's as well. At least that way it would be easy to find, and perhaps we may be able to get some other detailed info at crossing at the other points.

    I hope to go over on 'Miss Pinky' at Paxsan, in April, (especially as its only 40kms from the in-laws..)

    Just realised I had better get some trip reports done, as Captain Slash will soon be taking over my No. 2 spot on the board, the rate he is going. At least its not too long before he leaves to go back to the U.K.
     
  9. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Remember, sometimes it's quality not quantity ! :oops:
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    STJ
    It's not really a problem. Most of the info is already here
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-laos-c ... ssings.htm
    and has been from day 1..
     
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Spotted on the road outside CK Immigration, an expired photographic subject for Capt Slash:

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    Sorry Captn couldn't resist.

    Now on the Lao side Rhodie & I almost had no trouble. The main port Customs office was deserted with not one official in sight!!
    They were all in town at a meeting. O Oh, I thought could be a problem - is this THE meeting to close the border for bikers into Laos at Houei Xai? Shyte wouldn't that be bad luck eh? Missed out by a few hours. And what a feeling that would be too.

    After 15 minutes a uniformed woman turned up from a noodle shack down by the river & asked if she could help.
    Yep, you sure can actually; we'd like to import our motorbikes into Laos for a couple of weeks, if you could help us.
    Her first reaction was negative - well actually the port's supposed to be closed as all the Customs staff are at a meeting downtown, and she was only the wife of the deputy head or something like that. But ok she could fill out the forms for us, but not sign them.
    Unbelievable, she completed the forms, registered the imports, took the money, issued receipts, but she could not officially sign the import & release us. We were told to head up the ramp & track down some other official who was lurking around somewhere to get the papers signed. And so it was, we tracked down one "semi-uniformed" guy down who signed the stamped but unsigned form & we were on our way.

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    Above: the hidden office up the ramp where we found a guy to legally sign the papers & let us in.

    NOW, to the AGL insurance office.....and low & behold there was no one there either. No problem I thought, slip down to the other end of town, get our visas, then drop into my fave Houei Xai GHouse, The Oudomphone Hotel, say hello, have a bite to eat & ask the owners to ring up AGL & get an insurance rep down to sign up two insurance hungry farang bikers, both wanting full 12 mth maximum 3rd insurance party for Laos.

    Well the visas were done in a flash, lunch was good, and the ice cold drinks were cool & very refreshing. But there was no answer from any of the Houei Xai AGL numbers!!

    The temptation was to head off uninsured, but the thought of poor Yoi in the jail in LPQ 14 mths on & 3-4 more years to go still sticks in my mind.
    See http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorc ... t1808.html
    if you want to know more.

    I knew where the main AGL office was in HX, so Rhodie & I thought we might as well pop over there & sort it out ourselves on the spot. Good idea. So over we went, AND..... the office was shut! No one was in sight. It was only 11.30 & I thought they couldn't have all gone to lunch yet, or could they? Well it was Lao PDR - People Don’t Rush. Still Rhodie & I decided to be patient, wait & not tempt fate. We settled down under a tree outside a shop, across the street & W-A-I-T-E-D. 2 hours! The lady in the shop took pity on us, fed us bamboo sticky rice, cold drinks & wouldn't take a kip! Amazing country & people. I made phone calls to AGL Vte complaining about their staff & eventually one guy turned up - they'd all been over to Chiang Rai for shopping in the morning. Ha. Ha. What a life as an insurance rep in HX eh.

    40 minutes later Rhodie & I were all insured, bikes stickered up & ready to go. This is what you should get

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    Filling out the AGL 3rd Pary Insurance forms.

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    The AGL office, with the door open for business.

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    Job done. No excuses you guys. Get insured when you ride in Laos. You dont want to end up in a Lao jail after an accident involving the death of a Lao national.

    AND your stickers:
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    Check out
    1. The AGL Stickers on the bike
    2. The locals T-Shirt!
     
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    It was time to hit the old jungle road.
    I'd first been down here in 1994 & last in 2004, with numerous trips in between. Now it is 2008 & there was a bit of a change = I could not believe it.

    Absolutely unbelievable. Who would have ever thought they'd be riding down a race track quality road instead of the old jungle trail road. Words escape me, so below are a few pix of the old road in 94.....& then some new photos the road now. Just incredible, even in a few years.

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    I think more than anything it was the stream crossings I always remembered the most.

    Then it was the people as usual..
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    Above: Vieng Phoukha, the main street & centre of town.

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    Above: Don Chai, still my fave village on the HX - LNT road.

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    Above: Don Chai & the road now.

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    Above: Luang Nam Tha, the main street in 94.

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    Above: Luang Nam Tha, the main street Jan 2008.

    Who would have though you'd end up riding on something like this:
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    Or this
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    Or this
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    Or this
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    Or this
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    Yep, the Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha road is a bit alright nowadays, even if you've got a sport bike! So dont hesitate come over to North Laos for a ride.

    More coming....
     
  13. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    My last couple times over, even when the guys are in the main office and do the forms, you still have to walk up the hill to this office to get another stamp.

    Once we had to take the bikes up there and they actually checked the numbers, but that was the time they ripped us off and made a 3 hour ordeal of getting through customs (2005).
     
  14. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Sorry Captain....that was meant to be "tongue in cheek" :D and not directily meaning you or John. But I have seen on some other boards a race of "one liners" or emoticons to see who can get the most posts.
     
  15. dirthonk

    dirthonk Ol'Timer

    awesome pictures david, i love the ones from 1994. what an amazing road it is now though. it gets the pulse going just looking at it, unfortunately thats about all i can do at the moment layed up with a broken collarbone.
     
  16. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Here's the Houei Xai - Vieng Phukha sector of the old jungle road in Google Earth
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  17. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    continued..... & sorry a bit slow, but just back from Oz.

    Luang Nam Tha it was for the night then, and we got into "town" at dusk = perfect timing.
    Actually we weren’t in town, but staying at the Boat Landing 6 kms south of town.

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    The Boat Landing's a gem of a spot, but a bit up market with rooms starting at US$30 a night. I love the people & location, but my guess is for some the place might be overrated & priced. You all please yourself now.

    My original master plan after LNT then, was to have a night in Muang Sing in search of the mysterious bare breasted Akha tribe, but for some reason Rhodie talked me out of it. So it was only Muang sing for the day & back to LNT for the night again.

    Its only 60 kms to MS from LNT, but the road's so tight & bumpy you don't get to carry any speed. Travel time is at least 1 1/2 hrs. Thrown in afewphoto stops & it can easily take 2 1/4 hrs!

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    Above: LNT -MS, the good stuff.

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    Above: En route to MS, overtaking some Akha bicycle bikers.

    Chuck in the gorgeous scenery & villages en route & it's a damn enjoyable ride with lots of wonderful photo opportunities.
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    Not to be missed, although the value of "MS city" is probably questionable for some riders.

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    None of this bothers me as I always love the remote out-of-the-way feel of Muang Sing.

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    Above: Don't mess with me & my"spear gun."

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    What is disappointing in Muang Sing is that the old wet market in the centre of town has now been moved outside of town, next to the main bus station, & it must get quite interesting out there in the wet season, as the roads are all dirt. I was hoping to find some old hill tribe acquaintances & get some new family photos, but it to find the real hill tribe thing in MS is not like it used to be. The town's becoming "heavily Chinesed' & not so ethnic hill tribe.

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    Above: A Chinese import outside the market in Muang Sing & something that might be of interest to GT Rider Pico Pico.

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    Above: another Chinese import with a Posh seat.

    Get an overdose of Chinese imports & it could be a healthy exceed:
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    Cruising the backstreets of MS then we stumbled across a local pool parlour, which involved cards, gambling & monks. Yep even the monks were playing, & betting with the cards. The monks weren't impressed with our presence & attempted photos, but neither were we. It was all quite amusing & tense.
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    Back downtown, at the old Sing Thong hotel, & much to my amazement I discovered an original GT Rider paper Lao map still up on the wall, & intact - after a mere 6 years. Talk about a quality product eh you guys!
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    As Silverhawk's mentioned in his trip report
    http://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorc ... t3572.html
    The Stupa Mountain Lodge just out of MS was one highlight of his trip.

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    Even though it was dry season the views from here are stunning & make me want to go back for a night with the Happy Go Lucky Singer Girlfriend to put yet another big smile on her face. The time to go will be early-pre wet season.

    Now the day's highlight (for me) came at the Stupa Mountain Lodge, setting up an action photo shoot of Rhodie on his trusty Scrambler....words defied both me & Rhodie. It was all so funny!

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    More to come...
     
  18. SilverhawkUSA

    SilverhawkUSA Ol'Timer

    Thim and I stopped and had lunch there also. I forgot to ask you about the map. I was quite surprised to see it and had no idea of how old it may be or if it was a copy.

    As for the Stupa Mountain Lodge road, the road continues up from the lodge and I assume to a stupa, duh!. We tried it two up and thought sure we were going to end up like Rhodie in the photo. It's as if someone just dumped a big truck load of large dirty rocks all over the road. It's a steep incline, and we had to continue until I could find a place to turn around. Don't even think about trying it unless you are on a dual sport, and not two up! Maybe next time.

    Good photos David!.
     
  19. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Now to be perfectly fair to Rhodie the above snaps are from a series of 3 photo shoots the ol GT Rider was trying to get right holding the camera up with one hand. But it does get a bit wonky incurring significant camera shake. Rhodie was cool about it all & asked for 1 more to get it right, but rather than go all the way down to the bottom of the hill he decided to do the expert trick & make a U-turn on the steep slope, metres from where he wanted the ultimate snap taken, so that the old man did not have to hold the camera up with one hand for too long.
    He executed the U-turn perfectly, got up on the pegs, looked at me, smiled & signaled N-O-W snap away & promptly fell off before he could get his eyes back on the road. It was absolutely hilarious & fortunately due to the extreme low speed there was no damage, only embarassment, with the GT Rider now gripping the camera ever so tightly & snapping away! I mean what are good riding mates for?

    We retreated to Luang Nam Tha & met up with Scotty007, Trevbart & Back Door Alien, who had arrived from Luang Prabang on their return trip home to Cnx.
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    It was also here that KTM Laurent arrived from Chiang Mai, en route to LPQ.
    I had also expected RobetH to rendezvous in LNT, but he was on another mission & did Houei Xai-Luang Prabang non-stop.
    This was probably just as well as that night we did enough damage to the Beer Lao stock in Luang Nam Tha; although the Manychan restaurant was impressed with our capacity & no quibbling bill payment!
     
  20. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    David you are being far too charitable.

    to quote that much maligned Pop Diva, Britney Spears:

    "OOPS... I did it again..."

    We had a lot of fun tho
    ...until Udomxai!
     
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Rhodie
    I'm seldom charitable. I was just reporting the facts as I saw them through the camera at the time. It was so funny watching it happen I almost could not believe me luck. And to your credit you remained as cool as ever, had a chuckle, picked the bike up & just carried on as if nothing had happened...
     
  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Can't resist dug out a few more oldies from 94....

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    Above: Muang Sing, the main street

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    Above: Muang Sing, the Sing Thong Hotel & the only accommodation in town then.

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    Above: the road Luang Nam Tha - Muang Sing.

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    Above: The dirt section LNT - Muang Sing.

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    Above: On the road Luang Nam Tha - Muang Sing. Great people!

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    Above: Akha village Luang Nam Tha - Muang Sing.

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    Above: Luang Nam Tha, the main street.

    Ah yes, those were the days..
     
  23. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

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    Above: Fueling up in Luang Nam Tha.

    With the party night out the way it was back to normal & on the road to LPQ via Boten & Oudom Xai.

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    The road from Luang Nam Tha – Boten is still a beauty – race track smooth, swooping, flowing, but
    you do have to watch out for the trucks & Chinese CRV drivers near the border at Boten.

    And just a few kms east of Luang Nam Tha you need to watch out for the road repair gang who nonchalantly sit in the middle of the road on the blind corners chiseling away at the flaws in the asphalt.

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    No warning signs or hazard cones – I just about wiped a couple out going into a nice fast sweeper. I almost fell off with laughter then as we cruised by, no-one batted an eye lid. Perhaps the workers were deaf, or even blind! It was another day sitting in the middle of the highway chiseling away & getting buzzed by cars. I wonder what sort of worker’s compo they got.

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    Here’s the Na Teuy / Boten turn off in 94
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    It’s not quite the same now of course. The road’s well made & well trafficked, plus the Chinese / Japanese natives were incredibly friendly & attractive…
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    as you can see. This was one of the more bizarre titillating roadside photo shoots we were able to engage in, & all under the watchful eye of the boyfriend / husband who was as dumbfounded as Rhodie & I were.

    After the Na Teuy damsel sidetrack it was up to Boten for a quick peak & photo shoot.
    And indeed as Silverhawk reported, it’s all Chinese there now with the hotel casino & shopping centre.
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    This is all a long way from the 94….
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    and now
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    But it’s always good for a nice photo op
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    Rhodie fueling up yet again, at Na Teuy.
     
  24. Yunus

    Yunus Member

    Hi ,
    Im from singapore and i would like more info for my upcoming trip in april.
    Wats the mileage from Houei Xai to Luang Nam Tha?In Kilometres...
    Is the roads the new ones or still the old?
    How far is LNT from the China Border of Mohan?
    Thanks.
     
  25. Yunus

    Yunus Member

    Hi Wats the mileage from Houei Xai to Luang Nam Tha?In Km...
    Is the roads the new ones or still the old?
    How far is LNT from the China border(Mohan)?
    Whats the roads twds the border like?
     
  26. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Hi ,
    Im from singapore and i would like more info for my upcoming trip in april.
    Wats the mileage from Houei Xai to Luang Nam Tha?In Kilometres...
    Is the roads the new ones or still the old?
    How far is LNT from the China Border of Mohan?
    Thanks.
    Aha. Got ya.
    1. For kms: they are all on the GT Rider Laos map, for sale in Singapore from Chan Kok Pyng at at M-Technik.
    2. For roads, they are "new" asphalt:
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    just look at the photos.
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    3. Do us a favour will you - get rid of Iron Maiden. We dont need the forum cluttered up with that crap. ....we're into bikes & riding.
     

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