The Mekong Boat Lost Rider Trip

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    originally posted on 7 April 2005

    DATES: Tues 22nd Feb – Sunday 13th March 2005
    WEATHER: Hot dry & dusty, plus a totally unexpected freezing cold snap!

    THE WAY:
    1. Chiang Mai – Chiang Khong
    2. Huay Sai
    3. Huay Sai – Luang Prabang (boat)
    4. Luang Prabang 4 days
    5. Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng
    6. Vang Vieng – Vientiane
    7. Vientiane 4 days
    8. Vientiane – Tha Khek
    9. Tha Khek – Naphao (Vietnam border) - Tha Khek
    10. Tha Khek – Namphao (Vietnam border)– Vientiane
    11. Vientiane
    12. Vientiane – Vang Vieng
    13. Vang Vieng – Luang Prabang
    14. Luang Prabang – Sayabouri
    15. Sayabouri – Loei
    16. Loei – Chiang Mai

    TOTAL DISTANCE: 3,887 kms.

    This trip was so called because of the Mekong boat trip from Huay Sai to Luang Prabang & because of the lost & near lost riders en route……
    It was a trip I’d wanted to do for a few years – sailing the magnificent Mekong on a semi-luxury teak wood boat from Huay Sai to Luang Prabang in a day, with the both the bikes & girlfriend(s) on board: a classic family (brownie point) trip for the girlfriend & mother-in-law, plus my good riding mates & their girlfriends.
    I reckon that we owed it to them, “the girls” as the boys have spent a lot of time away from home on the road, mapping & enjoying the delights of motorcycle touring in S E Asia ………fortunately the trip went extremely well & most likely will become an annual event for the GT Rider & his good GT riding mates.

    The trip has already cracked mentions & reports at
    Lost Rider
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=650
    Lao Viet Border Crossing
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=397
    Mr KTM version of the Lao Trip
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=397
    New Bridge Crossing in Loei
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=529
    GT Rider goes in the Mekong
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=651
    If you want to take a look, Robert (Mr KTM)’s report is well worth reading & he covers the trip as far as Vientiane.

    Getting this trip, organized turned out to be a bit of a serious headache, & I almost spat the dummy a couple of times before I even got on the boat (must be getting old & too grumpy, eh BobS?). But once the boat set sail from Huay Sai I felt enormous relief & tremendous joy. Overall the whole trip was relatively easy, apart from 3 flat tyres & 1 run in with a not so friendly Thai immigration officer (par for the course some experienced motorcycle border crossers might say!)

    The main problem with this trip was picking a date, booking the boat & sticking to the agreed departure date. Simple you might think…

    ORGANIZING THE BOAT
    1. Booking & confirming a date for pick up in a port in not so easy. I have a serious fave boat & skipper- Tui, who sails the Mekong daily & is only contactable by mobile phone when he’s in the port of Luang Prabang or Huay Sai, & not Pak Beng in between the two.
    2. Setting a date. Once you’ve agreed with Tui on a date you have to be in port on that day & not stuff up his schedule. So 10 days in advance I booked the boat to be safe & sure.
    However as the sailing date approached it became obvious that getting everyone together on time in Huay Sai was going to be a bit of a problem.
    (1) The mother-in-law’s new Thai passport had not arrived as claimed it would. Eventually it arrived the day before departure, so both parties were greatly relieved. I dearly wanted her to go – this would be her 1st trip overseas & if she did not do this one, I did not know when there was going to be such another easy one for her.
    (2) One of the GT Riders, Joe had an unexpected condo deal to conclude in Chiang Mai the day before we were scheduled to set sail from Huay Sai & would find it difficult to get there in time, unless he rode either at night or set off before dawn on the sailing day. Mr KTM then decided it would be a good idea for him to hang back & escort Joe, just to provide extra back up??
    At first, no problem I thought……………..just ring Tui, my mate with the boat on 1 of his numbers & hey presto he lays over a day in port & off we go, provided he does not have any other sailing commitments.
    However contacting Tui was impossible over the next few days. None of his phone numbers worked & I got quite frustrated (somewhat pissed off) trying to contact him via numerous friends both in Luang Prabang & Huay Sai. It was if he had vanished off the planet. Indeed this was a bit perplexing, but if we could not contact Tui, then we simply had to stick to the original schedule. However, we would never really know until we actually arrived in Chiang Khong to see what was going on – was Tui in port waiting for us or not?

    OPTIONS
    It was actually possible for Joe & Robert to set out from Cnx before dawn & probably get to Chiang Khong at 8.00 am, but then they still had to clear immigration and customs on both sides before they could join the boat. Also the boat had to set sail as early as possible for us to get to Luang Prabang in a day from Huay Sai. Sailing time would be about 10 hrs & a bit, depending on the current & police checkpoint at Pak Tha, 1/3 of the way down.
    Unbelievably, the boats don’t have any spotlights for nighttime sailing, so sailing at night was out of the question as it is dangerous with numerous rocks & whirlpools en route.
    If we could not get to LPB in a day, then the option was to overnight in Pak Ou, 1 hr out from Luang Prabang, unload the pax & luggage, rent a pick up & drive the last bit into Luang Prabang. Then trust Tui with our bikes, to sail into LPB first thing the next morning. “Oddly” enough none of us brave GT Riders were keen on leaving our beloved bikes “alone” on the boat for a night, so it had to be on board with an early sailing time!
    If you set sail from Huay Sai by 8.00 am, you can safely be in Luang Prabang at 6.00 pm, before dark.
    The boatman’s plan was have the bikes on board the night before, & set sail at 7.30 am, 30 minutes before the harbour office opened. To do this we had to be organized plus slip the harbour master a back-hander to let us clear port before it opened! (Note: if you’re doing any Mekong boat trips, that the port authorities on the Mekong work 8.00 am – 4.30 pm & if you want to set sail outside these hours you need to make special arrangements.)
    Confused are ya? Well my head was spinning a couple of times……read on:

    THE 1ST DAY
    Chiang Mai – Chiang Khong via the pie shop. Riders: Marcus on the 250 Baja & me on the Africa Twin. A slowish trip up as we had the girls following in the mini bus with all the luggage. After dawdling a bit longer than normal at the “Pie shop” (Charin resort), we cut thru to Chiang Khong via Payamengrai, as this is a bit quicker. It was a bit of surprise then that not 15 minutes after we’d arrived in Chiang Khong the girls also arrived in the mini bus (the driver new yet another route!)
    I found out about the girls arrival as Marcus & I were taking a sandwich & ice cold drink break at the Tamila. They phoned in to advise that the mini bus driver had dumped them at the pier, luggage & all, & wanted to know what to do. This was in contrast to the original master plan for them to be dropped off at the riverside Tamila & relax for a bit while we got sorted out & probably stayed in Laos for the night.
    1. Marcus & I immediately got our customs papers for the bikes cleared ok & we were ready to either leave for Huay Sai or stay the night in Chiang Khong & cross over tomorrow, if I could contact the boat skipper & delay the departure for day to make it easier on the real estate developer & his escort.
    2. I made another couple of phone call to the Laos side to enquire about the boat & turned up yet another blank = not looking good at all. At this stage I figured we were well & truly locked in & needed to spend the night on the Laos side as planned to pick up the boat tomorrow morning. So I cancelled the rooms booked at the Tamila.
    3. The girls headed down to the pier & ended up in a restaurant for yet another feed. Well if the girls were going to eat yet again, there was one last chance for delaying the boat.
    4. I grabbed a long tail boat & cruised the bank on the Lao side looking for Tui’s boat. No luck I thought, then at the last minute his sister recognized me & called out. She was on another boat & confirmed that Tui was indeed coming upstream today to pick me up tomorrow. More importantly she also knew he had no other trips booked the day after, so we could indeed delay a day to make it all safe & easy.
    5. I then rang the Tamila back & rebooked the rooms I had cancelled 30 minutes earlier. Arriving back on the Thai side I found the girls ready to go, they had decided to help by getting themselves stamped out of Thailand. Sorry girls but we’re not going today now, but tomorrow. More confusion & semi-self control (= I almost spat the dummy.)

    And so the first day ended, safe & happy that in the end everything was working out nicely.

    2ND DAY (EASY)
    The next day we crossed over to Huay Sai nice & easy in the late morning.

    Pic Below: the girls in Huay Sai
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    Mid-arvo Joe & Mr KTM arrived in Chiang Khong, ready to cross over & join us.
    Or so they both thought. It was a Buddhist holiday & the Customs office on the Thai side was closed - Joe was unable to process the temporary export papers for his bike!
    Mr KTM was ok, as he only had to hand in the temporary import papers for his Cambodian registered KTM & depart the country.
    A little light stress to counter balance the euphoria from yesterday’s happy ending, perhaps?
    Late that arvo on the Lao side we loaded the bikes on the boat, ready for an early morning departure, real estate developer depending.
    That night an excellent fun time was had by all at the Wang View watching the sun go down over the Mekong, drinking numerous bottles of ice cold Beer Lao.
    Surprisingly the next morning everyone was up by 7.00 am & down to the pier by 7.30 am for an early morning departure………
    Eventually we got away at 9.20 am, a bit later than the planned 7.30 am start, which we thought would safely see us into Luang Prabang before dark.
    The girls were delighted in the extreme that there was mini-kitchen & picnic gas stove on board so that they could cook their own food & eat all day – which they did!

    [​IMG]

    A couple of them also managed to consume all the beer on board & so excelled themselves incredibly well. No names are mentioned, but

    [​IMG]

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The trip down the ‘Khong was gorgeous but as we got closer to Luang Prabang it became obvious that we were not going to reach our destination before dark,

    [​IMG]

    and by Pak Ou it was dark. Well that was it I thought. Stop at Pak Ou, off load the pax & luggage; hire a pick up & trundle into Luang Prabang in the dark. We weren’t going to get the perfect ending I had dreamed of.
    Then incredibly the boat skipper yells out to ask if we want to go onto Luang Prabang in the dark or not? Well yes, if you think it is possible, but isn’t it a bit dangerous. I can’t remember his exact reply, but it must have translated into something like this: “Nah its ok, we’ve got a full moon, there’s not a cloud in the sky & my wife’s got a torch”. And that was it, we slowly chugged the last hr into LPB under a magnificent rising full moon & with Mrs Tui hanging out the front of the boat with a torch pointing out the rocks to be avoided. It almost felt surreal, but the thunderous cheer & clapping from the girls as we sailed into Luang Prabang under that glowing full moon was most definitely real.

    DAYS 4-
    The next 4 days we just hang out in LPB, with 1 side trip to Kuang Si waterfall.
    Originally we intended to go out to the stunning Tad Xe falls, S-E of LPB, but the locals said the falls were dry. I was not surprised as it was HOT & DRY. But if you’ve never been there Tad Xe falls are seriously beautiful (when there’s sufficient water.)
    Mr KTM also excelled himself here by “inadvertently” swimming the Mekong. It’s a good story & already written up at
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=651
    if you want to take a look.

    DAY 5
    The boys took off on the bikes & headed south to Vang Vieng.

    [​IMG]

    Highway 13
    [​IMG]
    is an awesome ride

    [​IMG]

    but it can be tiring in the heat & on a bike with a blown rear shock. (Yeah yeah the AT has done another rear shock in!) Unfortunately the air was not exactly clear - hazy & smoky – so there weren’t too many photo stops.

    [​IMG]

    Somewhere along the way – actually just a couple of kms north of Kasi, we also lost a rider, which was somewhat bizarre and funny. This has already been written up at
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=650
    and was the first of the lost riders.
    Eventually 3 of bikes rolled into Vang Vieng around 3.00 pm & checked into Inthy’s Baan Sabai. Baan Sabai is a magical spot over looking the Nam Soong River
    [​IMG]
    & you have to admire how Inthy from the Kopchaideu / Wildside has such good taste and kept the superb ambience of the river front property intact. Well done Inthy, its great to see you did not just trash the whole plot & utilize the property to the max leaving no natural atmosphere!
    That night not a lot happened, apart from a few beers by the riverside at sunset. And if you’ve not stopped in Vang Vieng overnight before, then the views over the Nam Soong river view are A1 first class at sunset. Check it out.

    Next day was onto Vientiane to link up with the girls flying down from Luang Prabang.
    While in Vte, Silverhawk turned up from Chiang Mai on his Yamaha TDM 850, to join us for the run down south later on.
    We spent 3 days in Vte doing “family sightseeing"

    [​IMG]

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    with the girls heading home to Chiang Mai on the plane.
    The highlight of the Vte stay was a run out to the Thalat & the Nam Ngum dam

    [​IMG]

    for a fish meal. This dam is the biggest in S E Asia & the waters are incredibly clean, the colour of jade. It’s a real popular spot for a meal

    [​IMG]

    or even an over night stay (with the girlfriend or whoever), & well worth a visit. Check it out as a day trip from Vientiane, or en route to / from Vang Vieng even.
    Another highlight (for the girlfriend) was 2 nights at the Kopchaideu with Meow (the girlfriend) singing with the band.

    [​IMG]

    She loved it & so did we, plus quite a few customers.

    With the girls out of the way, the next night was a boys night out in Vte & then on the road the next day.
    Perhaps due to over indulgence & reduced sleep we experienced lost rider # 2 the next day. Also written up under
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=650
    3 of us headed south with the other rider ahead of us (so we thought.)
    At Pakxan, Silverhawk & I lost Mr KTM after he missed rear ending me by just the smallest of margins.
    I had slowed right down to look for a convenient drink spot to turn off to while he apparently was admiring some new building on the other side of the road. I heard a loud screech of brakes & looked in the mirror to see the big black KTM performing a near accidental stoppie. It was too close for comfort & I reckon that he came as close as possible without actually wiping me out. Silverhawk who saw the lot thought it was quite funny, but I doubt very much whether Mr KTM thought so at the time. Anyway Mr KTM peeled of here, as Silverhawk & I took a drink & eat stop at the Two Colours Waters Restaurant

    [​IMG]

    by the Mekong. We were not in a hurry & only planned to over night in Tha Kek, while Mr KTM was due in Pakxe with his riding buddy Joe (somewhere ahead of him so we thought.) The menu at the Two Colours waters restaurant had an interesting dish listed: “semi boiled uterus”

    [​IMG]

    but the heat of the day must have been too much & failed to entice us to try the dish. Maybe next time….

    We over-nighted in Tha Kek for 2 nights, staying at the Southida ghouse.
    From TK we did a 1 day trip out to the Vietnam border at Naphao.

    [​IMG]

    This is route 12 that runs straight east from Tha Kek. It is approximately 160 kms out to the border & the road is real easy, half dirt / half asphalt.

    [​IMG]

    There’s already a brief report on this up at
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=397
    if you’re interested.
    The dirt is at the west Tha Kek end, & the asphalt at the east Viet border end. The asphalt starts from the Gnommalat turn off, 65 kms east of Tha Kek. From Gnommalat to Naphao is 95 kms. The last 10 kms before the border are under construction

    [​IMG]

    with the last 6 kms a bit of a goat track "under construction." They claim the road will be finished by June / July 2005, but you most certainly would not want to get caught on the goat track section in the wet!

    [​IMG]

    The scenery in the hot season was not great, but this goes for anywhere when it is smoky dusty / hazy; however I reckon it should be awesome in the wet & plan to go back mid-May for a look around at the start of the wet. Should be fun.

    The other trip from Tha Kek was also out to the Vietnam border & the Namphao crossing.

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    This is route 8 & the crossing is often referred to as Lak Xao. Route 8 is supposed to be asphalt, but there’s so much road works & widening going on that it currently is sort of asphalt partially gravel most of the way.

    [​IMG]

    On a lot of the asphalt sections there is gravel over the road from the road widening. So that right now it is not such a great ride overall. My guess is that this will all be finished by the end of the year 2005.
    However the scenery thru the limestone forest

    [​IMG]

    & specifically at the Phou Pha Mane scenic viewpoint

    [​IMG]

    is amazing & for me this so far is the number one scenic viewpoint spot in Laos. If you’re ever in the south on route 13, then the PPM viewpoint is only 32 kms east of route 13 & well worth the ride in.

    Then once you’re here you might want to take a look at the Tad Namsanam waterfall or even do the boat trip to magnificent Kong Lor cave, that requires a 7kms long tail boat journey thru the cave. I have not done it yet, but have seen enough photos to have this at the top of my Lao hit list for now.
    Going out to Lak Xao the road quality seems to drop off, then just before the border its good & bad with the road works. No doubt this will change dramatically in the coming months. But the closer to the border & Namphao you get the better the scenery

    [​IMG]

    is & by the time you get there it’s pretty damn good, especially that road that runs up the valley alongside the river. The locals say that last wet season they had torrential rain for several days – as much as they get in a year - & the river wiped out the road

    [​IMG]

    with the actual border crossing inaccessible for a few weeks! Amazing stuff, but once you have a look at that river you’ll understand how easy it could be.

    "Funniest" sight for the day was out near the border: 3 x 6-wheel trucks loaded up with dogs

    [​IMG]

    & headed for the meat market in Vietnam. Hopefully not your everyday occurrence & not one that I'd want to witness again.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    13 April 2005

    Silverhawk & I then backtracked on route 8

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    A fuel stop on route 8

    [​IMG]
    The little accident above must have been a bit scary at the time.

    TO VIENG KHAM & ROUTE 13 SOUTH.
    We split up here, Silverhawk heading for Tha Kek & into Thailand at Nakhon Phanom, & me north to Vientiane. Nothing too difficult you’d think.
    I expected to ride an hour or two in the dark, but route 13 south is such a good straight flat road night riding is not a problem on the Africa Twin.

    I was making good time, trying to get my average speed right up there, when just after dark I thought the road seemed to get a bit too squirly. I backed off a tad & going in a straight line it did not seem too bad, so accelerated again & she got a bit more squirly. Woops I knew what that was – flat tyre. Sure enough the rear was gone. Just my luck I thought, in a hurry, insufficient tools & you’ve got a flat. Unbelievably less than 2 kms down the road & there’s a motorcycle shop. The guy had just closed up & was about to start his evening meal, when the poor hot & flustered farang rolled up on his wobbling big bike with a flat tyre. Cant fix was his first reply. No problem, I’ve got spare tubes but not the tools. Ok, he claimed, take a seat & I’ll fix it. Within minutes there were at least half a dozen of his little mates were there assisting & offering advice. No trouble I thought, find whatever caused the flat, remove it, put in a new tube & on your way. Not quite, under the fading torch light they / we could not find anything in the tyre, much to my displeasure & concern. There was also bit of unnecessary messing around to get the wheel back in, and after almost an hour I was back on the road. As I left I said what are you going to say & do when I comeback with another flat, because we can’t find whatever has caused the puncture? No problem he says, can fix, but it won’t happen.

    Well I reckon he had only just sat down to start his meal when I was back there – yep, flat tyre # 2. He was not impressed & neither was I. He decided to finish his evening meal first, probably a wise move to let the old farang cool down & avoid an ear bashing from one obviously disgruntled biker. Anyway after dinner, off came the rear wheel, plus tyre this time – no messing around – to find the cause of the puncture & still nothing. As a precaution we blew the inner tyre out with compressed air. Another 1 ฝ hrs later I was back on the road, this time with 2 patched tubes (1 spare & 1 on the wheel), plus considerable more worry.

    It was slowish stressful run up to Vte, & I forced myself to sit on 100-120 kph to be safe, should the bike suddenly get a little too squirly again. Indeed every 20-30 kms I suspected the tyre was letting go again & stopped under whatever light I could see to take another look. Nothing happened & I rolled into Vientiane at 11.30 pm, just as the staff at the Lao Paris hotel were locking up the front door. Ah yes they thought, no late customers from the Pub / Disco tonight, as David & his riding mates were not in town, so they thought. It was a pretty stunned look on their face then when I rocked up & got off the bike, pretty much totally knackered after being on the road for about 14 hrs with no real food for the day. They immediately opened the doors for me to ride up the steps & into the hotel, but after getting the front wheel up on the first step I changed my mind & decided it was going to be too much effort that night. It would be a lot easier to just pop 100 metres across the road & park in the underground car park of the Lao Plaza hotel (that I recommend you use.)

    I backed down the steps, made a sharp turn & dropped the front wheel off the pavement onto the road in a wobbly manner & went to have a dab with my foot to stabilize the bike & suddenly realized it was not a going to be a good idea – I was having a dab on the low side & with the rear wheel still high up on the pavement the road was not quite there & over I went. It was all so bloody stupid & I wanted to laugh, but I was too tired & pissed off. Even worse was that all the hotel staff witnessed my fallibility, plus a couple of generous non-Israeli back packers walking by, who immediately helped me pick up the bike. No damage apart from a broken indicator, plus a sizeable dent in my big bike rider ego. The Africa Twin had been dropped for the first time!!!

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    on 13 April2005

    VIENTIANE - VANGVIENG
    Next day it was back on the road & a late start for the run up to Vang Vieng, only 150 kms north of Vientiane. I got away from Vte around 1.00 pm, arrived in VV a couple of hrs later, to check into the Baan Sabai resort.

    [​IMG]

    Inthy the owner invited me to hang around for a couple of drinks for his Wildside staff, but this turned out to be a full-on feast with unlimited beer, enough to sink a battleship. Believe me it’s a while since I’ve seen so much food on a table, & a significant portion of it went uneaten. But perhaps that was attributed to the amount of beer being consumed. Inthy sure knows how to look after his Lao staff. As fate would have it we all ended up at his Xayoh Pub at the main intersection in VV & got home quite a bit after closing (I think, memory’s a bit hazy.)

    VANG VIENG – LUANG PRABANG
    Next day was yet another leisurely ride up to Luang Prabang. I encountered lost rider # 3 here. See the report already up at
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=650
    Now looking back I have to wonder if part of the cause may have been similar to lost rider # 2 = a heavy night the before? The brain does not quite function so well when you are still under the weather.

    That night was a usual one LPB for me, sunset happy hour at the Sopudephone by the river. It was while at the Soudephone with Inthy that he got the call to say his new resort in Vang Vieng, which I had stayed at the night before was on fire. See
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=650
    & lost rider # 3 for a report on this one.
    After the fire had settled down it was downtown to hang out at the Yong Khoune restaurant. I thought I had one on Inthy here, knowing the female owners of the YK reasonable well, but Inthy knew them even better as they had been Wildside tour customers & were actually related as cousins somewhere along the way. Not a great deal happened that night (the resort fire in VV was enough), as supposedly the whole of LPB town had to shut down by 11.00 pm due to some govt officials being in town!! It’s amazing what they can get away in a commie country still eh? For some reason though, the gals at the YK were able to stay open until midnight, but there most definitely was nowhere else to go that night in LPB.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    on 13 April 2005

    LUANG PRABANG - XAYABOURY
    Next day was yet another leisurely ride, this time S-W, from Luang Prabang – Xayaboury. This distance is not great, approximately 110 kms, so I took off in the mid afternoon. I did not want to arrive in Xayaboury too early, as believe me there is not a great deal to do in Xaya.
    Route 1a is also boring in the dry season & it does not feature this on my list of Lao priority rides.
    If it was green & perhaps a bit of rain around it might be just ok. However you have to do all of them at least once to know what they are like.
    I did Luang Prabang – Xayaboury in May last year,
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=426
    but wanted to check out the road from Xayaboury south & try to cross the border into Thailand from Kenthao (Laos) to Thai Li (Thailand.)
    After you turn off route 13 near Xieng Ngeun route 1A to Xayaboury (& Pak Lay & the Thai border) is all gravel. Generally flat

    [​IMG]

    to undulating with just a couple of small steep hills.

    The only real interesting bit on the road to Xaya from LPQ is the Mekong River crossing at Tha Deua.

    pic below: view of the Mekong at the Tha Deua crossing. This pic looking west towards the Tha Deua side.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

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    This crossing is approx 60 kms from route 13 / 28 kms from Xayaboury.
    I last crossed the ‘Khong here in May 2004, & the river was wide, surging very strongly & pretty much in flood.
    This time I expected a much gentler river, and indeed it was narrow, but once on the car ferry I could see that the ferry was working hard in mid-stream. The river was still surging strongly through what must be a very narrow canyon in the riverbed, believe me it was quite incredible & something I never expected to see in the hot dry season!
    Note too here that you can cross in one of regular long tail boats, & I seem to recall that fee is 500 baht (greedy boatmen again), or you can wait for the car ferry - & I waited for 45 minutes - & cross for less than 100 baht I think it was. If I’m a bit vague on the fares, then I admit to not worrying about it too much, because if that’s what you’ve got to pay to cross the river, then that’s it! You have no choice unless you want to swim & float your bike across on a tube – your encore GT Rider Mekong man!
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=651

    Here’s another tip that I got after I got back. It's from my Watchara at the Tamila Ghouse in Chiang Khong. Wat recently cycled down the same road. He says & he went to a spectacular waterfall – not unlike (half the size of) Thee Lor Su in Umphang Thailand – just 1 ฝ kms max off the main road. Wat was there in the dry season just a few weeks before me & could not believe there was still a lot of water there.
    The falls (name?) are signposted with a very small sign, on the left hand side, heading towards Muang Nan from route 13. The spot is at the bottom of the hill, just after the 1 steep hill, with the asphalt road. At a guess this should be approx 48 kms from route 13. If you’ve got time & / are just hanging out in LPQ with nothing to do, then it could be a worthwhile day trip from LPQ. Someone pls check it out & let us know.

    Arriving in Xayaboury I could not find the Say Moung Houne ghouse I stayed at in May 2004 – it was gone, so I ended up at the flash looking New Xayaboury hotel. This was a bit of mistake, as the joint might have been flash on the outside, but the rooms were ratty on the inside. I thought of checking back out, but could not be bothered – I was hot & tired & thought never mind, just 1 night.
    That evening I GPS-ed the town & admit to not getting inspired at all, although the previous trip I’d had a good time & done well at the Dao Mai night club. What was a bit surprising actually was the number of small brightly lit karaoke clubs on the outskirts of town. More than enough for a small town like Xaya & leaving no doubt that it was not only booze & karaoke they were selling.

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    on 14 April 2005

    XAYABOURY – PAK LAY – KENTHAO – THAILAND
    After an early boring night in Xaya it was up “early” & on the road at 8.00 am – something of a record for a night owl like me.
    At the flash New Xayaboury hotel there was no breakfast, not even a coffee, so I made do with a couple of bottles of sponsor for the morning.
    I needed to get up early as I wanted as much time as possible. I was unsure how good or bad the road would be & hoped to cross into Thailand the same day.
    Fortunately the road & scenery is pretty boring

    [​IMG]

    apart from the half dozen odd elephants

    [​IMG]

    I saw walking beside the road. This didn’t appeal to me much either as they were working elephants & only there for the logging.

    Around Pak Lay there are numerous sawmills beside the Mekong with hundreds if not thousands of logs, being cut up. Its hard to say what the answer to this is, but I found it sickening at the thought of all the deforestation that must be going on & the price that we all would have to pay with weather / climate changes. I thought about taking some photos, but felt too disgusted to want to show them around. They would not encourage anyone to go riding there or visit the Pak Lay area. Exactly where the logs were coming from I don’t know, but my guess is from the west & the Lao / Thai border area.

    Anyway, overall the road was not that bad – its gravel & quite stony in more than a few places, which meant that flat tyre # 3 hit me about 25 kms before the border. Yep you’re right it was that rear tyre again! Shyte you’ve ridden your luck far too far & done it this time I thought.
    While I was considering my stupid plight a farmer trundled past on his tak-tak (generator powered tractor.) I yelled out that I had a flat & needed to know where the next village & m/cycle shop was.
    "Not far, but more than one kilometre" he said.
    Yeah, that’d be right I thought - more than a km, hard to dispute that.
    "Is more than one km, two kms, or five kms, or maybe even 10 kms?"
    "No, not more than 2 kms."
    "Are you sure" I asked, not seeing anything ahead, just a hill.
    And so it was, not more than 2 kms & only 1.3 kms on the GPS.
    But the hill was a bit of a toughie – ever pushed & ridden a loaded Africa Twin with a flat tyre on stony gravel over a hill in 36 degree heat, with no water?
    I could not believe my luck yet again.
    Despite thinking I was in the middle of nowhere, within minutes more than a few villagers surrounded the shop.

    [​IMG]

    What is it with us silly old farang on big bikes with flat tyres that sucks them in? There were some real characters

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    present to observe the show, and I did not complain. Amongst the crowd was one stunning young girl, wearing an FBI T-shirt & a pair of shorts, she was a sensational beauty

    [​IMG]

    & either her aunt or mother asked if I wanted her. It was an affirmative reply of course, to which she immediately ran away. However a few minutes later she reappeared & hovered around in the background, just oozing the most sexual of feelings. Believe me she was somewhat captivating. And as the boys were messing around with the flat tyre I thought well it might not be so bad to get stuck here for the night. Anything is possible the way my luck is running.

    But “luck” was not on my side & after hammering away at the rear axle with what could have been a cold chisel the boys had the wheel back in & the bike back on the road. It was just an hour before the border closed, so it was going to be an interesting finish. Would I get another flat tyre, would I get to the border in time or would I have to sleep out in the hot dry & dusty outback? Wouldn’t a regular 9-5 job be better than having to endure all these life on road dramas? Nah, just another day at the office on the road is better.
    To get to the border in time I needed to ride hard & fast. The road’s a bit stony & you need to get up speed to skip across the surface, but I was worried about a 4th flat tyre. That would surely be it. No more new tubes & only a tube that looked like a patchwork quilt that most likely would not hold up anymore! I also did not want to spend another boring night out there in the heat dry & dust.

    As it was I hit the border shaken, terribly hot, but with 15 minutes to spare.
    The Lao guys were a bit surprised to see a farang turning up on a bike, but it was not a problem as Ozzyboy had crossed there just a few weeks before me.
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=644
    He had set the precedent & I was the 2nd I guess.
    Take a look at
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=529
    if you want to see a brief report & some border pics.

    A slight problem did occur however on the Thai side. Whilst Thai customs were only interested in receiving the temporary export permit for the bike, a smart arse immigration officer was not impressed with my lack of the TM1 & TM2 – crew & passenger list forms for the bike. He promptly gave me a 15 minute lecture for the error of my ways, which went down like a lead balloon. I was even less impressed than he was & stressed firmly that (1) I would be most happy to complete the forms if he could supply them, (2) Don’t harass me! If he was to be angry then ring immigration in Chiang Khong and complain to them, as I had asked for the forms on the day I left, but because it was a public holiday (Macha Bucha day) that day they had no forms or staff to provide them. They also said my pen rai – it was only 1 farang on a motorbike, & loaded up with luggage there was certainly no pax. (3) His “Welcome to Thailand” was not very good at all.
    (What is it with these miserable border officials? Are they always just trying to create a problem so they can extract money from you? I also thought that perhaps the reason why he was posted at this mickey mouse border crossing was because he’d been a naughty boy elsewhere & so got sent to the back woods for a while.)
    Anyway as to be expected my retort did not help the situation & he said I could not come into the country. The customs guy standing 10 metres away was looking bemused & I could see that he too was not impressed.
    Ok I said no problem I can go back to Laos; just give me your full name so that I can complain at the next border crossing.
    Ok this time I just give you a warning. You go now!
    So I did.
    10 minutes later I approached a police check point, where the policeman was obviously waiting for me. This doesn’t look good I thought, trouble is brewing. I stopped & the policeman laughed – please go back to the border & pick up your passport. You left it behind with immigration. Oops, that’s a slip up and a half. Humbly & meekly I went back & recovered my passport from the smirking immigration officer. Shyte that was a close one, anything could have happened I thought. I was so glad to get out of there, that not long after I passed the police checkpoint I accelerated up & over a hill on the wrong side of the road. I’d forgotten that I was back in Thailand & supposed to be driving on the left hand side of the road.
    Just another day at the office........

    Davidfl
    Keep The Power On
     
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Re-posted from
    http://board.gt-rider.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=703
    on 19 April 2005

    BORDER – LOEI – CHIANG MAI
    It was a close call at the border (1) my new immigration mate & (2) riding on the incorrect side of the road.
    Despite these two little incidents it felt great to be home in Thailand & back in civilization.
    It was just on dusk when I arrived in Loei, hot sweaty, hungry & weary, and looking forward to a nice cool clean air-con room at the Kings Hotel, one of my fave value for money hotels in the region.
    It was a bit of shock then when I tried to check in & was told that the air con rooms were all full.
    I thought about finding another good hotel, but could not be bothered.
    My pen rai, I’ll take a fan room, as it will still be cool on the ground floor.
    So I unloaded my luggage, registered & was escorted to my room - up the stairs & on the sun drenched top 4th floor! Shtye this is not exactly what I thought I was going to get.
    Oh well, it aint the end of the world - I could be stuck out there in the Lao boonies with a flat tyre, no water or electricity, & sleeping on a bamboo floor.
    Be positive - take a nice refreshing cold shower, slip into some fresh clean clothes & pop down into the aircon massage parlour & get the crinkles worked out of the old body for a couple of enjoyable hours. Then fully-recharged hit the Muang Loei Pub for a nice meal of steamed fish & a spicy Thai yam, then across the street to the disco & perhaps a piece of the action? Sounds like a great night to me.......

    And so it was: cold shower, fresh clothes. A bottle of Jamesons, the day’s newspapers & into the massage parlour. Get a good massage & feel totally rejuvenated. I picked the oldest biggest looking masseuse for the best possible massage & was set for the night. I love having a good Thai massage after a hard day’s ride.
    As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking for a seriously good massage, then always pick the biggest oldest gal, who’s most likely been on the job the longest & is not such a sexual attraction for the young guys who only want some slap & a tickle from the girl. And the younger gals are good at this – easy money; don’t have to work hard, just flirt & pick up a good tip after the job’s done with a "happy ending." But the older gals can often really give a good massage.
    All being well, I like to read the paper & have a few drinks in the first half of the massage whilst you’re still on your back & not yet badly twisted.
    With the extra blood surging around your body it also helps with the alcohol infusion (I’ve always been a cheap drunk, eh BobS?)

    Anyway I thought I was getting a pretty good massage, I’d finished the paper, had a few glasses of Jameson’s & started to observe the masseuse. She was big alright - strong hands, long fingers & even bigger feet. She was also more than firm & certainly knew how to squeeze. The blood kept surging thru the ol body. With the front done it was on to my back, & wow some new positions going one here I thought. I've never been done with my legs spread eagled in such weird positions & with the inner thighs massaged so much, plus a solid buttock work out. It almost felt like I was getting a right shafting. This was all knew to me & I reckon I’m a bit of an expert...
    More blood surging & then some gentle more sensual squeezes & slowly but surely I realized that even an expert could still get fooled - she was a bloke. Welcome home to Thailand!
    Yep, I had not even picked it or even considered the possibility when I first entered the massage parlour.
    Well I finished the massage & have to admit to not leaving my regular full tip. Miserable old sod.
    But if you’re ever in the Thai massage parlour of the Kings Hotel in Loei, then here's a tip - check “what” your getting first. Even the GT Rider himself still gets fooled. It must have been the sun that did it!
    Just another day at the office……………..
     
  9. Rhodie

    Rhodie Ol'Timer

    What a great trip.
    Surely time to splice the mainbrace and launch another nautical expedition
    in 2008 - count me in!
     
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Finally the dog trade is in the news big time.


    I had drinks with the journalist - reporter Craig Skehan last night & it seems as if the main port of departure from Thai is now from Bun Kan to Pakxan in Laos.
     
  11. Winghunter

    Winghunter Ol'Timer

    This is just a great report. Thanks for sharing. I really appreciated this trip report a lot. Looks like Vietnam is still very different to other countries in that part of the world.
     

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