DAY ONE. Sat 23 Sep 06. SISAKET - 226 - UBON - 217 - SIRINTHON - CHONGMEK / VANG TAO - 16W -PAKXE. 195 kms. 5 hrs total. I didn't get away until about 11 but it was a leisurely 2.5hr ride to the border with a pleasant lunch break at the Sirinthon Dam Restaurant overlooking the brimming dam. At Chong Mek Customs they told me I could go to Laos but not the bike because Lao would not admit a Thai Registered bike. I thought for a moment the restriction on Nong Khai may have come to Chong Mek. But I told them my friends are doing it all the time so they shuffled me a couple of times between Immigration and Customs and then somebody must have remembered how to do it so they started the paperwork and required original and p/copies of Passport and Green Book. I also gave them the Purple Bike Passport which they seemed to like. At first they filled out a hand written Export Form but when I told them I was coming back through Mukdahan they scrapped that and did the official "Simplified Customs Declaration Form" on the Computer. They stapled this to the Purple Book and let me go through. On the Lao / Vang Tao side it was the same story- no you can't take the motorcycle into Laos and was shuffled between Customs and Immigration again. Then a bright young fellow in the Customs Office said yes we can do it, would you like Insurance also ? Back to Immigration and complete Passport formalities, then to Customs and they gave me a green form, "Direction des Douanes," "Laissez Passer" and an Insurance receipt and sticker and charged me 300B for each with receipts. They then told me I could go, and to get the green form stamped by the Customs exit post. Changed 2000B into Kip and 45 minutes later I was in Pakxe. Excellent road all the way from Sisaket I get the feeling that the main problem is that the people in these offices simply don't know how to do the job. It's much easier to say it can't be done, but if you don't go away they then have to try and find a way. Total cost was 1570B for Visa for 30 days, and 600B for Customs, nothing on the Thai side. It all took just over an hour. Pakxe is a pleasant little town with nice people, on the banks of the Mekong with a few markets some good restaurants and plenty of places to stay. I stayed at the Lao Chaloen for 200B and had a tasty Pizza at (Delta Coffee ?). When I am in Pakxe I get the feeling I am rich. I seldom get that feeling in Sisaket but in Southern Laos there are a lot of things which operate on a whole lower scale than in Thailand. Most of the teenagers are on bicycles not motorcycles I hardly saw a mobile phone, and very few fat kids like we are begining to see here. Fuel is also dearer here although not sure by how much. New Border Post Chong Mek nearing completion.(Great Colour!) DAY 2. PAKXE - 13 - SAVANNAKHET. 242 kms 3hrs total. Highway 13 is an elevated 2 lane and good speed can be maintained most of the way. There is not much to see apart from the usual livestock, chickens, goats and dogs. No predatory utes overtaking at high speed as in Thailand. There was light misty rain most of the way which kept things cool and made for pleasant riding. After I got to Svkt it bucketed down and didn’t stop all night. Savannakhet is a sleepy little place on the banks of the Mekong looking across the river to Mukdahan. I stayed at the Phoneviley and had a good dinner at the PK restaurant being one of only two diners on a slow wet Sunday night. Didn’t get to see much of the town because of the rain but got a look at Jimoi’s remodeled Minsk. The Phantom created a surprising amount of interest wherever I went in Laos I guess because they are not used to seeing a chopper dressed up with all the livery. The only big bikes I saw were Chinese. DAY 3. SAVANNAKHET - MUKDAHAN - 212 - LOENG NOK THA - AMNAT CHAROEN - 2383 -KHEUNG NAI - 2382 - SISAKET. 243 Kms. 7 hrs total including waiting for ferry. It poured all night so I put my wet weather gear on before leaving the hotel and kept it on all day. The ferry is scheduled to leave at 8am so I thought I would beat the rush and got there at 7.30. By 9.00 I was still on my own in the rain, and then a guy came from over the road and told me immigration was over there. They were all set up with coffee brewing and food cooking and sitting around. So I got some hot coffee and a baguette which made the day look brighter. Customs put an exit stamp on the Bike Passport and Immigration stamped my passport and then a further wait for the ferry to arrive. I was second on and behind me appeared about 6 trucks driving through the mud onto the ramp. Photos: Ramp scenes Svkt. Photo: The new bridge in the distance clouded by rain. Looking North from the Ferry. A half hour later and the ferry arrived in Mukdahan, then up the concrete ramp and to Immigration where they stamped my Passport and over to Customs where they took back the “SCDF” computer form .and stamped the Bike Passport with a re entry date. Then into the rain again heading south from Mukdahan I stopped at Loeng Nok Tha to take a look at an Airstrip the Brits built during the Vietnam war. I was there for visits at the time and a lot of my NZ Army Engineer friends worked on it. It is 2km long and runs due East West and was close to the border for strategic reasons but never saw the fighter bomber activity that Ubon had. It is now totally disused apart from the local farmers driving their cattle along it, not even a building left standing. You could drive past on the highway about 300mtr away and not even know it was there. It is a credit to the Brit Engineers that even after more than 30 years of non use, there is minimal grass between the cracks and only one subsidence on the Eastern end. (Which I didn’t see in the rain and hit at speed and got doused) Photo: Rainy shot looking East along the Airstrip Photo: Track into Airstrip "The Journey is the Destination"