A curtailed trip in the north

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by ianyonok, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. Day 1.
    Ron came over to Chiang Saen from Chiang Mai on his new Honda CRF and we set off for Laos early the next morning. We were off on an 8 day dirt bike trip to find some green scenery in remote areas.


    One of the last times we'll get to cross the Khong on the ferry. At the police station in Chiang Khong, we were told the new bridge will be open by about July next year.


    Getting bikes and us across the river through the bureaucracy took about 2 1/2 hours and we're off on our adventure.
    Nice pink thing............ but I'll stick with the KLX, thank you.


    Smooth swoopy sports bike road all the way to China. But watch out for the trucks trying to force you off the road



    The coal mine near Vieng Phukha. We saw lots of full trucks of coal heading back to Thailand.


    Stopped at Bahn Fa cultural village.



    There's a weaving loom under every house.


    Into the SaiNamJud GH in Vieng Phukha. Not a lot of choice here and this is the only place in town with hot water. It's right by the bridge and for 50K Kip (193 Baht) you get the hardest bed you've slept on for some time........ sorted my backache out though.
    Reasonable restaurant on the opposite side of the road.


    Easy first day, get bureaucracy out the way.

    196 klms.
  2. Purposefully? Or just driving in their idiotic way and not moving over for you?
  3. Just a case of...... largest vehicle has right of way.
  4. Some more photos from the Day 1.

    At Naka's Kiosken, a few klms north of Chiang Khong. Great spot for a coffee before getting into town.







    You can see the stilted herb gardens outside the houses and the Lao-Lao still cooking away.



    Kids are so photogenic.



    The SaiNamJud GH rooms in Vieng Phukha

  5. Day 2.

    We were off on the first cross country track. The trail east across to Nale and then the dirt road north, alongside the river (Nam Tha) up to Luang Namtha.


    It was a cool misty morning and we were into mud almost immediately.


    The new CRF gets it's first real dirt.


    The first real challenge


    Going for it....


    ....... and getting well stuck....


    This smelt like buffalo poo too............ phoaaa...


    After the two of us dragged the bike out.... we continued.


    Fortunately, we didn't see anything else like that section.























    Noodles for lunch in Nale. Nice little town.




    A technical section over the road building/widening area.




    We're then riding alongside the Nam Tha all the way up to Luang Namtha.










    At about this point, I came round a corner and saw a CRF lying on it's side with Ron covered in dust......
    Bike was fine, Ron wasn't...... pain and bruise on the right shoulder / ribs/ collarbone.
    The back wheel had lost grip and the bike had gone down on it's right side.
    Ron was OK to ride, so we pulled the bike upright and continued.

    A most enjoyable day's dirt riding.

    Zuela GH is a great comfortable place to pull in to. Run by Mr Wong and Mrs Xai. Nice rooms, clean and comfy, free wi-fi, hot water, secure parking, next door to the Manychan restaurant, centre of the tourist area, 70,000 Kip a night.



    At great expense (import tax into Laos), Mr Wong had brought in 2 KLXs from Thailand. Rental $30 a day. A good rate considering the cost of the bike in Laos. They have a fleet of bikes and bicycles for rent and a travel agency there too.



    Day 3.
    Ron came back from a hospital visit with the expected diagnosis of broken collarbone. So, no more riding....
    After some discussion, we knew we had to get him and bike back to Thailand, but I would shoot off for a day's dirt riding before our return.

    So I headed off to Oudom Xai, that afternoon.

    Lunch at Na Teuv. Left turn to China.... I went right.


    This was to be my exit from the next days' dirt trail from Boun Tai.



    A superb road to ride, this section of road 13 between Na Teuv and Oudom Xai, sharper twisties than the earlier road from Huay Xai to Luang Namtha.



    A great scenic route.



    I stayed at the Villa Keoseumsack again, in Oudom Xai, run by Mr Phanousack. Right on the main drag through town. Nice big room for 120,000 Kip, hot water, secured parking. Nice restaurant 20m along the road, for breakfast and dinner.
  6. Fantastic ride report! Great pictures! Wishing Ron a speedy recovery and looking forward to hitting some of these roads soon!
  7. Day 4.
    After breakfast, I headed out of town NE up road 2E to Sin Xai.

    Great stuff.....


    .... followed by less great stuff...... the Oudom Xai garbage tip. Lots of people living and scavenging on it.


    Harvest time in the valleys.



    Stopped in Muang La for a look at Wat Pra Jao Sing Kham. A lovely old temple and very special ancient Buddha image in a cage. Ork Pansa festival on here 31st Oct. Unfortunately I wouldn't see it this time.




    600 yr old Bodhi tree.




    I also went to the Muangla resort to check the room rates, which were approx $200 a night. A nice spot on the river indeed.
    The 2E is a gorgeous road alongside the river all the way to Muang Khua.



    I didn't have time to check out Muang Khua as Ron was understandably getting bored in Luang Namtha.


    Had a quick drink at a shop at the junction, Sin Xai....



    Then headed NW up the dirt road to Boun Tai.


    It was soon clear that this would be a tough road (as I had read in an old report from Silverhawk). One of those Lao style roads with round boulders embedded in the dirt.


    So, only one way to ride this kind of road....... enjoy it....
    Get the body weight right forward, balls over the tank and ride the hell out of it. Head into the corners hard and fast, laying the bike down on the inside, inside arm straight, steering the forks out, inside leg off the peg as a bouncing brace on the dirt and drift through the bends.
    This is actually excellent practice for feeling the bike skid through the corners, so you get used to feeling that loss of grip but don't automatically close the throttle. It's the old speedway style and works pretty well. You gotta be careful though and I'm not that good at it......... but it's great fun and at least you enjoy the road rather than hating every klm.

    It got a bit better further on....


    Banana mountains.





    I can see for miles and miles..... I can see for ..... etc.


    Up over the mountain through Bahn Aya.




    Into Boun Tai for lunch.. Mama noodles.



    Then head SW on the dirt trail back to Pang Tong, highway 13 and Luang Namtha.


    This was a wonderful trail, much of the first part was narrow track through the jungle. Almost no traffic all the way.








    The first river crossing. Shallow and easy.




    Came across this operation where a group of people were thrashing cotton tree flowers into fluffy cotton stuffing material.


    I don't know which tribal group these people were from. The head dress was a bit like the Akha, but simpler. They were extremely shy. Not many white men come up here.......



    It is enlightening almost, to be in these out of the way sort of places, where people's lives and experiences are so different to your own. How lucky we are... these people are working so hard just to survive.


  8. Day 4 (contd.).

    If anyone is thinking of going over to Laos, best to get there soon, if you can. The burning in the rice fields has already started and the rains have stopped. So, the visibility will be decreasing from now on and the green will be fading.

    A deeper river crossing.



    This lady wanted 5,000 Kip to use the bridge..... 20 Baht... no problem.


    A young lad on the next bridge wanted 5,000 Kip too, even though the sign said 10,000 Kip.... 20 Baht.. no problem....



    Then before I knew it, I was back on highway 13, by 16:30.


    A quick blast up the road and back into the Zuela guest House in Luang Namtha by 17:30.... Ron was still bored.....
    Then over the road to the Bamboo Lounge for a superb real Italian style pizza. They have a proper brick pizza oven and do some great food. This place is run by a Kiwi couple who head over to Chiang Rai every couple of months to stock up, so they return with backpacks stuffed with 75 kgs of cheese etc.
    This place is highly recommended. Easily the best restaurant in Luang Namtha.
    Sorry, I don't know the owner's names, but the woman's Mum and Dad were visiting and he is one of the biggest classic bike collectors in NZ, so we had a great chat over a few beers.

  9. Yep, well, I think that's what got me where I am now but what a load of fun it was. A wipe out but a learning on the job experience I suppose.
    As for the collarbone, well I met an Aussie doctor over a few beer's in Luang Namtha whe told me that Aussie footballers break that one all the time. He said "its only a strut anyway and not important in the whole scheme of things".
    I had it checked out when I got to CNX and the xray revealed that I had broken it before, which I had forgotten about, playing rugby 7 asides at the age of about 18.
    However no question that I will be back to Laos to do a lot more trails.
    Thanks for the report Ian and I dont think I have anything else to add.
  10. Day 5.

    Mrs Xai, the kind owner at Zuela Guest House, had organised a truck to get the Honda and Ron back to Huay Xai.


    So, it was about a 4 hour blast back down highway 3 and soon we were crossing back to Thailand.
    We joined up with Ian, A real traveller biker. He had come overland from England through Europe into Kazakhstan, then into Kashgar, China, but couldn't get any further across China to Tibet, so ended up heading north across Mongolia. Then he flew himself and bike to BKK where he went across Cambodia and up into Laos.



    The view from above Naka's Kiosken coffee shop on the Khong, north of Chiang Khong.


    Ian came to stay at Viang Yonok Hotel for a couple of nights, then went off in search of great roads, with a GTR map and directions to the 1155, 1093, 1148 and other great roads across Nan. He was on the last leg of his journey, going through Thailand, into Malaysia and down to KL where he was to ship the bike back to England and he was back to work for the winter. What a tremendous thing to do. The bike is a Yamaha Tenere 650cc single. A careful choice of machine. Not too big and heavy. With camping gear and panniers it's still a lot of weight.
    He does these trips regularly... almost every year.... South America next.


    Well, Ron headed back to Chiang Mai and we have our driver lined up to drive the Honda back to Ron's place. I guess a disappointing trip for Ron and a short trip for me. But, we'll be back for more........... Laos is such great fun.
  11. Thanks for the TR Ian, and great pics as always. Sorry to hear the trip was cut short...... those collarbone breaks can be bloody nasty...... yes, its "only a strut anyway and not important in the whole scheme of things" but there's this lil nerve that can be trapped by the break, and can be a mo**er-fu**er!! (Nong Khai, 2007 :x ) Just wondering if one of those mesh & armour riding shirts they sell at Chiang Rai Saddlebags would've prevented it?
  12. Hiya Martin,
    Thanks. Ron should answer that really, but, difficult to imagine what would have prevented it. When you land with the full weight of your body on one spot, something has to give.
    You would need a very large amount of padding I would think. My jacket has raised titanium patches on shoulders and elbows, designed to crush on heavy impact. There is 1/2" space between the underside of the patch and the armour underneath. They do work, as I did crush an elbow patch when falling off, some time ago and later pushed it back into shape. Very pricey jacket and may not have helped in Ron's case. I would guess the mesh and armour suits may be good for sliding down the tarmac, but for a bounce fall, you need something like American footballers padding.
  13. Hi Ian,
    Yep, that's what I was thinking: I was t-boned and my shoulder hit tarmac with a hell of an impact..... I don't think anything would've helped prevent the ol' clavicle from snapping! I guess what you say is right, those armoured riding shirts will prevent gravel rash in a slide but that's about it. I've only taken the bark off a couple of times but denim's always done a good job by me!
  14. I was keen to read this report, enjoying as I do the routes undertaken by Ian, his photography & easy-going writing style. As Laos is amongst my fondest memories, it was not without a twinge of regret, almost jealousy, especially when I read that my old mate & touring companion of many a kilometre, Ron, was along for the ride.

    I had visions of an outstanding outing backed by all that training not so long ago under the watchful eye of Vitoon (Little Home Guesthouse, Doi Mae Salong) undertaken by Ron, Stu Lloyd & myself but also Armin Sooch who one could hardly include as requiring training. Ron has covered this adventure in an earlier post on GTR.

    What a massive shock to read of Ron still practicing tricks worthy of a position in Ashton's Circus. Mate, I trust all is well; it sure seems to be looking at your smiling face as, indeed by the very fact that, you headed home several days after the accident. A speedy & comfortable recovery.

    I see that you'll soon be heading back to Laos to complete the task.........reminds me of how despite breaking my ankle in Vietnam I've always felt it was so very much well worth it.

    Every success on the re-run, mate.
  15. Thanks for the pictures and the story, well done! Get well soon Ron!
  16. Hope Ron makes a speedy recovery!
    Despite the trip being curtailed, it is still an interesting report with customary good photos. (Especially the pigs)
    Not a trip that I could dare to try but enjoy seeing what others can do.
  17. Thanks for your report and nice pics.
    Poor Ron must have been even more frustrated seeing what he'd missed.
    Have a prompt recovery.
  18. Another ripper report and photos Ian...

    Get well soon Ron.. I know the feeling of a fractured ankle in the middle of no where (CNX to MHS along the old elephant trails) and having to ride out.. Not fun..

  19. Thanks to all for the kind messages. Its all rather boring really but painless thankfully. Just a matter of time now but at least I can focus on the 'To Do' list; sell the Versys (done) and get on to whats to replace that etc.
    Never a dull moment around here.

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