A quick Luang Prabang Loop

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Feb 20, 2010.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    DATES: Sunday 7th Feb - Wednesday 17th Feb 2010.
    THE WEATHER: Cool at night & hot in the day! Yep, the hot season's here, but you still need warmer clothes for the cool nights.

    THE RIDER & BIKE: David Unk on his trusty Africa Twin @ 252,000 kms.

    THE WAY:
    Chiang Mai - Mae Sai
    Mae Sai - Golden Triangle - Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong
    Chiang Khong - Houei Xai
    Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha
    Luang Nam Tha - Oudom Xai - Pak Mong- Luang Prabang
    Luang Prabang - Vientiane
    Vientiane - Nong Khai - Chiang Khan - Loei
    Loei - Dan Sai - Chat Prakarn - Nakhon Thai - Uttaradit - Chiang Mai
    Overall a slow easy but short run through the North checking on maps & new developments.

    A bit of an odd way to go via Mae Sai but the reason was to link up with Moto-Rex for the night, who was on a visa run.

    We took over the Huen Kham Pub & Restaurant for the start of the night

    The food & service here was / is just alright, but the attraction is the female singer owner who indeed has a magnificent voice.
    Her hubby is alright on the keyboards too, plus quite protective.:cry:

    After the excitement of the Huen Kham we hit the Fai Kham Pub & Restaurant, which is a great lively Pub & Restaurant to go in Mae Sai. The music, service & food here is very good.
    A happy GT Rider with something you don't see the good Captain Slash devouring

    Breakfast the next morning was at the Chad Guesthouse in Mae Sai, where my good mate Chad is restoring this...
    any takers for identifying the bike & buying? The bike will be for sale once Chad has finished the job.

    After Mae Sai & the Chad GH inspection it was over to Chiang Khong via the GT

    The 'Khong from the Huai Sai Mann Viewpoint

    It was not a very good wet season last year & the 'Khong is way down for this time of the year. The water level is more like what you would expect in late March / mid April.
    and I if it stays dry I would not be surprised if it is possible to wade across the Khong at Chiang Khong in April. :shock:

    Chiang Khong was a quick lunch stop at the Tammila, where Watchara says that the Huay Kon - Muang Ngeun - Mekong (Pak Beng) road was all asphalt 2 weeks ago on the south side of the Mekong.

    After lunch at Tammila it was time to get the bike papers done downtown, before the port.
    1. Customs downtown to get the bike temporary export papers, then
    2. Immigration downtown to complete a Crew List & Notice of Conveyance.

    After this it time to queue up with all the trucks going over. And there are a lot of them. The ferry crew told me it was their 12th trip for the day at 1PM, & both ferry services - Thai & Lao - were running flat out.

    On the Laos side you ride off the ferry & park your bike

    walk up the steps on the right hand side & go into the Customs Office
    not difficult to find & I don't quite understand why some guys seem to have trouble finding the place.

    It’s a 4 step process
    1. Get your temporary import papers done in the customs office
    2. Register the bike import in the book with the police in another building to the left of the Customs building
    3. Get your insurance in the same building where you register your bike & temporary import
    4. The "tricky" bit ride up the other customs office building (hut) at the top of the landing, turn right onto the main road, go 20 metres & turn right again into what looks like a parking lot to get your bike inspected & import papers officially stamped
    Here I lost a lot of time in the queue with all the other vehicles having their engine & chassis number checked, not that my bike's engine & chassis numbers were actually checked, it was just waiting your turn for the last magic stamp.

    After this it is ride down town to go to immigration & get yourself legally stamped into the country. You all don't forget now!

    Once you've done all this it could be late afternoon & the run to Luang Nam Tha could be a bit of a rush; so as it's the Lao PDR (People Don't Rush) I decided to go native & not rush. Houei Xai it was for the night. Hanging out in HX for sunset over the Mekong & looking at Chiang Khong is something I & quite a few other GT Riders enjoy...

    But first the Oudom Phone 2 is my place of stay in Houei Xai
    nice clean quiet aircon rooms

    Then its down to the 'Khong for a BBQ & sunset




    The Sunset Drags?


    & as the sun goes down, good night, to be continued...
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  3. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer


    The bike is a 1949 BSA B31 350cc. The tinware is in surprisingly good shape. A resourceful person should be able to get all the bits and get the machine running. We'll see how Chad gets on.
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Yes sir, I believe you're right. As Chad has restored many old Brit bikes like this I don't ever doubt he will get the job done, & done well.
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Tuesday 9th Feb

    Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha.

    A leisurely cruise up highway 3...
    The road is generally good


    although it is getting busier with mini buses, & trucks
    and the trucks take up a lot of space on the road!

    for approximately 50 kms, there's a lot of road repairs from the dodgy construction by one of the Thai contractors who built the road. The original contract to build R3 was divided into 3 sections - 1 Chinese at the Northern Luang Nam Tha end & 2 Thai contractors on the "southern" Houei Xai end. And one of the Thai contractors cheated in the extreme with the asphalt breaking up after only 12-18 months. This "50 kms third" basically runs from Ban Poung - Ban Xot, & is a bit of a pain in the but at times. Whilst not difficult it is somewhat annoying on a bigger bike when the other stuff is so good.

    The Don Chai view 60 kms out from Houei Xai

    The view up the hill to some more road works

    "Hooking into it" back down the hill

    Vieng Phoukha was busy with backpackers looking for treks, although I did not get any snaps of the happy trekkers, only the main VP street


    For people genuinely interested in trekking, Vieng Phoukha is as good as it gets with seriously traditional & poor Akha villages if you want to see & experience "the real thing." Give it a go if you like & you won't be disappointed.

    Luang Nam Tha city was my goal for the night, beside the Luang Nam Tha river; & here's the Nam Tha river 6kms out by the Boat Landing guesthouse.

    Part of the master plan for this trip was to track down a Lao map copier & indeed it was a partial success
    although the owner was nowhere to be seen..... :evil: :evil:

    Luang Nam Tha city has a new temple chedi at Wat Mixay, at the north-west end of town.


    and the view is pretty good = worthwhile checking out late arvo to see the extent of LNT city.

    One of the biggest new buildings in LNT is the Royal Hotel
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Wednesday 10th Feb 2010


    Luang Nam Tha - Na Toey is pretty much in race track condition, except for a couple of landslips still being repaired, just before you hit the ridgeline & make the downhill run to Na Toey

    Immediately you hit Na Toey & turn right for Oudom Xai / Luang Prabang you're on a crap road undergoing road works for the next 160 kms to Pak Mong, 108 kms out of Luang Prabang.

    The start of the enjoyable road works

    Half decent asphalt
    But the road's on the narrow side, generally covered with lose stones / dirt, so you need to watch yourself ALL THE TIME!

    Working on the chain gang
    Doing it the hard way, breaking rocks with a sledge hammer


    More varied road surfaces

    Some new asphalt
    And good stuff, but I fear with the volume of traffic the road soon won't be wide enough

    The surface was never the same for more than 150 metres


    Luang Prabang it was then at 5.30PM, and The Mekong looked as beautiful as ever
    But low.

    Of note was that my first night at my fave restaurant in LPQ - The Soudaphone - there was no Mekong fish on the menu that day: none in the market! The 2nd night I was ok & onto a winner with some super garlic fish from the 'Khong.
  7. UKPilgrim

    UKPilgrim New Member

    These pictures look like a step back in time of rustic rural asian riding.
    The pictures certainly make it look exotic, but compared to Aberdeen most
    places do.
    Planning my trip, the one factor I am unable to judge is the heat and the weather.
    Would a loop through Laos be pleasant in April or would you recommend staying in Thailand?
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Weather wise both places should be hot 'n hazy 'n smoky, but Laos could be marginally cooler in the mountains. However either way you will feel discomfort from the heat. So, same same, but different. Just do it & you will want to comeback for more.
  9. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    David, wonderful report & pictures, will ask you details about it next time we meet. This one really seems a perfect getaway trip !!!! That looks like my upcoming trip after I quit my current and before I start my new job :lol: :D :wink: . 'Dragrace in sunset' your trusty AT against a Kubota ?? Did you fill Chang beer in your tank to have your bike fail that much ???? :p Cheers, Franz
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Saturday 13th Feb 2010

    One of my favourite all time rides (& S E Asia's greatest bike ride?)

    Just as I was leaving LPQ I spotted a couple of guys on big bikes.
    Chris & Simon



    a couple of good fun English guys, doing the right thing - raising money for charity on their motorcycle holiday.
    We'd previously met in Cnx at The Kafe, just before I left for Laos & they were on their way to Wat Chan for the night. The trip report & photos on their facebook site are well worth checking out.


    They had a master plan mapped out to conquer North Thai - Laos - Cambodia in 5 weeks; however I thought the Laos one was a bit optimistic & boring, so suggested a few changes which would have made it more interesting & "survivable." And I'm pleased to see it looks like they followed the plan I suggested.

    Anyway back on the road...

    Nam Ming 60+ kms south of Luang Prabang


    At Kiu Kacham 76 kms from Luang Prabang & the first satisfactory stop up on the ridgeline.

    Route 13, just one of the views of this magical road

    And one more group shot at Phou Khoun with the thumbs up for R13, before Chris & simon turned off for Phonsavan & The Plain of Jars.

    After Phou Khoun I think the road gets even better for riding & scenery. Endless curves high in the green mountains

    but the light's not truly clear for fantastic piccies of those enormous karts penetrating the sky (oh well you can't win 'em all.)

    Further on a slow moving traffic hazard

    I suspect that these guys had been having fun & getting pampered, cooling off in a mud spa..

    South of Vang Vieng at Hin Hoeup, the new bridge across the Nam Lik is complete


    Upstream, the old bridge which has definitely done it's duty over the many years

    Vientiane was reached at dusk. After a clean up, & meal at the Kopchaideu I was forced to leave - no music. The KCD is not the same with no music, but fortunately Inthy assures me renovations will be complete in a few more weeks & it will be business as usual.
    So instead of a night of music at the KCD it was On The Rock Pub for a change
    and Miss Mimee was the On The Rock musical star of the night.

    Early the next morning, spotted in Vte at Thierry's Jules Classic Bike Rental
    any takers?
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Tuesday 16th Feb 2010

    Another of my favourite rides – Route 211 beside the Mekong.

    Route 211 is a beauty sweeping & dipping by the river


    And it's easy to see the Mekong is way down...

    So enjoy your rides by the Mekong when you see it's got water!!

    Route 203
    Loei was still green

    But once you turned off to Dan Sai & Route 2113 it was hot 'n dry

    The weather times are a changing folks. Make sure you ride more often & enjoy it when it's good out there. Clean roads, green fields & blue skies..

    My trip was almost 2 weeks ago - the weather's changing seasons. Laos can be worse than Cnx for smoke & fires! LPQ is horrific at the peak of the fires & smoke, the same as everywhere else.
    BTW I don’t think the smoke & fires & haze have started or hit yet. IMHO a lot of the "problem" right now is inversion.

    From wiki: In meteorology, an inversion is a deviation from the normal change of an atmospheric property with altitude. It almost always refers to a temperature inversion, i.e., an increase in temperature with height, or to the layer (inversion layer) within which such an increase occurs.
    An inversion can lead to pollution such as smog being trapped close to the ground, with possible adverse effects on health. An inversion can also suppress convection by acting as a "cap". If this cap is broken for any of several reasons, convection of any moisture present can then erupt into violent thunderstorms. Temperature inversion can notoriously result in freezing rain in cold climates.

    The real hot weather with fires & smoke & haze are still on the way, once the inversion clears up a bit.
    I think that you will find it is “normal” for this time of the year to have such “bad” inversion; but I reckon it’s just the changeover from cold to hot season. It happens every year, some years are worse than others. it is the increased traffic dust & pollution that gets trapped & causes health trouble. Chuck in the smoke from fires & it is often a serious problem – Asia wide & not just Chiang Mai.
    :cry: :cry: :cry:

    Ride & enjoy while you can. Don't lock yourself to the computer, but get out there & ride as much as possible folks.
    :D :D :D
  12. UKPilgrim

    UKPilgrim New Member

    Weather wise both places should be hot 'n hazy 'n smoky, but Laos could be marginally cooler in the mountains. However either way you will feel discomfort from the heat. So, same same, but different. Just do it & you will want to comeback for more.
    We're snowed in here at the moment
    So your pictures only make me want to fly out earlier.
  13. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Till there I can follow you David :) ... even under construction the roads, in your pictures, are feasible for my bike. In the other posts (and itineraries) it definitively needs an off-road machine. I still need more information ad will read further ... and maybe ask for another chat at "Kafe".
  14. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    David, marvellous trip report as always :thumbup: . What I see on the pictures, Laos is only something for enduro's or dirtbikes as the road conditions seem to be still ages away from LOS. The 2 guys on the biggies, were these Aprilias (same as F650GS) I wonder ??? Cheers, Franz
  15. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Hi Franz! Are you picking up?

    Going through Laos reports, I had the same impression as you (and was considering to rent a bike). But finally, after a discussion with David and seeing his reports, it seems that at least some roads are open to "touring". I am thinking about driving my ER6n over Chiang Khong next month. As I am not really fond of of a big solo adventure, I will do some more home work before deciding.
  16. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    Gruezi Jurgen, well I'm locked in at my home :thumbup: and not moving out for another 2-3 days into the annual mayhem :twisted: .......
    When the 'massacre' of Songkran is over we should meet up some day for a ride, David FL would also like to do one !! As you are CNX based too, 24th is another houseparty at my place ..... :angel: ........don't forget & miss......sent you a PM with my phoneno. cheers, Franz
  17. Jurgen

    Jurgen Moderator

    Hello Franz, I am just back from my hiding (hate Songkran watering these days). I did not go far, just to Cabbages & Condoms in Vieng Pa Pao (by Caribian). Will watch my inbox.
    Now I collect information for Laos, as I can start on May 5th. Probably something following on the steps of David in this post.

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