Advice needed for 1st Timer Riding in Laos

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by rob7711, Jun 1, 2012.

  1. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Hi there guys! We are planning our year end (Dec 2012) ride to Laos this year. Our plan is to ride from Kuala Lumpur making our border crossing at Chong Mek. We plan to tour (on road only) southern Laos and make our way to central and then northern Laos and exiting back into Thailand at Huay Sai. We are flexible with duration in Laos up to 14 days if required.

    My preliminary question is concerning a suggested ride distance per day based on your knowledge of the road conditions and general safe touring/riding speed that Laos roads can accord. Is a distance between 250 to 300km a good distance as our priority is to reached our destination before sunset during each riding day. I would welcome your suggestions or advice before I start planning our routes and overnite points. Cheers!
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The GT Rider Laos Trip Planner
    probably has most of what you need to know.

    If you're in a hurry you can do Pakxe - Vientiane in a day, but if you want to look around then you've got the
    4000 Islands - Don Khong / Don Det
    Vat Phu / Champassak
    Pakxong /Bolaven Plateau / Tad Fane / Tad Lo
    Tree Top explorer zip line
    Tha Khek
    Kong Lor cave
    to look at in the south & where you might want to spend a night.

    Then heading North from Vientiane you've got
    Vang Vieng
    Plain of Jars
    Luang Prabang
    Nong Khiew
    Luang Namtha
    Houei Xai / BoKeo
    where you might want to spend a night.

    R13 south from Vientiane is generally flat straight & good for speed.
    R 13 North from Vte goes into the mountains after Vang Vieng where cornering speeds are 40-50-60 kph.

    I hope this is a help.
  4. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Thank you David for your feedback and comments. Yes, I am relying heavily on Jurgen's Trip Planner as it is a mine of info and an excellent post. As soon as I have come up with a draft route plan I will put it up here for further comments and advice. We plan to do this ride starting on 1/12/2012 after which we will visit Chiangmai and make our way south. Hope to drop in at the cafe then. Cheers!
  5. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Guys, is there any alternative way of getting from Tad Lo to Route 13 (north of Pakxe heading to Savanakhet) without having to back track to Pakxe? Preference is for paved roads. Thanks.
  6. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Not really. If I remember correctly.. it is only a 45 min ride from Tad Lo to Pakse.. Either way.. Not more than an hour..

    Ubon to Chong Mek is only 1 hr ride may be less if you give it some.. The road is pretty good all the way.
    Though they were expanding the last bit to dual carriage way back in April.. This may even be done by the time you get there.
    Lao side upgrade was way behind the Thai side and had not progressed far..

    At the time the road works didn't cause any delays..

    Ubon to Chongmek 1 hr
    Border formalities 20 to 30 mins both side.. (Not sure of the requirements with Malaysian bikes)
    - There is a great little duty free with coffee shop you can stop at and get your booze, take a break before riding up the hill and getting you visa on arrival and importing the bike / insurance etc. As soon as you cross it is on your left.. You can stop here before heading up the hill.
    Border to Pakse 45 mins.

    My Favourites are.. Tad Lo / Tad Fane.. Both lovely and good food and lovely scenery.. Tad Fane has a nice fire place in the corner and breakfast view of the waterfall.
    Also pay Dirk (AKA Koffie) a visit in Paksong.. Dutch guy that married a Lao lady and has a coffee shop there.. He is always happy to see people and you can try some fresh Lao coffee..
    Dirk has coffee plantation tours and roasting sessions if you are interested. Also free WIFI if you need a fix. Only WIFI in Paksong.

    4000 islands are great.. but you will have a fair bit of back tracking on pretty boring road down and back up.. It is just flat flat flat...

    You also have Champasak town on the other side of the Mekong.. You may want to go down here and look at the Angkor period temple.. Wat Phou.
    This is a lovely little town to spend a night plus the road is paved all the way to the town now. A few really nice French colonial buildings in the centre of this little town.

    Don't bother with Attapue as you will have to ride back the way you came with road bikes.

    Below link to a few pics around Tad Lo, Wat Phou, Tad Fane, Champasak town

    Hope this is of use.

  7. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Many thanks Brian for your helpful info. I guess that we will just have to ride route 20 back to Pakse and then head north on route 13 then. Those POIs i have taken note and will be on our itinery.

    I list below our ride plan ...

    Day01a. Kuala Lumpur to Bukit Kayu Hitam (Thai border)
    Day01b. Danok to Chumphon
    Day02. Chumphon to Ayuthaya
    Day03. Ayuthaya to Ubon Ratchathani
    Day04a. Ubon Ratchathani to Chong Mek (Laos Border)
    Day04b. Chong Mek to Champasak
    Day05. Champasak to Don Khong
    Day06. Don Khong to Tad Lo
    Day07. Tad Lo to Savannakhet
    Day08. Savannkhet to Ban Khoun Kham
    Day09. Ban Khoun Kham to Vientiene
    Day10. Vientiene
    Day11. Vientiene to Phonsavan
    Day12. Phonsavan to Luang Prabang
    Day13. Luang Prabang to Oudomxay
    Day14. Oudomxay to Muangsing
    Day15. Muangsing to Huay Sai (Thai border)
    Day16. Chiang Khong to Nan
    Day17. Nan to Dan Sai
    Day18. Dan Sai to Chiang Khan
    Day19. Chiang Khan to Nong Khai
    Day20. Nong Khai to Nakhon Phanom
    Day21. Nakhon Phanom to Khon Kaen
    Day22. Khon Kaen to Amphawa
    Day23. Amphawa to Surat Thani
    Day24a. Surat Thani to Danok (Malaysia border)
    Day24b. Bukit Kayu Hitam to Kuala Lumpur

    We have about 6 days where we will decide at which stop we could do with an additional day's stay. All in all we have allocated 30days for this ride. I would appreciate any suggestions, alternate routes and any POIs that we should visit. Our ride will be on paved roads throughout (hopefully). Cheers and looking forward to some feedback. Thanks.
  8. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Day04a. Ubon Ratchathani to Chong Mek (Laos Border)
    Day04b. Chong Mek to Champasak
    This is a very easy day ride and you can fit in sun set at Wat Phou.. to be followed by one of the many restaurants along the Mekong for dinner and beers. Depending on what time you leave Ubon.. You could be in Champasak for lunch

    Day05. Champasak to Don Khong
    Day06. Don Khong to Tad Lo
    There is a ferry crossing for bikes.. Not sure if the car ferry still runs.. It is very steep up the Champasak side of the Mekong. Last time we took it.. a 7 year old guided us across !! Otherwise you need to ride back up the paved road cross the Mekong at Pakse and take the long boring ride down the 13 to Don Khong. Then all the way back the next day to Pakse..
    Up to you.. But I would probably skip Don Khong unless you plan to spend a couple of days there to look around and explore.. Lot of boring flat roads otherwise to sleep on Don Khong and return the next day. It would be more interesting to explore / ride around the Boolaven Plateau / Salavan / Sekong if you want to ride all day and see things along the way.
    Make sure you are at Tad Lo lodge by early afternoon.. They bring the Elephants down to the river and let them swim and bath them.. It is very nice. no beating or whipping.. The elephants are like family and you can see they are happy and healthy

    Day11. Vientiene to Phonsavan
    Day12. Phonsavan to Luang Prabang
    Lots of great twisties and then on to the plain towards Phonsavan.. Be sure to take one of the lovely French Bread sandwiches with you from town.. As you wont want to eat at any of the place on the side of the road.. Full days riding for both locations

    Day13. Luang Prabang to Oudomxay
    Day14. Oudomxay to Muangsing
    Day15. Muangsing to Huay Sai (Thai border)
    Have a look at David's recent trip report.. There are some good updates on road conditions.

  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    I'd be inclined to over night in Vang Vieng before Phonsavan.
    Give yourself a bit of a break with an easy half day. Leave Vte mid-day to be in Vang Vieng at 3PM, chill out & watch the sun go down.
    That will give you 3 hours extra for the ride Phonsavan & not such a big day ride from Vientiane.

    Skip out Muang Sing & stay in Luang Namtha. MS will disappoint you riding in from Oudom Xai.
    Pak Mong - Oudom Xai sucks. But Oudom Xai - LNT is a good road. You can do it in 3-4 hrs easy. So if you're in OX by mid day, carry onto LNT.
    But why not include a night in Nong Khiew, a pristine spot 2-3 hrs north of LPQ?
    After LPQ over night in Nong Khiew.
    Doing this gives u half a day more in LPQ. Early-mid afternoon set off from LPQ for Nong Khiew.
    Then next day go Nong Khiew - Luang Nam Tha, skipping out Oudom Xai.
  10. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Many thanks for all the helpful suggestions Brian and David. Will definitely take both your suggestions and make some amendments to our ride schedule.

    By the way is Ban Khoun Kham worth the ride up and an overnight stay there?
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Probably not, unless you want to do the Kong Lor cave trip.
    But your time could be better spent elsewhere on a "tight schedule" like you have.
  12. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Ahhhhh ... surely you jest David :lol: Our "tight" schedule for this ride just happen to be one amongst our bucket list. Yes Ban Khoun Kham was a doubtful stop on my ride itinery as my riding buddy has a bad knee and not able to walk much less trek any real distance. Well another additional day to schedule elsewhere then. Again many thanks David. Cheers!
  13. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    You might want to google Kong Lor cave as it is pretty impressive & think about it.
    Check out this link first

  14. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Again many thanks David for your invaluable feedback and suggestions. The original idea to ride to Ban Khoun Kham was to check out Kong Lor Cave but this would entail an overnight there which was the reason for re-considering this destination. Might still put it down as an option to be decided once we are on the road.
  15. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

  16. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Thanks all for your kind feedback. Just one final query ... are we required to ride our bikes during the day with our headlights OFF as similar to Cambodia? This matter seems hazy from what i have read thus far or is it a non issue either way? Thanks again. Cheers!
  17. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    You can leave them on.. In fact we ride with the lights on high beam during the day..
    It helps you see your buddies behind if they are amongst other bikes with lights on or further back than expected.
    Also, bikes / cars tend to think you are closer than you really are when on high beam and are not so quick to try and beat you out or across the road.

    You may get some cars flash you.. but they are only telling you your lights are on.. So you can ignore them

    Never had a problem with lights on in Laos. low or highbeam.

  18. rob7711

    rob7711 Ol'Timer

    Thank you Brian. I guess we will just ride with our lights on then. Cheers!

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