Caution: Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha - Oudom Xai - LPQ

DavidFL

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Jan 16, 2003
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The asphalt roads in the North of Laos are a mess at the moment.
There has been an unbelievable change in the road quality the last few weeks, with lots of broken asphalt, potholes, mud & landslides...it should be very tough going on a road bike right now...

From the Harley Riders Mark & Nikki
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Chiang Saen - Chiang Khong. Thailand.
This is a very nice ride, but the road inland was broken up quite badly. At one point half of the road was missing down a cliff. At another point, the bridge was washed away and newly replaced with a wooden tree-log/plank bridge, which was a hassle to negotiate. Much slower to do the 54 Kms than expected.
Time: 2 Hours+

Chiang Khong - Huey Xai (River Crossing To Laos)
The border crossing logistics was difficult to work out on our own, so we relied upon the intelligence of a local bar owner, Sayan.
1st to customs office (main one), then to immigration (the main one), then to the boarder to see immigration, again, and then to customs at the border too.
On the Laos side, off the ferry to immigration, about 2kms away, back to customs office, near the ferry wharf and all was done.
Time: 2 Hours

Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha
This road is both good and bad. About 8 Kms out of HX, the road starts to have sections of gravel every 500m or so, with each section about 50m long. This is annoying, until, the road has huge pot holes and then disappears regularly to gravel and dirt (mud). You have to be an experienced rider to negotiate this for the next 65Kms!!! The road is also inhabited by dogs, cattle, ducks, chickens and children. The children get off the road and wave happily as you pass, but the rest of the wildlife just stays there!! At points the road is just like a dirt track, and at other points, like a highway. For the 65Km stretch, it is 85% crap and 15% beautiful.
When 95Kms out from Luang Namtha, the road magically improves and the quite a pleasant journey.
Time: 3.5 Hours

Luang Nam Tha - Oudom Xai
Just about forget it... BUT there is a LOT of roadwork going on!!
From Luang Namtha to the Na Teuy village is quite nice, except at a few spots where the downhill side (RHS going north) of the road has fallen off into the river!!! At one point only 80cm of road is left and a carved detour next to the hillside, which won't last long!!
Once you hit the turn-off and go right to Oudom Xai, it changes to crapola instantly! The road is MOSTLY potholes of dirt and part-tarmac amidst the ruins of what was once tar. In a few sections you get 2 to 4 Kms of actual road with potholes only. The rest of the time, the road is essentially unmade, or being worked-on, which is even worse. It is some of the worst road I have ever ridden. 75 Kms of pure rubbish!!!
We got bogged at the front wheel in some 2 foot deep MUD, and had some locals help us pull the bike out, fortunately. I thought our poor beloved machine was going to rattle apart. At one point, I thought I had lost Nikki, and stopped to look up at the coconut tree above, quite expecting her to be hanging on to a leaf before plummeting to earth. She did rise, but also fee to where she formerly sat... fortunately.
If the road goes without repair it will only last for this season, and on the next rainy season, will be impassable by ANY vehicle.
Normally, I am not a 4WD person, but, today, I wanted one!!!
The Chinese are "out in force" starting to rebuild sections of the road. I met one crowd of them who had set up a village at the 54Km point and sported a lot of equipment called Tomatsu and Hitachi. They seem to be getting ready to either do the road, or have some kind of big Sumo convention.

That being said, we did make it. It is passable, but only just, in parts.

Oudom Xai - Luang Prabang
The road from Oudom Xai out towards LPQ is almost just as bad as the road into Oudom Xai from Luang Namtha.
It is terrible, just affected by bad rain the past week. Whole sections of road are missing and the tarmac surface has fallen down the hill.
I got bogged twice today. It rained from 9:00am to 1:30pm on the way. Arggghhhh!!!!

It took us 6.5 hours to get here!!
We beat a 4WD mini-van that left when we did by just over an hour!
Trucks were turning around and abandoning to go further.
Busses from Oudom Xai were not running.

Comment: sounds perfect for dirt bike adventurers.
 

Dougal

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Dec 18, 2007
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Sad news but good information.

At least they have mobilised crews and equipment but by the sound of that report there are huge lengths (km) to be repaired.

May have to head to Cambo this year.
 

ray23

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Oct 14, 2005
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Darn sounbds like my Issan exploring won't try it in rainey season, in the ride season I will give it a go. Heck I go slow anyway. Great report. thanks for the heads up.

You guys who ride this often is this unusual for rainy season?
 

Moto-Rex

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Jan 5, 2008
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I'm amazed at how these roads have deteriorated so much in such a short period of time. Know doubt due the number of Chinese trucks now using the roads.
Funny thing is that all the road works seem to getting done using Chinese workers.

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DavidFL

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Jan 16, 2003
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Arh some photos at last to confirm what Mark & Nikki are reporting about

The easier stuff Oudom Xai - Luang Prabang
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Just another shitty Lao road in the wet season??
Not if you're on a Harley.
I commend Mark & Nikki for doing it. They Harley made it - well done, you guys are stars.
And Mark says Oudom Xai - Luang Prabang was the easy bit, Luang Nam Tha (Na Toey) - Oudom Xai is much worse.

Incredible isn't it? Just think The Snail did all this in the dry on his Ducati 998 in a day from Chiang Mai!!

It just goes to show you - it's not the bike that lets you down, it's the rider!
Again congratulations Mark & Nikki, plus The Snail for his record breaking run a while back.
 

zain

Ol'Timer
Sep 2, 2009
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My full hat to Mark & Nikki and the machine. I agree that it is about the rider not the machine. But the condition of the road......wulala... :shock:
 

burnjr

Ol'Timer
Dec 28, 2005
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nice ride bro..its monsun season in laos ..the best ride is in december...
with DP :D
 

zain

Ol'Timer
Sep 2, 2009
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Sorry bos,would like ta ask again. What is the normal hour taken,if riding slow and steady,from Luang Namtha to Oudom Xai and from Oudom Xai to Luang Prabang? Tq bos.. :D
 

DavidFL

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Jan 16, 2003
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A new email just in from a couple of Honda Shadow riders...

Hi David , just a short note to thank you for your advice on Nasser the gem dealer, I now have a lovely "Ruby" ring.
We as Aussie's did what all Aussies would do, went to Laos.
CK - HX barge no problems, HX - LNT not such a bad road in fact reasonable. LNT - OX 1st+2nd gear the whole way, dry road and very dusty. OX - PM (to quote someone else) Crapola. PM-LP good.
My thoughts, The Harley rider should ride Nepal for really bad roads, and not ride in heavy rain. We all see things differently, and that should be explained to others.
We are very grateful for your site GT rider and Michael will write a full report on our return to the boat.
Cheers for now and keep your knees in the breeze.
Jennifer Gough
 

HTWoodson

Ol'Timer
Apr 20, 2009
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Davidfl wrote: Arh some photos at last to confirm what Mark & Nikki are reporting about

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I remember this spot. I made the mistake of trying to go around to the left and discovered too late that it was waaaay to slippery. Bike started sliding sideways and I ended up dropping it. About 20 villagers came out and watched for near 1/2 hour while I struggled to get it upright and push it back up the slope. No offers to help at all, and when I finally asked for help they refused. Gave me a bad impression of the Laos villagers; Thai people would have helped without being asked. Then about 10 minutes further up the road a bunch of villagers came out and blocked the road and demanded 2000 kip from me to pass. I was a little pissed off at the end of that day.