Chiang Khong - Luang Prabang or bust

DavidFL

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Rider: David Unk
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Bike: Vstrom 650
Dates: 9 March - 20th March 2024.
Total Distance: 1,215 kms return.

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The way: Chiang Rai - Chiang Khong - Chiang Kham - Pua - Huay Kon - Hongsa - Luang Prabang.
Routes: R1063 - 1290 - 1020 - 1021 - 1148 - 101 - 4A - 4B
The return: Luang Prabang - Hongsa - Pua - Nan - Chiang Muan- Chiang Kham -Chiang Khong.
Routes: 4B - 4A - 101 - 1091 - 1092 - 1179 - 1148 - 1021 - 1020.

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A roundabout way, but there's a story....

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A start...
 

DavidFL

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Day 1 Chiang Rai- Chiang Khong- Chiang Kham - Pua.
349 kms. R1063 - 1290 - 1020 - 1021 - 1148 - 101.

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Departure time from Chiang Rai was 11.30am.
Arrival time in Pua was 10.15pm.

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I'd been waiting for an Ohlins shock for my bike, and had been told it would be ready soon.
The day it arived in Chiang Khong I raced straight over to Chiang Rai to get the shock fitted, plus a new front tyre for the trip @ Ban Chang.
Kong my fave big bike mechanic was unsure if he could fit the Ohlins in time as he planned to leave Chiang Rai early the next morning for Nakhon Sawan.
As it was, he worked into the night & phoned me mid-meal & drinks at Siam Corner in Ched Yot, telling me to come & get the bike now!
The old GTR fellah sauntered off as fast as he could to pick up the bike.
Kong wheeled the bike out, I jumped on it, it felt better than the knackered OEM shock that on the bike before, so hurried straight back to my meal & drinks, well pleased.
Chuffed I was to finally be moving in the right direction - Luang Prabang.
The next morning a quick visit to Ban Chang saw a new tyre fitted & I was ready to roll.
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In the better interests of motorcycling my Chiang Rai date was cancelled & I thought wat the heck, lets head home, pack up & head to the border, or Pua to be honest to check on Ms Emmy the Seeds singer & try a sweet little night ride.
I enjoy night riding in the hot season, especially with the lights on my bike.
R1148 was the challenge & what a glorious ride it was.
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Why do I enjoy riding at night? Because you can carry a bit more speed in the twisties, with good lights you can double the width of the road using both sides if there are no lights coming the other way.

The twisting beauty of 1148
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I had one good thrash with a young guy in car, who was closing in fast & I eventually had to yield to his superior road knowledge.
He stopped in the village of Song Khwae, & we both respectfully acknowledged each other with a thumbs up, as I carried on Eastward on 1148.

Pua city came up a bit later than I thought, but it was a quick check into the Chomphu Phukha resort where we disagreed on the 900 baht room rate at 10.15PM. I was not impressed, being used to pay 500/600/700 baht. A compromise was reached for 800 baht & no breakfast, but you won't see me back there again for that price.

The Seeds was rocking as usual.
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It really is a highlight of a night in Pua.
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Sadly, for me, no Ms Emmy that late. She does an early session such are the responsibilities of kids & a husband nowadays.
 
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DavidFL

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Day 2 Pua - Hongsa: 123kms.
Routes 101 - 4A - 4B.

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A lazy day to pay attention at the border & to check out the roads.

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R101 North from Pua to the border is 82kms,
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It is one of the North's great roads & dare I say it, potentionally the greatest road / ride you can do in the North - once they have finished the road improvements!
There is a lot of truck traffic on the road, taking fuel & cement to the Hongsa power planet, such that the old road is too narrow, tight & steep in places. But the trucks still do it, slowly!
North from Pua the new improved road, alternates between 4 & 2 lane for 48 kms to Pon, where R101 crosses the Nan river.

From Pon the road gets exciting, it soars up & down through the mountains.
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There are 34 kms of road works where they are cutting a wider road through the terrain, & you probably wouldn't want to be here on a road bike in the wet season.
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It may look ok, but imagine in torrential rain all that dirt washing down over the road, or being on some snot dirt sections for a few kms.
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The cut through the mountains.
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I can well imagine a petrol tanker or cement truck getting stuck somewhere on a bit of snot - no traction - and scores of vehicles get blocked.
It is what it is & will be frustrating fun for many drivers in the coming wet.
Impressive it will be when finished & they will need a minimum of 2 wet seasons to get close to finishing the job.

The first border turn off is a dirt road.
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If you want to skip the dirt section, & ride on asphalt, take the 2nd border turn off here

The border
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Exiting Thailand here on a bike you get asked

1. Do you have a visa for Laos, because sadly there is no Visa on Arrival, or eVisa accepted.
Muang Ngeun on the Lao side used to have Visa on Arival, but unfortunately this all stopped on 1st January 2020.

2. Do you have a permit to enter Laos?

Yes, was the answer to both questions.
Lao Visa: I had earlier flown to Bangkok & got a Lao visa at the Lao embassy. 1,600 baht & done in an hour. Simple & straight forward, but they only do single entry lao tourist visas, plus you should apply in person. The return flight cost me 4,500 baht, much more than the visa, but I wanted to have a crack & working out a system for entering Laos via Xayaboury province to make quick & easy trips to Luang Prabang.
Bike permit: originally, I thought I would bluff my way through, but after speaking to multiple contacts in Laos I was firmly advised you won't get in without a permit. And so it was a friend set it up for me in advance - leave a generous tip for the police on the Laos side. No contact, friend of a friend, or no tip = no go!

Clearing the formalities on the Thai side was interesting, because two of the Thai customs guys recognised me from the Song Khwae local border crossing off 1148 / Ban Mai Chai Daen Border R1279.
Chatting to the Thai customs guys we laughed how difficult it was going to be for the petrol tankers to get up the 101 road works from Pon in the wet. Please take note for the wet in 2024.

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As I was starting the Thai formalities 3 Thai guys on bikes were also entering Laos.
They too had used an agent in Luang Prabang for their bikes permits, costing 1800 baht each.
Fortunately for them they did not have to get a visa, so their entry was considerably cheaper.

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At the border on the Thai side there is a photocopy shop on the left-hand side.
It is the last shop / building before the official immigration/ customs booths.
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Then on the right-hand side, the last shop is a coffeeshop with WiFi.
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The WiFi was useful for me with no Dtac phone signal & it was time to check messages before popping over the other side & getting a Lao sim from the next town.

Arrival time at the Thai border was: 12.18PM.
Departure time was: 2.40PM.
I had a very leisurely time exiting Thailand.

Entering Laos, make sure you stop by the boom gate & the policeman in his box.
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Then get approval from him to proceed to park before the Lao customs / immigration offices.
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The Lao immigration staff were a bit surprised by my appearance, but yes, I did have a visa.
Whilst getting my passport stamped, a policeman came over to confirm I was Mr David, & that I would be leaving a tip for his boss. Yes, indeed I was Mr David & would be leaving a tip. Good thank you sir, please proceed to customs.
10 minutes later my papers were done, no police green permit, just the customs vehicle stickers.
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Nothing could have been easier. Done & dusted.
Arrival time at the Lao checkpoint was 2.10pm.
Departure time was 2.45pm.

Route 4A to Hongsa.
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At 3.45pm I was in Hongsa city in awe of that controversial power plant.
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My check into a gh in Hongsa was delayed trying to get a Lao sim to work in my phone at a phone shop by the market.
Unitel was the choice available, but under the new system in Laos, your ID needs to be confirmed first, before the sim is opened to work.
That means photo of your ID, plus your good self, holding your ID clearly so it can be read.
We lost an hour & I gave up. They couldn't get it to work & register after an hour!

The Souphaphone was my cheap charlie place of stay.
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250,000 kip = 400 baht.

 
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DavidFL

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Day 3 Hongsa - Lung Prabang: 120 kms
Routes 4A- 4B
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An amazing mountain road - the best ride in Laos?
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My departure time from Hongsa was delayed on account of a 2nd attempt to get a Lao phone sim card working.
Back to another shop in the market place & Unitel success this time at what is probably the # 1 phone shop in Hongsa.
Location at the front right of the market.
Tecno? Tecno Mobile Phone · P85Q+32Q, Ban Phonsaad, Laos


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Good efficient, knowledgeable service. A winner.
I got away from Hongsa at 10AM.
It was a leisurely ride to Luang Prabang, enjoying the magnificent road, views & villages along the way.
I managed 30 photos along the way....

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Route 4B the amazing ridgeline road.
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The descent into Luang Prabang
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120 kms from Hongsa. No trucks, very few villages or traffic = an awesome ride, but don't break down in here.

At 12.45Pm I was on the ferry across the Khong.
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Hot, weary and hungry = the first stop off the ferry was Le Banneton for brunch. First meal of the day.
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It felt amazing to be back in Luang Prabang after 6 years!
My 2nd home on the Mekong I thought.
:heart_eyes::heart::grinning:
 
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DavidFL

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Luang Prabang 7-nights.
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I've been away from Luang Prabang for 6 years.
Far too long, but circumstances beyond my control have hampered earlier returns.
In January 2019 getting hit by a 22-wheeler Chinese truck enroute to Luang Prabang, slowed me down.
Then covid came & borders were closed.
Then a serious crash near home at Chiang Khong in 2022 really slowed me down & took time to recover.
Now 2 years later I finally feel as if I'm back to normal.
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However, in that time there has been significant change in Laos.
The railway line has been built, all the materials were imported from China & thousands of trailer trucks destroyed R13.
Hundreds of container trucks also saunter down R3 from China / Luang Nam Tha - Houei Xai / Chiang Khong.
The roads again are being destroyed with no repair budget.
Riding in the North of Laos is not great fun like it used to be, the roads and danger from the trucks does not provide much enjoyment.
The dynamics of tourism have also changed greatly, especially with the influx of Chinese, Korean, Japanese & Thai tourists. Us farang are now in the minority. Luang Prabang has changed to cater to these different nationalities, but the town still has awesome charm & character. I still love the place dearly & want to get back to regular visits to Luang Prabang. Getting there safely now is the challenge, but I'm working on a plan to be detailed later.
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So, what's different in Luang Prabang.
1. The traffic, parking is often a problem.
2. More groups of Asian tourists.
3. Prices have gone up significantly - accommodation.
4. Food servings are a lot smaller.
5. Spirits prices are similar to Thailand, especially Jamesons for me sadly. The same as 7-11.
6. Some of my favourite restaurants are gone, cooks moved.
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Accommodation
My favourite guesthouses down by the river are now too popular with prices doubled & little or no parking.
I had a tip for a the Siriphone Guesthouse, on the outskirts of town. Brand new 250,000 kip = 400 baht, but it was a bit out of the way, down a bumpy dirt track & the only reception on duty was a pack of barking dogs = no need to get off your bike, not staying there. Pass.
After an hour riding round lanes looking for somewhere convenient, quiet & value for money the Boonchaleurn GH won out.
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Food - Luang Prabang is awesome for food & you will never get bored looking for good meals & places with a nice ambience.
I was out in a different place testing every day. There was only 1 fail.
The Banneton Cafe is still the winner for breakfasts & pastries.
I had daily breakfast meetings & almost everyone suggested Le Banneton.

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Mate MK from Luang Prabang Holiday Travel, Sebastien founder of the Xayaboury Elephant Conservation Project, & Paul graphics artist 20 years in Luang Prabang.

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With Ning Nong & husband from Felicia band at QQ Pub , ex Windwest Pub Vte, plus Alex from Chomphoo cruise.

Reasons to dine at Le Banneton.
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Brunch & magnificent in the extreme.
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A healthy breakfast.
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Coffee
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Croissants, cakes & pastries
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# two for brekky is the Cafe Vat Sene
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For a pizza at night we hit the Zurich, to catch up with Chao & Big Bike Tours from Chiang Mai, on a Lao tour.
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The Coffee Express was another favourite rendezvous spot, especially to hook up with MK Mongkhon.
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MK Mongkhon is the man to contact for getting into Laos! More later.

Another fortuitous meeting & dinner was with Dilip, a Sri Lankan guy with a restaurant. The Taste of Ceylon.
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You seldom see me eating in an Indian for curries but the food at Dilip's was absolutely outstanding.

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Meeting with Dilip was fascinating when we found out he had worked at the original Tango mobile phone company in Vientiane, helped set up their communication towers & using an early GTR Laos map. The only decent guide map to Laos at the time.
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Dodraugen

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Interesting trip report and great photos David. Luang Prabang has most certainly changed a lot up through the years. Especially the on the $$$ side. I always used to indulge in a meal at Le Elephant restaurant when in LP - but the last time I was there I just couldnt grasp it economically.

Here is R4b on Google maps btw….LOL, a dead end in the middle of nowhere.
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DavidFL

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A few more Luang Prabang notes

For those guys who have done a GTR Mekong Boat trip I had dinner one night at the house of the late boat skipper's family.

Kham the daughter picked me up in her new Toyota Hilux & took me out for the night.
Kham's family now has 3 boats between the sisters & brothers. 2 cruise boats & a cargo boat.
Of note is that the brother does cargo boat runs upstream from Chiang Saen to Sop Leuy on the Mekong.
Sop Leuy is the last port, on the Mekong's west bank (Myanmar) before you enter China & is controlled by the Wa.

Dinner at home with Mum
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Early GTR Mekong boat trips




We discussed a couple of other Mekong boat trips (1) upstream & (2) a repeat downstream trip.

Then time to check out a couple of pubs.
The QQ with Felicia Band
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Then the massive QQ Club disco
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Luang Prabang is changing fast with massive clubs like these.
There are several other similar ones, the main one being Full Moon & then the original Muang Swa line dancing club has also re opened.



Another new hot spot on the river was the Luang Prabang Beach.
An open-air restaurant / beer garden, on a man-made sandy bank that had been levelled.
Only open 3 months & still relatively unknown, but it showed good initiative to set up.
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Entry was from about here

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Sunset river cruises are all the rage at Luang Prabang now & with a couple of mates we enjoyed a private non music no karaoke cruise on a friend's boat.
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Ms Souly is the boat owner & maybe contacted here Seangsouly Cruise
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Souly speaks perfect fluent English, is well travelled overseas & has interesting alternative views.

Taking Souly's boat is simple & way better than the noisy, mass tourism vessels ploughing up and down.
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With the 2 guys with me, we had a relaxing, lengthy intelligent discussion on the status of Luang Prabang tourism & what could be done better in the future.

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Souly's boat also has a fully furnished aircon cabin for overnight stays. Price negotiable for multiple day / night cruises.

If you're looking for long term accommodation in Luang Prabang Souly also has some fully furnished apartment rooms.
 
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DavidFL

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To wrap up a bit more in Luang Prabang.

The night market which has boomed with tourism, has a big new food court on the corner.
It used to be a single small lane of the main street but now has some severe prominence - well done Luang Prabang.

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The night products are interesting if you're a newbie & I did take a lot of photos but won't bore people with them here.
What I do find interesting is the vendors, mainly Hmong, who come into to sell with their kids. I like the family atmosphere they have.
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DavidFL

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Luang Prabang World Heritage Site

Outstanding Universal Value: Brief synthesis


Luang Prabang is located in northern Laos at the heart of a mountainous region. The town is built on a peninsula formed by the Mekong and the Nam Khan River. Mountain ranges (in particular the PhouThao and PhouNang mountains) encircle the city in lush greenery.

Many legends are associated with the creation of the city, including one that recounts that Buddha would have smiled when he rested there during his travels, prophesying that it would one day be the site of a rich and powerful city. Known as Muang Sua, then Xieng Thong, from the 14th to the 16th century the town became the capital of the powerful kingdom of Lane Xang (Kingdom of a Million Elephants), whose wealth and influence were related to its strategic location on the Silk Route. The city was also the centre of Buddhism in the region. Luang Prabang takes its name from a statue of Buddha, the Prabang, offered by Cambodia.

After the establishment of the French Protectorate in 1893, following a period of turmoil during which the country was divided into three independent kingdoms, Luang Prabang once again became the royal and religious capital during the reign of King Sisavang Vong. It played this role until Vientiane became the administrative capital in 1946.

Luang Prabang is exceptional for both its rich architectural and artistic heritage that reflects the fusion of Lao traditional urban architecture with that of the colonial era. Its remarkably well-preserved townscape reflects the alliance of these two distinct cultural traditions.

More info& Source:


There are around 33 temples in the Luang Parabang World Heritage town.
A walk around towncan be rewarding checking out the different temples & the colours of colonial Luang Prabang buildings.
It is always worth the effort for 1/2 - 3/4 of the day.

Wat Syrimoungkoun Xaiyaram
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Wat Sri Boun Heuang
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Wat Souvannakhiri
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Wat Pak Khan Khammungkun
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The UNESCO Luang Prabang World Heritage office
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War Xieng THong is the # 1 famous temple in Luang Prabang.
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Wat Nong Sikhounmuang.
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Wat Choumkhong Sourintharame
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Wat Xieng Mouane Vajiramangalaram
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Wat Sensoukharam
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The old hospital in Luang Prabang was demolished and rebuilt into a 5-star hotel: the Amankata
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Of note too, is that the prison is long gone & in its place is the 5-star Sofitel hotel.
With these two developments I'm sure there are a few happy ghosts loitering both premises.

The colours of a few old colonial buildings.
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Luang Prabang is a gem of a town for a leisurely walk every day.

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DavidFL

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Sunset on the Khong.
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The # 1 sunset place is the ex Viradesa Sunset restaurant, currently called 360.

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360 belongs to the Viradesa family, but they closed in covid, & their son Johnny & some mates reopened it as a sunset drinking venue with snack food.
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If I understand correctly in another 12 months, the family will probably revert it back to the restaurant again.

With Manoy, a Viradesa daughter & a gf (off to Oz for 6 months soon.)
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Manoy makes the best Luang Prabang sausage in town & the old GTR fellah occasionally gets some sausage to sent to Houei Xai / Chiang Khong.

The last night in LP with Manoy & her friend saw us at the LPMC. A good spot for cocktails.
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Luang Prabang was an absolute joy to be back in town after 6 years.
I always have a hard time leaving, its delights are so enchanting.
If you have not been to Luang Prabang yet, do yourself a favour & go ASAP!
 
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Wayne66

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David, how much of a ‘tip’ did you pay and if you don’t have friends in Laos how do you go about getting a bike permit? Just for future reference

Thanks

Wayne
 
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DavidFL

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Time to back track home to Chiang Khong.

The masterplan was straight out, I was struggling with the Vstrom & non-set up suspension - my mistake leaving Chiang Rai in a hurry.
The bike felt better than the knackered OEM shock on it & I thought that's ok I can ride that. I should have known better & actually was fortunate that the roads from Chiang Rai - Huay Kon - Luang Prabang were generally all good.

Finding someone knowledgeable enough in setting your bike up can be an issue & my expert mates were in Chiang Mai.
In Luang Prabang I visited a shop & we had a fiddle but it was wild guess work, & I actually fell off the bike in the uneven parking lot of the shop. Thought I'd put the side stand down, stepped off & went to walk away from the bike & it fell over. Embarrassment plus.

I'd also thought hitting the Boun Phavet / Phi Ta Khon festival that was as on in Pak Lai, but most people said you don't want to ride down that road R4 to Pak Lay anymore. I'd also thought about exiting via Pang Mone / Huak
but in the end thought let's go home, your back is starting to bother you. Get out while you can.

Entering Laos
A lengthy brekky with MK at Coffee Express started the day. The discussion agenda trying to work out a satisfactory system as a farang for entering
Laos through Xayaboury province, to get to Luang Prabang as easy as possible.
There are 2 issues - bike permits & visas as a farang. Thais don't have a problem, visa free one-month entry, but us farang need a visa. Thais don't baulk at the bike permit entry fee - it is what it is & they don't have the added cost of a visa for 1600-1800 baht. But in Xayaboury province there is no Visa on Arrival or eVisa accepted at the 4 international border crossings. How to get around that? Going to Bangkok or Khon Kaen from the North for a visa every time is too costly. The issue of the bike permit can be fixed by MK for a reasonable fee. Of the 4 Xayaboury international entry ports, he can fix 2, & we are working on trying to fix the other two. We are exploring visa options also. I'm hopeful of sorting acceptable something out, but it may not be overly cheap.


12 midday I was on the ferry ready to tackle R4B back to the border.
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4B is a gem of a biker's road & ride. The best in Laos?
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The beauty of Hongsa
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Not to be outdone, this little guy was not going to let the power plant provide all the air pollution.
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Border chaos.
At 4pm I reached the border to exit Laos & hit a massive traffic jam!!
Scores of petrol & cement trucks stuck.
Unbelievable who would have ever expected this?

Trucks waiting to enter Laos.
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I was able to exit Laos, but the problem was getting into Thailand.
1 truck had broken down somewhere in no-man's hand & everyone got stuck in a jam trying to get past.
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I tried lane splitting - didn't work very far.

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Some of the truck drivers I spoke to had been there 4 hours already.
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Nothing was moving!

Eventually 2 truckies suggested they would help me sneak past on the shoulder of the road & help holding my bike upon the slippery leaves.
We succeeded most of the way, but eventually the bike slid out from underneath me into the foliage.
I would have got a photo, but the 2 truckies picked my bike up before I could get my phone camera out.
Sorry guys, but I will at least unashamedly own up to it.
Eventually I reached the Thai side & got stamped back in.

Fortunately for me I was through in 1.5 hours. Pity the truck drivers who had been there for 4 hours plus.

Expect more of a mess here as they complete the road widening & improvements.
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I rode on into the sunset & night.
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PTT Pua 7.15PM
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The new el cheapo favourite 400 baht hotel in Pua.
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DavidFL

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Pua - Chiang Khong
I took a detour to catch up with friends.
Went to Nan & Hot Bread for brekky.

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The Hot Bread breakfast is one of the best & often just a reason to ride to Nan!

From Nan its R1091, my favourite roads in the North. Better than R1148 for a ride in IMHO.
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Ban Lung is a compulsory stop on R1091 to catch up with the gals who hang out at Aoy's coffee.
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It also started raining there & it was appropriate to take a break & see what was going to happen.

R1091 east of Chiang Muan is being widened & may not be so enjoyable in the wet.
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At 5pm I was in Chiang Kham checking into the Tai Lue Resort
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7PM it was time to hit the Chiang Ban for some socialising.
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The gal at the back is the cook & joint owner of the Chiang Ban with her husband.
They are both Chiang Kham families. He is Thai Yai & worked in Japan for 11 years in a sushi restaurant. Hence the downstairs sushi restaurant at the Rabiang Ban. The missus is Tai Lue from Chiang Kham also. Great honest polite people.
You should never complain about riding & touring here. Life is & has been good to me. Hence a focus nowadays on "old friends & acquaintances" along the way. They have always made the journeys rewarding.

A nitty gritty summary next - getting into Laos.
 
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DavidFL

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Summary
Getting into Laos has become a challenge - visas, bike permits & shit roads.
I've lost count of the number of times I've been to Luang Prabang & it remains strong in my heart, such that after a lapse because of accidents & covid I want to start going back regularly.
From Houei Xai it is a 2-day ride because of road conditions & my last time down R13N I got hit by a Chinese container truck, through no fault of mine. Road conditions & the traffic has gotten a lot worse since then = no fun.
There is another option from Houei Xai, & that is to follow the Khong downstream to Pak Beng. There are a couple of options this way too. Dirt most of the way to Pak Beng on the east bank, or cross over to the West bank either at Pak Tha

or Kon Tun
The dirt section on the west bank is easier than the dirt on the east bank, & easiest from the Pak Tha crossing rather than the Kon Tun crossing "so they say." Either way these are 2 days rides to Luang Prabang.
So, from Chiang Khong, the international border crossings at Huak / Pang Mon & Huy Kon / Muang Ngeun would be the easiest - all asphalt roads into Luang Prabang, & doable in a day. If only you could get a visa & a bike permit. Xayaboury province has no Visa on Arrival or acceptance of eVisas. The same applies to the other 2 Xayaboury province international border crossings, Phu Du & Kenthao / Tha Li. We as farang are well and truly snookered.

Get a visa from the Lao embassy in Bkk or the Lao consulate in Khon Kaen & you can enter.
But there's another problem - a permit for your bike.
The police in Xayaboury won't sign off on a temporary import import unless they get some tip / tea money.
You need an agent to set this up for you.
Enter MK Mongkhon Vongsam-ang in Luang Prabang at Luang Prabang Holiday Travel.
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MK has been in the tour business for a long time & does the bike permits for many of the North Thailand's tour companies.
I've known MK for a long time & introduced most of the bike tour companies to him. His is connected & knows his stuff.
It was MK who helped get me in at Huay Kon with a tip to the police, & my entry couldn't have been easier. Only the visa from Bkk was annoying, but it is what it is.
MK & I are working on a couple of other border crossings to see what we can set up, once I get another visa.
Multiple entry tourist visas are not possible for Laos, so we are working on a one-year multiple entry business visa as well. Whether it is affordable & comes off remains to be seen. The top price is US$500, but I'm aiming for something more affordable.
MK's office in Luang Prabang is here

Laos Phone Sim
To get a Lao phone sim nowadays you need to be registered - provide ID & photographs of yourself holding & clearly showing the ID in front of your face. Once this is registered online with HQ you can get a sim that works.
Getting it registered online with HQ can be problematic, as I found out after a frustrating hour at the first go on day 1.
Unitel had these package fees.
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I took the 30-day 70GB package @ 150,000 kip / 250 baht.
It ran out while I was in LPQ & I renewed it for the same amount.

Insurance.
I looked for insurance at the M Ngeun border when I entered and nothing was open.
In Hongsa again, I could not find anyone, so tempted fate & motored onto in Luang Prabang cautiously.
In Luang Prabang I tried the Allianz / AGL office twice & the staff were not available - please come after. I did come back twice & they were closed both times.
Enter Lao Thep Chaleun - MK's recommendation.
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My coverage for 12 months
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The cost 550 baht.
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MK could probably arrange this in advance if you're getting a bike permit through him.
The Lao Thep Chaleun office is here


Happy travels everyone. MK Mongkhon Vongsam-ang is the fixer man.
 
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Morningrider

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Recent Laos ride reports remind me of a proverb in Japan, 富士山に登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿,which translates as:
Literally: “Idiots don’t climb Mt. Fuji, idiots climb it twice.”
Loosely: “One who has never climbed Mt. Fuji is a fool, but one who has climbed Mt. Fuji twice is an idiot.”
Or: “A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji; a fool climbs it twice.”
Perhaps that applies to foreigners riding in Laos after about ten years ago, as Chinese investment has accelerated development with Chinese characteristics: Definitely worth doing, but don’t expect to enjoy as much a few years later.
 
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DavidFL

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Recent Laos ride reports remind me of a proverb in Japan, 富士山に登らぬ馬鹿、二度登る馬鹿,which translates as:
Literally: “Idiots don’t climb Mt. Fuji, idiots climb it twice.”
Loosely: “One who has never climbed Mt. Fuji is a fool, but one who has climbed Mt. Fuji twice is an idiot.”
Or: “A wise man climbs Mt. Fuji; a fool climbs it twice.”
Perhaps that applies to foreigners riding in Laos after about ten years ago, as Chinese investment has accelerated development with Chinese characteristics: Definitely worth doing, but don’t expect to enjoy as much a few years later.

Yeah well, I guess it is progress for some, but for me the really good times & fun touring Laos were several years ago before they started building the rail line & all the trucks came.
The volume of traffic is destroying the local cultures & environments, trampling all over everything.
Happening everywhere to an extent? In Thailand bigger better faster roads, more traffic, more speed & more dangerous.
I still enjoy the riding & the concentration challenge to stay alive, it is what keeps me mentally alert.
The best part of the trips though is always the great people & friends you can make along the way.
The people you visit & know for decades become family, wherever they are.
 
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Morningrider

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David, a penny for your thoughts on riding in Cambodia these days, compared to Laos and Thailand?
 

Morningrider

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Of course! Silly me, Cambodia is outside the Golden Triangle. The times they are a-changin'.

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Almost $200 a year for every Lao, four times more than for every Khmer (and ten times more than for every Thai). I wonder what happened in 2015-2016. Covid hardly made a dent in it.
 
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