Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang - Chiang Mai Round Trip - Jan08

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by scotty007, Feb 16, 2008.

  1. [size size=18]Chiang Mai - Luang Prabang - Chiang Mai Round Trip

    Day 1

    We set off as a group of three riders, Backdoor Alien on his VFR400 Trevbart on his TDM850 and Scotty007 on my BMW R1200GS, we took highway 118 to Mae Khachan then highway 120 onto highway 1 nearly into Phayao, then turned off onto highway 1021 to Thoeng and then highway 1020 to Chiang Khong, this is not the fastest route but you get to do the really enjoyable highway 120, which is one of my favorites.

    Arriving in Chiang Khong we bumbled our way through customs and immigration, you have to export your vehicle at customs in the middle of town first, then go to the Police Immigration just before the main bridge, then go to the boat jetty do your passport immigration and the finally check out with customs just down from the passport immigration.

    After all this we negotiated for the truck ferry, 500 baht if we wanted to wait an hour, or 2000 baht total to go straight away on an empty ferry, we elected to go straight away and waited about 5 minutes for the ferry to come from Huay Xai.

    On the vehicle ferry

    Once across we again bumbled around the various offices importing the bikes, we wanted to get some AGL insurance but the office at the jetty and in town was closed, I suppose it was a Friday!

    We then went into town and did our passport immigration, the amount to pay depends on your nationality (30US for Aussies and 35US for Brits) and also the time of day as there is a 1US surcharge after 4PM and on the weekends!

    We stayed at the Mekong Hotel for 350 Baht, the rooms are okay and there is good safe parking for the bikes.

    Interesting menu!
    Interesting menu!
    Interesting menu!
    Interesting menu!
    Interesting menu!

    Day 2

    We left Huay Xai around 10AM, on highway 3, at this time of year it is generally too cold and misty in the mountains to make departing any earlier a good idea, the road to Luang Nam Tha for the first 90kms was generally pretty good (racetrack surface FL) apart from some road works in the mountains and hundreds of squares sometimes filled with fresh tar to beware of and a couple of hard packed dirt sections, (we did notice on our return trip that there had been a lot of improvement in just one week) the last 89Kms was racetrack surface, very good motorcycling indeed and fantastic scenery.

    Road between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Huay Xai – Luang Nam Tha
    Coal mine between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Coal Mine
    Village between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Road between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Road between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Road between Huay Xai and Luang Nam Tha
    Huay Xai – Luang Nam Tha
    Huay Xai – Luang Nam Tha

    Arriving in Luang Nam Tha we stopped at the Many Chan GH for lunch, this seems to be the only tourist focal point in town, but the food and Beer Lao is good! We stayed at The Villa which was very good value at 20US, we also checked out the Panda restaurant for dinner, service was a bit slow, but the food was pretty good, later we checked out the Happy Beer for a few of the same, don't look over the balcony though! The trip back to The Villa was a slow one as it was absolutely freezing!

    Day 3

    Set off at 10AM on highway 13B to Luang Prabang via Oudom Xai after fuelling up, 91 octane, if that, seems to be the norm for Laos, it was still pretty cold and misty, keeping our speed down, it had cleared by the time we got to the T intersection for highway 13, Borten (China) and Oudom Xai. After the intersection the road rapidly decreased in quality, with long and short stretches of hard packed rocky dirt, very tight and twisty, not so bad for Trevbart and myself, the dirt sections were definitely not pleasant for Backdoor Alien on his VFR400, (By the end of the trip his lower fairing was pretty smashed up) the dirt patches went on and off pretty well all the way to Oudom Xai, about 81 Kms.

    Fuelling up in Luang Nam Tha
    Road to Oudom Xai

    We stopped for lunch in Oudom Xai, I didn't recognize the town, even though I had been there before in 1995, then there was a market a hotel and a few buildings, now the main street was a few kilometres long!

    Instant crowd!

    Leaving Oudom Xai was a bit confusing as there are two intersections to go through, so we used Bobs GPS to navigate, the road was a lot better through to Pak Mong with no dirt stretches, very tight and twisty still, at Pak Mong we fuelled up and Back Door Alien tie strapped his lower fairing back together as best as possible, the last 111 Kms run into Luang Prabang the road widened and it was not so twisty, but there was a lot of roadside villages with all the attendant dangers, one of which was a large cockerel that got run over just in front of me, erupting in an amazing blossoming of feathers, someone would be getting a good dinner that night!

    Near Luang Prabang
    Near Luang Prabang

    Arriving at the outskirts of Luang Prabang was a bit of a shock as the traffic suddenly increased tenfold, in town we stayed at the Rama Hotel 27US for the first night then relocated to the Phousi Hotel which was 60Us a night, good location but well overpriced, unfriendly staff and terribly sporadic hot water.

    Great name for a motorbike!
    Great name for a motorbike!

    We stayed four days in Luang Prabang, enjoying the relaxing nature of the place and the good food available, and of course the Beer Lao!

    Luang Prabang
    Luang Prabang
    Luang Prabang
    Wat Phou Si
    Wat Phou Si
    Lunag Prabang – Wat Phou Si
    Tat Kuang Si Waterfall

    Our return trip was back the same way, it did seem easier going back, apart from Backdoor Alien who had a broken clutch cable coming into Oudom Xai and rode all the way to Luang Nam Tha before getting it fixed, that must have been interesting! We met up with David FL and Rhodie in Luang Nam Tha, they were on their way in having just spent the day in Muang Sing.

    Celebrating a hards day travelling!
    Celebrating a hards day travelling!
    Celebrating a hards day travelling!
    Leaving Laos was very easy, and we ended up on the vehicle ferry with six trucks with not much draft left, and then did a strange pirouette down to Chiang Khong.

    Ferry from Huay Xai to Chiang Khong
    Ferry Huay Xai – Chiang Khong
    Ferry Huay Xai – Chiang Khong

    In Chiang Khong we only had to clear with the Customs and Passport Immigration at the boat jetty.

    Day 4

    After a nights stay at the Namkhong Riverside Hotel – 800 Baht with its recently upgraded excellent restaurant, we reversed out route back to Chiang Mai.

    Trip moving speeds going and coming back.

    Day 1 : 351km 4:23 80kph (including ferry!)
    Day 2: 179km 2:50 63kph
    Day 3: 309km 5:44 54kph

    Return on first day about 5kph faster.

    *****Highway 3 Huay Xai to Luang Nam Tha was an incredible change from when David FL, Lloyd, Walter and myself rode this road on the way to China in 1995, see more pictures and commentary from David FL ... t3575.html and pictures below, then it was nearly all dirt, with over one hundred stream crossings, one of which needed 2 people to push the motorbikes through due to the ferocity of the current, and in places not better than a goat track!

    1995 Photos;

    David FL and Akha ladies-95
    David FL and first broken frame-95
    David FL’s bike-95
    Good repair-95
    Expert welder-95
    Fixing the 2nd broken framed Baja-95
    Heavy current-95
    Look no stand-95
    Lucky it’s not the BMW-95
    Oudom Xai-The crossroads-95
    Slightly broken-95
    Stuck in the mud-95
    The sign says stop-95
    Thru a village-95

    :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D :D
  2. Good report Scotty

    Sorry I couldn't catch up with you & Bob last year but that will teach me to have a quick drinking session on a empty stomach involving 4-5 bottles of Lao Kao with 2 Thai teenagers.

    I remember the last time we met was your "wedding week" & a certain night involving a "seedy" 2nd floor establishment, a still single Scotty, a quite drunken Bob with either a pair of scissors or was it a razor blade and a soon to be married "moi".

    Looks like quite a good BM you have there and I won't chastise you about your choice of manufacture because the last time I did that it convinced a "snail" to dump his BM for a 916 & now I have only a bloody Ford Falcon to lug the family around in.
    In hindsight I should have told him that a Minsk was the go!

    Maybe in a couple of more years I will try to see if I can get our paths to cross again, I'm itchin for a goood ride and I'm still yet to sample a Beer Lao.
  3. Scotty, who are those guys in the photos? :wink: Looks like not only roads change in 13 years. Too bad we weren't a little more coordinated in our planning and we could have met up for "Some Kind of Food".
  4. Good on you Scotty! It's great to see a trip report from you again.
    Shyte the old pix from 94-95 bring back memories don't they?

    Hey Silverhawk, you're not having trouble recognizing the young DavidFL in those faded pix are you? He's "matured" a bit since then hasn't he?
  5. It depends in which context you are using the word "matured". :D
  6. Here's what it was like on that China trip in 95

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