Google earth - can it be trusted??

Discussion in 'Laos - General Discussion Forum' started by Jade64, Jan 11, 2011.

  1. Jade64

    Jade64 Active Member

    In some parts of Laos the roads shown in yellow by google earth are absolut chaotic. Just as an example:
    the N3 that starts correctly at Huai Xay and leeds, after a few correct kilometers, directly to Muang Sing. That is completely wrong as it should go to Luang Namtha. And the wrong N3 pushes the 17B (Xieng Kok - Muang Sing) north into nomansland.
    And when you look at the triangle Burma/China/Laos, I suppose the little river should be the border. google paints the border somewhere else. Following the border to the south: when I look at the vegetation (I think I can see a difference in chinese/lao farming), I suppose, the real border is far more to the west, than displayed.

    Now my questions: How reliable is the the chinese border between Luang Namtha and Muang Sing displayed?
    Are there border posts on every single little road?
    or, since google is no help, is there a danger of driving into China without knowing it?

    ok, quite special questions. but maybe somebody is also interested and can have a look at google earth....

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  3. kanuck

    kanuck New Member

    The International border overlays in google earth are plotted at a relatively small scale. So they are accurate enough from a distance, but the more you zoom in the less accurate they get. The same can be said for roads in remote areas, they are plotted at a smaller scale with fewer track reference points and can be way off. So no, don't trust the overlays, especially in remote areas. Having said that, if you use actual coordinates or way points from a GPS google earth is really quite accurate! Best bet if you're really concerned with international boundaries is to find a topo map and plot the lats/longs from it onto google earth. You can then export it to your GPS if you want. Also good for route finding as the the visible features can be followed in google earth so you can make your track and export to GPS.

    Of course there's always a risk of crossing borders in the back country without knowing it, but if you're on anything more than a cart path there's usually(?) signage (that maybe overgrown, unreadable or just plain disappeared). The only border I know where there's no risk of crossing without knowing it is the US/Mexican border!

    Hope that helps a bit, maybe someone else will chime in for more specifics to the Laos/China area...

  4. Jade64

    Jade64 Active Member

    We used to have a kind of "solid" border in germany too, some years ago.....

  5. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Agree with above from Kanuck.

    Use the overlays as a guide for the road.. then remove them and really drill down to the road / path.

    Remember.. The more remote the area the more dated the Map is likely to be.. e.g Bangkok may be updated with in a year.. Some Laos maps in the middle of no where may be updated in 1 or 2 years, may be longer..

    We tried to use the routing feature in Google Maps in Luang Prabang to get to Phonsovan (Just for fun). It was crazy.. Took us the wrong long way around as if the road going south doesn't exist.. I would rely on your GT -Rider Map and Gecko Map for Laos and use Google earth to look for the unexpected. I guess Google don't make much money out of Laos so the service is lacking compared to other countries.

  6. Jade64

    Jade64 Active Member


    now I am back from Laos. And many questions were solved!
    It is possible and very nice to spot tracks in google earth(of couirse with NOT using the google overlays!!), mark them, send them to the garmin GPS.
    The planned tracks were visible in the garmin even on top of the "Laos GPS Map" by David.

    This is the link to one part of our trip. from Huay Xay to Muang Sing and Luang Namtha. Ok, that road is on every map and known by everbody, but north of Muang Sing, we did a little exploration, we tried to reach the "Green Triangle border between Laos/Burma/China" just by using tracks that we have spotted on google-earth.
    unfortunately we did not reach our destination because of stupid planning (had NO spareparts and no tools with us, so a possible breakdown was too frightening for us).
    and furthermore, we are just offroad beginners, so we ran out of confidence, the more we left Muang Sing and the civilization behind us!!

    We did not drive more east and into the near of the china border, so my question about the precision of google borders is not yet answered. One more goal for my next Laos trip!!

    I am still very much at the beginning of using google-earth and my garmin (got the wrong one: NEVER buy a Nuvi series!!! ).
    Still many many opportunities ahead, I am looking very much forward to the next trip to Laos


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