Laos report starting 16 Jan 2009 in Huai Xai

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by herph, Jan 17, 2009.

  1. herph

    herph Member

    Hi all,

    Just a bit of a blog as a Laos trip report. I'm an American tourist riding a brand spanking new (read painfully slow during break-in) KLX 250 purchased in my name in Chaing Mai. (details for purchase here ... t5068.html). Here are some observations so far:

    No problems for me crossing at Chiang Khong/Huai Xai. Steps for me were:

    a) Go to Thai customs in CK about 1/2 km past the Police Station on the right to get the "Simplified Customs Declaration Form". I was asked to identify my port of reentry. Fair English spoken.

    b) Took two copies of this form, two copies of pasport and two copies of green book's relevant pages and a completed (or not in my case) TM2 form back to the Thai immigration office which is on the right (as you come in to town) just before the police station. The guy I dealt with was very friendly and spoke excellent English. He said that as a single rider, no TM3 or TM4 is necessary, which makes me nervous.

    c) Took these to the immigration check at the river (end of the road on the right, down the hill. Departing office is on left side). Nice guy here as well checks papers and stamps me out of Thailand.

    d) Walked down past the gate across the road and up the stairs to the building on the left. Lao official logs me in a book, but no new forms.

    e) Allowed past gate to river bank where dozen or two long boats are waiting. Worked out a crossing for 400 baht with my bike lifted into and out of the longboat at the endpoints.

    f) Up stairs at Lao side to main window, then room on right to pay (I can't remember how much, 200 baht?) then to the left for computer room #7 for "Customs Declaration for Temporary Imported Passenger Vehicle". About 15 min, and a few more baht (30?) for the form, then back down to the river to get a sign-off. Not very much english spoken here. As a side note, I didn't notice until later that I had only been given 7 days on this form. I went back to room #7 later and asked for more. A different officer with essentially no English proposed 15 days, I suggested 30, which he accepted and changed only the dates on my copy of the form in pen. He acted surprised when I asked him to sign something stating that he changed the dates, but did so without much reluctance.

    g) Down through town to the foot passenger entry to buy visa (1,500 baht or 35 USD & one photo). ATM just across the main street.

    Staying at Oudomp(h)one 2 per David's advice. They wheeled my bike inside the shop last night before I returned from dinner. They said that I could keep the bike inside, but I was still a little surprised to see my bike "missing" when I returned. Nice big room. No TV, but I don't care.
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  3. herph

    herph Member

    Quick out-and-back north along the Mekong. Very pretty and paved to Xiangchai.

    I should add that I will be carying a SPoT satellite messenger/tracker, so if you have any interest, you can check my more-or-less real time track starting tomorrow at: ... 3iJ4YP4V1H
  4. herph

    herph Member

    A few days to catch up.

    18 Jan - Houei Xai to Vieng Phoukha. I went southeast along the Mekong (fairly good dirt just past the airport intersection) and looked for the road shown on the Laos map connecting Ban Dan up to Hwy 3. Couldn't find it and asked a shop keeper in Dan. He only new of a small track that headed up the Nam Tin just before the bridge at the next town (Huai Xai Noi, I think, but no sign). This started small and got smaller, down to almost single track with several stream crossings. Finally did connect, though and was great fun as I was all but convinced that I was going to have to turn back. Hwy 3 to Vieng Phoukha pobably a total of 10 km not paved with the rest, including all of the really fun twisty part excellent.

    19 Jan - VIeng Phoukha to Muang Sing. Nothing to note. No change in Hwy 3 character and Luang Namtha to Muang Sing very good pavement, but slightly rough.

    20 Jan - Out and back on a new dirt road out of Muang Sing to the Mekong. This is a fantastic newly built road that heads NW from 17B about 5 km SW of Muang Sing about 60 km all the way out to the Mekong. Most of this road is currently smoother than the paved road between Luang Namtha and Muang Sing as they are just finishing it up (with roller packers) and there isn't much traffic on it. The views from this road are simply amazing as it climbs over the ridge of the Muang Sing basin. My altimeter gave a pass elevation of around 6000 ft.

    I strongly recommend this road to anyone on a DTracker or better as it was one of my best days ever on a bike. There is one fairly significant river crossing at about 3/4 of the way in and it is quite steep heading in but met several scooters before the river. Travel data:

    - From 17A/17B intersection in Muang Sing go toward Xieng Kok about 6km and watch for new blue sign on right and obvious new roadcuts heading up the hillside to the NW.

    - 4 km in road splits, but either way goes. Straight goes through village, left is a bypass that joins back in above village.

    - Pass is at about 25 km.

    - At about 45 km is the river crossing, which was only about axle deep on my KLX and roughly 15 m across. Good stone bottom.

    - There is only one obvious 'Y' in the road and I don't have a mark for it. Probably about 50-55 km. Right fork goes out to the Mekong, left goes up to a village with another minor stream crossing.

    - Mekong at about 60 km. You can cross the suspension bridge on your bike if you dare (I made it), ford the river, or just park and walk the 100 - 200 m.

    21 Jan - Muang Sing to Oudom Xai. Great road to the Boten 'T', then probably 3 km of rough dirt on Hwy 13 before it resolves to roughly 90% pavement with 10% really poor dirt patches.

    Met Ted, Terry and Paul who, in the course of a few beers, disuaded me from going up to Phongsali and laid out an itenerary for at least a year. That was really great! May be keeping the KLX for next year.
  5. Marco

    Marco Ol'Timer


    Nice report, but together with pictures it would come alive and full colours...
  6. herph

    herph Member

    22-23 Jan - Out and back from Udom Xai to Pak Beng. Hwy 2W in excellent condition and, contrary to the GT Laos map, no change in road character for entier length. Smooth chip-seal with very few patches. Absolutely wonderful in comparison to 13 N of Udom Xai. Many villages, so a bit slow. Nice looking guest house in Muong Hon (I didn't go inside), many in Pak Beng and fuel available frequently.

    General note: I am not too inclined to post photos, partially for the time as the connections out here are slow, but mostly because this is just a PiRep, not a documentary. It's nice to know what the roads are like, but I don't want to spoil it for you, so I'm even slightly reluctant to do this. If you're reading this, then you are probably considering the trip and I'm trying to keep the info to the minimum necessary for safe travel so you can plan but still have your own adventure.
  7. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Arh, if you can be bothered, take the time & post a few photos. You won't be spoiling anything for anyone.
  8. herph

    herph Member

    Due to popular demand, I have edited the post for 20 Jan to include details about the road from Muang Sing out to the Mekong.

    24 Jan - Udom Xai to Nong Khiau w/ 'out and back' to the intersection of the Na Son road. Hwy 13 not much better than from Boten 'T' to Udom Xai, but no long sections of rough dirt. Pak Mong to Nong Khiau excellent chip-seal which extends up to the pass at the Na Son intersection. Views from this pass are very nice both back toward Nong Khiau and off to the east.

    25,26 Jan - Nong Kiau to Luang Prabang. Hwy 13 from the Pak Mong intersection very much improved over the north part. Two sections of dirt (one of about 8 km just south of Nam Thouam and another of about 5 km not to far before Luang Prabang). Both of which are apparent prep for repaving so will likely be pavement in near future.

    27 Jan - LP out to Kuang Xi falls. Excellent chip-seal.
  9. herph

    herph Member

    More catch-up. Surprisingly little internet out here.

    28 Jan - Luang Prabang to Pak Xeng. First right turn after crossing the Nam Xuang. Good fast dirt. Note that the 83 km listed in the GT Laos map is from LP, not the intersection of 13 so there is about 60 km of dirt. Not much traffic.

    29 Jan - Pak Xeng to Vieng Thong. Fairly good dirt to intersection of 1C, but my odo said more like 64 km. Also Pauche ( ... t5113.html) fails to mention which way he went at his criptic direction sign (which has gotten even more confusing). I went left. 1C to the Xieng Khouang province border spotty as per Pauche. After the border, new chip seal operation as I went through and general improvement in road and, in my opinion, scenery.

    30 Jan - Vieng Thong to Xam Neua. Vient Thong to Phou Lao spotty, but generally good chip seal. This road is an honest 1-lane wide, however, so it was perhaps the scariest road so far for me. Phou Lao to Xam Neua crazy twisty with spotty chip seal that improves as you get closer to XN. There is a unmentioned waterfall that is just off the road to the right about 2km after Saleuy that I think is worth stopping for.

    31 Jan - Xam Neua to Vietnam border, out and back. Spotty chip seal with several 10% and greater climbs/descents. Nice Karst throughout. Roadsigns and odo showed more like 60 km to border from Vieng Xai.

    1 Feb - Xam Neua to Phonsavan. General improvement in surface from Phou Lao. From Muang Kham, excellent, straight and fast.

    2 Feb - Phonsavan to Mouang Khoune with Plain of Jars. (Finally something Pauche hasn't already covered!) Pavement excellent to Mouang Khoune. Despite huge billboard at turnoff for P.o.J sites 2 & 3, very weak subsequent signage. Follow GT inset map's numbers and look for very small sign to site 2 on left. Again, my odo read a touch more than the listed numbers. The only guesthouse in Mouang Khoune is decent with attached restaurant.

    3 Feb - Mouang Khoune to Thathom. Can I say that this would not be a bus route in the US? Generally quite marginal dirt. Significant road construction taking place throughout, however, so this is likely to change rapidly. My notes:

    - Road quite poor km 25 to km 40. Enjoy the clear river in this section however, because as soon as you get to the construction, it becomes ketchup.

    - Km 40 to km 64 random major construction with Xiang Khong coming at km 64 for me, not 50.

    - 50 cm +/- deep crossings at 74 km and 81 km.

    - Thathom @ 100 km with nice clean guesthouse. No electricity. Pour and scrub bathing.

    4 Feb - Thathom to Pakxan. GT map does not seem to jib with my received info. For one, the road never recrosses the Nam Xan, always staying to the west. Also, I am confused as to where exactly Thasi is, but I don't believe the road I took goes through it. My notes:

    - Km 15, right turn away from Nam Xan valley and up very steep with subsequent very steep drop. On this decent there is a spot of really magical pure jungle with a great view to the NW. I strongly recommend that you take a few minutes here as there is nothing else like it on the trip.

    - Km 25 double stream crossing with first ~ 50 cm (stay right) and second minor (stay left). There were hundreds of butterflies here when I went through.

    - Km 30 minor road improvement and police check/wave through.

    - Km 40 significant road improvement. Fast flat dirt frequently interspersed with what must be lakes in the rainy season.

    - Km 46 Muang Huang. Note that if you are coming from Pakxan, the road I took departs to the left after a small karst "castle" on the right and just prior to the new blue road construction sign (even though this sign says that it is making a road to Thasi the best info I could get is that the road I took is the only way to Thasi) and just before a new bridge.

    - Muang Huang to 13. The chip seal at Muang Huang currently disappears at the edge of town to really poor dirt for about 10 km. This improves stepwise in about another 10 km to excellent brand new wide chip seal.

    - 13 to Pakxan. Perfect, busy, boring.

    5 Feb - Lay day. Staying in BK Guesthouse which is nice and clean. Internet, however is clear out of town to the NE. From the market, head E to the first major intersection (past the BP station with the Beerlao dist. in the NW corner). Head up that street about (I walked) 1 km. It's after the top of the rise on your left.
  10. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    Great report.... And I've just updated that photo with a better description of where to turn at the Y-junction. thanks for reminding me! :lol:
  11. herph

    herph Member

    6 Feb - Pakxan to Kong Lor. All paved except about the first 3 km down the Hinboun valley, but they were roller packing it as I went through, so I suspect this will be all paved within a month or two. I found the corners on Hwy 8 west of the viewpoint to be a little greasy feeling, but that could be my hard Thai Dunlops talking. Also a couple of decreasing radius corners in there.

    7 Feb - Lay day at Kong Lor.

    8 Feb - Kong Lor to Xaybuathong. Road continues excellent to Lak Xao, then rough dirt for about 20 km, again as per Pauche. The new road is deteriorating (sadly) and gets rougher the closer you get to Nakai. Again, I may be confused, but I understand the road to continue as dirt past Nakai for several km, then good chipseal to Lak 60. From Lak 60 to Xaybuathong good fast very smooth dirt.

    9 Feb - Xaybuathong to Phin. My notes:

    - First, there is no guesthouse in Xaybuathong ("Bu mi ban pak", no matter how many times I asked). I managed to get an offer to stay in a construction project, but you may not be so lucky(?).

    - Xaybuathong at 55 km on my odo from Lak 60. All following odo numbers with Xaybuathong = 0 km.

    - Straight through Xaybuathong.

    - At Yang, km 14 and after a police check, I went left at the "Y".

    - Road stays good to intersection with school on right at km 14. I went straight across bridge. Road quality takes a significant dive to solid 4x4 after bridge.

    - At km 20 after major mud holes, I bore left at the "Y".

    - Straight at every village until the UXO Lao tent at km 29 where I went right into and through village, minor stream crossing and straight across rice fields so there must be a loop route during the growing season.

    - At 61 km road crosses a small bridge to intersect excellent dirt. At this point I did not turn hard right, but I went kind of straight which is actually a soft right.

    - At 79 km I went striaght, but I understood that right also goes to Vilabury as you are essentially at the edge of town.

    - There is a viewpoint for the copper strip mine by taking a left just before the mine entrance gate and following that for a couple of km to the first obvious right that heads up the hill under a powerline. Drinks and perhaps food available. 2000 kip entrance fee.

    - Good pavement out to 9E, however the road I took, which seemed like the only road, took me to Nabo (Nabor on the signs) which is significantly east of Phin as opposed to the GT map which shows the road from Vilabury intersecting 9E west of Phin.

    - I can't remember the name of the place I stayed, but there are a few choices of restaurants and guest houses.

    10 Feb - Phin to Salavan. Much thanks to Pauche I lived through this one. His comments are excellent so I will defer with the following edits:

    - At 8 km, just after you top out on the plateau, continue straight even though left seems more heavily traveled.

    - I also paid 50,000 kips for the river crossing at Tat Hai (36 km), however a couple of Israeli guys who I chased from Kong Lor and caught finally in Pakxe, got it for much less so you can work on this number even though they have a monopoly. We also "rode" our bikes across in the boat as opposed to laying them down per Pauche. I was directed to head upstream along a trail just above the river level as opposed to heading straight up from the "ferry landing" on the south bank. Just before the S abuttment this trail went up and was also steep sand, but not as sketchy as it was where I was dropped off. This also put me closer to the old roadbed.

    - The old roadbed starts off as easy to follow very large (2-3") black crushed rock. At about 45 km the traveled path departs from the old roadbed and heads off to the left. The next 5 km is the routefinding crux of this trip. My tactic was to keep working back to where I figured the road went and watching for the black rock to show up again. It does at about 50 km, but it's really sketchy for that 5 km. Too many twists, turns and bamboo tunnels to describe, so you're on your own. Sorry.

    - The rock goes away for good after only a few km, but after that the route is never in serious question, just challenging.

    - At 72 km back on something you could call a road.

    - The Crossing at Toumlan is now a hand built toll bridge, 10,000 kip.

    - After Toumlan the black rocks come back, however they are no longer your friends as they are like driving on baseballs. These come and go for the rest of the trip.

    - Salavan at about 130 km and, again contrary to the GT map, turn right to town.

    11 Feb - Salavan to Pakse via 20. Excellent pavement. I backed up to see Tad Fan and would strongly recommend it. 5,000 kip entrance fee.

    12 Feb - Pakse to Don Det with ferry to Champsak. Ferry to Champsak 10,000 kip each way. Ferry to Don Det, 50,000 kip each way. Go figure.

    13 Feb - Lay day at Don Det.

    14 Feb - Don Det to border. Note that Veun Kham is actually 6 km west of 13, so if you are planning to use up your kip in gas it's a bit out of the way. Also there was no problem getting a visa on arrival for Cambodia.

    Ok done. About 4000 km, 30 days. I'll try to post up some photos of the interesting intersections, etc., when I get back to civilization, but I just have to say right now that I'm no Pauche or ToolsForFools, so you'll get what you get. Feel free to send me questions. Thanks for following.
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Good info there. Many thanks for compiling it so well. You must have kept good notes as you went. Well done.
  13. herph

    herph Member

    Thanks David. Just a bit that I can give back.

    I should note that, although I did try to keep careful notes on the tricky runs, there are probably a few errors, so use your own judgement if something just seems wacky.
  14. ian800gs

    ian800gs Member

    I am about to enter laos, and am very grateful for your trip report.
    I believe it will invaluable to me in my travels.
    I am not sure that I will take so kindly to the roads, as I am piloting a fully loaded 800gs, shod with a set of Tourances.
    Hopefully I can update the trip for those on heavier RTW machines.

    Thanks again
    All the best.

  15. zain

    zain Ol'Timer

    Hi ian800gs. Have you made up your travel into Laos? Sorry to ask now caz still new bos...Tq :D

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