Laos Solo Adventure - Part 3 (final Part)

ZCM

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Day 9: Vientiane to Xieng Khuan (aka”Buddha Park”). (Google Map link)
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I woke up very early, so took a morning ride around sans helmet (yes I know, poor form for many. However, it was just for a short time and there was no traffic around. I just wanted to enjoy a small ride without gearing up. It was heaven!).

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I went back to the hotel for breakfast (included) and then headed off to the Thai Embassy where i would apply for a new Thai visa.

D’oh moment when I got to the embassy and found out that it was closed that day!
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I had broken a cardinal rule. Normally I always double check about dates. No matter! Off I went instead to Xieng Khuan (aka “Buddha Park”). As luck would have it, arriving early also meant I beat the busload of crowds that arrived around an hour later.

Was great to revisit this park, which I first visited around ten years prior. At that time I had a simple phone, which had a basic low resolution video facility. I began to film some boys that were playing in the park (between ages around 7 and 10), and they were not used to phones having a video option, so just kept posing thinking I was taking photos, haha! Was very cute. Amazing to think these same boys will be grown young men now. I wonder how their lives are. (If I can find this old video, I will update this post with it)

After the park I had a ride around and explore.

I good day of exploring. Took in a lot of sights. Found many interesting temples. Found out that Vientiane has a massive waterpark, a big exhibition center, a huge mall..and also that the city center mall had a major overhaul inside. Some years back, when i was last there, this mall looked more like local market. Lots of small market type stalls and shops. Now it had major chain stores and a lot more carbon copy to malls worldwide. In some ways better, in many ways worse. Noticed a lot more chain stores and restaurants in the city too. I suppose that is “progression” for you…

That evening I declined meeting up for drinks as I just wanted some quiet downtime. It takes a lot out of you riding around in extreme heat!

Day 10: Vientiane City (Google Map link)
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Early in the morning I finally got my visa application in at the embassy.
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Afterwards i indulged in a coffee and then went back to my hotel to get changed and explore the area again on foot.


I rested up and then headed out in the evening, where the city has a lot to offer.

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…this was fun.
I was interviewed by these students for a project they have to do for school.
The first question was:
“How did you travel to Laos?”
“By motorbike”
(Confused/surprised faces)
I explained, and they were very surprised! I was asked questions such as where did I go?.. where do i plan to go next? etc.
..they were then additional surprised when at the end I spoke to them in Thai. Haha. Great moment!
They taught me this pose.. it is making a loveheart symbol between two fingers. Cute ! (Not “give me money”, which many seem to think. :p)

Day 11: Vientiane to Chiang Mai (overnight ride). (Google Map link)
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A slow morning that morning, which was mainly a waiting game to collect my passport and visa. The collection time was not until 1:30pm and there would be a queue, so i knew it would be a fair wait. When I arrived at the embassy the passports were handed out fairly quickly thankfully and I took off on my bike to the border.

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On the Laos side I got my paper work stamped and I headed over the Thai-Laos Friendship bridge, feeling a real victory moment.

However, this vitory moment didnt last long when I was informed that I did not have an exit stamp in my passport. So, had to go back over the Friendship Bridge to the Laos side to get one. Haha! Doh!

I got my exit stamp and arrived back over the Thai side where i got everything sorted and was finally official over and back on Thai soil.

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At the border entrance I pulled up my bike to take a photo and an officer kindly came over to offer to take a photo of me.

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He then asked me about my trip and where I was going. He ended up giving me an escort down the wrong side of the road to the start of the R242 border road..haha!

He then told me where I need to go. I actually already knew where to go, but I was grateful for the kindness. I checked the time. Almost 4pm. Seemed everything took much longer than hoped…and I was on the Thai side later than hoped :/ No matter. At least I was back over!

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My original plan was to ride along the border road and stop in at Nam Pat region (aiming for Takayai Resort 2), then in the morning I would ride to Sirikit Dam and take the ferry across the river (I had done this once before. See “5 days, 7 provinces” trip report).

As it got dark I somehow took a wrong route and ended up on a rutted dirt road, in the dark, with the sky lighting up ready for a thunderstorm! I rode along this route for a bit, wondering if the road would improve, but it only got worse. So I decided to backtrack. I didn’t fancy getting stuck in a rutted dirt road in the dark in a thunderstorm!

It was then I just decided to change my plan. I began to crave home. I decided to instantly end my trip. Instead of heading back up onto the border road I headed down towards Loei (as I figured the main roads would be safer in the dark, and also if a thunderstorm hits).

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Wet and slippery

So, off I went towards Loei. I debated whether to drop in on the motorcycle crew at Loei Saloon (a popular rider hangout), but I just wanted to make tracks and get home. (I also did not stop in at the Budapest Bistro in Vientiane. The owner is a rider. Seems to be highly recommended. So if you like Hungarian food, drop in!).

After Loei I headed along the R21. ..and this road gets dark. VERY dark. Pitch black dark! My LED spots burned out some months before and I was aiming to ride this road with the equivalent of a candle light torch, which is my pathetic front light. I handled this by either slowing right down and enjoying the stars and fireflies, or using any passing vehicle as a beacon. Most vehicles had great headlights so if I tailed them I could pick up speed. Usually the vehicles would turn off some place though, so the guide light never lasted too long. The road itself felt like it lasted forever. I was so very slow!

When I hit the main R11 the road had more intermittent spots of flash lit area. So was a little more easy. It also had clearer markings to follow and cats eyes.

As I approached Lampang (approx 100kms from Chiang Mai) I was getting very weary, so pulled in at a garage and got myself some food. That’s when I took a look at the time. It was almost 4am! I had no idea! The route had taken so long due to the lack of decent lights.

I had a short rest to judge how I was, and thankfully a little while later the rest and food had got me a burst of energy. So headed for Chiang Mai. This route is also better lit for the most part, so when I got back on the bike I was able to get a better pace.

When I pulled in at Chiang Mai and noticed the large city digital clock, it read 5:45am. A crazy long time for this ride, and my butt was hurting by now. Parked up and got myself home, where I was grateful to peel off the now disgusting bike clothes. Despite washing them every day, they had taken on a distinctive wet dog odour. Not pleasant.

I have no regrets at deciding to cut out the Thailand side of my trip. I think the Laos adventure was enough for me to chew on for now. I feel good that I achieved my first solo ride in Laos and out the other side ok.

Feeling good after this trip, and I cut it off at the right time. As now I am looking forward to the next adventure, rather than weary about it.

Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed!

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FULL VIDEO COMPILATION OF THIS TRIP:
 

Conemeister

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Oct 23, 2014
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Great read and info, well done, sounds like an arduous journey and some great memories for you.
Some future plans will come from this.
Very impressed at the big run from Vientiane to CM, I am sure a good day in the bath was a just reward.
Power on Motogirl
 
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ZCM

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Haha yes, around 777km ..something like that...and around 400-500km of it in the pitch black.. not sure. With my terrible lights it was an endurance test for sure..lol.
Bit off a more than I had expected to chew, but chewed it anyway. :D
 

Fritzltouw

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Jun 1, 2018
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Great write up and nice pictures. You've done pretty long rides at a the time so it seems, did your feel that at any point the seat became unbearable? Seems like a lot of people complain about the seat on the KLX and the CRF. Just curious to hear your experience since I'm considering buying a CRF myself.
 
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ZCM

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Hi Fritzltouw,
I have a few things that have helped..

First off my seat had the magic touch of "Narong Motorcycle Seat".
This was done by the previous owner that i bought my bike from.
The seat is fantastic and MUCH more comfortable that standard.
I hope the photo shows that ok.
I imagine something like an airhawk would also improve things further, but havent tried.

Second, I adjust my position frequently on long rides whenever possible.
I use the bars on the front of my bike (see photo) to rest my feet up on, and then I also tuck my legs back on themselves using the passenger pegs (racer style / road bike style.. if that makes sense). I stand up from time to time too. Then I do a mix of one leg one way another leg another way..haha. I am sure i must look silly to anyone looking, but it works for me. When I ride I dont care if i look odd. I want to keep myself comfortable.

But ultimately the seat is gold. So even if you dont dig the idea of weird bike acrobatics like i do, then i think a custom seat (and maybe something like a gel pad airhawk) is the best thing to do. I cant imagine enduring long rides on the standard dtracker/KLX/CRF bikes.

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ngiC2d

ngiC2d
 

Fritzltouw

Ol'Timer
Jun 1, 2018
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Thanks for all the info. I thought i saw a custom seat in the pictures and I was wondering how you endured long hauls like that with a stock seat. I'm not a stranger to acrobatics on the bike either. In Europe I used to ride a XJ600s with a corbin seat and on long hauls I'd rest my legs on the passenger foot pegs to stretch and slide back and forward on the seat. I'm with 6"4 and a bit quit tall and a good seat is a must for me.
I think with any bike I buy, I'll have to pay Narong's a visit.
 
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