luang prabang-luang nam tha via hongsa

Jun 21, 2006
hi everyone this was my first time on a dirt bike as usually i just ride 400s on the tarmac in north thailand so i was a bit anxious at first, but armed with my gt rider map and an italian/german riding partner we aimed to set off on a thursday from LP. Only this turned into saturday after the store manager of green wildside and salvo the italian/german guy had an argument and refused to speak to each other, i think it was over who was covering the cost of a broken clutch wire.anyway after a big hug and a few apologies we on our way first to head out to sainyabuli. i wasnt really sure how many petrol stations there would be on these roads as it is my first foray into these parts so i was stopping at every opportunity on the road out to sainyabuli. this road is pretty boring it is very dusty and the scenery compared to that of the first 15km or so on route 13 was quite bland. however i was loving the baja i dont know what its like compared to other off road bikes but i found it easily manoevred around the various potholes and quite a punchy engine. so we were looking for the turnoff to hongsa along this road and sure enough after asking at the roadblock we were told. a few hiccups on the way once i swear i lost my partner i had driven on for about 30mins after a river crossing when i stopped for a breather and waited for salvo. only he didnt appear i waited for about 15 mins which felt like an age sat on the side of this road, he didnt turn up so i began asking people on the side of the road if they had seen a farang man on a alrge motorbike come past( this is where having an isaan girlfriend comes in handy ), turns out no-one had seen him so i rode back along the road once and then twice.still no sign f him..but now about 1 hour had passed and i was beginning to think shit what am i gonna do as i dont know sod all about fixing bikes so i dont really wanna continue on my own, i was beginning to think of heading back to luang prabang after just 3 hours of my first dirtbike ride when salvo came round the corner, turns out the police had tried to stop me but i dont remember even seeing them so they had settled for just salvo then quizzed him about his intentions and where the hell he was riding to, after they figured he was just a harmless rider they invietd him to drink beer with them in the police shack. great thanks salvo ive been trawling around in the hot dust while your drinking beer with the local cops. all was soon forgotten though as the road from sainyabuli to hongsa got really interesting. we had 2 if not litle river crossings to make which i doubled back and did again led by my virgin enthusiasm. trhis road was awesome as it cut through some pretty thick jungle but yet the road remained suitbake for riding quite quickly.

there were some hills though where it had obviously rained a few days before and this made them really difficult.i remember onew hillw e were on for about 45mins trying to ride/ walk/ carry the bike up..we ended up leaving one bike on the slope and concentrating both our efforts onto one bike as the mud was about 1 foot deep and wet, when we arrived at this hill i looked at salvo and just said " oh dear" should have brought a tent...anyway we continued on our way over some now quite treacherous wet hilly roads however when you see the lao on their honda dreams it kinda spurred me as they can find a way to drive.. i think i fell off about 3 times on this 50km stretch. i loved it some gloves bought from the market and a army jacket took most of the brunt of the road on my sideways adventures.
we trundled into hongsa then looking for a guesthouse and some water as the villages we stopped at for petrol seemd only to have M150, GAS but no water.amazing! no immediate sign of any guesthouses and a general " dead " feel about the place led us to mpress on to muang ngeun.not saure about speeling there but its about 40km due east of hongsa...the road wasnt very interesting it was being bulit i think although there was minimal activity on it..there were some good panoramic views on either side but it couldnt touch the jungle road to hongsa for excitement...the one flashpoint was an overturned oil tanker with some lao camped out next to it i was paranoid they wree bandits and had just hijacked the lorry so i mustered a feeble wave to show my neutrality, it must have worked as i dont recall being being shot in the back, they must have just crashed.
our luck was out though and we could see it coming a huge dark black tunderstorm that covered the whole of the eastern sky loomed ahead of us i knew it wasnt long it was about 7pm by this time and we were a bit tired having been drving for pretty much 9 hours straight( neither of us had cameras). the combination of my inexperience and the wet roads that were shingle making them really slippery contributed to another couple of falls on my behalf, we were really slow now about 15-20km/hr as the driving rain punded us it was a pretty miserable end to a wicked day as my palms were bleeding and the bike was pretty bashed up aswell after a meeting with a large rock the headights were bend out of shaoe and i could see a break developing on the headlight holding bars, salvo was also having problems with that bloody clutch wire that held us up for so long at the start of our trip.
so we rolled into muang ngeun after 8 o clock in pitch black in a town with no electricity looking for alace to stay, thanks to the guys at a petrol station( i had to knock on their house to get them out the station was already shut) a couple lads took us to a guesthouse on the other side of town. this was where we would stay for the night and what a slice of luck the whole family were having a kind of MK meal only with enough beef to feed half the population of texas, i asked them why there was so much and they replied it is a once a month ceremony/ celebration that they have where they have just sliced up mr and mrs cow for a big barby, spot on i thought and coupled with the father of the show forcing rice whisky down our neck we had a very good nights sleep considering the fact our room was an oven we werent complaining though we had just eaten enough for 2 days for free.
the next morning the father took us to a repair shop to fix up the battered bikes, this took up half the day by which time i was chatting with the owner of the guesthouse and he told me he had only ever had one farang customer at his guesthouse before..i wondered if this was david unkovich the very man who had writtent he map which allowed us to find this remote place as we couldnt see any sign of a guesthouse in the rest of town., we also gave him 10dollars each for his hospitality and kindness,
we lost a lot of time with the bikes being repaired as the guys hadnt worked on anything larger than a 125 before i guess but after some stunning improvisation all was fixed and we ready to go a t around 1 in the afternoon. we had to options onto pak kob on the mekong or back to honsa dn then on a 25km stretch to thaxoang to get the boat to pakbeng.after much deliberation it was bk to hongsa as salvo did not want to risk a broken clutch wire in this section of the trip, he was much more in favour of bk to hongsa and then to this was what we did bk to hongsa was uneventful apart from just building my frustations that it was always salvo who saw the snakes crossing the roads. hogsa to thaxoang was a gem of a ride it was slow but was up a big hill and then down the other side was a narrow road with sheer sides and was pretty exhilarating for a first timer. in thaxoang we waited for the LP pakbeng express for a n hour and then loaded our bikes on and continued up the river. over night in pakbeng was soured by the fact that no-one was showing the monaco grand prix and so i went to sleep i pretty unhappy sports fan, thank god it wasnt a motogp race.
pakbeng to oudomxai was a fantastic road..fully paved and crackign scenery from plantations in the middle to some riverside riding just out of pakbeng i really enjoyed this section as it was the first time we could get up some real speed,
after that we parted and i continued to luang nam tha while salvo went to LP. the road was nice but i didnt get the same feeling of adventure as the hongsa roads all the same though the views are preety awesome most places in laos i have found and so i rolled into luang nam tha contented but a bit bruised up..the cost of all the damage i did was 2,00baht which i though was reasnalbe and the guys at green wildside discovery were genuine and friendly which lefvt lasting good impressions.
i am in sunny england at the moment( not a joke it has been a 2 week heatwave) but cant wait to get back to laos this time with a camera so all you wont be so bored when you read my report