Martin's South East Asia Trip chapter 6 - North Laos


Thai tourer
Jul 22, 2008
Nakhon Ratchasima
Here is the next chapter, this time from Laos on my summer 2008 trip.
There are pictures on my home page if you want to follow the trip.

The border town Houei Xai was a small village and after the border procedures and some sticky rice I continued my trip. It was about mid day and the heat was on. The environment was radically different from Thailand with kids waiving along the road and a lot of animals and people on the road side. A big bike was apparently not seen everyday in Laos. I took the road 3 north an amazingly good asphalt road not at all what I expected. However I should soon discover not even close to as well maintained as the roads in Thailand. I believe there was a continued struggle to repair traces after rain and landslip from the hillsides. I really could see the process of nature taking back human conquests. Like half bridges and land masses over the road.

The Laos road between Thailand and China was a really good and broad asphalt track but lacking maintenance probably due to a lack of resources. Besides the holes and mud stretches there was a lot of life in different forms along the track so it was not a road for speeding but a lot to see! I took my time and made some stops in small villages just sat down on a bench outside the local store bought a drink and after a couple of minutes the entire village was there looking on the man and machine from outer space. The children quite curious and grab me and my Honda, the young and adults a little more reserved but as curious as the kids. Without being able to speak we anyhow had a great communication and I believe we understood each other. The meetings with locals in Laos tribes is something I will bear with me for the rest of my life, despite we didn't talk with each other there was an intense non verbal communicating that exceed all my prior experiences

With all the stops and slow driving it took a while to drive the appx 200 km towards Luang Namtha that was my next planned stop. There was actually no gas station along the road all the way to Luang Namtha so I started to get a little bit nervous for a gas stop in the end of the day. There was gas to buy in half litre bottles from the locals but I didn't dare to put it in the bike as a engine stop should be quite catastrophic. However I made it to Luang Namtha just before dawn and I actually missed he village. The road had been changed compared to David's map and the road was now led passing the town. I found my way back and stopped at a nice colonial style house with the sign Hotel on it. Two young boys helped me out with a room and there was not to many guests.

There was almost only one street in the village, anyway where there was shops and restaurants. I managed to find a Internet cafe and checked my mails. The boys behind the desk was having a karaokee session with friends and I was invited to share the fun and take a beer, I accepted and it was clear that the rumour has passed that there was a biker in town. It became one more evening with great fun before I had a good nights sleep almost alone in the big house.

Next day became even more exciting, when passing Na teu where I turned off the road towards the Chinese border and headed south towards Luang Prabang there was a dramatic change in road conditions. In the village itself there was a bunch of chinese buses apparently making border shopping waving to me and admiring my Honda, remarkable impressed to find that kind of machine in Laos. The road turned to mud when turning south and I was worrying if this was the kind of road I was about to experience the next 500 km. After a couple of kilometers gliding in the mud however the asphalt came back, now with even greater pot holes and longer stretches of mud but drivable in a speed of 30 km/hour. There was also broke down buses and trucks all along the road.

I drove through a village called Oudom Xai and the scenery was as taken from a western movie, just gravel streets and a big crossing with markets and shops. Had lunch and continued towards Luang prabang hoping to make it before dawn. There was actually a total absence of road signs in northern Laos so I really got use of David's Laos map. While concentrating on pot holes I made the mistake to follow the road straight on where I was about to turn right to follow the main road. I took a while before I realized my mistake but ended up at the most lovely village of Nong Khiaw laying at the riverside of an arm from Mekong river where there was boat trips for bagpackers from Luang prabang. So I stayed overnight at a riverside Hotel with nice people and got my laundry done and a look in an historic cave. The road to the cave was like traveling in the Middle ages with peasants on the road walking their way back to the village after a day in the fields.

Next day was a quite short cut to Luang Prabang, the first village for a while with asphalt streets and tourists. I decided to stay and got almost an entire day in the town. An old preserved colonial town with the mighty Mekong river passing by. I was not that impressed as I had some expectations on the former Capital of Laos and the world Heritage town. But the tourism had stroke the town and almost everything was about dollars, by the way the strongest value everywhere in Laos, anyway for us westerners. However it was a pretty town and I enjoyed the stay.

There is more to tell about Laos so I continue with the road towards Vientiane next week, hope you enjoyed so far.