Me And My Mianoi On A Trip To Laos

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by Dodraugen, Mar 2, 2020.

  1. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #1 Dodraugen, Mar 2, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2020
    I havent posted any tripreports albeit being a member here for quite a while, but since I recently did a great 24 day trip in Laos (great for me at least...) I thought I could give it a try.

    Im not a native english speaker so not fluent in english and the photos in the posts are taken with a 4-5 year old iPhone - so I hope you will bear over with such shortcomings.

    For those of you that dont know me, and I guess that would be most of you I can mention that Im a 52 year old norwegian guy who just recently finished a 5 year RTW trip on a motorbike. I was done last September with the trip and came to Thailand late October. I have been a regular visitor to Thailand since 2002 and also visited many of the other countries in SE-Asia. But I didnt get into motorbike travelling until 2011-12 although I did some daytrips on rented Honda Dreams and such since around 2005 though.
    My Mianoi is a Honda Crf250L that I purchased in August 2016 while my RTW bike was shipped from Sydney - Australia to Valparaiso - Chile. I had a good break from the RTW trip then and have also had a couple of breaks since were Mianoi have been very useful.

    I spent quite a lot of time in SE-Asia during my RTW trip, almost 6 months in Thailand and also a 30 day «roundtrip» of Laos. I had earlier done both an organised biketrip in Laos and a quick run-through after passing through China and before that several trips without a bike so Im quite familiar with Laos. And isnt it just a great country to travel in by your own vehicle?
    In late January my thai visa was over I had to leave the country - and I thought why not do a trip into Laos with Mianoi, she would be a perfect companion for the ride I thought. Earlier biketrips in Laos had been on bigger bikes and thus not too much distance on gravel roads and to really remote parts, but now it was going to change. With a 250 cc bike equipped with new Dunlop 605 tyres and a huge aftermarket gastank from Acerbis I was prepared!

    So 27th of January I left my base in Lampang and headed for Chiang Khong and the Friendship bridge 4 over to Huay Xai - Laos.
    Everything went smooth as silk until I entered Laos. It was a lot of run-around confusion and the insurance guy had left the office early so I had to come back the next day to purchase insurance.
    And then I was taken to the tourist police office where they tried to persuade me to buy a «tour package» which they daid was mandatory. Luckily David U had noticed me about this potential scam (Thanks David!) so I just politely and firmly said no thanks to that «offer». They wouldnt accept that at first and tried to tell me about the dangers of Lao roads. But I told them I had just ridden around the world for 5 years and approx 250 k kms without causing any damage to other than myself and I considered the dangers of Lao roads to be highly exaggerated
    and eventually they let me go.

    I found a room at Bokeo GH almost in town. Parking in the lobby and initially the woman in charge wanted 120 k kip for the room but soon lowered the price to 100 k kip. I was afaik the only guest there that night. It was spacy and clean rooms with nice warm showers and fast wifi and all in all good value for money imo.

    A few pics from day 1 Lampang to Huay Xai. Comments under each photo.

    2E083B4B-9387-4FD0-853D-B357AD9EB989.
    My Mianoi aka Honda Crf250L year 2012 ready for a Laos trip

    D431834C-8114-4083-8FCE-9BB231F97280.
    How dare you?!!! Had a short break near Phayao and coming back to continue somebody had parked this bike next to Mianoi. Some people have absolutely no shame at all....:D

    330C3D2C-0F00-4245-A471-96D2427CB36E.
    Passed 34 k on Mianoi that day, and all those kms without skipping a beat of course. Its a Honda ya know...

    F2A85D5D-5892-47ED-B50F-6F5A645CAB6E.
    Exiting Thailand was smooth and painfree...

    5651733D-9257-4DC4-9456-311837878C39.
    Entering Laos was a little more strenious but we came through in the end.

    91053956-53A8-4539-822F-01744CB97A51.
    Safely parked in the lobby of Bokeo GH in Huay Xai.
    D300A8DE-9A9D-470E-AF16-48FE891C2E81.
    A good meal in the end of the day

    Day 1 Lampang to Huay Xai, approx 310 kms, all paved.
     
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  2. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #2 Dodraugen, Mar 2, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2020
    Day 2 Huay Xai to Muang Sing via the Mekong and Xieng Kok

    First thing I had to do after checking out of Bokeo GH was to ride back to the border post and get insurance, then back to town get a simcard and exchange some money and top up the gas tank before leaving Huay Xai so it was already past noon. The first approx 87 kms northbond went smooth and its paved. Then the gravel road started. Not any problems with a 250 cc bike and new fresh 50/50 tyres. The only problem that occured was that there was a lot of construction work going on, and sometimes it was hard to know what was the main track northbond. At one stage the road divided into two and I took the bigger and more used track which after some kms turned out to be the wrong track. So had to return and find the right track. I then came to a watercrossing that I recognised from an old trip report somewhere and I knew I was right again.

    And so the ride went on, beautiful scenery along the Mekong and then through some remote villages, kms of banana plantations. The last 30-40 kms towards Xiang Kok was under construction and it was deep deep lose sand and gravel. Not very great to ride on and progress was slow. I reached Xieng Kok around 5.45 pm. And from there it is around 70 kms to Muang Sing. I wrongly had the impression that this stretch was supposed to be paved, but oh so wrong I was. A really bumpy potholed and dusty shitroad. And it became dark as I rode so had to be careful to avoid the biggest potholes and bumps. I arrived in Muang Sing around 8 pm spend some time pottering around and to look for a place to sleep. I settled on a GH near the busstation which name I have forgotten by now. Its of course not on any maps either. Anyhow - it was only 70 k kip a night and a relatively big room. Downside was it only had a squat toilet and that bugs were plentiful there mozzies included. Guess I should have chosen the Phou Lu bungalows instead but I hadnt done my homework so shame on me....

    So all in all day 2 came to approx 275 kms where of approx 175 were gravel.

    EB8A50E9-25F0-4D1E-A8DA-E517B6EC0091.
    Entering a village north of Huay Xai, the road was still paved.

    8479D9BE-BA8A-4D67-9A4D-EFEBFC6A2B8B.
    A bit further north, the paved road had ended and gravel begun. Lots of road construction going on and no doubt who does it and pay for it...

    04A66AAD-C015-4245-A587-4845193B2E5A.
    A village along the gravel road

    B63E21BB-45FC-4182-87B0-644C3CF8B4A6.
    Road construction going on....

    EFB26A54-B1DF-4CD6-B544-563CC533CDEA.
    And I had obviously taken the wrong turn...

    68CFD410-673D-4C83-AB96-8F9359C78524.
    Back on the right track, this watercrossing I had seen on an older trip report...

    6DE12EF8-DC19-48A2-9681-61926B10694B.
    Beautiful view of the Mekong

    9EFF3469-B7CE-42A9-AA97-36403CC5E6F7.
    No complaints from Mianoi either....

    4334272A-E892-4830-9D39-0C10096C9891. Endless banana plantations in this area...

    E2CA178E-2C9E-451C-B006-C26CA85A0EF0.
    Not many settlement this remote, this was one of the few...

    EB74CD6E-3F21-4991-AB71-4DC5DFE56A64.
    The last 30-40 kms towards Xieng Kok was much like this....

    6902C99F-CA69-4EAE-9CB3-BF635A997904.
    And this....

    B3B37ABC-AE84-4A83-B5A0-8BB052F93287.
    And this...


    42A32C12-587B-4156-9FF3-EDFB80B24365. One last pic of the Mekong a few kms before Xieng Kok

    To be continued...
     
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  3. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 3 - Checking out Muang Sing

    Muang Sing isnt exactly the hub of the world but I decided to spend a day and check out the town. Its a town and an area who consists of many different ethnic people and there is a museum in town showing a bit of the local folklore and different ethnic traditions and culture. The town also have a central plaza - much like all the towns and cities in south and central America. A feature I kinda like as it is a nice and conveniant place to meet up with people and spend some relaxing time. Except from this I couldnt find much more to check out in Muang Sing but Im sure there are much more to this town that I missed this time. Maybe the town and the area has more in store for me if I come back later on....


    AFE978F4-865C-4E7A-BF33-5291C2ED1966.
    The Plaza in Muang Sing. Its nice ans I liked it...

    AFB7755F-F1A8-4A9B-8FDB-01E1B897DA27.
    The entrance to the Plaza

    E710DF26-C604-417D-AE14-12C91646FB90.
    Different ethnical people in the Plaza

    9793156D-2459-41C1-B468-90E86BD0D60E.
    The Tribal museum of Muang Sing

    1DFBAE5E-91A5-4613-AC58-B100CDF39348.
    A weaving machine in the tribal museum

    823C2793-8094-4130-BF5D-6D6BBE5695BB.
    The post office of Muang Sing. Interesting to see that they still use some of the french language in Laos

    70F25B5E-5A18-4865-8AB6-473397875B83.
    Broomstick making season - in the outskirts of Muang Sing

    CC44FD7C-B4DF-4654-9025-3CB2590CD68A.
    More broomsticks are being made...

    8434BBA0-2C36-4CB1-8C1F-499CF736D88A.
    The Plaza at night...
     
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  4. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Good to see you making this trip. When I came through in October, that last 40km stretch to Xiengkok was a quagmire, with no construction having started. There was one section where a family with 3 trucks had been winching their way through from Xiengkok heading South, and all 3 trucks were bogged past their chassis’.
    Although it’s progress, I’m sorry to see the inevitable happening, as China marches South.
    There’s some of that road on here...


    Looking forward to seeing the rest of your trip.
     
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  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Loving this. It's great to have someone with your RTW experience posting on GTR - many thanks.

    I'm glad that you stood your ground with the over friendly cop on the Laos end of FB4.
    He really is pulling thousands of dollars in his pocket from what I can surmise & the reports I have been hearing.
    Hopefully he eventually will be dealt with, as all the info is in Vientianen now.

    The pace of change in Laos is bloody difficult to keep up with alright, evidenced by the change in a few months to the HX - Xieng Kok road.
    But there is no mistaking where this photo is
    6de12ef8-dc19-48a2-9681-61926b10694b-jpeg.

    Muang Sing is still one of my favourite classic old towns in Laos, despite the Chinese onslaught there.
    I'm trying to work out where the new plaza is though
    afb7755f-f1a8-4a9b-8fdb-01e1b897da27-jpeg.
    I dont recall seeing that the last time I was there; and I wonder if it is where the original old market was in Muang Sing?


    70f25b5e-5a18-4865-8ab6-473397875b83-jpeg.
    I get bad hay fever from the old brooms. Glad it was you there & not me.

    Looking forward to more of this wonderful report.
     
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  6. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #6 Dodraugen, Mar 2, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2020
    Day 4 Riding from Muang Sing to Boun Tai. Approx 210 kms, 85 kms of gravel.

    I initially thought I would ride from Muang Sing to Phongsali in one day. But that didnt happen. First of all Im a B type of person, I fall asleep late wake up late too. So my departure from M Sing wasnt until almost 11 am. Then I few kms out of town towards Luang Namtha I bumbed into a korean guy on a Crf he had rented in Luang Prabang. We had a long chat and then we decided to ride to Luang Namtha and have lunch together. So we did and that lunch became quite long too. It was a friendly and talkative korean indeed.
    I then took off and headed for the «shortcut» northbound starting at Namo off R13 and towards Boun Tai where this road ends up into R1B.

    So it was around 80 kms of dirtroad through quite scenic landscape. Crossing some hills and through some valleys. A really nice ride it was. The problem was to find the right track as the road often came to a junction and neither Mapsme and definetively not Googlemaps can be trusted in Laos. But after some stops and questioning of the locals I came through. I reached Boun Tai at around 5.45 pm and even though it was only 90 kms left to Phongsali I decided to call it a day. I had ridden the road to Phongsali 5 years earlier and it was nothing I wanted to do in the dark.
    I found a guesthose in the northern end of Boun Tai called Heungpaseuth. It costed only 80 k kip and was a relatively ok place for the night. The owner even spoke some english.
    Food was a bit harder to find in Boun Tai but in the end I found a chinese restaurant. Since I 5 years earlier rode 30 days in China I had learned how to order food even though I dont speak any chinese languages. They usually have their ingredients in a see-through fridge, and you just point at the meat, fish, veggies you want and voila they take them out and cook them for you. It was a huge meal as I had pointed out a huge lump of pork meat - but I cleaned my plate!

    F813C547-7605-4DE6-8940-479AFF4AA94F.
    The korean guy I bumped into between Muang Sing and Luang Namtha

    C5F43820-80E0-4EDF-B8BE-C792706B54CB.
    Just into the «shortcut» off R13 at Namo/Na Mor. Some 80 kms of dirt.

    5406B7BE-B459-457E-8237-A7843D546F7E.
    Quite scenic views many places

    E41A6BB7-6F46-4BB8-94AA-F7274D979303.
    The chinese are building their railways...

    0AE7E8B8-3A87-4B0F-AC38-CA0993701AF5.
    Some more views along the way

    9224661F-CE3A-46E1-BC8A-8A8137B5A81D.
    Some sections of the road were ok...

    B3EDBF2B-F5A2-4368-8D22-079FE2991943.
    And some more bumpy...

    C0464E8F-54B2-4C32-B3E8-53B89E085728.
    This had to be a shed of huge importance I belive....LOL

    F7208665-F5EA-4B17-8DD8-E14DACBC68F8.
    More bumpy gravel roads

    65FD60D1-06F2-466B-A8B3-7A00DF4DE5BC.
    But Mianoi didnt complain...

    F319077D-DEA6-4B8D-AC40-9C78880420D1.
    This had to be a shed of huge importance I guess...LOL
    C8342362-244C-4653-A211-F0048980E29A.
    The biggest change in Laos the last 5 years seem to be that nowadays there is a gas station almost everywhere. I counted at least 3 gas stations along this 80 kms of gravel road.
    4884A159-8C69-44F3-822C-DF07581F4663.
    And some places the traffic was quite lively...

    57FAAEDF-365F-413B-8C4F-E17D60B8CAE8.
    More nice views. I always like the view of cultivated land...

    CB5BBA4B-F5D4-41D3-A44B-E5874C9FD52F.
    My «chinese» dinner in Boun Tai
     
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  7. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Excellent, Dodraugen! Keep it coming.
     
  8. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 5 - Riding from Boun Tai to Phongsali. 90 kms, gravel approx 20 kms.

    So this days ride was not going to be a long one and it was quite chilly outside and it had rained late night/early morning so no need for an early start. Left Boun Tai around 11 am and reached Phongsali around 1.45 pm.
    The road towards Phongsali is certainly much better than 5 years ago but there were still stretches with gravel. The stretch after the junction at Ban Muang Yo there was a distance of 15-20 kms of gravel and badly broken up paved road. And the first 3-4 kms out of Boun Neua direction Phongsali was also gravel, but they are building and upgrading the road there.
    So mostly it was an eventless ride. It got chillier and foggy as I got closer to Phongsali but the elevation of Phongsali is approx 1400 meters so not so strange. Actually the temprature dropped as low as 11 degrees celcius and to be honest thats a bit chilly when you ride a bike in relatively light clothing.
    In Phongsali I checked into the Viphaphone hotel. The manager of the hotel is an friendly australian guy and I got a single room for only 80 k kip. Yes they have rooms with a heather (reversed aircon) at 250 k kip, and that would have been great as the daytime temprature never went above 12 degrees and nighttime - Im not sure but around 4-5 degrees celcius I guess.
    But hell no! I was born and grew up on a remote island in northern Norway, some hundred kms north of the artic circle and 12 degrees celcius would be a good and warm summers day there. No need to be a pussy just because your in Asia boy! 55555 And heated rooms was also a bit above my budget....so the 80 k kip room it was. It had a water boiler though so I could make my own hot drinks. Im sure the waterboiler in the cheap room was the responsibility of the australian manager of the hotel. I never saw that in other rooms I had in Laos.

    In the afternoon I had a walk around in Phongsali. Its a facinating place with lots of chinese influence of course but also the local different ethnic people.

    Some photos from that day...

    57F79720-1BB1-474C-96E2-C14A62036B36.
    The long and winding road to Phongsali

    EC7B70D6-6ABB-4233-ACBC-4FB106933E66.
    Great to see crop fields along the way... 0FF4427E-47C0-4DAF-8685-C66E3B224B2B.
    More fields were crops are grown

    AD611055-85D6-4701-B960-EF0AB7EC020B.
    Several white buffaloes isnt something you see everyday...

    436CD431-48F4-4614-9D20-AC45FCD1EB35.
    Welcome to Phongsaly....

    76985800-F5DC-4490-9A1D-98DABB11A1F4.
    Phongsali or Phongsaly...?

    C101A0E0-3E18-4FCB-9859-3B08C6C7624D.
    Cobblestone streets of Phongsaly

    AC9E8E59-504A-4C12-A603-C9B7EAB1DED9.
    More streets of Phongsaly, note the chinese influence.

    FDC44E42-0CF7-4F88-AC76-5304BBDFC575.
    The local people grow veggies and herbs everywhere in Phongsaly

    7172A791-D24D-4E83-A8DC-46A285EDF8D4.
    Flowers too...

    20006B3A-8582-48D1-A874-08655BA6EC06.
    Lots of veggies are grown inbetween the houses....

    DAF111EC-EBE8-45A3-AE2B-E6AB9E1EE0A0.
    12 degrees celcius at 4.21 pm. A great summers day...
     
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  9. scotty007

    scotty007 Ol'Timer

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    Really enjoying your trip report Dodraugen, great photos and interesting story, power on!

    BTW You write better English than most English people
     
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  10. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    +1 Keep ‘em coming, Dodraugen. I’m really enjoying this.
     
  11. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #11 Dodraugen, Mar 4, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2020
    Day 6 - some sightseing in and around Phongsali.

    One of the mentioned sightseing-spots in the Phongsali area is supposed to be the tea plantations around town, and especially one place called the 400 year old tea plantation. So I found the place on Mapsme and set off. It was a bumpy and a bit wet and muddy ride as it had rained quite a bit the last night. Passed through some villages and some really great scenery and found a sign that said «400 year old tea plantation» Supposedly there should be some kind of information/visitor center too but I never found it. I had a walk around in the tea bush plantation and continued further out into unknown territory. At this stage neither Mapsme nor Googlemaps had any sign of a road on their maps. Still I continued 12-15 kms further away from Phongsali town, passed several villages and more tea plantations. I stopped in one of the villages where the locals were drying tea leaves and took some photo. I brought quite some attention out there. I bet there havent been many farangs out there on a motorbike twice the size of the local ones. Anyhow - interesting to see how they live out there in the remote villages 20-30 kms out of Phongsali.

    I returned back to Phongsali and had a look in the chinese supermarked. Yes there was one in Muang Sing too - and the products for sale are 98 % chinese. I even found some breakfast cereal for myself «made in China» Too much sugar in it for my taste but not many choices...LOL.

    Then in late afternoon I hiked up to the Phou Fa mountain top right outside the town. Its a good workout (but you can ride or drive to the top if you like too...) and the view and the sunset are of course great! A bit cloudy and misty that day so the view was a bit diminished...

    Some photos from day 6

    D2E6A1F7-F62D-4433-97FF-1B8B575A3A52.
    I soon found tea-plantations some kms out of town.

    CA46B4C5-0776-4A88-B25F-25BAC364CDDE.
    And some steep hills...

    FC870D9B-8AB7-4A61-9EA9-FD59E192DB68.
    And the 400 year old tea gardens...

    FFAC7159-841D-42C0-9BE0-C1824BD6177A.
    And some more tea-bushes...

    84FBC631-E762-4E10-9FB7-A69173710286.
    As I continued out of town I passed through several villages...

    49B032B5-1570-4158-878B-609F0E97D536.
    Fog was coming in from the north

    C25A9D42-D59C-496A-81FF-5F352798E1B2.
    And even more tea plantations...

    8E52A4DC-37AE-4160-8240-8FF8784EDC4E.
    I stopped in one village where the locals processed the tea leaves. They are dried first I guess...

    0E0C8354-87A2-4F3F-A811-4DFB9913F6D9.
    Tea leaf processing

    1BA91784-8A9D-435A-85B4-DD94499A5309.
    More tea leave processing...

    B9632132-4FCF-424C-9761-4D7785C3A429.
    Products from the chinese supermarked in Phongsali that I bought....You never try - you never know....LOL

    22E2FB5E-1E97-4B9F-BA74-7560404CFECD.
    No comment....55555

    B8FC4076-7DEC-41B7-9E78-979A4343D1BF.
    At the top of Phou Fa

    8FBDDCE4-3CED-4FE1-9E8B-7B28A34BEFE1.
    Phongsali seen from above at Phou Fa

    A9DEA3ED-C57A-4549-B095-B0D759DC7544. Sunset over the hills southwest of Phongsali
     
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  12. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Good work, Dodraugen - Thanks for posting.
     
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  13. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #13 Dodraugen, Mar 4, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2020
    Day 7 - ride from Phongsali to Nong Khiaw via Oudom Xai.

    Distance approx 350 kms, gravel approx 25 km.

    Left Phongsali before 10 am, early to be me as I had quite some distance to cover. It had again rained a good bit during the night and it was very foggy the first 30-40 kms down to almost Boun Neua. A few kms out of Phongsali there had been a mudslide and the road was totally blocked. An excavator had started to clear the road but it was going to be some time until it was passable again. Some locals pointed on a narrow track up a steep hill and I saw one small motorbike running up that track. But it was steep, narrow and muddy, and how was it down on the other side? Since I had quite some distance to cover and I felt confident I throttled up and went up and over the hill, down straight into a small village and chickens, pigs, dogs, goats etc were running like crazy! Oh my gosh - I should have taken some pics but I was too concentrated to get through. And through I got without too much hazzle.
    So the rest of the ride went smooth, had lunch at Pak Nam Noy and rode on to Oudom Xai. Btw - the ride from south of Boun Tai to Pak Nam Noy is really great. It makes the Mae Hong Son twisties look like a pensionar cruise in comparison. Then from Oudom Xai to Pak Mong I remember from earlier rides 5-6-7 years back that this stretch of road was in horrible condition. But I have also read somewhere that it now is all paved and in great condition. And in great condition it was! Its almost a racetrack through mountains and valleys, what a ride. Must be fantastic on a bike with more ohmp than my Mianoi.
    Reached Nong Khiaw just as it got dark around 6.30. Settled for a cheap room just on the right hand side of the road just before the bridge at Nong Khiaw Riwerview GH at 80 k kip a night. Nothing special and I probably wouldnt stay there again. The bungalows on the other side of the roads but further away from the road that I stayed in 5 years ago was a much better deal and price was the same if I remember correctly. But this time they were sold out already.

    Didnt take many photos this day as I had some distance to cover, but a few there was....

    58C85E07-2CEE-43E9-8AFE-3028233015BA.
    Very foggy/misty morning ride out of Phongsali. As you can see some dirt and soil on the road. Further down a few kms was the mudslide I mentioned above. But I unfortunately didnt take any photos of...

    F2AF596E-4E56-4C77-8955-AF55AC3D566C.
    This peculiar but fashionable looking hotel at the north end of Boun Neua looks a bit odd to me. The only passing road is a bad gravel road...

    B196C2F6-25E3-4C5F-B01C-B901CAA2EC84.
    A truck that didnt made the turn...

    C9DA1821-9E93-48C7-9E87-8B4A6DD9F36B.
    Local transport in Boun Neua. Note the luggage rack on the roof...

    D8773B46-261E-4A34-AD3D-55594C6B28C5.
    I cant help it but I like the look of these chinese motorbikes. They look sturdy but Im not sure if they really are....?

    ABBAE3CB-3E8C-4552-90BE-082673B25DB4.
    The road between Boun Neua and Boun Tai has some bad sections. Broken up asphalt and gravel...tighten your kidney belts folks LOL
    D4BDC3BE-5E37-456A-B398-0717EBCE0BBC.
    The road between Boun Tai and Pak Nam Noy is really a twisty ride! The best way to illustrate it was to take a pic of my phone GPS. Unfortunately the screen was quite dusty but you see what I mean... The Mae Hong Son loop would be a pensionar ride in comparison...LOL

    1865F1C4-6537-48EA-B665-4B40BBA2E727.
    Broomstick season all over northern Laos it seems...

    5C17270A-E8D2-44D4-82D7-D48857E6DA67.
    View from the lunch spot at Pak Nam Noy. Locals are enjoying the Nam Noy river

    8AD638B1-854F-4BB4-AE21-841A97120DBB.
    The road between Oudom Xai and Pak Mong is now a racetrack!

    FECA603B-405B-49BB-B59E-AB450DFB6981.
    The bridge in Nong Khiaw
     
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  14. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Great stuff, Dodraugen. The Chinese bikes may not last a long time, but they do their job for as long as they do last.
    If you go to 09:00 on here, you’ll see the magic a spark plug can create with their 2-strokes...
     
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  15. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 8 - Workout time in Nong Khiaw

    Nong Khiaw is a nice little river town set in beautiful surrondings with karst mountains and the Nam Ou river passing through. After a long day on the bike the day before I decided that my body needed a good workout. And in the Nong Khiaw surrondings there are several viewpoints on the mountains around. So even though Im not all that comfortable with heights I deceided to go for a hike to a viewpoint.
    And the Phou Phadaeng viewpoint it was, probably the easiest and most conveniant viewpoint as the entrance to the hiking trail starts just in the outskirts of the town itself.
    And its relatively well maintained trail with railings, ropes and break areas so quite nice actually.
    Its a 460 meter climb in altitude and its said that average time up is 2 hours and down one hour. I think I spent a tad less time than that so maybe Im not in that bad shape at all...LOL
    There is a small entrance fee at the start where one also can buy water and snacks. And water is definetively needed, I gulped down 1,5 liters on the way up and wished I had some more for the down climb too...

    The rest of the day I mainly relaxed and in the evening I treated myself with some indian food. There are several indian restaurants in Nong Khiaw.



    644B4733-2818-4475-B8F7-9427824408D2.
    The entrance to the hiking path to the viewpoint of Phou Phadeang

    403B0125-7ADC-439D-B7CD-7F3B2ED707C6.
    No its not this mountain, it was just a good photo-object...

    F2E236BE-9076-4D2B-B01D-1EDF79A6161D.
    The hiking trail starts out smooth and not steep...

    C00B6762-E9F0-4048-9F7D-2C0A66E12661.
    The first break area...

    FE941B04-898B-4878-8A22-05A0E071C643.
    Then the trail gets a bit steeper...

    4BC3A248-7370-4EE1-BBC1-76B8C903F9CD.
    And after a while one reaches the halfway point...

    212AC8C8-9AD3-4B00-87D2-D2E6AFCEDD74.
    And get a glimpse of Nong Khiaw...

    776A376B-EFF6-47D8-BB7B-2BE7DD0BC6F2.
    And some more steep hiking....

    B9E6763B-629F-4118-9E70-9365F9C9613F.
    View upstreams on the Nam Ou river from Phou Phadaeng

    21F74912-3EF8-48B3-A2AF-C03E599FD04E.
    And the summit of Phou Phadaeng

    74A547CF-BE0F-4CF0-97D8-13F4AA112718.
    View to other mountains from Phou Phadaeng
    C899730D-1649-49C2-99D9-43398CBA0097.
    I wasnt exactly alone up there....oh well...
    1C57511B-AD59-459C-A898-E3D646D7E731.
    The old fart himself....


    E2D2B5BF-D478-4454-B673-4EF86E0723AB.
    Nong Khiaw seen from above....

    D278AEF2-C0FC-42F7-84B4-6D3EFCB6264B.
    Nam Ou upstream seen from the bridge in NK

    8B59E272-95D0-4F82-B671-6B05D3C74B7C.
    Downstream shot of Nam Ou

    D323ED13-4C79-4738-9A2D-DF94EA7F3A92.
    Riverlife in Nong Khiaw

    7997A5A4-3A24-4129-B88F-841EDCAEFEAC.
    Fisherman in Nong Khiaw

    2854146B-1ED2-42DE-B9FF-2812696C9742. In the evening I treated myself with some indian food.
     
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  16. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    I’m enjoying this series, Dodraugen -Thank you!
     
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  17. Oddvar

    Oddvar Ol'Timer

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    I was in Nong Khiaw last week. Did not notice a fraction of what you do.
    Maybe I should get myself some glasses after all.
    Truly enjoy your reports, keep them coming.
     
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  18. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Thanks for all feedback guys, it makes me blush...

    Day 9 Riding from Nong Khiaw to Sam Neua
    Distance approx 320 kms, gravel not that much but several shorter gravel stretches the first half of the ride.
    Curves - unlimited! The ride is a great ride, the road are in general in good shape to be in Laos although there were a few gravel stretches and broken up asphalt the first half of the ride, down to Muang Hiam or so. The amount of curves, corners, turns or whatever one call them on this stretch of road are just hilarious! There cannot be a straight stretch more than 100 meters on this piece of road. Its beyond insane! I remember a few years back riding from Mae Sot to Umphang I had the same feeling. But that stretch is just ~ half the length, and the road in much better condition.

    Oh well anyhow, started late as usual. Had lost my sunglasses the day before so had to find a new pair first, not an easy task in Nong Khiaw, but found a really cheap pair for 10000 kip (remember the ZZ TOP song «Cheap Sunglasses» LOL) and set off. Great ride but not fast due to all the corners and some gravel stretches. Lunch in Muang Hiam, a Toyota Hiace full of local travellers had just pulled in at the same eatery and ordered food so my order took quite a while and wasnt exactly expedited. So a good hour in Muang Hiam it was. Had I knew that the «Pho» took so long time to be made I probably just had eaten some crackers or similar. I hade a hope to reach Sam Neua before dark, but that hope was long gone now. So riding towards Sam Neua in neverending corners as it slowly got dark - needless to say I took it easy and slow. Several times I found myself and Mianoi in the middle of a cow heard, other times I just noticed the shadows of a dog at the roadside.
    I reached Sam Neua just before 8 pm and checked in at the Phetmuangsam guesthouse. Got a groundfloor room for only 80 k kip and it was decent value for money and suited my budget too. And parking for Mianoi behind a locked gate at night on the backside was a plus too...

    Didnt take many photos that day, heres a few though...

    9ED3DB9E-4F0C-47B8-9F45-8BE147A8BBE1.
    Some streches of the road are broken up asphalt and gravel...

    3FAF007D-C2F2-4F5B-965E-F8A819C7F8BF.
    But mostly the road surface are quite nice to be Laos...

    F8C9B2E1-6296-4079-867B-ECC11B3A652B.
    Some scenery along the way...

    89E83CC3-D734-4E37-AC31-884BF394DDEF.
    Creeper plants around a cable - power pole support.

    32983058-1315-4CFA-8618-B9AB70B4FD5A.
    Scenery towards Sam Neua

    112C168E-0511-4C0A-AC73-EF84D09E4B5A.
    A house that had left its foundations...

    B1556310-D556-4B99-A59F-59A43FB7362D.
    Still broomstick making season....

    73DCE370-DC08-4099-8036-C39BAB6AB875.
    Really gorgous scenery towards Sam Neua. Its about to become dark....
     
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  19. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 10 - Checking out the town of Sam Neua

    My main goal going to Sam Neua was to visit Mt Pathi and check out Lima Site 85. But this day I was a bit knackered after the long ride the day before so I decided to just stay in Sam Neua and check out the town. (LS 85 was to be visited the next day)
    I really like and enjoy to walk around in towns and cities and check out the local environment, POI, local markeds and other things.
    In Laos in general the goverment buildings seem huge and expensive, and in Sam Neua in particular they are just ridicolously huge and lavish. And the Toyota V8 Landcruisers and ditto cars are stacked up around them doesnt make this impression and milder. A stark contrast to the poor countryside where people take their baths at the local waterpost, waterwell or even in a nearby stream. Oh well - what can I do about it, absolutely nada!
    There are a nice park and recreational area just almost in the middle of town, at least something everybody can use and enjoy.
    The local marked in Sam Neua was quite a place. Lots of eh...quite exotic goods could be purchased there. And I also understood why there werent that many streetdogs in Sam Neua....55555

    So heres a few photos of my walk around in the town of Sam Neua...comments under each pic.

    6BF810C2-3E1F-4EDF-BC6E-BF6625ED51E2.
    This is what meet you upon entering Sam Neua. Its called Suan Keo Lak Meung. Great, isnt it? LOL
    F98D8A6B-9C71-4E1C-A3A5-3DDA3891F8F8.
    Goverment buildings in Sam Neua...

    56945662-6AEE-435D-8414-D34C0A92F02F.
    Another government building...

    F6161E0A-C210-4398-8889-CA6E2C5F83D8.
    More government buildings in Sam Neua. Note the white V8 Landcruiser right in front of the entrance door....

    D4D61E48-5C43-417F-914C-FB52D57ACEE4.
    Let me guess - some war monuments....

    5CA1C356-CA8B-47FB-B26C-3FFD7BEF3286.
    The park in the town center



    8E99D515-4962-4CCF-BA6B-F6CA1A609AAA.
    Monuments in the park



    7523766F-773E-4C70-9ADB-4B2E28A1538F.
    The water fountain wasnt working, but the park was actually quite nice imo.

    E6578F45-A7FB-4ED1-969B-5F6389C4FE39.
    The Nam Xam river that runs through the town center...

    99ADB2E7-3ECB-4C1D-8B3C-53FD9B9D7430.
    Next stop was the local market. What about some delicious ricepaddy rats?

    8BF41BCD-504F-45F2-A93F-12DCCFFDB9A8.
    Or would a mix of toads and fish might be tempting?

    0BD98A83-6034-4D92-B244-E2283067C40B.
    Ok so youre a vegeterian, heres some fresh bamboo for you...

    DFC156BD-C471-4E00-AC0B-CC301B95AD34.
    More toads or frogs? I like to listen to a frog choir in the evening, but these poor guys had probably soon croaked their last notes...

    A32C4190-33FA-4852-B20F-389F05A29337.
    I had never seen these fruits before. Looked like giant blueberries. I have now unfortunately forgotten what the locals called them...maybe you guys know?

    D337BFDF-FE63-450C-B3B4-4367FEF9E1B1.
    Poor Fido, he didnt know he was going to end up on the local marked this morning....

    0F2F37DC-8514-435C-A034-360FF24F027E.
    No dog on my menu, just fried rice and chicken. Im a bit conservative food-vise....55555
     
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  20. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #20 Dodraugen, Mar 7, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2020
    Day 11 - Checking out Lima Site 85

    As most of you probably already know LS85 was a clandestine radarstation build on top of Mt Pahti, a mountain which summit is 1786 meters above sea level. It was initiated by CIA and the Us Air Forces and its task was to guide and help bombers to hit their targets in Vietnam and Laos. LS85 was only operational for a relatively short period of time from November -67 to March -68 when the site was attacked and most staff killed. For more details on LS85 I recommend Wikipedia and other sources.

    Mt Pathi lies around 67 kms from Sam Neua in northwestern direction. And the road there is a gorgous ride over steep mountains, deep valles and along huge ridges. The road is now paved almost all the way, only the last 7,5 kms is gravel. So todays ride was around 135 kms whereof 15 kms were gravel.

    When one arrives at the bottom of the site there is a Lao army checkpost (kind of) And the entrance fee was «up to my heart» to give. I gave 20 k kip and they seemed happy with that.

    Then there is quite a lot of stairs to conquer and a rise in altitude of approx 200 meters. In addition there is another couple of kms to walk further into the mountain plateu. So a good advise is to bring water, plenty of water and maybe some energy snacks as well. The stairs seemed quite solid and well build so nothing to fear security wise.

    On the mountain summit where the stairs ends the first remains of the radarstation are spotted. Then there is a trail further into the summit plateu that branches off a couple of places. There is actually quite a lot of remains up there but its spread around at different locations. So be prepared to walk a bit and spend a couple of hours up there. Also one can see craters after heavy bombing here and there as well.
    Another thing - it is a lot of trash up there. And Im talking about fresh trash, plastic bottles, tin cans, plastic bags etc etc. Its actually a lot of it! Not exactly what one wants to see on a remote mountain summit....

    Many photos today, but I hope you enjoy them nevertheless...


    7E815479-915F-46B0-9C43-AFC46E58C896.
    The road from Sam Neua to Mt Pathi was brilliant...

    64B19BD9-DEA9-4EDD-B3B5-0BD5CF75DB89.
    The road snaked around mountains and valleys...

    DAFC9F4D-7388-421E-9C13-6F59510DF1DA.
    Amazing scenery...

    0C0BA76B-12F1-43D7-A5A3-31DE3F9126FA.
    More amazing scenery, just those power lines though...

    DDC27699-A443-442C-AB6D-310EB48CC0AC.
    Now thats a great ride!

    5CB5AD76-5A28-46A0-9201-554466A9B95C.
    And this too....
    F8B214B5-B5EF-4A45-B83C-E7BAAFB4714C. The last kms into Mt Pathi were gravel.

    66A15875-DC9E-44A4-99A2-FB7D1C6D8FFB.
    The Lao army «checkpoint» at the start of the stairs...

    B5DFC03F-BAF9-4ECC-B915-F7956018BC8B.
    The start of the stairs...

    2D6C12F7-A81D-4596-AA91-199C4AB277DA.
    The stairway to......Mt Pathi.
    4171A547-D3EB-497D-BCD6-DDF9ACB34661.
    More stairway pics...

    02A5247A-86AB-4692-A28D-3CD584A78972.
    The stairways seen from behind the Lao army buildings...

    D27442D7-B190-4DFF-86F1-A9B39552D23F.
    Upward view climbing the stairs...

    67DBC18A-5533-4C84-85F1-A0A9FC255667.
    Downward view...

    2E13C3AC-8900-4DC5-8EA9-D618CF51D814.
    The stairs seen from above...

    692901D0-CBB5-46CF-814C-BB26FB8687A4.
    The first remnants of LS85...

    70FA0089-47F6-44C1-8934-206C4CA76F9B.
    Guns at LS85

    4E79A0A9-C241-4838-B850-B66B12CA2397.
    Maybe not so visible on a photo, but it is a relatively big crater...

    B6A42D86-A812-4E3A-A73D-CB87988EC0F0.
    More guns a bit further into the summit plateu...

    AB0DA892-0D4D-4CDF-9684-FD5D7B638556.
    Machinery of some kind....

    8C7C90EA-7856-4BA8-A0C5-C60FD55D0740.
    More machinery....

    945F1297-B155-4359-BCF1-2897A242D5F1.
    Engines...

    17AD1994-2443-45DA-A8C4-29F95AF73B6F.
    More radar station remnants...

    E807FDDE-AE05-43DD-B71C-AB410C7397DC.
    Bullet and shrapnell holes...

    11AFB3D1-14F4-4330-82D9-70ABDE0B6FA8.
    Bunker or building remains...

    9AF5731F-FE92-48FF-AE06-FB5BF6BD32A5.
    Signs of battle...

    59793C95-57F9-4F13-9E47-F9D5B649B302.
    More engines...

    3CDB721E-5285-4F00-AD75-93F2D636B810.
    Time for a top end rebuild I would say....LOL

    3739CB4B-A3A7-4898-BAE5-7132ACA1EEAC.
    Lots of engine remains on the site...

    71655AD8-9A7B-4C70-93F3-2ED05CF76807.
    And other remains as well...

    50514207-85EB-4D54-8C0A-D35342E2D528.
    And fresh trash....

    87D66F1A-28B3-416A-A238-0573BA5A9237.
    The paintwork had to be good back in the days. Its still kinda holding up...

    F9FB7FAC-5435-46E8-A762-CCD720CA9D83.
    Some minor objects that had been collected...

    57F052B3-56DF-4B2A-AF59-3E5450271CC2.
    More small objects at LS85

    B9EA518C-90DF-4287-82A6-59F5ACEF7C9A.
    The locals had collected many smaller items...

    77A888AC-C5F4-4BB5-8B0F-AFBB742CF794.
    Even some ammunition...
    508D3B1F-861F-4730-8CC5-171CBAEC0736.
    A shed build of old US air force material maybe?

    271CFE0E-4B32-494C-94B1-1F820AC205E1.
    View from the summit of Mt Pathi

    74B6E801-CDFB-40AC-AE75-DD5EB73F0801.
    Great views it was...

    2D87AE04-98A1-41D1-A0BA-0152A2750FB6.
    Mt Pathi...
     
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  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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  22. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Great ride and write-up, Dodraugen.
    It’s impressive to see the change from the impossible journey of a few years ago into a public site.
     
  23. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Amazing report Dodraugen.
    Everyday there's something new and interesting to read.

    Your Lima Site 85 update will put this place on the list of must do rides of South East Asia.

    2e13c3ac-8900-4dc5-8ea9-d618cf51d814-jpeg.

    Really enjoying this report which is helping me keep sane in the land downunder.

    Moto-Rex
     
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  24. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Yes this should be the road up the the foothill of Mt Pathi where the stairs up to LS85 starts.
     
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  25. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 12 - Riding from Sam Neua to Phonsavan

    Around 240 kms and all paved more or less. Another day of great riding and fantastic scenery. The road is again an almost endless amount of twists and turns. Not many straight stretches until one reaches Muang Kham.
    I left Sam Neua at around 10 am and arrived in Phonsavan around 4.30 pm. I had a decent lunchstop in Muang Kham with coffee and baguettes, my first ones in Laos this trip!

    In Phonsavan I got myself a room at the Nice guesthouse. Only 80 k kip a night. The rooms are a bit worn but its in the center of town and they have a safe parking lot thats locked at night. And as I was almost out of clean undies they were able to do my laundry too....so all in all I was quite happy with that choice.

    E4602A37-C603-47AE-9EED-A4830A5B484F.
    Laos scenery

    514C56E8-A705-456B-AEA5-678D4854D0DC.
    Great scenery along the road..

    4A47C13F-6124-4632-92F7-BD3C781F927A.
    The road snakes around hills and mountains...

    92C954C5-57CA-48BF-AB60-8E04365F629E.
    More rolling hills...

    8AAC5BA2-523D-4029-8B90-E540512AFD4D.

    BDD83D0E-F021-4A1A-AB10-CBBB272AFBEB.
    Scenery

    80A1457F-8226-48A8-946B-339D769361EC. Coming down towards Muang Kham

    9230BFBB-80DF-4DBD-A315-004EE24C9ADF.
    The Tom and Jerry bakery in Phonsavan.

    E8905D5F-AE7F-47C5-9041-055D3969B572.
    Although how much I like thai food and the variety there, in the baking department they are far behind Laos...

    F10AE96E-901D-4805-8D8B-8C85A3FDBDD4.
    I admit I spent some money there....LOL
     
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