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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    Day 13 - Some pottering around in the Phonsavan area.
    Around 100 kms, approx 30 kms of gravel.

    I have visited Phonsavan several times before. Actually my first time there was in 2006, and I have visited many of the attractions in the area, and some of them several times. Especially the Jars sites - where I have been 3-4 times. Back in 2006 I even had my own private guide taking me to some hidden Jar sites near Muang Kham and the last kms we had an armed escort guy following us. I found one of the old pics from that time...

    Anyhow - so what more was it to see in the area while my undies dried? I researched and found that there was an old town nearby that once had been the seat of an ancient kingdom, namely Muang Khoun some 30 kms southeast of Phonsavan. And that there should be some temple ruins from the towns heydays that might be worth a look. And - temple ruins there was, not that there is any lack of temple ruins around is Se-Asia. So interesting? Up2U as they say...
    I also took a detour to one of the villages that produces spoons, cutlery and other small items out of bombshell-remains from the time the US dropped their many bombs there. Not that I belive that they really use metals from bombshells nowadays, but lets pretend they do....LOL. It makes it more interesting....
    So all in all not a superinteresting day, but some hours went by....

    C0193624-1025-4B2F-AE59-F50FBBEA36D6.
    Let me se if I can get the names correct. This should be Wat Phia Wat. Or whats left of it...

    EC4C6740-93C8-42AD-AE04-23AEC570A429.
    The next temple ruin should be That Foun

    02D76244-DE31-4D9C-92AA-D72F44938F4C.
    And this should be Wat Si Phom
    550B1FDE-7FA7-4059-8B92-77D9ACB56A27.
    And the last should be That Chom Phet.
    Btw - a That is from my understanding similar to a stupa or a pagoda. Maybe some of you guys can elaborate on that?


    2471FE0C-472E-4CDE-98A9-226D57F7B861.
    So to the spoon making village using metal from bombshells...

    1AD8AF81-7387-4E9B-885A-26E269CFE36E.
    There was an oven at least...

    AB642137-7AAC-4DF0-B719-49FF20898A8C.
    «Are you sure about that its made from bomb?» Jing jing boh? Sure! She said....LOL

    9430293A-983F-4093-B139-C122FBEE01A1.
    Spoons made from bombs - jing jing...55555

    05E53AAA-A83C-4633-80F3-563706402B97.
    And some other objects. I bought a few for gifts for friends. After all they are made of bombs....now please dont tell them that they might not be made from bombs...LOL

    EBA32ED0-FC28-4F0B-990A-C166745E0D66.
    I found this hilarious pic from 2006 when I had a private guide and visited some of the unknown Jar sites in the Phonsavan area. The last leg we had an armed local guide with us too. Its the armed guys gun I hold here....LOL
    That Jar site was situated east of Muang Kham and on the southside of the road, a good hour hike into the jungle. The Jars were not cleared out of the jungle and vegetation and were covered in green moss. And the site was actually difficult to find as even the local guide stumbled around fir quite a while to find it. I wish I could locate the other photos from that trip but they seem long gone now. Probably on a computer that died a year or two later and was declared unrepairable...
     
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  2. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Your updates are a great way to start my day, Dodraugen - Thankyou!
     
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  3. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 14 Riding Phonsavan to Luang Prabang

    Around 265 kms, all paved but after the junction at Phou Khoun around halfway the R13 have started to crumble up. Many bad stretches with broken up asphalt and huge potholes. But again the scenery and the endless corners, twist and turns.
    Left Phonsavan around 10.30, short lunch stop at Phou Khoun and arrived Luang Prabang just as the dark set in.

    Didnt take too many photos, but it was a great and scenic ride once agin....

    BB9A9997-F775-4AA0-AE15-EF9DA37237B8. Nice scenery, such a pity I only have an old Iphone to take photos with as it doesnt do the scenery justice.

    F0420B60-BC26-4ED9-9D24-FAD743F49585.
    More nice scenery

    71289FA5-B57D-4BC7-99B5-CBF80AE121F4.
    Sakura tree? Im not sure, but at least the colors were amazing...

    73D7553F-1A3C-4AB6-A2BD-380B0AF0C5ED.
    The corners seems endless on some of the stretches, but some places they seem to have exaggerated the corners....55555
    D9199B0E-FC45-4745-A2CE-87DF5AFA2636.
    Some of the villages along the road seemed quite poor. Not even corrugated metal roofs, just straw roofs on their houses...

    007973F4-715D-4A53-8909-43641EA5B1CD. OMG - at the junction at Phou Khoun they have erected a mast with a picture of the Sam Neua monument....LOL

    438DA30C-2E9B-48C7-8067-DEC262984068.
    R13 from Phou Khoun to Luang Prabang was pretty beaten up here and there....
     
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  4. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #29 Dodraugen, Mar 10, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2020
    Day 15 - Revisiting Luang Prabang

    My first visit to Luang Prabang was in 2006 when I took the 2 day boatride down the Mekong from Huay Xai with an overnight stop in Pak Beng (which never happend, but thats another story...) Anyhow - I really fell for the town back then. It was such a beautiful place, so relatively quiet and not packed full of tourists of all kinds and all its french heritage, beautiful temples, colonial houses etc etc. Nowadays - uh...one of the first places I ran into after I arrived there was a KFC restaurant. No not THAT KFC, the Korean Fried Chicken it was....Ok - so thats what this town had turned into nowadays, a place of korean fastfood copycats chains? Luckily not that bad, theres a lot of buinesses towards koreans in LP but the town has kept a lot of its old charm. The main problem is imo that there are so many more tourists and visitors there nowadays to share this charm with which makes it much less charm pr visitor nowadays than it used to be....

    And my favorite Lao restaurant - Le Elephant has now become too expensive for me. Well - I could of course afforded a meal there this time too, but I just didnt think it was worth it.

    During my first visit to LP I spent 6-7 days there, this time I only spent 2 nights and one full day in the town. It was a bittersweet day to be honest...

    A few photos from that day...


    57F33739-878D-41F9-930A-E7875381C2F5. View of some of LP and the Nam Khan river seen from the Phou Si hill

    D7122A77-87F1-43E9-85A5-5B7C9081F074.
    View the other way, Luang Prabang and Mekong

    F1F641D6-CAEF-4E1F-BA0B-B3AA1867134C. Bamboo pedestrian bridge over Nam Khan river

    DF15E243-CC6C-47F4-A094-B11436B2B49C.
    And another pedestrian bamboo bridge at the mouth of the Nam Khan river
    E558850C-9E8B-4121-A03A-599293DB2CE2.
    Sabaidee old fart....55555

    1DB06927-BA8D-481F-ABAA-9F8446A89806.
    A nice Mekong cruiser

    27CC2483-D1C5-4CD1-903C-1E424858676A.
    Carferry Mekong river

    750ABE49-03FB-4E68-B8E9-D033ED95FBAD.
    Riverlife on the Mekong

    949E59A2-E61E-4AEE-86EE-C28ABF59F5AE.
    Pedestrian bamboo bridge at night
     
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  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    The Tom & Jerry Bakery in Phonsavan looks like it is doing well
    9230bfbb-80df-4dbd-a315-004ee24c9adf-jpeg.

    In 2016 it was like this
    img_4232-.

    Phonsavan Restaurants

    550b1fde-7fa7-4059-8b92-77d9acb56a27-jpeg.
    Good to see you out in Muang Khoun, because it's history is quite something.
    Once the capital of the Phuan kingdom, its reputation as a city of beauty was known throughout the region, & it once the town rivaled Luang Prabang in glory!
    Over the years the small kingdom paid tribute to Vietnam, The Lane Xang Kingdom & Siam.
    It was looted by Chinese Haw invaders in the 19th century
    In the Indochina wars it was flattened by bombing, such that only a couple of ruins remain, whereas it was once famous for 62 stupas.
    What I could find out is here
    Muang Khoun - Xieng Khouang - The Ancient Royal Capital

    This pic is a classic - good times
    upload_2020-3-10_11-24-16.

    Cheers
    Keep the report going.
     
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  6. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 16 and 17 - Riding from Luang Prabang to Xayabouli and checking out Xayabouli. Distance approx 115 km, all paved.

    I decided to visit some places I havent visited at all in Laos and Xayabouli are on of many of such kinds. Its after all a provincial capital of the province with the same name so it had to be something of interest there.
    The ride down to Xayabouli was uneventful. The only thing worth mentioning is that the bridge crossing the Mekong at Tha Deua is not on Google maps. Google tells you to take a 400 km detour via Pak Mong and Oudom Xai!
    «Google my friend, no point asking you, you know nothing about Laos....» LOL
    In Xayabouli I checked in at a guesthouse/hotel just near the main bridge over the Nam Khoun river - unfortunately I have forgotten the name of the place. But it was an easy forgetable place that charged me 100 kip a night.

    Xayabouli cannot exactly be called the hub of the country but its obviously THE elephant town of Laos. And the anually elephant festival was to be held a week later. Luckily for me the preparations for the festival had already begun so I could participate in some elephant action.
    Theres also an elephant conservation center 10 kms out of town at the Nam Tien reservoir. I thought I could just rock up there and pay a visit, but it doesnt work that way. You have to book your stay with accomodation well in advance and the price level was eh...a bit over my budget. So I didnt get there.
    As usual I visited the local marked and had a stroll around town. There are heaps of accomodation there I noticed.

    Some photos from my Xayabouly days...

    D2921AC7-C71A-4867-A5C7-D77F32F1B7C8.
    The Mekong bridge at Tha Deua on R4. It doesnt exist according to Google maps...

    1CF70856-C463-4B61-99F1-5979C025B500.
    Entering Xayabouli...

    9C209893-C2D3-4F3F-9C87-E0FA44C4B545.
    Nam Khoun river in Xayabouli

    54354F25-0AC0-4ACE-AB62-E6D1F4954414.
    The main drag of the town?

    7E80B739-32B0-47CD-BA11-7CD309567E4A.
    Monuments...


    BDB0F0CA-9F08-4EB1-AEA8-0F8197D55680.
    Elephant festival coming up next!

    9B3D83FD-746B-48CF-A414-5789BD518085.
    Several elephants and mahouts were already present showing their skills...

    1775702A-89C9-4F69-B03B-5ED1E0E48867.
    Magnificent creatures!

    3FEE4B55-204F-4987-AE3D-FF80104A4F50.
    Mum and offspring

    5BAEC31A-5399-4C20-80F5-EC9F10F6000A.
    Time for some elephant interaction..

    A1D6FA5C-9371-49F8-9567-A00DC16DA2C6.
    Half a second later the behind my shorts cracked open....LOL

    D69D45A2-3117-469C-A07A-89713CC8A671.
    But I made the climb to the top of the elephant. Poor elephant....55555
    45D60031-2B4B-4186-9777-E13D1C94E684.
    Even though I love to ride my Crf its good to get a ride on something else once in a while. And I have to admit the tourqe on this ride was far better than the tourqe on my Crf....

    62E231A3-EBEF-40F9-83F9-FCEA01E21C3D.
    The Nam Tien reservoir 10 kms out of town

    A68FC740-FBC9-4017-A92B-1EFBF7A279A6.
    Floating restaurants at Nam Tien reservoir

    1E790B71-568C-417A-99E7-93EAD6294F2A.
    Restaurant at Nam Tien

    4877020D-9DC9-4C70-A19F-4D0ACFB7D9B6.
    This boat looked quite abandoned at Nam Tien

    3C706167-13C8-4EA6-BEAF-20ADB305EB93.
    Buffalo skin at the local marked in Xayabouli

    60B0B451-CA2D-481B-A794-2D3BEBD5C462.
    Duck eggs and chicken eggs at the local marked

    28E1CF6A-24AC-4E64-A8AA-0579E7CCCD4D.
    Sausages at the marked

    F157420E-261E-46B4-B77A-EA1F4ABEA6EB.
    This peculiar fruit/berry once again
     
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  7. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 18 - Riding from Xayabouli to Long Tieng via Vang Vieng. Distance approx 320kms dirt and gravel approx 80-90 kms.

    Long Tieng is one of the places one really wants to visit and nowadays its supposedly not any problem I had heard. I had even heard that the southern route to LT was paved. So I found the best route suggestion on Mapsme and set off. First via the socalled Kasi bypassroad. Quite a funky road. I did this ride already in January 2013 before the official opening of the road and also in 2015. Still a nice ride, its just a short stretch of sand and gravel near the top. So to Vang Vieng and had a short lunchbreak there and fueled up. Then a few kms south of Vang Vieng Mapsme told me to turn left off the main road. And I did, as the road should be paved I had heard. But paved the road was not. It was a 80-90 kms rollercoaster gravel, sand, bulldust, stony road. Over mountains and down along ridges, up through numerous U-turns climbing sections, up steep mountain sides where the track was full of fine sand and bulldust. Not superdifficult on a light 250 but it didnt go fast! First and second gear mostly, just occasionally up to third. It was going to be a ride long into the dark hours I thought. But eventually the road became a bit better and 35-40 kms before Long Tieng I suddenly hit asphalt. So I reached my destination around 6.45 just as the dark set in. Dusty and tired I was. I got myself a room at the only guesthouse in town, Mr Saysamones guesthouse. All the better rooms were taken so I got a cheapie with shared bathroom for only 50 k kip, and I was very happy with that. Even though the shower was the «throw some cold water over yourself with a bailer» type.
    Food options in town were pho, and then I could have had pho and finally I could also have had pho. I chose the first option.....55555

    Unfortunately I didnt take much pics when the road became a bit rough as I was too focused getting through but heres some pics from other places that days ride...

    57B570BB-2052-4CB1-8089-03581D2F0E69.
    Mianoi at the top of the Kasi bypassroad

    1C6495A7-2413-4DCF-974B-2332D1EAA8D7.
    Kasi bypassrd...

    83266AD5-EE07-4123-9580-BA90E7DC4260.
    Some traces of landslides along the Kasi rd

    B20D4286-C924-412E-81D2-34E7CD0B5685.
    But a beautiful ride it is...

    C8DA35ED-705A-4D09-B5D8-4C0742D689EC.
    I love the smell of fried brakepads in the morning...LOL

    D9B56D4A-68F9-42BE-AA5D-7A2F535BC916.
    My truck is loaded - no, was loaded with bananas...555

    E2AC373E-0FF8-44CC-9C1E-55952056340C.
    Some rougher section. Im actually unsure where this was...

    C17E8FFE-CCD8-40EA-8488-A32BB6D1A0E5.
    On the right track at least...

    9B56BDE9-B52B-4478-BE3D-4E7CE3CEDDEF.
    Dam building right in the middle of nowhere...

    0BD0DF43-731C-4ADB-AC8D-21DD52A14E12.
    And we all know who build this...

    D051F48F-8BEE-49FD-8DF7-92D5600B1B67.
    Bye bye river, you will soon be a dam...
    97F230CE-3622-4729-8049-5F29211D1EC9.
    Now were talking and pavement starting just over there...

    54577B31-1FC6-4FEB-8252-81C741C77B5E.
    Beautiful scenery the last kms into Long Tieng

    5AC2ED94-E260-467F-BC13-4FDC9C9FADA4.
    The last stretch into LT was indeed paved and great...

    5386847F-F80B-4FF0-B5DC-F19B4D85ABE3.
    Welcome to Mr Saysomones guesthouse i Long Tieng

    27D9EF6D-CE27-407A-9D98-909A127BE1B3.
    And of all the choices that were available in LT I went for pho....LOL
     
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  8. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Great stuff Dodraugen.
    I tried 3 times to ride to Long Chaeng only to be turned away by the army on each occasion.
    I share your thoughts on Luang Prabang, which I loved the first few times I went there, but now one or two days is plenty, these days Nong Khiew suits me just fine.

    Great report.
     
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  9. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #34 Dodraugen, Mar 12, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2020
    Day 19 - Checking out Long Tieng

    I guess you all know about this place. «The most secret place in the world» An airstrip used by the US airforce during the Vietnam war and at most there were as much as 40 000 persons there at its heydays.

    What is left today? Well - the airstrip is still there and relatively intact. Im sure it could be used for minor aircrafts with just a tiny bit of maintainance. There are some buildings there from the heydays such as Vang Paos house and a few others. Except from that it not that easy to find traces of what once was. Its also minimal, or to be honest no information to be found in the area. So I guess one just have to imagine how it was there. I had of course read little bit about the place and seen some photos, so I wasnt totally unprepaired for it...

    What more can I say about the place? I spent two nights there and a full day. Theres a gas station there, two phone shops etc etc. But to find a decent place to eat was difficult. It was pho - and that was it! Well some bbq sticks I also had.

    Mr Saysamones guesthouse is the only accomodation possibility in town. And it isnt a bad place, but doubles up as a shorttimeplace in the weekends. There were mopeds with couples coming and going all night from 9-10 pm to 3-4 am and all such sounds that goes with such activities. As a long time traveller I always bring good earplugs with so luckily I wasnt bothererd by above mentioned activities.
    And when morning came it turned out that I also have had some guests in my room during the night, although not the kind of guests one usually want in the room....55555

    4C24E65D-6EBD-4AF6-973B-E99EB0D4680E.
    Photo from above...

    6DEBBCE8-9198-4F37-B784-E4B1DED2798B.
    Another photo from above...

    39EBDDDE-F5C3-42F7-8CB3-0682088FD4C1.
    From the south end...

    75FA53E3-36E6-4A3C-B6B4-FADB706DEEF5.
    Different angle...

    D9AB780B-80D8-4138-BA33-01901EFCD14F.
    Cows on the landingstrip! I bet it would have been a go around....LOL...

    BC422808-A115-4ABC-819C-E492EA3DFD6C.
    Mianoi on the LT airstrip

    1C85B240-55E2-4307-9B86-D4B9717B4EA9.
    Facing north

    23FEDC82-9075-46E5-93CA-A4817300FD3D.
    Vang Paos house

    FA8E326C-EFD1-4098-8A29-898B975BFF7A.
    Vang Paos house

    AD843945-F924-41D8-87B6-8CB41469576D.
    Some other buildings possibly from the heydays...?

    FAAD35CE-CDB3-4D7E-AEE2-846BEF2B3E7D.
    Possibly this one too...?

    05D97B63-23B5-4515-BFF7-B7DC7E934A2A.
    Some Lao army presence...

    3CBABB78-3327-42B9-8BEF-7AD29B9423BB.
    The old temple in LT

    83F9D526-3AAD-4D04-88FE-0509E1D13A6E.
    The old temple

    41C20068-A24C-49E8-967E-06860BFAD7F7.
    They were making a new building on the temple grounds...

    AFBC8475-6ECA-4A6A-A3CA-E33E49BE3B9B.
    Some graves nearby the temple

    B1A53F63-9A8A-4911-A0D9-CC8921B74F47.
    Rice paddy terraces in LT

    B22C499F-AEBD-4EC0-877F-250C52B24BA5.
    One of my unexpected guests that I found in my room...
    It was huge, by far the biggest spiderI have ever seen!

    BAC0CF64-F507-4E10-BAF0-E14537DB8030.
    And this was the second guest in my room....
     
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  10. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 20 - Riding from Long Tieng to Viengthong

    R9303-R5-R?-1D, Long Tieng-Nam Ngoen-Anouvong-Ban Om-Ban Vieng Thong-Thasi-Viengthong. Distance - hard to say, more than 300 kms whereof gravel around 100 kms?

    Figuring out this route was quite a task. Google maps is totally useless in Laos, especially in remote areas like this. Mapsme seems a bit better and the socalled R5 looked promising on Mapsme and looked like kind of a major road. It wasnt. I set off from LT around 10.30 and the first 35 kms was backtracking down to the Nam Ngoen junction on a paved road. Then it was around 10 kms of soso gravelroad down to Nam Ngoen itself. Then onto R5. Its was ok to start with, some badly broken up asphalt, some ok pavement, some gravel stretches. At Anouvong they were building a huge 4 lane road through the town. But all a construction site now. Then more longer gravelstretches, but it usually got asphalt through villages/towns.
    I made relatively nice progress but when I had like 18-20 kms left before I was supposed to reach R1D the R5 turned worse and worse and after a couple of kms more it turned into a grassy goattrack. This couldnt be the real R5 that showed as a major road on Mapsme? I still had 16-17 kms to go until R1D and a steep mountain in front of me and only a grassy goattrack to ride. No way I was trying to do this, so I turned around and rode back to the nearest village which was called Ban Om as I remember I had seen a junction there. And when I got to the junction which had no signs or other traces where it was going I asked some locals. And luck was on my side as they said that road would lead me to R1D. But it was a lengthy detour and I ended up much further north on the R1D than I thought. Oh well, one has to take it as it comes when doing long distance travelling by motorbike. That much I had learned the last 5 years. This new detour was actually a great ride, a gravel road but quite nice and graded and through some quite dramatic scenery.

    Then finally I reached R1D and from there and south it was a great ride. All paved and a racetrack of a road. Would have been great on a roadbike with a bit more power than my Crf. So made it to Viengthong around 7 pm and got myself a room at the Noy Chalern Houng Heaung Hotel at 100 k kip a night. Really nice room, one of the best I had on this Laos trip.

    As usual I didnt take lots of photos this day as when Im a bit unsure of this and that I think my brain goes into survival mode. Get through as quick and painless as possible! Is what my brain keeps telling me....But a few photos from the more relaxed stretches there is...



    599778C2-5784-4EDE-88BC-55E49E29D16A.

    A bit out of Nam Ngoen

    8B4714FA-A0F3-4C7E-AC0D-D5310EFE3A5B.

    This is from the «detour» of the socalled R5. Quite some scenery.

    619A0FA5-901F-4D5F-9B08-F7954C3564F2.
    More from that «detour» stretch...

    16E406C9-E10A-4E84-92FD-09E89FB1BA55.
    A nice little waterfall on the «detour» stretch

    3C9C57D5-EA22-484F-8AAB-622E38053EC1.
    A small forest fire in front of me...

    9304A8B2-01BC-4B09-A728-82E67635864D.
    Not far from R1D now...

    397A27B1-983C-43ED-87B4-DBFA6D233D10.
    Just some scenery along the way

    A5501C4A-51C5-4E04-9A2E-093E49381FC2.
    R1D is a great ride...

    ECF845DA-C566-4737-9250-BE50BE18ADEC.
    This forest fire was a bit more fierce...

    4533B88C-E0DA-4804-B3F6-ED251501422D.
    Wonderful R1D....




     
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  11. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 21 - Riding from Viengthong via Lak Sao to Thalang. Distance 136 kms, all paved.

    To be honest I hadnt planned this days ride in details. I just took it as it came. I first had a coffeebreak when I entered the R8 and by that the Thakek loop. There were heaps of backpackers and other tourists travelling on small motorbikes and because of that many restaurants and coffeeshops along the loop. So a long coffeebreak with some snacks it was. Then to Lak Sao as I have heard it was a huge market there. And I was in dire need of a new shorts as my previous had cracked butt open as I climbed the elephant in Xayabouli. And after some walking around at the market I found an acceptable shorts and took off.

    I visited the Kong Lor cave 5 years ago so I didnt feel like going there again. So I pottered on and came to this place called Thalang. A mandatory stop on the Thakek loop I suppose. It was 4 pm and I stopped and got myself a nice bungalow for 100 k kip at Phosy Thalang, and thus I spent one night there.

    It was a nice place but a bit weird with all those dead trees on that superficial lakes around the area.

    A few photos from Thalang...


    F972D5F0-26EF-4267-B7B8-34010D606F63.
    The Thalang bridge

    8AD81B2E-F1CF-44C1-A977-5359430EF4D4.
    Some of those weird dead trees in the area

    E62D8E94-5030-40BC-8F5D-4A0ED4C53DF5.
    Heaps and heaps of dead trees....

    B1CADB8A-AD2A-420E-8B01-112E8FAE1AE7.
    Weird...

    A5318E5A-5019-464B-BC2E-EBE3EFC1CAB2.
    Hmm...

    348D0422-1B12-4298-99EA-5CDAC3FAD228.
    Phosy bungalows...

    ECB631C6-ABA5-429A-9908-2F6EA2A57719.
    Phosy bungalows

    2E2286FE-81A7-4EB4-8D5E-1F6AF936CF0F.
    A local restaurant....

    0F695989-1346-462B-B1B5-FD0C84257ACF.
    Sunset at Thalang...
     
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  12. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Day 22 - Riding from Thalang via Vilabouli to Xepon. Distance on map is 230 kms, I think my ride was quite a bit longer, lets say around 300 kms. The first 60 was paved, the rest gravel and between Vilabouli and Xepon completely smashed up asphalt.

    This day turned to be maybe the most interesting and challenging day on this trip. Finding a route was challenge nr 1, Google maps totally useless as for most of remote Laos, Mapsme a bit better but not a whole lot better as it turned out...

    Anyhow - I set off well rested and ready for what the day had in store for me. The first 60 kms was smooth paved road on the socalled Thakek loop. But a few meters after I took off from that road it became a bumpy and dusty gravel road. I could see stretches that for sure would be a huge challenge in the rainy season. Actually it reminded me of the gravelroads of the lowlands of Bolivia. Dusty as hell when dry, a mudbath of dimensions in the wet!

    But it went relatively well for a couple of hours and my spirit was good. The only thing that really bothered me was all the dust and a tendency to washboards on the road. Then I came to a watercrossing that didnt appear on any map. It wasnt deep so easy to cross, but I had lost my track! I was far off the Mapsmetrack and had to zoom out to see the route. But nothing else to than follow the trackmI was on and I came to a village and tried to follow the main track further. But it ended more or less blind. Then backtracked to the last 3 way junction and tried to follow one of the other tracks, but also that ended up into some fenced off property. Backtracked all the way to the nearest village and they told me to go back keep right and so I did. But I still ended up lost! So back to the village again and then a kind hearted guy started his moped and followed me and pointed me into a fenced off cattle area and told me to go straight. So I did and passed a whole lot of cattle then got closer to the Mapsmetrack and finally was back on the right (?) track again.

    A bit further on and through another village Mapsme told me to turn right into an almost dry riverbed kind of thing. It turned out that the locals had made a concrete way for a stream and Mapsme had decided that it was a road!
    So I had to look closer at my papermap and backtracked a bit. After some more navigation I finally was on my way to the viapoint at Vilabouli. Arrived at Vilabouli around 4 pm and had a quick stop to get some much needed liquids into my body and continued towards Xepon. It was a stretch of 50 kms. This road had probably once been paved but the state of the road was now absolutely horrible! Totally smashed asphalt, huge potholes, rocks the size of handballs. Ouch - I spent almost two hours on this stretch, thats how bad it was.
    So finally arrived in Xepon around 6 pm, dusty as f.... Got myself a room at Thiengmalay Guesthouse for only 60 k kip. It was great value for money actually...

    C1A2C4AB-4817-4C7B-AB22-ED9CF330DBDC.
    Relatively nice sandy roads to begin with...

    803E4C81-7C38-40A4-BCC3-E9773796731A.
    With some stretches that would have been challenging in the wet season...

    20C56A0E-F26F-4755-A515-6DABC0FC50D0.
    One of the hundres of wooden bridges I passed this day

    92F4F2AA-5E12-4B26-9DAC-507F7F5A1D6C.
    It probably dont show weel on the photos but there were a bit of washboards here and there...

    ECEDC63F-BE16-40A7-A3A2-E996E0297EF7.
    A car had lost a part along these washboards stretches....

    BD40E499-3944-4934-AF61-29991E321DDE.
    Some caves

    594618F0-CC1B-4A8F-BFA5-9C8B308B33E3.
    Caves

    66A20AC1-B3ED-4B6C-97FE-C9003BA87A9E.
    Nice but dry scenery

    605ECDFB-3C24-48A5-89FB-B3A3ADA2C725.
    Mianoi didnt complain, I think she actually loved this days ride...

    7C2D95D9-F644-45C9-A5C8-283E470D9489.
    Local transportation....


    AD0F6270-FDE9-4B9F-8FDE-8DBAC896201A.
    What would Laos be without these primitive tractors?

    94B95BAD-88EE-455D-A0DD-AA970071DA74.
    A happy lot riding their tractor!

    4B0D6ECF-B1BA-4D4B-BDE4-58AB06145816.
    Watercrossing, but not deep so no problems...

    7EAEA9CE-A908-4428-B5D6-E719DDFEE278.
    But where the hell was I now? Far away from my GPS track...

    DB5866FD-6748-4792-B17F-204F4F197C05.
    But now what?

    3C5525D7-9831-494E-BBC5-52E3E541C1BE.
    Back to nearest village and ask directions, a guy started his moped and followed me and pointed through this cattlefield....hmm

    E5FC01F3-4CD0-4389-A5B0-41DC160C30B5.
    Me: Sabai dee cows, tell me is this the way to Vilabouli?
    Cows: Muuh....

    BACD15A7-B2C4-4D8D-A5FE-3FA1BF0C12F7.
    I got to Vilabouli and to Xepon too that day and what can I say, it was a very dusty day....55555
     
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  13. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    Wow, You had one Epic Adventure! Top Job Mate! Impressive!
     
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  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    That was an absolute winner getting those Elephants to hang out with like that pre Xayaboury Elehant show. So lucky.
     
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  15. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    #40 Dodraugen, Mar 15, 2020
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2020
    Day 23 Checking out the war museum at Ban Dong and having a glimpse of the Ho Chi Minh trail before riding to Savannakhet. Distance around 300 kms all paved except the 20-30 meters of the Ho Chi Minh trail I rode....55555

    So a quick research showed me that there was a War Muesum at Ban Dong 28 kms eastwards and then acsess to the Ho Chi Minh trail another 22 kms south of Ban Dong. So I took of in that direction and reached the muesum just before 11 am and their 2 hour long lunchbreak. Oh - well, so then I tried to find the HCM trail in stead. It was another 22 kms south on a secondary road, no signs or other traces of the HCM trail before in a sharp turn of the road I could see a low iron fenced off trail. The fence was rusty and the trail itself was full of trash. And absolutely no sign or information about this. But it had to be the HCM trail, I had ridden exactly the 22 kms from Ban Dong. The fenced off trail was maybe 1 kms long, and went paralell with the road through a small village/settlement. A little disapointing that there were no more info or signs and also that the trail itself was absolutely full of trash and broken bottles. To be honest I didnt want to ride there as I was afraid all those broken bottles would cut deep into my tyres. Anyhow - I got my pictures and returned to the War Museum. The correct name is supposedly Lam Son 719 War museum.

    This muesum was actually a little interesting. It has a lot of US Army machinery and weapons on display. But the info is mostly not in english so thats a bit akward.
    Anyhow - the reason for all this capturee US Army stuff is that at one stage during the USA - Vietnam war the US troops wanted to cut of the supply lines southbond along the HCM trail. Unfortunately they attacked in the dry season when the Vietkong already had got plenty of supplies through and by that they were able to not only defend themselves well, but to actually crush the attack totally and capture a lot of arms, machinery and soliders.
    Had the US troops attacked late in the rainy season while the Vietkong was low and out of lots of supplies - they would most likely have been able to break the HCM trail and thus the supply lines to Vietkong. So that was a tactical blunder of dimensions by the US Army.
    This is how I understood the history at least. It might be somewhat altered of course.
    At least I got some nice pics of US Army stuff before I rode the long way to Savannakhet were I wanted to apply for a new thai visa.

    Some pics from that day...

    F8573D18-5F03-4006-BD34-3DE9F46A14EC.
    The Ho Chi Minh trail

    B0544835-45D0-4CBD-AC87-F332BAAEB814.
    Yep - this is it...(?)

    CB6FF3E9-3558-4CDA-97F4-FDA28771183E.
    I rode Mianoi 20-30 meters on the HCM trail. I didnt dare to ride more as it was full of broken bottles...

    C7AAC255-BC29-4B15-8B90-88D718E59B27.
    The end of the HCM trail, or the beginning....?

    6DD13545-8EAC-4F78-97A0-5037D490F4B4.
    HCM trail...

    7C7117D9-8C73-4A9F-B75C-2B52B83B1D6C.
    The trail goes paralell to the road that goes through a village...

    F8BD9D29-A6BB-402C-8B86-46E9EEB693CF.
    Fishtraps maybe?

    E526D0BD-F60B-4382-8E45-E1F9813394DE.
    An old suspension bridge over the Nam Xepon river

    EF0DB628-9C4B-4E6F-897B-6C18BEF3A5D4.
    Suspension bridge Nam Xepon

    B74248AF-469C-4F2D-BA0A-3C43BF322E8A.
    The Lam Son 719 War Museum


    69356184-6A4B-44E5-87A8-4EF3475DC3AB.
    Heaps of US Army stuff on display here...

    C610BE38-E647-4D0C-8101-60E6C5166BCC. 02922005-1B53-49FD-906F-8AAE30EB0591. 899CD6BA-BD38-4E5E-97C5-57E047EFE654. A78C98E9-AED3-4229-B3C7-F9E32CEBE9E2. 9ACB2BFC-A6AD-4358-B21D-A266F1FA38CC. EF693DB3-1A6E-4198-A98F-BD2BFF523C94. 8C6EFA70-FB79-41D0-861B-9799BDB9A8EA. 8569EDA3-4304-4EFC-AEF6-B299843C5707. 2923443F-E1B4-4E01-B4FF-6F8928F636F0. EF85E480-C177-4780-B500-8AE8E0128780.

    0BBE4931-71CC-46B4-82A2-836D2722ABB7.
    A few photos from the inside of the muesum

    A26C0834-555E-4BFE-A9DB-4FADCFA7642D. 568FF1D7-A58E-4E85-A6FE-F924C21B0C5F. B9E18DDC-F678-4C03-AC0F-42E925A03BF6. 3F7E0A5A-EBF2-4A26-A5A6-0858CE29E948.
    1E92FACA-1916-456F-A9AF-6C2FD31E9D1D.
    Uncle Ho and Kaysone...
     
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  16. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Good on you, Dodraugen. Great trip report.
     
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  17. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    A few pics from Savannakhet and some final thoughts...

    In Savannakhet I went to the thai consulate and applied for a new SETV even though I just had read on the ThaiVisa forum that this consulate more or less had stopped issuing SETV. But as luck was - I was indeed granted such a visa and I was ready to leave for Thailand.

    Mission accomplished! I went to Laos for two main reasons, first to do a good trip around some of the country and visit places and ride roads I havent ridden before. And that I did! I rode along the Mekong up to Muang Sing, further the «shortcut» to Boun Tai, then I visited LS85 in Sam Neua, I went to Xayabouli, further to Long Tieng and rode some amazing roads totally new to me, further south to Viengthong, Thalang, long offroad trip to Xepon and checked the HCM trail and Ban Dong war museum. Not a bad ride at all even for me who last year finished a 5 year RTW trip.
    And then I got a new SETV for Thailand in Savannakhet too, which was my second goal with visiting Laos. Well done to myself! LOL

    Savannakhet I first visited in 2004 when it was a dusty smalltown on the Mekong banks. With nothing particularly much to it. There werent many accomodation possibilities back then, not too many restaurants, coffeeshops and bars. But this has changed quite a lot.
    It still is a small dusty town on the Mekong banks but nowadays there is plenty of hotels and guesthouses, many restaurants and coffeshops, nightmarkeds and other markets - actually a huge improvement from 16 years back. So cheers to Savannakhet for that!

    My bike the Honda Crf250L aka Mianoi performed faultlessly all the way and when I returned home to my base in Lampang it had gained 4700 kms on the ODO.
    One rear indicator snapped on the way to Long Tieng but I have since superglued it and it seemed to hold up well. The steering bearings was actually a bit shady when I left and I should have had them replaced before I left - anyhow they are now replaced and the Crf are as good as new.
    I also fitted an aftermarket gastank before I left as the original gas tank is only ~ 7,7 liters which is good for 250 kms, which I thought was a bit too small for Laos. I remember that the frequency of gas stations in Laos wasnt that good from my last visit there 5 years ago so thats why I got this aftermarket tank who takes 12 liters and thus are good for up to 400 kms.
    But the development in Laos has been great the last 5 years. There are now gas stations almost «everywhere» so actually I havent needed this aftermarket tank.

    Mianoi takes whatever road you throw at her, great low end grunt for such a small cc engine. I remember the gravel track along the Mekong when it got a bit rough, I still could chug along in third gear at around 30 km/h. And when the road got a bit better just open the throttle and the bike will accelrate just fine! And fuel milage has been great, around 37 kms pr liter on regular Lao fuel is amazing! That equals something like 105 mpg imperial and 87,5 mpg US. Im impressed about this bike!

    Enough bragging - I hope you enjoyed this trip report. I certainly enjoyed the ride! Laos was on my top 5 countries to ride in on my RTW trip so very happy to revisit the country. I hope there will be more trips to Laos...

    B445AB47-1986-476E-88EC-7503C59A14E7.
    St Teresa Catolic church - Savannakhet

    8D09A0A6-1889-480F-A74F-5D7AA95AF147.
    The mandatory sunset over Mekong photo...

    EE2ED689-33B7-4EAA-B39B-35AFFD486E36.
    Parklife in Savannakhet

    3737C375-A6E8-42D8-B0B2-34F068D4A495.
    Mianoi gets a good and much needed wash in Savannakhet

    24F4278A-C71D-4EB3-A3C0-2FEBFD9BC471.
    Around 34000 kms when I left....

    A1DD5134-A14E-43AB-90F8-FA6697B71829.
    And 38700 kms when I came back.
     
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  18. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Well done, Dodraugen, and thank you for the series of write-ups and photo’s.
     
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  19. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Thanks for many encouraging and positive comments in this thread Eoin....
     
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  20. Oddvar

    Oddvar Ol'Timer

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    I think you will find OSM better. Google is for road riding, at best.
    But being off the grid and feeling lost is a great feeling too.

    Thanks for your write-ups.
     
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  21. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Mapsme uses OSM as their source afaik. Are there any OSM maps that one can use directly from OSM, apps or others?

    Mapsme is definetively better than Googlemaps but still far from correct.
    Getting lost can be a great experience but it can also be a rather nervewrecking affair. It depends where you are and under what circumstances you are...
     
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  22. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Luang Prabang still rocks for.
    Yes it has become commercialized in the main street, but the river ambiance is still fantastic.
    I'd find it very difficult to stay less than 3 nights minimum, such is my love of the place.

    I think once you find two or three favourite hang outs & the odd singer, it is bloody hard to leave & I keep wanting to go back.
    Only the border crossing into Laos at Huay Kon / M Ngern is a pain the arse getting into Laos, or I would be there every 6 weeks I reckon.
     
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  23. Oddvar

    Oddvar Ol'Timer

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    OSMAND+ is a great app for Android. A couple of dollar for the paid version.
    Some complain that it has become too complicated to use. I guess that depends more on interest or background in the use of maps in general.
    The OSM in North Thailand is maintained and updated by the OSM community in CNX. I have over 1000+ edits/adds and I am a small contributor compared to Russ and his CNX pals.
    If more riders get involved in mapping, which is surprisingly easy, the better map we will have.
    Read more about becoming a mapper here.
     
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  24. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    I'm still catching up...
    Great stuff you've had an amazing ride. Xieng Kok, LS85, Long Chieng, this has to be one of the best trips on GTR.
    Fantastic effort and report.
    You must have spent quite a bit of time beforehand researching - well done.
    This pic - the look of determination is a beauty
    bacd15a7-b2c4-4d8d-a5fe-3fa1bf0c12f7-jpeg.
     
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  25. Dodraugen

    Dodraugen Ol'Timer

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    Actually I havent done a whole lot of researching. For example when I rode to Long Tieng I had read somewhere that the road and acsess from the south was asphalt, but there are several roads that leads to Long Tieng, even from the south and I havent noticed that....my bad! So I ended up on a quite rough gravel road with sand, stones, bulldust etc etc.

    I had of course read other tripreports and knew approximately where I wanted to go and had a rough idea about the route. Then I just rode from place to place as geographically and roadwise suited best.
    I like to have a rough plan of where to go and what to see but not too detailed - so that I can deviate and improvise a bit as the trip progresses.
    A littlebit of research, some ideas, a rough plan - and go! Then whatever the roads and trip has in store for me. A bit of improvisation and deviation is always gonna happen. Usually this works best for me.
     
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