Nong Khai to Nan along the Lao boarder

Discussion in 'Touring Northern Thailand - Trip Reports Forum' started by ernothai, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. ernothai

    ernothai Member

    I started my trip around 22.02. in Nong Khai, where I usually stay at the Mut Mee GH, with a nice garden right at the banks of the Mekong river. Usually nice people staying there, not too freaky, most of the elder type.
    I do all my tours on small motorbikes, like Honda Wave or Dream. It is not easy to get a decent one for rent in Nong Khai, but when I said I would keep it for 2-3 weeks, they got me a rather new bike within a day at the rental place just opposite the little lane leading to the Mut Mee.
    First day I just drove to Sang Khom, a place where you can stay at very simple, but cosy and cheap riverside bungalows in several GHs. The town has a very relaxed atmosphere, but nothing special to do there. You can make an excursion to a temple up on a mountain with spectacular view down into the Mekong valley.
    You have to go back about 7-8 km towards NK, pass the waterfall and viewpoint. At the top of the pass take the road to the right, follow it about 2-3 km then turn right. First it is a well paved road, after a few km it turns into a dirt road of rather good quality. But then just after the top of a little slope it becomes really bad with deep dust. Well, too suddenly for me, so I tested how hard the ground was under the dust. Hard enough to get some bleeding wounds (I drove with a T-shirt only, stupid!) and a contusion of my rips, which is quite painful and long lasting I can tell you. Fortunately the bike was ok and I could drive on or better to say back to Sang Khom where I got to know the nice friendly hospital. They cleaned my bruises, checked for brain shake and gave me lots of pills against pain – costs altogether 200 B.
    After a days rest – the nights with my ribs where terrible and sneezing was an absolute disaster – I drove on to Chiang Khan. This is a very beautiful drive right along the Mekong with wonderful views, though the water level was extremely low. The road is most of the time perfect with almost no traffic. Actually once you are about 50 km out of Nong Khai, the roads are virtually empty.
    I have to mention one thing which was very negative during my whole trip, the visibility was really lousy. There is not only the haze, typical for this time of the year, but there is also a lot of smoke in the air, so you very seldom see the sun or clear sky. The sun stands red on the sky already at 4 pm, as usually only during sunset.
    I like Chiang Khan with its old teak houses and the nice river promenade. Usually I stay in Logmai GH, a very tasteful old colonial villa, airy and full of nice paintings, since it is run by the wife of a well known thai artist. (300-400B with shared bathroom)
    Leaving Ch.K. I followed the roads which Captain Slash has suggested in a recent post. Very good description and very useful since you can avoid a terribly potholed part of the 2195. Thanks Slash!
    I cite his description here:

    I did the trip from Chiang Khan to Uttaradit today, for a decent ride and avoiding the terrible potholes leave Chiang Khan travelling south on the 201. If you start from the junction of the 201 with the 2195 head south for 4.4km and you will see a sign in Thai saying 9km, turn right here, on the corner on your right hand side is a km marker, it has been painted over but you can make out 2154 if you look closely. there are a few of the markers on this road that havent been painted over so you will soon know if you are on the right road or not, its a fairly reasonable road but damaged in a couple of places. As you go over a fairly long concrete bridge about 50 metres further on is a white wooden building and a tree, turn left here and follow this road, its concrete and not very wide then turns to tarmac and then after a couple more kms its a nice new shiny wide road, there is no number on this road. You will come to a t junction and you want to turn right towards Ban Na-Jan, this is the 4014 and only goes for about 1.5km then meets the 2195, turn left for Ban Nong Phu and just stay on this road for a fair way until you come to a crossroads with an army checkpoint. To your right is the damaged section of the 2195, straight over goes down to the river and a dead end, turn left and this is the 2195 that goes all the way to Na Haeo. I only encountered one small series of potholes in the entire journey today and it was a good run but I turned left onto the 2294 for Phu Rua so cant comment on the road all the way to Na Haeo

    Once you are on the new 2195 it is a wonderful driving, not very spectacular by landscape but a very nice rolling road. Finally after about 50 km you come back to a little river which is now the boarder to Laos.
    Following this river is also a very nice ride, at some places you could walk over to Laos without getting wet feet.
    There are some rapids near Ban Pak Huai, not very spectacular, but there is a nice little restaurant overlooking the rapids with English menu, a quiet place to relax. They are just building some pretty bungalows, might be a good place to stay overnight in the future.
    Not long after B.P.H. (near Tali) you pass by the new friendship bridge leading over the river into Laos and eventually to Luang Prabang on a long exhausting dirt road, as a friend told me who has done the road riding a “Transalp”. It seems possible to cross the boarder there without problems, but that was about 2 years ago.
    From there it goes on to Na Haeo, where the 2195 ends and one turns to the right onto the 1268 (to left it would be another 3 km into Na Haeo). Shortly after this crossing on the right there is a nice accommodation, Na Haeo Bungalows, not very cheap (400B) but a cosy quiet place.
    Up to here my daily distances were almost ridiculous, I know, but I like to get early to a place and rather explore the surrounding.
    From Na Haeo I made a nice evening excursion, which one could do as a detour the next day, too. I drove from the GH west on the 1268 about 10 km, then a sign to the right saying Tat Huang Waterfall, brings you onto the 2168, a wonderful road with spectacular views into Laos. There is a special viewing point at the NP Headquarter.
    Excellent road conditions, at least up to the waterfall (pleasant quiet place), that’s how far I went.
    Next day I had to do a long trip (280km), since I did not know of any accommodation between Na Haeo and Nan (well, there seems to be bungalows at the Pu Soi Dao NP, but that is only 60km away).
    The 1268 is a magnificent road, well paved and through nice forrest. Lots of curves and up and down, with not too steep slopes. After the crossing with the 1237 (which leads to Uttaradit) it gets a race track, rather straight and mostly with excellent tarmac. To Ban Khok you get in no time. I did not notice any hotel in B.K.
    About 10 km after Ban Khok the 1268 ends rather suddenly, you have to turn right onto the 1241. However there is now a sign to Nan already. The 1241 ends when it hits the 1123, which one has to follow about 2 km to the left.
    Going to the right there is another alternative to go to Nan via 1243, but I was told that this initially excellent road suddenly becomes a tiny elephant track, even with big heaps of elephant shit on it.
    So you better take the 1083 to Na Noi, which starts after the 2 km at a crossing as a dirt road. There is a little restaurant at this crossing where I asked and was told that it is only 4 km like this. In fact they are just building this last bit, as they have done already with the rest of the 1083. So it is now an absolutely marvellous road swinging across the mountains, big, empty, spectacular. There used to be a bad piece around the Nan bridge before, but it is all done now, what a pleasure to drive there. Particularly beautiful is the part through the Si Nan National Park. I asked there for accommodation, they have rooms, but quite expensive (500B). I thought I could easily make the remaining 80 km to Nan.
    Not much to tell about that: After Na Noi the traffic gets more, the road to Wiang Sa is still an attractive bike road, but then comes the 101 with much traffic and no attraction.
    In Nan I stayed as usual in the Amazing GH, frequently recommended in this forum. I can only support that, it is quiet, clean, cosy and cheap (about 200 for a nice room with own hot shower and even TV and a friendly lady who owns it (not included)).
    But I also like the Nan GH, with a very nice restaurant, pleasant owners and the best American breakfast I ever got in Thailand. So that’s the place I usually stay in the mornings and evenings. I also used their rooms, they are a little bit more expensive (230 B), but excellent value, too, very clean and with optional AC.

    I will write about my trip back to Nong Khai in a later post.
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Capt Slash I cant keep up with you, you lucky man.
    Ernothai, good detailed trip report. I look forward to the rest. The roads in Nan & along the Lao border are some of the best rides in North Thailand.
  4. cdrw

    cdrw Ol'Timer

    For a slightly different route, which avoids most main roads to (or from) Nan from Loei or Nong Khai...

    see the section near the middle of my post below...where I went from Nan to Loei: ... Terms=kafe
  5. ernothai

    ernothai Member

    Yes, I read your report, this is just the way (Nan to NaHaeo via Pak Nai) I took going back. Since your description is very precise I will not be able to add anything substantial in my following trip report. Was a nice ride was'nt it?
  6. ernothai

    ernothai Member

    Hi Colin, I was in A.GH. from 28.02. til 8.03., so maybe we stayed there at the same time without meeting each other, pity. Actually one day a bigger bike was standing in the yard (yours?). I had one of the bungalows, maybe the landlady mentioned the German (Dieter), who has been staying there many times already.
    Maybe we meet next time either there or in the Ton Khong GH in Chiang Khan, which we also seem to like both (with the nice female Ollie and Stan).
    Have a good time at work again and don't dream too much about biking in Thailand.
  7. ernothai

    ernothai Member

    It just got on my mind: I had a nice chat with a Scottish guy staying in A.GH. in "Hot Bread" (a little restaurant run by two sisters). He was eager to learn Thai with the correct pronountiation -- That was'nt you by any chance?

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