Northern Laos December 2012 (Moto-Rex BrianBKK)

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by brian_bkk, Dec 22, 2012.

  1. Hi Fella's,

    Rex and I had a fantastic trip to Northern Laos..
    As this was a relatively long trip it will take to long to do one full report.
    The trip report will be posted in sections, most likely by the day or days.

    Three minute Youtube video from our trip here:-

    Thank you Chiang Rai saddle bags for allowing me to leave my bike and gear at the shop the week before the big trip.
    Great shop and will be back for a closer look.

    Day 1 30th Nov

    Thursday night I flew up from Bangkok and met Rex.. Rex had picked up my bike and gear earlier as I was getting in late after work..
    Must say.. CRI airport taxis are a rip off.. compared to Bangkok and CNX.. Even did the walk away in disgust waiting for the call back and lower price.. Didn't happen..
    So get outside and do a U-turn and all smiles at the desk... grrrr.. CRI taxi Mafia.

    Meet Rex and off we go for some beers... and more beers and more beers...


    Wake up early and get to Chiang Khong.. Went and did the paper work first near the police station and then down to Bamboo to meet David Unk for breakfast.
    The God Father of Northern Thailand biking sees us off at the ferry...


    We snuggle up at the front of the trucks.




    Get over to Laos..


    Everyone is on lunch... Lunch starts at 12 and finishes at 1 officially... But this is Laos.. try 2pm or there abouts...

    Wander around.. get a drink etc and kill some time..Finally we are done at 2.30pm..

    While looking around we see how the Lao side border check point is proposed to look next year..
    On a positive note.. No more rip off from the miserable witch that takes your 500 baht for the ferry ride at Chiang Khong.


    We both look at each other and say.. Bugger it.. lets stay here tonight as it is so late. We will take it easy and eat well - it is a holiday after all..
    Pledging to make early start we can catch up on this afternoons lost ride..

    Just as well we did.. The heavens open and it chucked it down.. We were wandering around town trying to find insurance..
    All closed at the border, none open on the main street.. so we ride around and eventually find a Viet Lao broker 2 streets up....

    Park the bikes and back we go for Beer Oclock looking over at Chiang Khong and a great dinner.... So cheap and really tasty....

    Nice beer tent and great food



    Chiang Khong on the other side from our great restaurant

    To be continued.....
  2. Wow, great video! Thanks for your "production" efforts; really very professional :)
  3. Day 2

    Houei Xai to Luang Namtha via Muang Sing


    Early start.. up with the birds..

    The Monks are out and so is the fog..


    Nice hearty breakfast..


    What was the beginning of many many many egg breakfasts to come over the next 12 days...

    We ride up the new road from Houei Xai to the turn off...

    Finally we can do some dirt... or as we would find out later.. MUD


    Rex showed me a great ride along the Lao / Burma border that runs along the Mekong via Muang Sing to Luang Namtha.




    This was really fantastic..

    Fantastically muddy...






    Time for lunch on the trail.. Bread and Cheese with freshly opened can of tuna so the sandwich isn't soggy...

    Perfect. Looking at the Mekong and Burma... A Chinese 4wd came along.. Quite shocked to see us and offered us water etc..
    We said we were fine and they left rather amused at the two crazy fellas in the mud..





    There is only one thing to do with a muddy bike.. That is get the mud off...


    Arrive Luang Namtha..

    Beer Lao hall of fame

    I decided on the 'Fillet of local with roasted curry' not much meat on those locals..

    To be continued....
  4. Enjoying this one, great video too :)
  5. Thanks guys..

    Great fun riding it, making the video and now reliving the memories through the trip report.

  6. You guys take to mud like ducks to water! I am too old for this kind of riding though it looks like fun. Enjoyed your video intro ... kool!
  7. Day 3..

    Luang Namtha - Boun Neua


    We delayed our start as it was still raining, it was pouring down..
    Lets have some more eggs for breakfast.... for a change


    Didn't look good.. but then after an hour started to lift.



    Then we turn off the paved road and the mud and slippery stuff begins.
    We began to have concerns how far we could get today if it stayed like this all the way..



    We stopped and watched the two Honda Waves.. Cruel but funny to see them slipping and sliding and doing circles etc to make it up the hill...
    Doesn't look steep in this picture.. but it was and you can see by the turned up mud.. slippery




    Some great scenery..


    And more mud

    Lots of stream crossings.. all at a reasonable level due to the overnight and morning rain.



    Rex prepared lunch.. The Bear Gryles knife was handy, the tuna put up quite a fight.. Rex's superior bushmen skills came through.


    We join up to a new muddy muddy road.. just the entire stretch was mud all the way.


    Not so many mud pictures now as it was all a bit same same and your 100 th big splash through the slop was not so interesting to take a photo of any more :)



    Lots of potential for land slides along here.. this bit wasn't too bad.. The worse stuff we didn't hang around.

    Kids play any where..

    Local trying to avoid the real mushy stuff.. Not sure about this strategy though.. Bit of a drop on the other side.

    A little Oasis along the way...


    FINALLY - we arrive at the paved road...
    To be honest.. we both agreed it was a welcome change to ride on the paved road.. Great fun on the mud.. but time for a change..

    Fuel stop just out of town..

    Lots of spots along the paved road like this..
    You can see the soil is washing out from under the paved road... This road is all relatively new.. So watch out for gravel in the corners. But a good road and a good ride

    Arrive at our guest house for the night



    Not a bad little town.. a few restaurants with clean food.. More omelettes to come...

    Decided to skip Pongsali as we want to ride all the way up to the very most northern point in Laos with China tomorrow.....

    To be continued...
  8. Hey this is starting to look real good alright. You guys certainly lucked out with the weather & that rain at the start. I recall hanging out in CK for a bit longer thinking about you in the rain & mud, wondering how you'd go & would you get stuck anywhere.
    It sort of reminded me coming back from Jinhong in China in 94-95 & it rained all the way out. As cold & wet as Ive ever been -miserable riding. We wisely opted to skip the 180 kms jungle trail LNt - HX & rode down to Pak Beng via Oudom Xai & got a boat out.
    With the first stream crossings you are always a bit careful, then you get bolder & then they get boring, but you never want to drop your bike in one & get stuck out there in the boonies.
    I'm glad you liked the mud & getting dirt. Its always a buzz rocking up to a GH covered in mud & asking for a room. You never quite know how the landlord is going to react.

    Bring it on, I suspect this is gonna be a mega report.
  9. This is a realy interesting & unusual Chedi.
    Any idea of the village / temple name?
  10. If I remember correctly and looking at the GTR Map.. Xieng Dao.
    It is where we first saw the Mekong and Burma on the other side..

    We were riding along and noticed the temple and decided to go up and take a look.
    Very nice there and great views of the Mekong and Burma.. Few Km down the road the mud started..


  11. Brian, this is looking fun. We just finished our 3 week trip too.
    If possible, can you put dates on your days, as once I get my report done, it will be interesting to see the road difference between the days. There's already a few places we rode that I recognise.

  12. Hi Pounce,

    Sure.. No problem.. will go back and add.. Good idea actually.. Often accused of forgetting the dates :)

    As you know.. It really doesn't take long for the conditions to change.. couple of days and you can be in dust..

    Think I would rather the mud than the dust than that horrible fine chalk powder on the corners that takes you out :)

  13. Day 4

    Ou Tai and the Northern most part of Laos with China..


    This is a great ride.. very very scenic and fun dirt road.. took about 3 hrs to ride to Ou Tai.

    Most of the road is like this with stunning views in to the bottom of the mountain valley.


    Just imagine how this looks at rice harvesting time - Good reason to go back...

    Fantastic dirt road.. not too slippery and in good condition..

    We named this village.. "Baan Frisbie"

    Rex bought a Frisbie at Big C before the trip..
    Don't think the kids had a frisbie before.. They loved it.. and before you know it.. The entire village was out..
    As you know the kids in these parts are very poor.. As much as we would like to carry clothes for them.. It just isn't practical on the bikes.
    Great interaction with the locals.. We only stopped to take a picture of the clouds in the mountains as it was so lovely..
    Then Rex thought this was as good a place as any to give his Frisbie away..




    Love seeing their photos..

    The view we stopped for


    Getting closer to Ou Tai.. Around 3 hrs to ride with photo stops, enjoying the scenery.


    Coming off the mountain in to Ou Tai - This town is still around 1,300 metres above sea level if I remember correctly..

    We have a quick look around the town and check out accommodation.. Tell them we will be back around 3 or 4.


    Head off to the China border.. Around 50 KM north of Ou Tai.. Northern most point of Laos..

    The road to the border with China. A lot of it is bone jarring.. lots of rocks in the road for the rainy season..


    Laos must have some of the most remote and tallest mobile towers in the world... This is around 20 km from the border.





    The border with China...

    We were really not welcome here.. After this picture we went a bit closer for a photo by the border.
    Rex was in front and was nearly greeted with a Karate kick... We did a very quick u-turn and head back the way we came..
    Tense first 5 km as on the way out.. Rex saw one of the border guards on the phone looking in our direction as we left..


    We stopped 5 km down the road and gathered our thoughts and relaxed a bit and had a bit of a laugh...
    Northern most tip of Laos and an attempted Karate kick.. Box ticked - Karate kick a bonus ;-)

    Just before entering Ou Tai from the Chinese border direction. (Most of the produce goes to China)
    You see many banana plantations too.. Filling up the boxes that state.. 'Produce of China', then loaded on the Chinese registered trucks.

    Back to Ou Tai and check in to the guest house.. This place looked real plush.. inside and outside.. But it was like some fake toy house.
    Nothing worked.. Plush bathroom.. with fancy taps and sink etc.. but you bathed from a bucket of water.. The usual sheets had been slept in and so on..

    But it was fine.. just turned all the sheets inside out... and we had secure parking for the bikes

    Time to hunt down a cold beer..
    Everything and I mean everything comes from China here.. you see the signs and vehicles with Chinese number plates.
    Some of the people in the local shops can't speak Lao.. We were speaking Thai to them and they responded in a Chinese dialect.

    We walked up and down the street to find a COLD beer.. All the fridges are barely turned on or the doors don't close properly...

    Then we found this place... ICE COLD beers.. Spent the rest of the evening here watching the village life.
    Great.. what more could you ask for and boy did it get busy.. Yet again, a local in the middle of no where comes up and has a 5 min chat with us in English..

    Neither of us game to eat the food as all looked a bit dirty.. plus you can't trust the fridges.. No one wants to get sick and a three hour ride out..
    So it was lots of beer Lao and instant noodles for dinner..


    To be continued
  14. Great report so far Brian.

    The above night in Ou Tai was a ripper. I knew couple of quiet sunset beers, was going to turn into a big session the moment we were handed the first icy cold “king browns.” How they got the precious amber liquid so icy cold out there in the sticks I’ll never know. Maybe it was sign of thanks from the Frisbee gods.

    I love these nights in small dusty towns, where you can’t eat the food, and the only nutrition for the KLX rider is the purity of the Beer Lao, and the entertainment is the rural life and its people.

    Great little drinking spot, first there, last to leave.
  15. Great report and looking forward to reading more. I love Laos and can't wait to go back and do a 2-3 week ride one day.
  16. A fantastic / funtastic night... I forgot my torch.. but the moon and stars were so bright we followed the stars back to the almost real guest house

    Certainly a ripper evening with the locals.. Did we really hear.. 'Farang Mao' translation ' foreigner drunk ' Not us.. surely.

  17. Day 5

    Ou Tai to Muang Khua

    (Trip to Pakha not shown in the route on the map as a wrong turn we made)

    Leave Ou Tai early and work our way up through the fog up the mountain.

    Some great pics up above the clouds.. Just amazing.. We could have sat there all morning looking at this..




    Time to head back down the mountain and in to the cloud

    Some of the scenery along the way out..


    Kids at he local school to the top left. This was a very poor village.. some of them looked like they were malnourished.


    Back at Omelette central.. Glad to get here and have a feed after only having instant noodles the night before.

    Ever wondered how to stir you three in one coffee.. We did. Then looked at how the locals do it.. Live - learn - adapt.

    Wrong turn to the Pakha border crossing with China.. No Karate kick reception this time :)

    Hit a fair bit of roadworks with lots of trucks... Not fun for a while with those maniac Chinese truck drivers tearing down the mountain.

    Then it was all good riding..


    UNTIL.. Road works again.. Delayed quite some time. Chatting with a Thai couple from Chiang Mai travelling around in a Thai pickup..
    After the road works finally cleared.. We ripped down the mountain.
    Great fun going for it.. but keeping safe also as night time was not far away and no incidents needed so close yet so far away..

    Made it to Muang Khua just on dusk..

    To be continued...
  18. Brian & Rex, what an epic report & trip. Something I can only dream of right now.......
    Just looking at these fantastic photos you took, one can only imagine how much fun you had, especially the Wonky Wonker bridges.
    Additionally you were riding reliable bikes in form of the KLX and had the most reliable guide map there is, the GT-Rider one !
    Looking forward to your next great trip report, keep 'em' comin' !! Cheers, Franz
  19. Day 6

    Muang Khua to Nong Khiew (Straight down)


    Not a long ride planed today.. To be honest we are both getting a bit tired and talking of a rest day..

    The funniest part of this ride is how Rex described it.. "Ah.. it is easy.. it is all flat.. once you get in further it is wasteland"..
    Well.. immediately it is steep and muddy and slippery as hell again plus the morning fog..

    Riding up and down steep and steeper, over half way I said to Rex.. "You are right.. Laos is flat"..
    Became a running joke between us.. What is it like to XXX destination.. Oh, it is flat...

    Rex honestly doesn't remember it being like this before.. Too much Beer Lao me thinks LOL..









    Some very narrow steep tracks up the hills.. You don't want to slip over the edge.

    Dropped it on this trail.. Getting out of the way of a small pick-up.. when I went back on the track.. The front tyre went out from under me with the moss on the stones.
    Even the track was slippery as hell.. More than a few times we had the engine off and going down using front brake and engine brake to stop it sliding out from under us.
    very lucky we didn't drop it more than a couple of times to be honest.



    Then it all turned easier.. sun drying up the track and flatter..


    Made it to Nong Khiew around 1 or 2ish and decided a half rest day..




    View from the Guest House

    Sunset Beers



    Excellent Indian for dinner..
  20. Great trip report guys, though it's making me slightly nervous of riding in Laos - not sure my off-roading skills are up to this level! Will start on the easy bits and work up, perhaps... ;-)
    Looking forward to seeing the rest!
  21. That's a happy hour sunset & a half! Dont you just love Nong Khiew at dusk.
  22. Woohoo! Best trip report I've read in a long time! Thanks for the awesome pictures- makes me want to go there right NOW! :happy1:
  23. GREAT report! Thanks for sharing...
  24. Fantastic report, thanks to both of you. Quick question; any chance to do the trip on a 4x4 High Lander? The roads looks partitionally questionable due to the seasonal wet conditions but are there impassable rivers/creeks? Detouring from Luang Namtha to Phongsali would be more beautiful and not as boring as riding via Oudomxay (despite the nice sandwich pitstop there!). Thanks
  25. Thanks Guys,

    Nice to know the effort of remembering the events, sorting through pics etc is worth it.
    Must have around 2,000 pics to sort through.. Believe it or not.. trying to narrow it down to interesting ones and not bore you all :)

    Hopefully it will encourage others to ride up north and off road.

    Just take your time.. No rush.. Most important.. Ride at your own pace and have good protective gear. Don't feel pressured to keep up with anyone.
    Better you make it through the day and enjoy yourself than wipe out trying to keep up with others.
    Don't skimp on the safety gear.. it is hot, a pain etc.. but I for one can think of at least 3 occasions in the last 2 years where the gear saved me from injury.

    A lot of KM travelled that trip. Rex can correct me if I am wrong..
    Don't remember anything on the way up to the China border and back to Muang Khua that would stop an experienced 4wd in the dry season at least.
    We caught the end of a late rainy season as you can see in the pics and video.. Some of the trucks had chains on the tyres.

    Below was the most difficult crossing for a bike we had early on...

    The local at the toll bridge waved a big arc right down to the far left at the end of the picture where the creek gets narrower..
    I walked in a bit near the rocks you see sticking out of the creek. It got deep quickly and there were big rocks in the muddy water that you couldn't see.
    But doable in a 4wd for sure.

    To early in the day and a lot of KM to ride to drop the bike in the creek so early, so we took the bridge. (one of the few if not only bridge we took to avoid the creek crossing)

    The Muang Khua to Nong Khiew route may well be possible with some driving around to find a track wide enough for your 4wd.
    Some of the tracks we were on are too narrow for a car.. But we did get lost a couple of times and pretty sure there are other ways through.
    The locals are getting through.. This would be an exploring effort in your 4wd :)

    Rex will also put up his own report and sort through all the GPS information.. I left the GPS data out of this report as didn't want to crowd an already busy report.
    GPS information will be added under the GPS tracks and relevant links added.. stay tuned.


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