Northern Laos December 2012 (Moto-Rex BrianBKK)

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

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 7

    Nong Khiew to Phonsavan.
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    We did the biggest ride of the trip today.. 385km.. and barely a handful of photo's between us.
    Very scenic.. After what we had been experiencing the previous 6 days, we were just spoilt by now.

    Ready for the off..
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    A few times we wanted to stop and take a photo along the way.. But it was not really a very safe spot to do so as the road is very narrow and windy..
    Another factor on this ride.. It was bloody cold and foggy for most of the ride and you were trying to stay warm..
    At one stage we must have been above 1,600 metres for a good hour plus.. We had extra layers of clothes on and still cold.. really glad to get out of the mountains.

    Plan was to ride dirt to Phonsavan from Vieng Thong.. But we arrived later than planned in Vieng Thong at around 11am
    Having not done the dirt route to Phonsavan before and knowing there is a big river further in and not sure how much time we needed..
    Decided to stick to the pavement as we will have a good dirt ride from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang the following day.

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    The paved road around to Phonsavan is mostly in good repair.. except for a few spots.. main concern is trucks coming around corners at high speed taking up most of the road.
    Also a bunch of Thai 4 WD's driving in a convoy like maniacs.. I pulled off the road until they all passed..

    They would have received a surprise about 2 or 3 km down the road.. We had passed a huge truck with earth mover on the back crawling up the mountain and just squeezed by on the bikes.
    Coming down the hill and around a blind bend would have been interesting at speed in the 4wd's.

    Nice to see signs like this and know there are still Tigers in the wild and makes you remember you are still remote...
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    We made it in to Phonsavan around 5 ish.. Found a place just off the main road behind the main road running through town..
    The main road was all booked out. Plenty of new places opening up and reasonably priced at 7 USD.

    Up to the Lodge for drinks and dinner.. (Auberge De La Plaine Des Jarres)
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    Coldest night of the season so far.. The owner said the cool arrived the day before.

    Over to a new place for drinks when back in town.. Nice place and good to have an alternative to Craters which is a bit old hat...

    New place going up next to our accommodation in Phonsavan.
    Note the saplings help support the concrete base, as well as safety flip flops and hard hat..
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    To be continued
     
  2. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 8

    Phansavan to Luang Prabang via dirt

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    Not as cold as it was yesterday and we are beginning to cook under all the extra layers of clothes, 5 km out of town stop and remove some of the layers of clothing.

    Down to the turn off and check with a few locals.. Yep.. this is the way to Luang Prabang via dirt.
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    Starts off through small villages.
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    Then as you get further up the trail, live stock on the road again
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    The villages start to get more basic.
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    Then it gets some what rutted.. Managed to drop the bike here too.. This time 100% my own fault.
    Looking at the rut instead of where I wanted to go. The top of the rut was just slippery from the morning damp.. bang, on the deck.
    For those that ask.. "Should I wear safety gear?" Yes... I landed bang on my elbow and the bike on my boot on top of the rut..
    The body armour and boots soaked up the impact and I really felt nothing.
    Had I not been wearing body armour, boots.. I would very likely have a busted or very sore elbow and ankle now..

    As we get a bit more remote.. we arrive at a make shift army check point..
    They stop us.. We can see off to the left people in uniform sawing pine wood with an electric saw and small generator..
    We don't look at the timber cutting too long and smile, say hello. They asked where we are going.. "Luang Prabang".
    Big smiles from the army guys and hand shakes all around offer us a drink etc...
    We smile and go quickly before they change their mind..

    We are getting even more remote.. come to this small village perched on top of the hill..
    Just past this is a large boom gate across the trail... We look back up at the village and the local comes running down.
    We say "Laung Prabang".. He looks bemused and opens the gate for us to pass with out saying anything..

    Then it really starts to get steep and technical..and long stretches where you have to ride a good 30 to 50 metres on a narrow piece of earth with out falling in the messed up tyre tracks which are rock hard and will cause you to get thrown off the bike if you take them the wrong way.
    Lots of army guys running around in here with AK 47's and small bore rifles.
    Guessing they are poaching, shooting birds or small game for the fur. Yhey don't want to rip a huge hole in the pelt with a machine gun :)

    A few areas with land slide remnants to get past.. you had to take the outer track and not look down off the side of the mountain..
    For a very good long stretch to the river we would have been averaging 15kph.. You could go faster.. but who wants to risk an injury or worse in the middle of no where
    It felt incredibly remote when you look at the land slide remnants, narrow, steep, slippery and rutted track..
    Too much brake and you slide on the gravel or the mud.. depending if the track was in the shade or not.

    No real pictures above.. ruts just look like ruts any old how.. it was the remoteness, ruts, army etc that gave you a feeling that just can't be captured in a photo.
    Besides.. we were trying to stay on the bike and ride the bit through.. worried about the time it was taking us so far.

    This was very steep going down to the river.
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    Up to the river was around 50 km from the turn off.. We both looked at each other about 30 km in thinking.. Hope it is not like this all the way.. Agreed to keep going..
    Some people would do this on their own.. But not me.. Not experienced enough and don't have the mechanical skills to solve problems with the bike.
    One screw up in there and you are very remote and your Goose is cooked.

    We reach the river and there is a nice big ferry to carry vehicles across.. But no.. the fella on the other side wasn't having any of that..
    We have to take the small boat... one by one.. There wasn't even a thought of going back the way we came..
    Sinking the bike in the river seemed a better alternative.

    Load the bike on then position ourselves so as not to cause all of us to land in the drink... It is a long walk to Luang Prabang.

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    Once across the other side.. We knew we were on the road to civilization..

    We could see Beer Lao crates.. No power.. but Beer Lao crates and petrol.
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    Back on the other other side of the river. you saw nothing but shacks and locals living off the land.. Very very poor and very remote.

    Then a much more enjoyable ride out towards Luang Prabang, Some bits were a pleasure to ride with such fantastic scenery.

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    Riding along, making great time now and totally enjoying the ride.. fantastic.. Then yet again, road works.. Holds us up for nearly two hours.

    There goes Sunset Beers in Luang Prabang..

    On the positive side.. We watched how the Lao tear apart the mountain and make the road wider.
    Also watch how the locals occupy themselves while waiting..

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    One of the best ways to interact with the locals is at the road works.. Even here, we had a local come up to us and start chatting away in English.
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    This was hilarious..

    The kids have to walk far from the villages to school and back.. Typical kids.. they can't wait.
    So they navigate their way through all the heavy earth moving equipment and then try and find a way down.

    Ending up with a 6 to 8 ft ft drop to the ground.. Get up and run home..

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    Then as you get closer to Luang Prabang.. The dust starts.. really dusty.. and the corners have horrible white powder dust.. Easily take you out.
    Not sure which was worse.. The white fine powder dust to be honest.. As you can't see it until too late and usually leaning on a corner.
    The mud you can see it and prepare yourself.

    Did I say it was dusty...
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    Arrived just on dusk.. Off to the wine bar.

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    To be continued.
     
  3. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 9

    Luang Prabang


    Today we decided on a rest day.. we needed it by now..

    Some great riding.. but our arms are aching and looking forward to enjoying the lovely town of Luang Prabang.

    We didn't get on the bike once... Lovely walk around the town, massages and just taking it easy soaking up the vibe.

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    Beers by the river..
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    This is what Rex is looking at
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    Then before we knew it.. Sunset beers and plan the next days ride to Kasi, via the Kasi trail
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    Watching the Mekong Sunset with Beer Lao in hand
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    A wander back up through the night market to the wine bar
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    Another great day in Laos..

    To be continued...
     
  4. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Ol'Timer

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    Epic report!!! :clap:

    Where did you guys stay in LPQ?

    Keep it coming!
    :happy1:
     
  5. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Hi Tony,

    This time we stayed up the street closer to Joma.
    Every other place was full at 5+ pm when we arrived.

    Cost 1,000 baht a night (30 USD).

    We planned to stay one night and move down the road.. but it was so nice and couldn't be bothered moving.. Stayed here two nights.

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    Google Location
    https://www.google.com/maps?q=Luang+Prabang,+Louangphabang,+Laos&hl=en&ll=19.888927,102.132777&spn=0.001478,0.002739&sll=37.0625,-95.677068&sspn=40.681389,89.736328&oq=luang+&t=h&hnear=Luang+Prabang,+Louangphabang,+Laos&z=19

    Few houses down on the right.. big parking area in front.. The map is old and can't see the place there clearly or isn't there.

    Pretty new place.. I stayed up here 2 years ago.. They were not officially open.
    The place I use to stay across the street was full and the lady that ran the GH asked her friend across the road if I could stay there..

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  6. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 10

    Luang Prabang to Kasi (Via the Kasi track)
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    After a lovely relaxing day in Laung Prabang, 3 massages and copious servings of Beer Lao by the mighty Khong.
    Time to hit the trails. To be honest, if we had the time would have loved to spend another day relaxing in Luang Prabang..

    Arms and legs were almost back to normal. No more dead arm feeling in the left arm from dropping the bike 2 days earlier.

    Rex suggested a route along the Mekong where you pop out at Muang Nan.. Having done this before and still in Luang Prabang relax mode..
    Suggested we take the more direct route to the Kasi turn off via route 4..
    Then we can have a late start with a nice breakfast and capture a bit more of the Luang Prabang feeling in the morning.

    As usual and where possible.. Nice baguette to take on the road and a hearty breakfast to start the day.

    First things first... Time to get a huge nail though my rear tyre.. Just 5 or 10 km along route 4
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    Don't let the picture above fool you.. Rex did the tyre changing.. I did the really technical bit, pump the bugger up with the little hand pump...

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    All the kids come out to see what is happening..
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    Rex kindly stopped at the next village and bought the kids some cold drinks and snacks and rode back and gave them out..

    I had some observers... Playing at scaring them while Rex did his drinks run.
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    As you can see by the laughs and smiles on their faces.. More funny than scary... Ended up with half the village kids wanting to play this game..
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    Route 4 is dusty and busy..
    Very strange sight seeing little hatch backs,Thai registered cars heading back to Thailand on this road after the long weekend.
    Must have taken them for ever as they could only drive slowly with out destroying the cars...

    The road is better than 2 years ago... but not much better.. busy and dusty... but the potholes the size of the grand canyon are mostly gone..

    The turn off to the Kasi track from Route 4.. (There is a place selling petrol just at the junction if you need to refuel).
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    We looked at this and said.. Bugger.. Too late.. It has been finished...

    Stopped up the road and had our Baguette.
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    Then ride on thinking.. Well.. A nice ride on tarmac instead.. OK.. never mind.. should be good scenery any way..

    Barely a few KM along just before the first village it turns to dirt....

    The entire track is a mixture of paved and unpaved road... and work in progress, from about to lay the tarmac to still jack hammering the rock out to make the road.
    At a guess we believe 50 to 60% complete.. in various stages of the road / track. All doable in a 4wd / pickup.

    When complete.. This is going to be a mega road bike road.. Really amazing.. As you will see..

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    Approaching some serious construction.. We stopped and looked first as worried the boulders the size of small cars coming down the mountain may wipe us out.
    As it turned out it was fine.. Pretty sure in our countries you would have not been permitted any where near this..
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    The pics really don't capture how high up in the mountains these diggers are.. Really amazing to see...We stopped just amazed at this engineering marvel.
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    Time to get closer and get past...
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    Riding past.. yet again, the pic makes it all look very far away and no drama.. Neither of us hung around until clearly out of the way.
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    In the clear of the falling rocks now..
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    They had a long long walk.. friendly and a wave..
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    Some parts of the track are at 1,850 metres above sea level..
    Very different scenery up here and in the clouds at various times.. unable to see too far in front.

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    Time to practice my Jackarooing skills
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    A few pictures from earlier on in the ride that show the various states of road construction

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    Pulling in to Kasi and some other guys on rental dirt bikes pull up 5 mins behind us.. We saw them when leaving LPQ..
    Pretty amazing to see people do the Kasi track in Shorts, trainers and no armour.. Helmets yes... not even gloves...

    Found a nice little guest house in Kasi..
    Quite amazed at the number of busses coming through late at night taking route 13 to southern China.
    All those twists and turns in the dark.. No thanks..

    Some good and clean food
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    To be continued..
     
  7. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Thought some people may like to see the Kasi track and start getting excited about what a great ride this will be for Road Bikes once completed.

    Who ever designed this road must have a Versys or is planning on getting one when the road is completed.. Perfect road for the Versys.

    Video showing the Kasi Track.. Paved and unpaved as well as some fantastic scenery you will get to experience:-


     
  8. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 11

    Kasi to Xanamkan.


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    After a pretty terrible sleep in Kasi.. (The lights from the buildings outside lit up the bedroom like a Christmas tree even with the flimsy curtains closed)

    Early start.. Ride down 13 to the turn off where we have another omelette and 3 in 1 coffee breakfast for a change.

    The track down the Xanamkan is really nice.. Great ride when coming to the end of a trip.
    Nothing too strenuous.. but still lovely scenery with a nice variation of remoteness, water crossings and dust dust dust as you get closer to Thailand.

    Would recommend this ride.. Great ride if your first time riding in Laos and you don't want to risk jumping in the deep end but still fun and you wont be disappointed.

    A few pics of the ride:-

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    A lovely old man. Can only imagine the change and experiences he has had in Laos.
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    Love this Billboard... " Welcome to Mad District " Expecting Mad Max to appear around the corner..

    We fitted in very well.

    Only time I have seen a billboard in the middle of no where on a dirt track.. Amazing Laos..
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    When you gotta go.. You gotta go..
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    A lovely little town where we stopped for a break..
    The girl working in the little shop was around 17 or 18 and already has a 5 year old child.

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    Kids on the way home from school
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    Back on the track
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    Soaked through after that..
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    Lots of fun water crossings

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    Amongst others
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    No problem... You can go on my side of the road
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    Dust like this for a long part of the ride.. White out in many cases
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    We arrive at our destination.. Pop the Thai SIM back in.. would love to order a pizza.. But will have to settle for a lovely view of Chiang Khan and Beer Lao.
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    Classy place.. You get your own crate :)
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    End result
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    Another great days riding and another great evening of beer Lao with Rex..
    We were totally hammered and dancing with the locals... Believe Rex has a pic of me dancing!!

    To be continued
     
    • Optimistic Optimistic x 1
  9. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Hey Brian. That was a ripper night, Fred Astaire couldn’t have pulled off your smooth dance moves that night. Well, maybe he could have if he’d had a skin full of Beer Laos,….a beer, which is not only a great thirst quencher, but a beer that takes the Karaoke and Dancing skills of the drinker to a whole new level.

    Rex
     
  10. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Day 12 / 13

    Xanamkhan to Hin Hoeup
    ( Where the Japanese bridge is in case I have the name wrong)

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    The second part of the route is not on the GTR Map.. But fear not.. Rex will upload this to the forum and David can add this to the next edition of the map.
    Below from OpenStreetMaps. www.openstreetmap.org
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    A foggy start to the morning looking over to Chiang Khan.. We had arranged with the bar owner to open the bar for breakfast.
    If I had not died during the night from the food that evening.. We thought it would be a sure bet..

    Best omelette yet and we had our own 3 in 1 coffee luckily as they didn't sell coffee..

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    Rex planning the route for the day..
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    Next we ride along the Mekong a bit before turning off.. Nice to do this.. All the times I have ridden on the Thai side and looking over to the Lao side..
    Part of me wanted to at least ride a bit of this route.. This is probably the best bit before you get too close to VTE..

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    Turn off from the Mekong and head up towards Feuang

    It was very very very very dusty.. White out and not a fantastic ride to start with.. But you must have pain before gain.
    We would be handsomely rewarded later on..

    A few pics leading up to Feuang

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    DSCN4875_zpsccdf7572.

    Flat number two.. Rex was ahead.. Bugger. The last tube shredded inside with the huge nail when I rode on it slowly
    This time we will be on the last spare.. So stop and pushed the bike about 500 metres up to the next village and wait for Rex to turn around.

    We use Rex's spare on my bike.. Then on the look out to get my punctured tube fixed at the next tyre repair shop...
    DSC_0743_zps7e702bb4.

    Job done, we now have a spare, spare...
    DSC_0745_zpscd6a39f0.

    The turn off after Feuang.. Lovely track..

    DSCF4886_zpsf56917e1.

    ScreenShot2013-01-26at93440PM_zps1cbbe813.

    DSCF4881_zpsa95f9171.

    ScreenShot2013-01-26at93541PM_zpsca2a5ec1.

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    ScreenShot2013-01-26at93707PM_zpsecb609ef.

    ScreenShot2013-01-26at94549PM_zps34ed06aa.

    ScreenShot2013-01-26at94920PM_zps812c1b3f.

    ScreenShot2013-01-26at94710PM_zps8dc82cbf.

    Rex riding over the bridge.. We had a bit of fun here.. going back and forth and through the water crossing..
    DSCN4878_zpsaf9ee8d3.

    The next and last river crossing after a great ride through villages and remote tracks
    I walk out quite far.. But it is looking deep as you get closer to the other side and the water is moving fast..
    Decided.. It is late in the day, we are nearly at our destination. Don't need any drama with one hour sun light left
    DSCF4892_zpsa8d801a4.

    We wait our turn.
    DSCN4880_zpse21936a5.

    This is more like an aircraft carrier compared to what we have been use to..
    DSCN4881_zps2e415efc.

    Our fellow passengers are all friendly and chatting away to us.. Couldn't find where the life vests are stored..
    DSCN4885_zps232ac431.

    We make it to route 13 and have a 5 or 10 km ride down the paved road to the town we will stay for the night
    Lucky us.. rooms available on the THIRD floor with a staircase that goes straight up on each floor.. Great fun with your gear
    DSC_0755_zps621351aa.

    A few beer Lao and a review of the days video and photos.. Lets try the food here. We can see what the others are eating and it looks good..
    DSC_0754_zpsfffa1f4d.

    We both woke up in the night and had the sh!ts like a runaway train.. Rex was OK in the morning.. I was not..
    Lets just say it was a clenched ride to VTE the next day...

    Day 13

    Up early as usual and it is raining.. we wait around an extra hour.. Still raining.. Take a look on the satellite images as to what is happening.
    Doesn't look like it will change and head off.. Half way to VTE it stops and I mostly dry out.. Rex had some wet weather gear.

    WE MADE IT...
    DSCN4891_zps7f518dd6.

    On the first night in Houe Xai.. We decided we needed a fitting finishing location for our journey..
    Can't think of any better than Pha That Luang..

    From the start of the trip in Laos Hoeu Xai to VTE we covered 2,400 KM.

    Time to head in to VTE proper and get some food.. Not wanting to risk bad stomachs and other problems we were careful with what we had to eat.
    Especially in the smaller towns.. Power is off and on all the time.. they don't keep the fridges real cold to save on power and so on..
    Quite a few times it was instant noodles and nothing else for dinner or lunch.. I lost about 3kg on this trip..

    Pizza and about 3 main courses in VTE
    DSC_0758_zpsd1eb78d5.

    Watching the world go by... We discover that Yeo's is bisexual in Laos
    DSC_0756_zps6f15b71f.

    We head towards the border.. Everything very easy and efficient.. Back to Nong Khai.. Sort my bag and gear for the bike train journey back and flight.
    We made really good time.. Decided to chance my luck on an earlier flight.. Took the bike to the train station and off to Udon airport in a taxi.

    Managed to get a flight 2 hrs later Air Asia to DMK.. Ditched the Nok Air 10 PM flight..

    Next day get the bike from the train station.. The train is always so late.. Decided to just leave it and go at lunch time from work
    Arrive at the station and my bike is sitting in parcel pickup.. Show ID and ticket.. 100 baht tip.. all smiles..
    DSC_0761_zps9cb281df.

    Back home and next to big sister
    DSC_0762_zpsd2806e76.

    A big thank you to Rex.. Rex did all the route planning.. I mostly followed.. Nice for a change :)
    13 days on the road together and not a bad word between us or even p1ssed off once, not even slightly.
    If one of us had a different idea or was not up to the plan.. We discussed and came up with something that ticked both our boxes.

    Also one important thing.. When you ride with a mate.. Don't be afraid to take pictures of each other...
    Personally it makes much better pictures if you are all contributing and sharing the pics at the end..

    Still more unseen good photos to come in Rex's report which will follow shortly.. Plus GPS tracks for those interested.

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  11. monty1412

    monty1412 Ol'Timer

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    whoa Brian, I think I know how you spent your Sunday... great report just great to read and almost like being there.
    GT Rider rocks with great reports
     
  12. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    Great report Brian.

    It certainly was a great ride, and no doubt we will have more trips in the future.

    Plenty of riding, plenty of beer and laughs, with no pressure or egos, and a cool laid back, “see what happens” approach to touring in Laos.

    Great riding with you mate.

    Cheers Rex
     
  13. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

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    This is how the trip ended up.

    ADT1_zps7899f6ab.
     
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Mega write up & trip.:clap:

    Good to see the GTR map working well for you guys too.

    A big thanks for taking the time & effort to write it up. :thumbup: It's much appreciated by not only me but lots of other aspiring riders.

    There's a lot out there guys & it always pays to just take your time. taking each day as it comes - and you will have a fantastic trip.
    Try & run a Ghengis Khan master plan to conquer the country in one trip it & it seldom works.
    Take it easy & soak it all up as you go - slowly - is the best way.
     
  15. HTWoodson

    HTWoodson Ol'Timer

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    Awesome write up. Took half a day to load all the pictures but it was worth it.
     
  16. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Ol'Timer

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    Hi Guys,

    Sharing the tracks from this trip that Rex posted in the track forum.

    https://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/forumdisplay.php/121-Laos-Northern-GPS-Tracks

    Hope these are of use to others considering travelling this way.. Truly amazing, bring on the next trip..

    Also a link to Rex's report with a different perspective and good sense of humour.

    https://www.gt-rider.com/thailand-motorcycle-forum/showthread.php/37920-Holy-Moses-An-Adventurous-motorcycle-ride-in-Laos

    Cheers
    Brian
     
  17. fm2002

    fm2002 Ol'Timer

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    What a ride ! Can't tell you how jealous I am. Almost all of the tracks you did I wanted to do before I had to leave Thailand a year ago. Especially Day2, 4 & 6. Didn't even know about the tracks you did south of Udomxai.

    I'm almost sorry I read it as it's made me EXTREMELY homesick.

    Gotta find a way to get back to Chiang Rai and riding my bike in Laos !

    Thanks guys.
     
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