Northern Laos on an ER6n, September 2009


Apr 20, 2009
Back in September I crossed the Mekong from Chiang Khong to Houei Xai and wrote about it here.

Here's where I went from there...

Part 1, Houei Xai to Oudom Xai


From Houei Xai Highway 3 was beautiful for the first few kilometers. Well paved with no traffic and fast curves, a lot of fun to ride. I hoped it would continue like this all the way to Luang Namtha.


Sadly, it quickly gave way to numerous landslides and gravelly bits.


These parts were really dangerous because the road would be beautiful for long stretches and I would gradually pick up speed. Then in mid-corner when I had the bike leaned way over I would suddenly run into a mess of potholes or a stretch of gravel. I had a couple of scares and near misses. I finally gave up on riding fast because the road was so unpredictable.


After a while the pavement ended completely and turned to gravel. Not too bad though. Even though it was the middle of the wet season it had not rained for over a week and the road was dry and fairly smooth.


The pavement came back a while later but I passed many more landslides.


This was my first time riding in Laos, and I had to come to grips with something that was going to bother me the whole rest of the trip. Everywhere in Laos, on every road, there are goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, cows, buffalo and especially kids that are wandering down the middle of the road, on blind corners, completely oblivious to the fact that a fast moving vehicle might be coming 'round the bend. Unlike Thailand where people and animals do a pretty good job of getting out of the road, in Laos they are all over it. In one town I passed people sleeping on the pavement in the middle of the lane.


As soon as I rode into any village a mob of kids would run at me screaming and waving, often right into the street in front of me. It really brings a smile to your face seeing how enthusiastic they are.


Funny though, when I brought out the camera all the smiles disappear.


This dude was ready to do battle.


I stayed the night in Luang Namtha, and the next morning I rode up towards Boten and the Chinese Border. Had no plans to cross, I just wanted to see China, I don't know why. About 2 kilometers from the border I was stopped by a surly guard who refused to let me go any further. Oh well, on to Oudom Xai.


Highway 13 to Oudom Xai started off pretty nice. Lovely views.


Lots of these though. I don't think it needs any explanation.




I stopped for lunch at the half way point. I wish I wrote up this post earlier because I can't remember any of the town names anymore. Na Mor maybe?


It seems to me that Lao people, in comparison to Thai, have much less of a hangup about nudity or getting a tan, which I think is great. Also unlike Thais, Lao seem to be able to swim. Except for the kid on the lower left.


Stopped for lunch at the first place with a table.


She only served Pho, which was fine by me. Big portions but kind of expensive, about 40 baht if I remember correctly.


After lunch the road started to deteriorate. This was a bad sign, considering it hadn't rained for quite a few days. It was a small preview of what was coming later on in the trip.


This is rough on a sport bike with slick street tires.


When I got to Oudom Xai I stayed here, as recommended by DavidFL.



Nice place, and I loved that I could park my bike right outside my window so the alarm would wake me if anyone was messing with it.



I had a roommate.



Later that evening I went out to a local restaurant/bar and relaxed for a bit. I can't remember the name, it was also recommended by David. Colorful but not many people there at the time. I sat with a couple of local guys and shared a bottle of whiskey (or 2).They drank up a storm and I had a feeling I might be paying for the lion's share at the end, but when the bill came they refused to let me pay for anything. Really nice guys.


When I got back to the hotel there was a party going on, and I got dragged in by these guys. Turns out it was a wedding.


We danced till late in the night, when I finally snuck back to my room.


The weather report on TV didn't look promising, but I was optimistic about the next day.



Unfortunately the next morning it was raining hard. It continued all through the day without stopping.


And the following day.


On the third day I escaped. I really enjoyed Oudom Xai though, not much to see but the people were so friendly.


(edited 13 Nov 09 to fix all the broken photo links)


Apr 20, 2009
Part 2, Oudom Xai to Vientiane


This was a difficult day. Highway 13 between Oudom Xai and Pak Mong was a disaster and was very wet from the rain. I never got above 2nd gear the entire day. The mud hole in the following picture, while it doesn't look like much, was very difficult to negotiate. You can't really see, but it's on a slope, and as I approached I lost traction and started sliding sideways. I dropped the bike before I even got to the water. It was incredibly slippery and I initially couldn't pick the bike back up because my feet were slipping out from under me. I went over to the group of guys sitting on the side and asked them for help picking the bike up, but they said no! Instead they just walked over and watched for over 20 minutes as I tried to get the bike up, without every lifting a finger to help. They were enjoying the show, it seems this was their daily entertainment watching people struggle here, but I was so pissed off I wanted to throw punches. After I stripped all the gear off the bike and about 30 minutes of struggling I got it up. I gave them the finger as I rode away.


Not even 5 minutes up the road I was stopped by a group of guys that ran out into the road when they saw me coming. They demanded money to let me pass. These weren't officials, just some villagers trying to rip off travelers passing through. When they first stopped me I assumed that they were going to warn me of something, like the road was washed out or something. When I realized what they really wanted I just put the bike in gear and gassed it at the guy in the middle. I was still pissed off about the earlier incident and I figured if he didn't get out of the way I would run him over. He got out of the way.

I don't know what it was about this particular village, but the people living there were a--holes.


For hours the road was nothing but mud and potholes. This would have been a more appropriate mode of transport than an ER6 with road tires.


After several hours of struggling through the mud, I finally got to Pak Mong. The road south towards Luang Prabang was much better and actually was paved most of the way.



This had been a rough day and I was ready for a rest, so I stopped for the night in Luang Prabang. The following day I was so sore I could barely walk, so I ended up staying a few days longer than planned.


A couple days later I packed up and headed south towards Vang Vieng.



This ride between Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng was incredibly beautiful. Around every turn was another stunning view. I was stopping for photos every couple of minutes.






I thought the clouds here were wonderful.








On the very top of a ridge, so high up that I was inside a cloud, I came upon this little fellow in the middle of the road. There were no streams nearby, I'm not sure where he came from.


He was so red he looked like he had been cooked! I think maybe he escaped from someone's pot when they weren't looking. Now he was ready for a fight.


But he decided to run instead.


I dropped out of the hills and on in towards Vang Vieng.


It was a very pretty landscape as the sun was beginning to go down.





Once in Vang Vieng, it proceeded to rain for several days. This was fine by me as I spent my time tubing down the river and having a blast. This town is not for everyone but I loved it.


I'd recommend this hotel, but the truth is all the hotels I saw were about the same.


After a few days in Vang Vieng it didn't seem like the rain was going to let up, so I just packed up and rode off into it. I figured I wasn't ever going to get to Vientiane if I waited for it to stop, so the hell with it. Didn't take many photos after that because it was raining.

In Vientiane I decided that while Laos was beautiful and I had had fun, I was ready to get back to Thailand, so I picked up a new visa and crossed back over.

I spent over a week exploring the Loei area, which now is one of my favorite areas in Thailand. But that's another post...

(edited 13 Nov 09 to fix broken picture links)


Sep 4, 2007
Hey Liam, Thanks for taking the time to post such a great report.
You are a brave lad riding into the unknown. Glad you escaped with not too many bruises and light damage to the bike. Seems a challenging area, think I will not be taking the big BMW that way anytime soon.
Your photo's really show a magnificent landscape. And interesting to hear that the locals are not always as friendly as we mostly hear.
will be interested to read about the parts of the Loei area you explored, certainly has some lovely spots, some of them difficult to discover.
Cheers, and thanks again. John


Dec 18, 2007
Great report Liam!

You had some adventure there. The roads look awful.

Awesome photos of that beautiful scenery. Thanks.


Apr 20, 2009
Thanks John and Dougal!

John, I'd like to get back down to the Loei area again sometime this season and do some more exploring. Maybe you could show me some of those difficult to find spots.


Sep 4, 2007
Would be delighted to explore them with you this dry season Liam. I had better get out there and find a few more. Cheers, John


Active Member
Apr 24, 2006
sorry to hear about your crash ,
and I was just about to mail you to ask where you got your fairing for your Er6n but now looks like both of us will be looking to buy one.


Apr 20, 2009
For some reason, Picasa Web Albums just deleted hundreds of my photos, including everything from this thread. It's going to take me a while to re-upload the photos and fix the broken links above. Sorry.


Aug 27, 2008
Hey Liam
Great report and some stunning pics. Really amazing scenery.
I'm really surprised to hear about the problems with the animals on the roads. Are they deaf in Laos, usually with your 2bros straight out (exhuast) there's nothing within 100 metres of the road. Always great following you into a village in Thailand clearing the road ahead.
See you on the memorial ride in a couple of weeks.


Dec 28, 2005
nice report ..but u ride in monsoon season..the best month to ride from northern loas to combodia is from end of november to april..shinny day..
no raining .. :D


Staff member
Jan 16, 2003
Chiang Khong
Well done: an incredible trip & report. Laos is amazing & great fun with incredibly sincere honest people.

But riding there is different & challenging: you have to watch the road & where you're going ALL THE TIME.

Take your eyes off the road & goggle at the scenery or kids waving at you & you can get into trouble quickly. So it pays to go slow - potter along & soak it all in as you go. Ride at the same speed as at home, take the conditions for granted & you will get into trouble.

Why you seemed to have a couple of bad experiences I don’t know, but it could be the locals getting pissed off with the traffic through their village breaking up the road? I guess too I would get pretty disgruntled, but the trick is to not let it get you down. Just carry on.

The change in the weather you had there was quite diabolical eh? You started in beautiful clear, superb, but hot weather & then got caught up in a genuine monsoon tropical storm.
As a general rule of thumb I’d say that coming from Thailand the weather in Laos is more extreme than in the North: hotter & colder & wetter for longer than we experience here.

But you did luck out with some sensational scenery from Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng, with the photos to prove it. Eh?
Where did you stay in Luang Prabang?

I rode up towards Boten and the Chinese Border. Had no plans to cross, I just wanted to see China, I don't know why. About 2 kilometers from the border I was stopped by a surly guard who refused to let me go any further.
Yep that’s right you don’t cross the line they have marked on the road there by the guardhouse. Just put your front wheel a couple of inches over the line & you can get fined as some riders have found out.
So there’s no hope of just popping over the Laos border line to say G’day to the Chinese & come back. Sad to say as lots of guys want that China border photo for the “been there done thatâ€


Oct 6, 2006
[quote quote=Davidfl]...Snipped>...Yep that’s right you don’t cross the line they have marked on the road there by the guardhouse. Just put your front wheel a couple of inches over the line & you can get fined as some riders have found out.
So there’s no hope of just popping over the Laos border line to say G’day to the Chinese & come back. Sad to say as lots of guys want that China border photo for the “been there done thatâ€

Bert on the bike

Oct 5, 2007
Not wanting to impose on the original posting I just want to say that I also have some experience with the balistic Laos border guards. I was there in February together with Muzza and did not see the stop sign (I really did not see it!!). I stopped before the booth 5o meter behind the stop sign and the guards really went balistic that I passed the stop sign.

I think that if there were not that many people they would have been most happy to shoot me. After that off course no chance to continue to the chinese side of the border.

So I must say: I have been there but have not done it.