Perfect Moto Tour (cambodia - thailand - Laos)


Sep 1, 2004
May 15th 2004 I arrived in Thailand from San Francisco, California. Plans were to spend the next seven months traveling S.E. Asia motor biking, diving and surfing. After checking out the nightlife in Bangkok and Koh Samui I headed to Cambodia. Purchased a Suzuki Djebel 250 from Lucky Motorcycles in Phnom Penh (PP) for $2,000 USD. Toured the bike around Cambodia for about 1 month (Siem Reap, Anlong Veaeng, Preah Vihear, Choam Khsant, Tbaeng Mean Chey, Sihanoukville, Kampong Cham). Most roads were in great condition except a stretch from Preah Vihear - Tbageng Mean Chey (very rutted,muddy and for the most part impassable) I was able to make the stretch but only after about 8 hours of brutal effort. I found Cambodia and the landscape of cambodia to be very beautiful and peaceful. I prefer dirt riding to paved so I was having a blast once off the main route to Siem Reap - PP. If you are looking for challenging dirt riding the best areas of Cambodia are the Cardamon Mts./ Ratanakkiri Province / Mondolkiri Province. The rest of cambodia is much more flat with less mountains. I flew to Indonesia to surf for the next few months (great waves but the motorbike riding was so - so) I rented a bunch of bikes but none were all that so spent most days just surfing/diving and planning the next stage of the moto tour (s.e. cambodia, n. thailand, Laos). While doing my research I was highly advised not to do the trip alone so I took the advise and posted a quick msg. on GT-Rider with a msg looking for fellow rider was not answered at all for a few weeks - then I got a msg. for a rider in the US that was looking to do a similar trip for two months. We hooked up in Cambodia purchased another Suzuki Djebel for $1,850 USD from Lucky and set off on an amazing moto tour. We raced down to Sihanoukville to eat fresh seafood and drink beer for a few days before heading to the Thailand border (koh kong)The 140 k of dirt road that leads to koh kong was good fun (fast dirt riding) After 4 river ferry crossings and a full day of riding we crashed out for the night. We were bit nervous to cross in Thailand as the registration and plates on our bikes were known to be semi legitimate aka - fake. Common in Cambodia to use the work around to save $$$. Well, the entry into Thailand was very easy and no problems with Customs and or immigration. So we veered our bikes from the right side of the road to the left and pushed onto Pattaya. Spent a few nights in Pattaya laughing at all the debauchery around us. Then we planned our route north with a focus on avoiding all major highways and ideally to find windy dirt roads as much as possible. Well, we found a good amount of windy road but little dirt. The road through Khao Yai Nat. Park is friggin awesome (views, wildlife, etc) We pushed on to Pak Chong to sleep for the night. We then pushed on to Uttaradit then to Chiang Mai (CM) there was a few nice stretchs to Chiang Mai but just a lot of km's and little dirt. Once in CM we broke out David Unkovich's book that worked out to be a good resource (Guide to the Golden Triangle). We ended up doing almost all of the loops David recommends with focus on the dirt rides - all really run and for the most part accurate descriptions and the stick charts worked well. Every ride/loop had it high lights. I ended up smashing my toe on a huge boulder on a jungle trail we were doing in Chiang Do. A hill tribesman helped me stop the bleeding and we pushed on to CM to assess the situation of what clearly was nasty impact fracture to my big toe with a severe laceration. We spent 5 days on Rest and Recovery duty (once i could force my foot into my MX boots we pushed on to Pai. Found many great dirt roads, trials and more jungle single track which were all very fun. I learned how to shift using a different part of my foot which enabled me to ride while my toe healed in the boot. Spent a few days in Pai riding then we pushed onto Chiang Rai (CR) via Fang and the the dirt route via Wawi and some new trails that looked like they were just cut. Awesome dirt riding. Once in CR we again looked to David's book and did all the rides listed - the burma border road was one of the best. After a week of riding the northern most part of Thailand we crossed into Laos via Chiang Khong. This border crossing was a bit more tricky than into Thailand. After loading our bikes on the long tail boats and crossing over the Mekong we had our passports stamped quickly but no one in the Laos Customs wanted to help us get our bike import paper sorted out. We were sent to a few different offices all which would send us to the one we just came from. After we were able to talk to a group of about 5 guys drinking Whiskey at about 9:30 am to put the drinks down for a few minutes to help they told us that it was going to be $5 USD per bike - we paid the $10 USD and got our papers and stickers for the bikes. We read an update from David and his Laos Exhibition Tour group that the road we wanted to travel to get to Luang Nam Tha was impassible on the bikes they were on (Africa Twin, Big BMW's). Well we were on much smaller bikes more capable of dirt riding and we made the trip and had a great time ripping up the dirt road (long day of riding but some sections of really fun dirt riding). The next day we pushed onto Luang Prabang (LP) and just loved the riding on route 1 and route 13. It really is as beautiful as everyone raves about. Spent about a week in (LP)doing day loops and having a ball. Then we pushed down to Vang Vieng and had a really good time just chilling out. At this point in the trip we both were friggin getting real tired of riding these 250 cc dirt bikes so we started looking for a buyer for the bikes. My mind was now on getting to the southern Islands of Thailand to go diving and do nothing before heading home. We found a buyer for the bikes in Vientiane and sold them for a few hundred dollars than we paid for them and flew back to Cambodia - then off to Koh Tao to rent a 250 cc Honda CRM two stroke which was again a great bike but a bit two much power for the sandy, hilly island terrain.
Flew back to San Francisco 10 days before the Tsunami hit S.E. Asia. Great trip and would recommend it to anyone who loves to ride motor bikes and enjoys the beauty of the unknown as each and every day provided a series of challenges, adventures, highs and lows and every thing in between. For what was a idea and a dream turned into an epic motorcycle trip to a part of the world that is full of smiles and warm hearts.
Thanks David for all your hard work on the maps, books and the web site all which worked out really well - even if I did curse at you a few times while looking for the serious dirt rides to only find the road has been paved since the book was published.
Feb 22, 2005
Thanks for sharing your riding experience. I just returned from a North Vietnam - Laos - Northern Thailand ride and covered some of the same ground you did (actually I was doing some off-roading North of Chaing Mai last year about the same time you were there). Once I get my act together I'll try to post this years ride. For Laos and Thailand we found Davids maps invaluable and bumped into him in Ventienne and later had a chance to have dinner with him in Chaing Mai. One of the guys in our group wanted to pass on information about an offroad route from Vientienne to the plain of jars - unfortunately he had an accident during our last week in Thailand and had to be medi-vaced out. He'll get something posted about that particular trail once he is fully recovered. Again, thanks for sharing
Thor Anderson