Phongsali - Luang Namtra - Houei Xai. Its cold in them there Lao hills.

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by Moto-Rex, Nov 9, 2014.

  1. Phongsali - Luang Namtra - Houei Xai

    This is a trip report is about the last few days of a motorcycle ride that I did at the start of the year, that began at the Chong Mek border crossing near Pakse, going south to the islands, before heading north, and ending up in Phongsali, before crossing back into Thailand at Chiang Khong. Basically the bottom to the top. …Well almost the top.

    What I learnt from this trip is that it can get bitterly cold at night in Laos. At most Guesthouse I would ask for an extra blanket. I have ridden in Laos many times at this time of year, but never was it cold as this year. There were a few nights where it was almost too cold to drink Beer Lao…almost.
    The people living in those wooden huts must be as tough as nails.

    After arriving in Phongsali, I decided to spend a few days in this very interesting part of Laos.

    The KLX, and the Phoufa Stupa that looks over the thriving metropolis of Phongsali.

    The clouds would come and go throughout the day, and it was bitterly cold at night.


    On the first morning in Phongsali, I decided to ride out to the Nam Ou river. It was so cold riding, and the white out conditions, and truck traffic were a little unnerving.

    The sky had cleared by the time I got to this suspension bridge the crossing the Nam Ou.

    Very narrow bridge, for bikes and people only.

    Looking down on the boat surfing through the rapids.


    I rode around and checked out some tracks before heading down to the river port.

    This was one of those great travel experiences you come across every now and then, and they usually happen when you least expect it.. The colourful port was alive with boats coming and going, while in the riverside market, there was all the hassle and bustle, and wheeling and dealing that made this tiny part of the world a unique travellers paradise.


    My photos don’t capture just how good this port was.

    The riverside Shell serve station. I took the photo, and kept back due to the Marlboro Men waiting in line.

    The was small market, but worth a look. Good quality genuine Honda racing team jackets, and soccer shirts were available in many stalls.

    Back in Phongsali, and after getting cleaned up, I rode around town to find something to eat.
    There was a two restaurants, so I picked the busiest. There’s no menus at all, you simply walk into the kitchen, point at the meat and vegetables you want, then they cook it up for you.
    Believe me, the meat didn’t look that flash.

    In the kitchen was the best place to be, as it was freezing cold. I was wearing every piece of clothing I had, as well as my rain jacket to try and keep warm. I also slept in my clothes, and got an extra blanket from the owner of the guesthouse. It was soooo cold up there.

    My meal arrived at the table just as the towns power went out, so I really couldn’t make out what I was about to eat. I took a photo knowing the flash would give a hint of what I was about to eat.
    One mouthful of the meat dish was enough for me to decided to stick to the rice and beer Lao.

    The next day in sunny Phongsali I had a wander around town. I noticed a lot of people going up these stairs, so I went and checked it out.


    The stairs lead to a market that was like a rabbit warren, with hairdressers, tailors, and of course, there were plenty of genuine soccer shirts for sale.


    Next morning it was down the hwy to Boun Tai where I would turn off the main road and cut through on the dirt towards hwy 13 and Luang Namtha.

    More on that main road that runs from Oudom Xai to Phongsali here.

    It maybe newish, but some of the road sure looks second hand.

    Big days work for this little fella. He was watering all these plants one by one. Just love the gumboots.


    Once in Boun Tai I headed west on the dirt. This river is just behind the town.


    I have ridden this track many times, but it wasn’t long before I knew Id taken a wrong turn somewhere.
    Lost again.

    I just kept going to “see what happens” and I soon came to a dead end. Oh well, nice riding.

    Once back on track things began to look more familiar, but still wasn’t 100% sure as there’s so many new tracks in that area now.


    Lovely setting. Young mother sitting with the little kids while dad built there house.

    I ventured on.


    I rode into a small village, and remembered it from my last trip through here with BrianBKK.
    That epic adventure here.
    and here “Holy Moses”

    We had stopped here for lunch and took a few photos. Including one of this mother and her baby.

    This was Mum and Baby back then, and as I thought I may ride though here again, I got the photo developed.

    She couldn’t believe what she was seeing, and just kept staring at the photo and laughing.
    Beauty cool moment.

    I said goodbye and headed down the dusty track.

    Good size river crossing this one. You had to ride about 50 metres up the river, and then turn hard right.
    It looked pretty deep, and as me and my boots were completely dry, I decided to take the 2000kip bridge.

    Dry boots for 2000kip.


    There’s a new bridge being built further up stream.

    Unfortunately the days are numbered for this toll operator.

    A few kilometres before I hit hwy 13, I came across this brand new Wat in the middle of no where.


    There were plenty of turtles decorating the grounds of the Wat. (there not real turtles)

    I made to hwy13, where this little bloke was trying to sell he’s catch of the day for 80,000 kip.

    Yet another a crash on hwy 13. This one was about 14kms from Luang Lamtra, and the road was blocked in both directions. Trucks were banked up for 2kms either side. Motorbikes could squeeze through.

    Always a little worried about what your going to see as you ride past. But in this case it was bloody funny. Not for the guy who crashed the truck of course, but as I rode past there was 2 small kids sitting on top of the pile of sand making sand castles. I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo.

    Traffic lights in Luang Namtra. Unbelievable.

    Man U Stadium? I had to check this out.

    Just on the outskirts town. What a winner.


    I took the main hwy down to Houei Xai, and at the start I was sitting on 50km per hour, as the wind chill was so cold. Very different to 8 months earlier when it was 45 degress and the road was melting in parts.

    About 30kms south of Luang Namtra, yet another truck on its side.

    I arrived at Houei Xai-Luang-Chiang Khong border crossing. What a balls up it was there at the time.

    But to there credit… the floors were spotless.

    They stamped me out at the crossing, then I rode down to the old immigration offices and got a boat back to Thailand.

    The magnificent Kawasaki KLX250, back on Thai soil after another great ride in Laos.

    These last two photos were taken along the way.

    Happy little fella.

    Riding a motorcycle around Laos is not a bad way to spend a few weeks.

  2. Very Nice Rex! A New Season is about to begin here!
  3. Ill be rolling up to the starting gate shortly.
  4. Brilliant report Rex... Warming us up for the riding season.

  5. Hi Briann on 3-11-2014 I stay at pongsali before go to Ou tai
    phongsali town
  6. A super breezy report & loadsa fun there Moto-Rex; except for the cold.
    And yeah I can remember that cold snap we had last cold season - it was a beauty.

    I love these few snaps

    Phongsali - it even looks cold here.

    it genuinely looks suspended mid air, nothing holding it up. At least to me.

    Akha hiltribes - but they look kind of different.



    you've gotta laugh, stumbling across that in the middle of nowhere!
    What the hell?

    See you back soon at the starting gate.
  7. Very nice report Rex. Looking at my old photos, I believe it was 2009 when we both first "discovered" the new road from Boun Tai at about the same time, though riding separately (TRIP REPORT). As you say, looking at your photos some appears the same, but much appears to have changed. I remember the river crossing where we had to ride up river to exit on the other side. i didn't recall seeing a 'toll bridge'' then. That had to be a great experience giving the old photo to the mother and baby. Great update. Thanks.

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