Re-mapping Northern Laos City Maps.

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Oct 11, 2008.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    A planned quick 7-10 day run through the North to update the city maps for the 4th edition of the GT Rider Laos map.
    Funny how it goes though - it turned out to be a mere 22 days!

    DATES: 29th September - 19th October 2008.

    1. Chiang Mai - Chiang Rai
    2. Chiang Rai - Houei Xai
    3. Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha
    4. Luang Nam Tha - Muang Sing - Luang Nam Tha
    5. Luang Nam Tha - Muang La - Oudom Xai
    6. Oudom Xai - Pak Beng - Oudom Xai
    7. Oudom Xai - Luang Prabang
    8. Luang Prabang
    9. Luang Prabang
    10. Luang Prabang
    11. Luang Prabang
    12. Luang Prabang
    13. Luang Prabang
    14. Luang Prabang - Nong Khiaw - Luang Prabang
    15. Luang Prabang - Phonsavan
    16. Phonsavan - Vientiane
    17. Vientiane
    18. Vientiane
    19. Vientiane
    20. Vientiane
    21. Vientiane - Loei
    22. Loei - Chiang Mai
    And I need more time in Laos!!

    THE WEATHER: A beautiful mix of cool 'n wet to hot.

    RIDER: Davidfl on the trusty Africa Twin.
    Plus along the way
    • RobertH on his KTM black widow maker. Days 1 - 3.
    • Happy Feet, Pikey & Marcus for a night in Luang Prabang
    • Helen & Clemente BMW F650 riders for a few nights in LPQ
    • Claudio & Ruth: Honda Africa Twin & Transalp riders in LPQ & Phonsavan.
    It was a bit alight socialising with fellow riders on this trip I can tell you.

    The start:
    Not exactly your favourite weather, & not exactly on time at 2.35 PM - a bit later than the anticipated mid-late morning start.

    The problem being a naughty GPS that would not load up & display the GT Rider's North Thai & Laos maps, despite being fully locked onto all the satellites! Eventually a trip to Maurycy at Eagle GPS
    solved the problem, but not before I'd lost several hours & Maurycy & I had consumed a numerous coffees discussing the problems & GPS-ing.
    For all you guys riding in the Noth, I can highly recommend Eagle GPS for excellet service & info. Check them out in Panthip PLaza on Chang Klan road, Chiang Mai.

    To be continued...
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Arh. Continued at last....a bit slow you might say & you'd be right!

    Well the rain stopped before Doi Saket, 14 kms out & both Heikel & I had a chuckle as we'd elected NOT to put the rain gear & just ride it out.
    After a pie 'n coffee stop at Charin resort we rolled into Chiang Rai around 5.30 PM.

    Checked into the Nimseeseng & I proceeded break one of the nose pad arms on my specs. Oh good one I thought, just what you need for the next 10 days - a piece of metal gouging a hole in your nose with the full face helmet on. Most of that evening I went from spectacle shop to spectacle shop in Chiang Rai city to get them repaired but no such luck. Heikel was amused & managed to entertain himself with beer & other delights whilst I pounded the block. No success & I tried again the next morning whilst Heikel relaxed with extra coffees for brekky. (RobertH is a good patient riding buddy, & he's certainly mellowed over the years I've known & ridden with him.) Eventually I gave up on the nose pad arm repairs & we left Chiang Rai mid morning for Chiang Khong.

    Arrival time in CK was 20 mins before midday & not quite early enough to clear both customs & immigration. Customs we did clear, but not immigration before their lunch break downtown where you need to get your TM2 & TM4 papers.

    The Chiang Khong customs gals were as efficient as ever processing our temporary import / export papers & fining RobertH yet another 2,000 baht for his 5 month temporary import overstay.

    Now in case you don’t know much about "temporary motorcycle import" you are usually granted one month import with extensions of up to 6 months possible. However no one gets a 6 month extension, so the trick is pay the fine of 200 baht a day for the overstay, with a maximum fine of 2,000 baht up to 6 months. Stay over 6 months & you are in deep trouble, so always go out before, pay the 2,000 baht fine & you can come back in.

    Next step waiting for the car ferry.

    Not much was going on & the small boat operators were hounding us to spend the 500 baht a bike - risk fate one more time & go with them. But Heikel & I were not in a rush – our destination for the night was only Houei Xai, a massive 500 metres away across the river. So we decided to wait & play out the game.
    The Thai car ferry operator generously offered to run us across – bikes only –for 2,000 baht, but nope we could wait & see if any cars or trucks came down to cross on the bug ferry whence we could hop on for 500 baht each.
    And we waited, & waited, looking at the lack of activity & how low water level was compared to the flood just a couple of months before. Indeed it was difficult to imagine the river could rise & fall that much, but it does.




    Eventually at 3.30 PM I thought well time’s up, we need to cross to the Laos side & before 4PM when the Laos officials wind down for the day & start hitting you up for overtime.
    Then as luck would have it the Lao ferry set off for the Thai side. The ferry arrived & an official group of young Thai traditional dancers appeared to send us off.

    391161423_GVBNG-S. 391161428_ghU5H-S.

    But alas

    iin reality it was not to send us off, but to welcome the incoming Chinese car caravan – 30 vehicles on a whirlwind drive from Kunming & back.
    The giggly dancer gals were from a Chiang Rai college & mightily impressed with the big farang & their big motorbikes. Phone nos. & email addresses were exchanged with unbelievable ease, with Miss Popsie Mickie being the cutest “winner” & set to receive a nice set of photos of her entourage from the GT Rider.


    Laos Customs was cleared quickly, but not before Heikel woke everyone up, roaring off the boat & wheeling up the ramp & out of sight, with Customs officials sprinting out blowing whistles & yelling "come back Robert, we need you to do your Customs import papers."
    40 minutes later we were at the Laos immigration entry point downtown getting our visas. The gods must have been displeased with the wheelie entry into Laos, because we got hit by one of the wildest rain storms I’ve ever experienced – roaring down the ‘Khong & into Houei Xai.
    Perched at the immigration checkpoint on the river, we gave up waiting for the rain to stop & sloshed on up to the bikes parked in the rain.
    Here Heikel proved that rain is really nothing - you can't get any wetter than wet.
    391161452_npVvj-S. 391161459_78Rbs-S.

    Checking into my fave Houei Xai Hotel
    with the power off because of the storm, I decided to skip the cold shower in the dark, head downtown for happy hour on the 'Khong & wait for the power to come back on. In minutes the weather had cleared up
    and life on the Mekong boulevard was back to normal.

    RobertH rolled up, we sank numerous beers, 3 hrs later the power came back on & we slipped back to the hotel to fully check in, shower, shave & eat downtown.
    My fave restaurant for a good meal in Houei Xai is the Riverside, just downstream from the immigration office. It has huge servings & the food is delicious. The GT Rider has been using them for 14 years & the food's always G-O-O-D. Check 'em out sometime, if you're in HX. Use the Riverside in the evening, but in the afternoon note that it gets awfully hot.
    Dureing the evening meal the rain came back & it turned into a soggy night.

    On the road the next day
    the weather did not look great at the outset
    but it soon cleared up & there was no need for rain gear, as we'd originally expected to put on.

    The Houei Xai - Luang Nam Tha road's only been finished this year & was in pretty much perfect condition on the way in. Indeed I think it is as good as it ever will be for a few years, as there will only be more heavy traffic on the road which will cause it to break up & deteriorate. So if you've got a sport orientated road bike & are thinking about coming over to Laos for a ride on R2W then do it now, while the road is good. (The Snail & Co. did this road on Feb 2008 on a Ducati & VFR400.)

    Looks alright doesn't it?

    Then the worst rain damage
    for about 100 metres

    And back to the good stuff

    Don Chai, approx 60 kms in from Houei Xai

    No complaints here

    The Don Chai view again

    Another greasy, but easy landslide section
    probably not fun in the wet whilst still wet 'n muddy.

    In Luang Nam Tha the hotel to stay at is the Dok Champa

    Undercover parking at the rear

    Fan hot water cable TV ground floor rooms for 320 baht a night
    391161541_5C6cd-S. 391161544_RRGue-S.
    Air con rooms are upstairs & slightly more expensive. I like ground floor, get off your bike & walk straight into your room. No stairs to climb or elevators to use.
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The place to eat 'n happy hour in Luang Nam Tha is the Manychan, diagonally opposite the Dok Champa & walking distance for most of us.

    For brekky we discovered the Coffee House / Corner, around a couple of corners from the Manychan, & still on a corner. The place is run by a lovely Thai lady from Chiang Rai, whose husband works for the EU in Luang Nam Tha.

    The Coffee House / Corner advertises pizzas, steak & all your regular farang food, including cappuccino, muesli & yoghurt for breakfast.
    Check it out when you’re in Luang Nam Tha.


    RobertH split & raced onto Luang Prabang - & I don’t blame him as GPS-ing the waypoints of ghouses / restaurants / banks etc does get a bit boring & tortuous at times.

    From Luang Nam Tha I did a quick day trip out to Muang Sing that disappointed me when I was out there in Feb 2008 with Rhodie.

    The Luang Prabang Loop

    The road sucked – too bumpy – Muang Sing seemed unattractive after all these years.

    But not this time
    1. The Africa Twin sucked up the bumps in the road & I really enjoyed it. Incredible I thought – it was the new YSS suspension front & rear that just ate it all up. 3 big cheers for YSS from the GT Rider – the bike handles like a dream on the bumpy stuff now!!
    2. The green rice paddies were absolutely gorgeous in the afternoon light.

    You do need to watch out for rocks on the road towards the MS end.

    Muang Sing is a quite sleepy Thai Lue town.


    The Sing Thong is the oldest hotel in town & still going as a dump, but its got character!

    If only someone could get hold of the building & renovate it nicely like the place across the street

    Of note in MS are a couple of nice new guesthouses & the Chanthimmeng is one I'd like to stay at next time.

    There's also the new Champadaeng in a vacant block of reclaimed rice paddy, near the new market & where it gets interesting in the wet season.

    From Muang Sing I also rode out to the Chinese border at Pang Hai.

    This road is all nice smooth asphalt & a pleasant enough excursion from MS, if you're looking to pass the time.

    Here's the Lao border line at Pang Hai


    Lao Immigration at Pang Hai.
    Pretty exciting eh? Lots going on! And sorry, but no, this is not a full international border crossing. It is strictly locals only.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    From Luang Nam Tha onto Na Toey & the Chinese border at Boten.

    The road from Luang Nam Tha is a bit of a race track.

    Spoilt only be one or two bits of land subsidence after the wet.
    but note the thickness of the asphalt - top quality stuff & it's not the asphalt that has broken up. But you wouldn't want to do this at night - would you?

    When you get to Na Toey left (north) goes to the China border & right goes to Oudom Xai.

    Turn left at Na Toey & you end up at Boten & the Laos / China border.

    Make a right at Na Toey & you think oops, this can't be the right road.
    but it is & that's how the road is all the way from Na Toey to Oudom Xai - bumpy dirt / asphalt, alternating every few hundred metres. No consistency & totally unenjoyable.
    It would be better if it was all dirt or all bad broken asphalt, at least you would know how fast or slow to ride, but now it's a terrible mix of bad bumpy & then 200-300 metres of good then bad bumpy again.

    15 kms out of Oudom Xai I hit the remains of the flash flood from the last typhoon which seemed to dump all its rain on the one mountain North & North-East of Oudom Xai.





    Scary stuff & there's no doubt that there must have been a few lives lost in Ko Noy village.

    In Oudom Xai, the place (for me) to stay is the Oudom Kham hotel
    on the south side of town, 800 metres past the airport turn off.
    The Oudom Kkam has ground floor rooms - get off your bike & walk straight into your room with your luggage.

    Oudom Xai is an interesting busy dusty town, & the REAL CROSSROADS of Northern Laos, with roads going
    1. Muang Khua & Dien Bien Phu (Vietnam)
    2. Phongsali in the extreme north of Laos;
    1. Pak Beng & The Mekong (with a bridge & road to Huay Khon Thailand planned),
    1. Boten / China
    2. Luang Nam Tha - Houei Xai - Chiang Khong Thailand;
    1. Pak Mong - Xam Neua or
    2. Luang Prabang & Vientiane.
    Yep I reckon that UX should be a boom town in the years to come & have an incredible mix of Laotians / Viets / Chinese living there. I like the dirty busy raunchy feel of the place.

    Oudom Xai is also surrounded by Thai Lue villages & I reckon these are the most beautiful friendly people in Laos.

    One guy who has discovered the genuine beauty of Oudom Xai is Jean-Paul Duverge with his Muang La Resort
    a beautiful spot in one of the prettiest places in Laos.
    If you don't particularly like Oudom Xai, think it's a bit of a dump, aren't on a budget, then check out Jean Paul's Muang La Resort! You'll be impressed.

    Another spot I discovered in Oudom Xai is the Long Aor Restaurant & Night Club.
    worth checking out too, if you think Oudom Xai has nothing to offer. :eek:
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    To get to Muang La, Northern Laos' "little Shangrila" you take R4 & head North-East towards Muang Khua.
    This road also takes you to the Phongsali road, but this was still closed with Phongsali cut off 2-weeks after the typhoon!
    The road across the Nam Ou river from Muang Khua, that goes to Sop Houn / Tay Trang was also washed away, such was the damage. And the rumour is it could be months before either of these roads are open again.

    Anyway back to R4 & Muang La. There were heaps of small landslides & evidence of floods along the way.



    But in the late afternoon light the scenery was stunning.



    Back in Oudom Xai, the town is so drab & dusty
    it's hard to believe it is so pristine just a few kms down the road.

    The Keomoungkol restaurant
    looks like just another dirty grubby restaurant, but the food is awesome. Claudio
    Claudio Angelini
    & Ruth
    s'Ruthle on the Road
    caught up to me here & both will vouch for the wonderful food at the Keomoungkol.

    Dining at the Keomoungkol also allowed me to catch up to my dynamic young sweetheart from Feb.

    The Luang Prabang Loop

    This time round it was an evening meal, but Mum & her Aunty came along to join the fun & meet lung farang.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  7. Pikey


    Excellent stuff David with great pics. After following in your footsteps a week or so later at a less than leisurely pace, I now realise we should have allotted more time to appreciate what we were passing through. Good excuse for another trip I guess ;)

    Cheers & keep it coming.

  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks for the kudos.
    Laos is always fun & you should never just ride through if you can help it, take your time & savour all the wonderful villages & scenery & people. Even I get caught out - what was supposed to be a quick 7-10 day trip ended up being 22 days & even then I wanted more!


    Now the highlight of my trip was a day trip from Oudom Xai, down to Pak Beng & back.


    Not Pak Beng you say?
    Yep, that's right & I used to refer to it as the shit hole of the universe, it was so dirty grubby. I will never forget the scene of the villagers dumping all their rubbish in the river at 4-5PM right in front of all the backpackers getting off the LPQ – HX “cattle boats.” A truly disgusting sight & greeting from the locals, & somewhat representative of how tidy they kept their own little town at the time.
    So I was reluctant to make the run down to PB, as I figured not much had changed, but after a quick phone call to one of my LPQ contacts I was assured it was worth checking out PB & leaving it on the map - I was considering doing away with it, thinking it was still an absolute rat hole of a joint.

    Well fortunately things have changed, PB is significantly cleaner




    AND the road from Oudom Xai –Pak Beng is superb winding hilly undulating flowing smooth asphalt! The villages en route are mainly Thai Lue - super friendly- which makes them equal with the Oudom Xai – Muang La road & the scenery was simply heavenly that day.


    (Sorry no pix of the winding hilly undulating flowing smooth asphalt as I was enjoying the riding too much.)

    In Pak Beng there’s some smart looking & “expensive” accommodation now.
    1. The view from the Pakbeng Lodge

    2. Phetsokxay Hotel. Sorry no pix & can't find their website.

    3. Mon Savan Ghouse

    The Vanphen Restaurant in Pak Beng had an interesting bomb casing entrance
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Discovered a nice little bar beer overlooking the 'Khong in Pak Beng

    I almost got sucked into a drinking session here, but eventually the crowd of spectators outside the premises watching the GT Rider try his luck drove me away. (Some things never change eh, BobS would say!)




    Now the return trip on R2W was absolutely glorious in fantastic light.



    I observed that there's no such thing as a paper round after school to pick up pocket money. It's just hard "yakka."




    But these kids were all seriously happy & no attitude problems.
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    I almost had a hilarious near miss heading back to Oudom Xai - a boat grounded on the road....


    just came over the crest of a hill & there she was - blocking the road! It was pretty funny watching the guys getting it unstuck & back on the way to the river for a sail. I was half expecting the three stooges to come crashing out of the bushes any moment!


    And off they went down the track to the river
    wherever it was.

    A little further on there was a truck parked across the road, again right on the crest of a hill.
    By the time I got the camera out it had reversed back & cleared the way. But I thought what's going to be next object blocking the road?

    There were no more roads blockages, only kids hanging out around bridges & at the concrete weirs over the rivers.


    Indeed at the weirs & big bridges / river crossings it's often worth a stop for a bit of a photo session. Don't rush through. Take your time & interact with the locals.




    These kids were floating downstream on a mass of weeds & grasses

    And the other side it was clothes & truck washing time.

    Stop taking photos, & after awhile you get surrounded by kids, swarming up naked from the river!


    Some guys do it hard on the road though & I'm always impressed with the Vietnamese "motorbike salesmen."

    I used to think Rhodie overloaded his bike with gear, but he's got nothing on the Viet motorbike salesmen.

    Imagine trying to balance this on the back of the Africa Twin?

    He was a real rider & adventurer.

    Earlier en route to Pak Beng from Oudom Xai I'd stopped on another unnamed village bridge & river crossing taking photos & was approached by a beautiful girl, who asked if I'd eaten / had lunch yet.


    The answer was no.
    Her reply: well she is hungry too? Do I have money???
    Yes, of course.
    Can "we' go & eat together at the restaurant at the end of the bridge?
    Ok, let's go - a tough decision.
    At the restaurant they only had beer & no food. I just laughed, walked out, got back on the bike & kept going. A tough decision. It was one of those days, but I'll be back!

    As the day continued the light seemed to get better & the people more friendly




    The light was so good & the people so friendly I felt as if I was if I was riding in heaven. Some of you got an SMS from me saying this & it was better than riding in paradise!



    So yep, R2W Oudom Xai - Pak Beng you're an absolute winner. AND I'll be planning a night in Pak Beng too, to give me more time for photos on the road. Gotta take more time! I'll be back.
  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The next day Claudio, Ruth & I pottered on down to Luang Prabang.

    It was wet 'n heavy overcast all the way to Song Cha on the mountain peak, before that fantastic 30 kms descent to Pak Mong.


    Rice & petrol for sale right alongside each other en route.



    The Hmong village of Song Cha is always good for a drink 'n snack stop, plus a bit of a photo session. The locals are friendly & if you take your time getting photos can be fun.


    Or it can be serious


    Despite the very heavy overcast conditions it was not raining in Song Cha, so Claudio & I decided to take a chance & do away with the rain gear. This was a winner & I forgot to collect my beer money off Ruth in LPQ as she'd left hers on.


    Claudio & Ruth were a cool couple


    to travel with & you should check out Claudio's website,

    if you have not already. Claudio's done some great riding on his RTW adventure, & he has a really neat tricked out Africa Twin.
  12. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    In Luang Prabang my place of stay was the Oudom Souk Guesthouse
    which is excellent value for money @ 90,000 kip a night for air con hot water cable TV with the “works."
    391222015_Ej8Ah-S. 391222019_EMUue-S.
    And rooms on the ground floor if you're lucky.

    A group of GT riders appeared on the scene & we soon filled the ghouse parking lot
    402590062_eiqjB-S. 402590058_qo8Fe-S.
    plus had a big night down by the river Mekong socializing, whilst the Cnx gang of 3 - Pikey, Happy Feet & Marcus - were in town for the night on their Laos whistle stop tour.
    Regrettably I did not have my camera for any piccies at the river that night, but if anyone else - Helen, Clemente, Claudio, Ruth, Pikey, Happy Feet, Marcus - have some, (& I know some were taken) would you please post them here for a chuckle or two.

    The next day the Cnx - Laos Whistle Stop Riders were off
    after a couple of group photos

    The next day I met up with Chris on his Chinese 250

    See Chris here
    China Cross Country Begins Tomorrow!
    and here
    Chris' Trans-Continental Motorcycle Adventures
    last seen heading down to Phonsavan as I was coming up.
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2016
  13. phlegm2

    phlegm2 Member

    Any word on when the new Laos map is due out?
  14. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Ooops, missed this one. Still working on it - a few months behind schedule, but hoping to be at the printers after new year. The main problem right now is advertisers - in short supply, plus the topography is still not done. When these are sorted out I will be at the printers, but both adverts & topography are coming from Laos PDR (People Dont Rush). I aint holding my breath anymore.
  15. mat.ward

    mat.ward Ol'Timer

    Wow, topography, you are really spoiling us now David! :D
  16. Franz

    Franz Ol'Timer

    David what an epic report & trip !!!! This must have been close to "Bikers Heaven" right ?? In Laos people still seem smiling because they mean it !! There's not one foto with somebody looking too serious, I like them kids swarming your bike wherever you stopped !! What a journey !! Cheers, Franz
  17. David

    David Administrator

    Bump in memory of these kids.

    CRW_1195. Oudom Xai - Pak Beng

    CRW_1199. Oudom Xai - Pak Beng

    CRW_1200. Oudom Xai - Pak Beng

    I wonder what they are doing now & how their life is going?

    Attached Files:

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