Riding in Isan and Laos Part 1

Jan 12, 2003
Riding in Isan and Laos Part 1
« on: Jan 17th, 2003, 10:34am » Quote Modify Remove

After buying my bike a Kawasaki Zephyr 1100 in Bangkok i had the shop send it by truck to Ubon Ratchathani in Isan province. The first trip i made was to Chong Mek on the Thai Lao border riding along route 217. This road is dual all the way and the traffic is fairly light. You should watch your speed though as there are a few nasty unexpected bumps in the road. At Chong Mek foreigners are not allowed to enter at all now without a visa. This was not the case a year ago when they would let you across to the local market for 10 baht. It is not possible to bring a bike into Laos through this border checkpoint but exiting Laos back into Thailand should be OK.
Just North of Chong Mek is a pleasant town called Khong Chiam from where you can see the first sunrise in Thailand and where the Mekong and Moon rivers meet. There is a very nice resort here called Torseng which overlooks the Mekong with room rates from 1500 to 3000 baht. They have interestingly combined Thai and Balinese style and have a great swimming pool.
A few days later i set off again from Ubon Ratchathani to Mukdahan on route 2050. This road is fine until you get to Amnat Charoen and then from there the road is under repair and just a dusty dirt track all the way to Mukdahan. In Mukdahan the Thai immigration officer said it was possible to take a bike into Laos. But without a visa i had already planned to try and get the bike in at Nong Kai..
From Mukdahan route 212 to That Phanom is a fast and pleasant road. The river is too far away to be seen from here though. In That Phanom there is an interesting temple which is supposed to hold a relic of the Buddha. Not many foreigners here.
From That Phanom i took route 223 to Sakon Nakhon where i spent the night. This is a fast single laned smooth road. But watch out for stray cows. I had two suddenly appear in front of me.
From Sakon Nakhon to Udon Thani on Route 22 is a long straight fairly boring road but with light traffic. The scenery tends to become monotonous after a while.
From Udon Thani to Nong Kai along route 2 is a very quick three lane road with hardly any traffic but it was a Sunday morning.
At Nong Kai taking your bike to Laos is not a problem as long as it is registered. At Thai immigration i paid 50 baht for the document to go with the bike and you need to pick up another document at customs (no charge)Then i was allowed to ride over the Friendship bridge to Laos. If you arrive in Laos on the weekend you will have to pay US$31 for your 14 day tourist visa rather than the normal US$30.
To legally import the bike you first have to go to meet Mr Vinavong in Room 5 in the upstairs of the main building. You need to tell Mr Vinavong where you intend to travel and show him your registration book. If you intend to leave Laos through another border crossing you need to tell him. Without his authorization you can't get your bike in. After he has signed another document you will be sent next door to see his secretary where she will fill in all the forms for you (2500 kip / 10 Baht). After this you go to Customs and pay a fee of 250 Baht. Your are now allowed in the Vientiane area for 7 days. The only way you can extend the 7 days is by getting to another international border crossing or returning to the Friendship Bridge where they can give you a 7 day extension. They will not issue a 14 day pass. If you overstay your 7 days be prepared to pay a hefty fine.
After passing through Customs you will need to get insurance in the small Office opposite. About US$3 for 7 days.

The last document you need is to let you travel outside Vientiane. For this you must go to the office of Communication near the French Embassy. You should tell the lady where you plan to go and from where you wish to exit Laos. If her boss approves you will be given a document with the places you are permitted to travel to printed on it. Without this document you may have problems in other provinces

Jan 12, 2003
Re: Riding in Isan and Laos Part 1
« Reply #1 on: Jan 17th, 2003, 12:13pm » Quote Modify Remove

Hi David

A couple of comments on your report.

1. As far as I know, Nong Khai is the only land crossing into Laos where you can get visa on arrival. You can also get one when flying into Vientiane and Luang Prabang.

2. On the Thai side of the Friendship Bridge, any fees are just "tea money" for the officials. My last crossing, they wanted 100 Baht "because it was Saturday".

3. At the bridge, they can only issue the 7 day permit, but I had been told on past trips that you can just pay for overstay when you leave. This past December, I left Laos on the 8th day, and had to pay two separate fees totalling 200 baht. No hassle about it, just had to find the right person to pay it to. You have to go to the ground floor office on the immigration side. By the way, the day that you enter Laos counts as day 1 of the permit.

I believe the entrance permit is good for all of Vientiane Province, which does extend north to Phou Khoum - about 250 km.

I did get the permit to travel out of the province on a trip in 2001, and was charged 1600 kip - about 5 baht.

4. In November of 2001, I entered Laos at Nong Khai, and exited via Ban Mai/Chong Mek - after another overstay. On the Lao side, they were all staring at my TDM 850 - the biggest bike that had gone through there. They just stamped me out without any fees or fine for the overstay.

I did not check on entering Laos there with a bike, so I can't confirm or deny your report. Where did you get the info about bikes not allowed?

On the Thai side, there was a minor problem. The Thai temporary import/export papers from Nong Khai listed Nong Khai as the re-entry point into Thailand. A phone call by the Thai official cleared that up.

Everything else was the same as my experiences. Pretty easy to do - if your bike has a plate and book.

Looking forward to the next part.