Running In...

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by Eoin Christie, Oct 12, 2019.

  1. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    It’s a bit early to post a trip report, since I’m still on my way to Laos, but I guess it’s the pre-trip trip report at this stage...
    I arrived back in KL on Wednesday night, after flying from Luanda > Dubai > Addis Ababa > Malabo > Addis Ababa > Dubai > KL, all because West African Countries (generalisation) don’t seem to be able to take on the concept of regional airlines.

    Thursday I picked up my bike (Enfield Interceptor 650 Twin), and managed to get lost between Putrajaya and my apartment, and caught in a deluge, to boot.

    Friday was in at the office, catching up on 3 months’ worth of being over in Africa - The intended early departure didn’t happen, and it took me 3 hrs to drive home - a total of about 25km. Spent the night sorting out what to take, then crashed out for a couple of hours.

    Saturday morning I was ready to go at 05:00, until I realised I had too much crap, so unpack & repack, finally getting away at 06:00. Rode up via Raub and Gua Musang to cross the Malay / Thai border at Sungai Golok. All went well there, except for a Malay Immigration Officer who took a dislike to me, and called me a liar. Only other thing that didn’t go quite so great was dropping the cap of my pen down the back of the Thai Immigration fingerprint scanner - They didn’t like it when I lifted it up to tilt it backwards, but it all ended OK, with pen cap rescued, and scanner intact.

    Next day was a run up to Krabi. First part up to Naratiwat was good, as was the section from just before Trang through to Krabi. The remainder was the usual flat, straight, busy slog, which is even less fun running in an engine.

    Monday was Krabi to Hua Hin. From Krabi across to Phatalung was excellent, with cool fog. North from Phatalung was more of the slog.

    Tuesday was a short run up to Bangkok, but my predilection for early starts had me ride straight into rush hour, which also didn’t rate highly on the fun-o-meter.

    Wednesday saw the bike get an oil change, and I picked up a Guglatech filter from Phillip (Faragit). I also changed out my full-face Shoei GT-Air, which previously fitted me well, but had been mind-numbingly crushing my right templesince setting out from KL. Being a natural stubborn cheap arse, I tried to grimace and bear it, but it was forcing me to stop every hour, and 4 days of internal screaming was enough. I passed my Shoei over to a niece in Bangkok, for her husband to send down to KL for me. I picked up an open-face from 320SP, which has been a delight, since. Unfortunately, I decided on goggles, which have not been a delight, so I’ll ditch them and get some safety glasses in Chiangrai.

    Thursday was exit Krung Thep time. Using MapsMe, which doesn’t distinguish between motorbikes and cars, had me making a few errors in Bangkok’s anti-bike road system, but eventually got free. The ride up to Mae Sot was more slog-fest, until after turning off from Tak. Those hills are wonderful!

    Friday was a run from Mae Sot up to Mae Hong Son. The section from Mae Sot to Mae Sariang was excellent - My favourite piece of road so far. Not the curly autobahn of Mae Hong Son > Chiang Mai / Chiangrai, but (at least in my opinion) better - It was quiet, foggy, and filled with people going about their daily work, just the way I like it. Mae Sariang to Mae Hong Son was nice riding, but not in the same league regards my weird preferences.

    Today (Saturday) was Mae Hong Son across to Chiangrai. Another early start saw a fairly quiet road. The whole way across I was only overtaken by one motorbike (apart from when dawdling through towns), and I wasn’t going fast. I stopped at one viewing point, which showed cloud, surrounded by cloud, but I’d seen glimpses of hills on the other side, so I turned off down a track a bit further on - It was a steep descent, but opened onto a magnificent vista, of karst, gardens, and small villages - It made my day.

    I took a MapsMe shortcut across to the 109, which was my 2nd favourite section of road so far. Again, little traffic other than locals, going about their business.

    Now I’m in Chiangrai, with a few things to sort out, before looping over to Chiang Khong and Houayxai, and the end of the pre-trip trip, and the start of the trip-trip.

    I’m looking forward to being a little more settled in Laos, with day trips out seeing how stuck I can get, rather than focusing on getting somewhere (which I’ve had to do in order to get here).

    More to come (hopefully) in the days ahead...
     
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  2. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Thanks for he update mate.
    It's always to get some feed back & a trip report - much appreciated.

    Now I like this part in your post: "until I realised I had too much crap, so unpack & repack."
    Wonderful, its actually impressive how little we can travel with.
     
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  3. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    ...and still I have too much! Should’ve packed for a trip to the shops, rather than in prep for WWIII...
     
  4. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    IMG_0739.JPG IMG_0745.JPG IMG_0734.JPG IMG_0692.JPG I’d read somewhere that Chiang Khong Immigration open at 06:00. After getting drenched the night before, I was at the border at 05:30. I spoke with an Officer, who let me know it’s a 07:00 start, so I headed back to get a coffee, and met 2 more Immigration Officers at Amazon.
    One of them ended up doing my export - Total 200B for everything, and no escort.
    Arrived at Laos side too early, but got processed quickly.
    Off into Houayxai for another coffee and an apple strudel. I was going to head over to Muang Long via the Muang Muang road, figuring it would be better than the Mom road after the rain, and I could stop in Muang Muang if the going got too tough for the bike or I, or turn back, with plenty of fuel options.
    As it happened, I found myself rolling along the Mom road, figuring I’d take a look, and then return.
    The Chinese road building is heading further and further North. I was thinking it may already be through to a Xiengkok / Muang Long, destroying that opportunity for doing silly things with the Enfield.
    I was wrong...
    By the time I’d gone for a foray up the track North of Mom, I was beyond the point of no return. 1st river crossing was too deep, so it was over the bamboo bridge with the dreadnought - definitely rested the load-bearing structures.
    Onward and into the mire. I picked up a couple of litres of petrol in a village, along with a bottle of water. Later on, I’d run out of water, and end up on “E - For Enough” on the petrol front.
    First dropping of the bike came not long after the village - Front wheel wash out on Teflon-coated clay.
    Further on, the track deteriorated, and second dropping went down a treat.
    A while later, in a banana plantation quagmire, drop No.3 had the bike go past horizontal, and me trying to right the capsize from a truck rut that was knee deep in clay soup, once I had her upright, I had her bellied on the bash-plate, as I cajouled her across to some virgin ground.
    That time had me Foobarred. Anymore dropbears were going to be stretching it, with water and strength running low, stretching the calorific intake of 2 coffees and a piece of apple strudel.
    I did find the one redeeming off-road feature of the Enfield - Despite full road rubber, the torque at low rev’s created some kind of virtual traction, regardless ofthe wheel continuing to spin from its Teflonic-Clay coating, even once back on dry ground.
    The last 20km were exceptionally hard going. Every left bend (and there are a bountiful number of them) was a clay bog, with deep truck rut chasms, filled with primordial soup. Once I’d committed to Left Horror or Right Horror, there was no crossing over, despite not being able to see around the corner.
    Along the way, I met 3 trucks grotesquely stuck, coming the other way. That gave me some hope for the track being open ahead - It should really have given me a dread for how the trucks had carved up what was ahead.
    There were 2 more fairly deep river crossings, with no bridge alternatives, but I was too far in to turn back, so just attacked them the way a Lifer attacks a barbed wire prison fence. More through luck than good management, the Enfield sailed / submarined through.
    After what seemed like an eternity of Left-turn-equals-possible-death-knell, the road improved, and I got to spend more time in 2nd gear than 1st, although by then, my left shoulder could hardly carry the weight of my left elbow.
    When I finally came out onto the Xiengkok / Muang Long road, it surprised me, in a very pleasant way.
    It took me 10hrs to ride about 150km, but it also made me very, very happy (and dirty, when I rolled into Muang Long about 19:30).
    It started raining just after I hit the Xiengkok / Muang Long road, so I was lucky, although I’d already resigned myself to walking out if I got too stuck.
    I stopped taking photo’s once the track demanded all of my attention, but is an Interceptor supposed to look like this? The snail was competing with me, and I think may have just beaten me into 2nd place.
     
  5. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    IMG_0698.JPG IMG_0732.JPG 95C933BA-9EFC-47A6-8474-6D111BA3F017. 4F0C72AF-9120-4539-A243-518A172E60CE. 8937EDDF-9EBA-4659-A400-16B08ECB1B62. F2AEFF09-B659-4725-957F-9C7F24ECE394.
     
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  6. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    I’m liking Muang Long a lot, and seem to have set up residency. I went for a walk across to Ban Nongkham this morning, and ended up at their primary school, where I got permission to take a photo with my large format field camera.
    All of the kids thought the setting up was really funny, particularly when I was buried under the dark-cloth.
    Trouble was, when I went to take the photo’s, all the kids were behind me. I called out “Rong rem mai me look!”, which they thought was hilarious, and they started chanting “Rong rem mai me look!”.
    Yesterday, Muang Long was without electricity - Possibly Lucas, Lord of Darkness?
     
  7. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Fantastic.
    These schools are always terrific fun.
    upload_2019-10-18_14-18-5.
    I got the above pic on the HX - LNT road with Zed.
    We had the whole school out there at lunch time. Amazing fun!

    But my favourite is Muang Sing, I love that beaten up old school there & would love to do a charity event at the school.

    Thanks for the feed back.
    Enjoy your trip & taking nice photos in those out of the way places.
     
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  9. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    #9 Eoin Christie, Oct 20, 2019
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 20, 2019
    Yesterday, I went for a ride up into the hills. As it was heading for dusk, I was thinking about turning back (Just one more turn... Just one more turn...), when I met a section where I had to stop for 2 motorbikes coming down.

    They were high school students from Muang Long, working up in the hills in the weekend. One of them wanted to practice his English - He had Avery good vocabulary, but struggled with pronunciation, as his English teacher at school couldn’t speak English.

    We decided that I’d give him a pronunciation lesson in the evening (Blind leading the blind), and headed back down the hill, together with the other two on their bike.

    Along the way, we met a rider who had broken down heading up the hill, dressed in camo, and with a homemade ‘rifle’. His spark plug was blacker than the inside of the Huntley Coal Mine Decline with the power out. Finally, they got him going, and he headed off up into the jungle. The boy then told me that that was his teacher.

    We headed back to Muang Long, and I took them down to the river to show them the drone I have with me. We attracted a large gathering of Akha women, on their way back to their villages in the hills, after a day at the markets. They were in high spirits, and pushed me more and more to fly up, down, and all around. Easy to see who wears the jodphurs in an Akha household. Once they start laughing, there’s no stopping them.

    Last night we had the English lesson on the verandah, with 5 students in attendance. It was good fun, as they all hung shite on each other as they tried to say English syllables.

    Today, I’m heading off to Muang Sing. I may go further, but I think I’d like to do some more exploring around the area.

    I’m down to 4 sheets of colour film, and a shiteload of ISO 20 B&W sheets - Great for tonal detail, but slooooooowwww as fuscia.
     
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  10. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Decided to stop in Muang Sing for a while. I did a little run out to the border - It has changed a lot since I was last here - Sealed all the way, built-up villages, Chinese traffic (no slowing down for those fellows going through villages).
    Chinese presence here is much, much greater than it was 15 years ago. I think I prefer it the way it was, but I don’t live and make my living here, so my thoughts are just ether.
     
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  11. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator
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    Muang Sing is a fabulous little town, with the best looking Lue women on the planet.
    It's a shame about the overwhelming Chinese influence there now, but I always love a trip out there.
    The rice fields must be absolutely stunning at the moment.
    I used to go just a couple of kms down the border road for some nice photos & views.
    Don't forget the morning market & the school. You can get great shots of the kids coming / going to school on their bicycles.

    Glad everything is going ok. I'm jealous.
     
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  12. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    I was down at the market this morning, with the field camera. Everyone wants to look in through the lens...
    A young lad helped me pack up my tripod, which he enjoyed working out. I’ll head to the primary school tomorrow.
    The rice fields are excellent now, with their fluorescent green-gold. Harvest is under way. Yesterday I put the drone up on the way back in to Muang Sing from the border, with sun rays falling on the hills.
     
  13. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    After the market foray and breakfast, I rode up into the hills behind Ban Seuadaeng, until I got to 2 Akha villages - Ban Houayhoy, and Ban Houay??? (the old man who was telling me the name was all “buayed up” (PNG term for full cut on the betelnut).
    The kids in Ban Houayhoy mobbed me - True Rock Star Status - need to remember to bring Bouncers in the Roadie Crew up here.
    I stopped at the school in Ban Seuadaeng on the way back (extended concert tour) - Once you hand a GoPro over to these kids, all Hell breaks loose.
     
  14. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    After a few days riding around the hills North of Muang Sing, I headed down to Luang Namtha this morning, to decide if I wanted to ride up to Gnot Ou.
    My foobarred shoulder was making it’s importance known to me, and I just kept riding, ending up in Phayao, so only a short hop down to Lampang tomorrow.
    Had my only genuine close-call today on the Vieng Phoukka - Houayxai section, when a mad £&@)er bus driver ran me off the road as he came head-on at full noise around a right bend (turning left for him), overtaking a truck going downhill. There was a fairly healthy drop on the shoulder, and his outer tyre on his duals was over the shoulder.
    I headed bush, but managed to keep it together (Good onya, Enfield).
    I hope he grows up a little before he kills some villager or bus load of innocents.
    I also past a group of about 20 Beemers, heading North through one of the ridge villages, towards LNT. They seemed to be on a bit of a mission to get wherever they were going.
    I really like that part of Laos, from Muang Sing across to Xiangkok. Not that the Interceptor is anything less than the most capable Adventure Bike in the Known Universe, but I’d love to spend some time up there with a slightly more dirt-oriented bike.
    The Enfield handled herself well (much better than I handled her). I put her in plenty of places (and orientations) that she should not have to be in, yet she managed to stay largely upright (apart from the three times I dropped her on the track up the Mekong to Xiengkok - and those were 110% my fault).
    Next time?
    - Carry less shite: Using the large format camera was fun, but it’s cumbersome, and has an inordinate amount of paraphernalia to carry (tripod, camera, ball head, boxes of film, film holders, dark cloth, change bag, light meter, shutter cable, loupe...). I think I’ll leave it for dedicated trips. Most of the other gear got used, but could still be trimmed down a lot to only what is ‘necessary’.
    - Less moving / More exploring: I enjoyed myself most when I was based in one place, making daily unplanned forays of following my farang nose. The part where I rode all day to get from A to B, then off again next day to get from B to C, was OK, but definitely not where the value was for me. Next time I’d probably put the bike on the train up to CM (or convince the CFO that I need to get a registered dirtbike sitting in Lampang).
    - Kids: I dropped into several schools. Most I just gate-crashed and disrupted normal service, whilst one I organised to be there at knock-off time. Handing out a GoPro, and flying a drone had them in hyperdrive. They were all great fun. Next time, I think I’ll pick up some Big Brother books for each of the schools - I absolutely love how seriously they take education.

    From here, it’s a little bit of time in Lampang with the Whanau, then make my way back South to KL. I think I’ll break the journey a little more on the way down.
    Once I get back, I have a bit of film-developing to do, and some vid’s to compile (I assume - I haven’t looked at them yet, so they may just be cerebral snapshots... ).
     
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  15. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Well, I made it back to KL, and then got fully-ensconced in work, so haven't even had time to develop my sheet films. Here are a few snaps from my monochrome digital camera...
    Houayxai to Xiengkok:
    48999369601_29513a7c74_k. L034 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999369796_bd5acc071f_k. L035 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999370276_6c54e15ce2_k. L037 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999579752_a1f33baa06_k. L036 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999580242_261dba8d20_k. L038 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    49005779431_7de64cb87e_k. L041 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999421991_a64fe853ea_k. L039 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999369131_5a76c38fba_k. L031 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999369431_ec6beac707_k. L033 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48999578847_5d1a00ee44_k. L032 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48995012072_e700193afb_k. L003 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48998968391_0b9b418d0b_k. L008 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr

    48994815706_20e70dc15b_k. L004 by Eoin Christie, on Flickr
     
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  16. Ian Bungy

    Ian Bungy Ol'Timer

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    Certainly Run it in the Hard way Ha Ha!
     
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  17. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    I think it was more a case of running me in...to the ground. I loved it, Ian.
     
  18. Marmite

    Marmite Active Member

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    Did you get your 500km service/inspection done before you got to Laos?
     
  19. Eoin Christie

    Eoin Christie Ol'Timer

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    Yes. I had the 500km run-in and service performed for me while I was on my way back from Angola. I did another service at ~2,000km when I got to Bangkok.
     
  20. Marmite

    Marmite Active Member

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    After my 500km service, I had a dangling horn (ooo..errr...missus!) and a lock nut missing from one side of the chain adjuster on the end of the swing arm.

    A warning to not just assume shit's been done properly for next time.
     
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