Songkran Escape


Oct 6, 2003
Well, the group of 4 Songkran Escape to Laos had become my solo escape. The other 3 riders had dropped out for various reasons.
With very little planning I headed out on Thursday April 8th for the Thai/Lao border at Chiang Khong. I was on my BMW 1150 GS. Of course had to stop at the Charin Garden Resort on Route 118 south of Chiang Rai for a coffee and pie filling. Best pie in Thailand. Rolling to Chiang Khong I headed for the filling station as this would be the last time my GS would get to drink the good stuff, 95. Lao is strickly 90 octane place. And my GS doesn't like 90. I had not planned to Cross the river on Thursday, but as I was there so early, I figured that it was best to get over to Huai Xai. It would allow me to get a early start on the other side. I had read about the late starters arriving in Luang Nam Tha after dark. Customs, Immagrations and the ferry crossing in 30 minutes. Yes it is true. It couldn't have gone smoother or quicker. As I drove down on the beach the car ferry owner walked over and we negotiated the crossing at 700 baht and he waved me aboard. I was followed by the guy who was really paying the freight, an Aussie guy in his Toyota troop carrier headed for China. He paid 6000 baht.
On th Lao side customs and Immagratin went smooth. At Customs 2 tips of 200 baht each got the paper work finished in a rapid order. At Immagratins I had to wait about 20 minutes at the Immagrations officer had gone home for the day. I stayed at a G. House across the street from the Saibai Dee. Saibai Dee was full. Nice clean room with fan and hot water 200 baht. Had some Beer Lao with the people headed for China and enjoyed the rain as it meant no dust the next day.
Away from Huai Xai at 0620 on Friday morning. It was overcast and cool. This is Route 3. Good going and beautiful scenery with lots of villagers walking on the road. So this is the road from hell, I had read about? Only a few coal trucks and the going couldn't be better. I didn't set any speed records, but moved along.
BUT after the Coal mine this road turns into a GOAT PATH, that was slicker than a skating rink. I'll call it GS'ing in snot. I entertained some villagers, as I came thru their going down hill and backed off the throttle slithering into the ditch. No damage except to my pride. After the first couple of river forgings I learned that it is better to stop and recon the crossings to see where the shallow area is. My GS made it thru 2 of them with the cyclinder heads under water and didn't miss a beat, but I didn't want to press my luck, any more. The log bridge crossing were the worst for me. I ended up on my side 2 times after crossing them. I forget how long it took me to get to Luang Nam Tha, but I do recall that near the end I only covered 21 kms in an hour.
In Luang Nam Tha I stayed at the Soulivong G.House. 100 baht for room with a shared bath. And inside parking. Not much to see here. Most of the tourists were Chinese. I did have one Akha women try to sell me some Ganja and fake French coins. They sure didn't look 70 years old, the coins that is. I got away early the next day on my way to Luang Prabang. Pretty good road with a bit of everything as far as road surface. It's a twisty mountain road with brief straights in the valleys. The routing is 138 to 13 to 1 and back to 13. Watch carefully at Houaylin. Lots of smiling people in the many villages you will pass thru. After the road drys out beware of the loose gravel on the freshly tarred and graveled sections. As I was getting close to L.P.B. in the late afternoon I had a bit or glare and hit one of these sections on a sweeper at about 120 K and had my heart in my throat for a moment.
I stayed at the Souansavan G. House. NIce place with big compound, BUT the beds are way to hard for my liking. 12 bucks US a night. Lots of new G.Houses popping everywhere in L.P.B. Songkran Lao style was getting into full swing. Much more laid back than in Thailand, but you will still get wet. L.P.B was busy and full or tourists. It is still a friendly place for a tourist town. I stayed a couple of days.
Monday saw me off for Phonsavan. (Plain of Jars) Route 13 to 7 and on in. No worries about security on the road as almost every male walking on the road has an AK 47. It seemed to me that the Gun totters in the villages were employed by the gov't. and all the rest well...... All had a smile and a wave as I past. If you like twisty roads this is another one for you. I had had my fill as I dropped down onto the low country about 50 kms outside of Phonsavan. Nice rolling hills with big long sweeping turns. My favorite road on this trip. This is were a GS shines. Very dry here with little vegetation. I stayed at Kong Keo's that is located next to the old French airport. I had checked into Sengsavan but it is noisy and they have a karaoke machine next door. Keo's is $5 US and he is a good source of information. He told me that the Americans or Aussie's are gold mining in the Xaysomboune restricted area. I did the plain of Jars sites, but was more impressed by the hole in the ground that a B-52 bomb makes. Many of these to be seen. Phonsavan maybe a place out in the middle of nowhere, but there were some very pretty girls. I met a young French architect who had brought his step-thru motorbike up from Vienchan on the bus and was riding around, headed to the Vietnam border area. I talked to Keo about the route from Phonsavan to Vientiane going south of the restricted zone. He said it was doable but looked at my GS with road tires and I could tell he didn't think it was a good idea. So I elected to go back on route 7 to 13 and down that way to Vientiane. Next time on the African Twin I will give it a try. Keo also told me there is a road from Xaisomboune straight south to Pakxan or somewhere near there.
Coming into Vientiane Songkran had started in a big way. I'm glad I had my visor pulled down. I was only surprised once as I passed a pick-up and got a soaking. I stayed at the Lovan G.House. It is across the side sio from the Dragon G. House. Clean AC and hot water rooms $10 US. Lots of Songkran water here, along with Beer Lao. Not many tourists in town though. I hung out until friday. Vientiane is much busier than it was on my last visit some 3 yrs ago, but there still are many abandoned buildings. Vientiane has a bit of night life but it seems to close up about midnight.
I headed back to Chiang Mai on Friday. Smooth sailing thru customs and immagration on both sides of the border. It's a bit of a long haul back to Chiang Mai. 940 kms. And back to Thai drivers. I had to pay a bit of road tax and got to try out the new Thai breathalyzer machines. After getting run off the road 3 times by on coming/overtaking cars I elected to fall in behind some fast movers going my way . At least they get some respect. JOHN