Sth Laos-HCM Trail-Nong Fa Lake-Attapeu

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by bill, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    I recently completed an 11 day trip around Southern Laos in late January 2009 .
    The highlights were the following three offroad day rides.

    1. Ho Chi Minh Trail -Salavan to Dong via Ta Oi-Lahup-Labeng-Nong 188km of dirt (plus ~65km of bitumen on Rt 9 to o/nite in Phin)


    Depart Salavan 7.30 am. First 22km on the way to Ta Oi is smooth graded dirt road and it looks like they will go all the way through eventually.
    After that the road becomes a rough track with loads of small wooden bridges. Some sections were paved with river rocks similar to the fenced off section of the HCM Trail Sth of Dong.

    Section of track between Salavan and Ta Oi (Tahoy). According to Lonely Planet Tahoy was a major junction on the HCM Trail.


    Arrived Ta Oi 10am and had breakfast at a local restaurant. Plenty of places selling fuel if required. Food was crap but better than nothing.
    Depart Ta oi 10.45am and the fun begins


    Ran into this mudhole near Lahup. It was covered in bamboo offcuts so I didn't see it until it was too late. Took me ~45 mins of trying various methods to finally get the bike out.


    After the mudhole the track narrows

    There are numerous creek crossings up to Nong but most were below knee level except for one Nth of Pachoudon N16 16.301 E106 42.273 which was ~70cm deep. I managed to ride through all of them but the exhaust outlet briefly dipped underwater at the deep one
    There were some tricky steep and rocky inclines around some of the creek crossings between Lahap and Nong. I came off ascending one of these but that was partly due to being low on energy after digging the bike out of the
    mudhole .

    Still plenty of mines out there ..

    Close to Labeng this chap emerged from the woods and politely motioned me to stand behind a tree with him and leave the bike parked on the track. After 10 minutes there was an explosion up ahead. He then radioed his fellow deminers and cleared me to go through.
    Following Mat Ward's gps track the boat crossing at Nong is avoided and a shallower crossing can be ridden across. Once in Nong you're home free as cellphones work, electricity is available, and a smooth dirtroad takes you to Dong on Route 9.
    Arrived Dong 5pm, actual riding time was 7.5hrs
    After Dong I decided to head to Phin for the night and arrived on sunset at 5.45pm.
    Excellent and challenging day ride.

    2.Attapeu to Nong Fa Lake and return 340km, 9hrs


    Long day but worth it for the scenery thru the mountains.
    Head east from Attapeu on R18b towards Vietnam and after 100km of sealed mountain road you come to a dirt road turnoff on the left signposted as Vang Tat 60km. It’s in the village just after the Xesou bridge
    This road/track takes you to Nong Fa Lake, just follow your nose.

    According to the speedo on my DRZ, I reached a small viewing area of the lake after 63km from the turnoff at R18b. N15 06.370 E107 25.140
    There were numerous villages along the dirt road but only one at N15 04.800 E107 24.134 appeared to sell anything resembling food or water. Locals appeared wary of me and kids didn’t wave. That’s almost a good sign if you like to be off the beaten track. The track itself has a few rough sections and several creek crossings. All the crossings were easy this time of year but I can imagine the first one getting deep in the rainy season.
    There were numerous excavators and surveyors dotted along the track so I guess they have plans for the area.
    The lake itself is peaceful and the water clear. It’s totally undeveloped and there was no one around the day I visited


    3.Pakse to Attapeu via Thang Beng- Route 18a


    Turn off R13 at Thang Beng, ~50km Sth of Pakse.
    Its sign posted as 116km to Attapeu but I clocked up a bit more than that
    The road is hardpack and decreases to a jungle trail in parts. I lost count of creek crossings. Two were too deep to ride across and required a small ferry or carrying the bike across

    First big crossing and I walked the bike thru in 1st gear over uneven rocks N14 43.335 E106 11.761
    Most others I rode thru but the exhaust outlet went under on two muddy creek crossings which almost stalled the bike midway through.

    This one was a carry through due to a combination of depth and uneven rocks. Don’t be surprised if the locals are waiting for you. N14 41.741 E106 16.513

    Lots of unmanned ride thru crossings like this. The deep muddy crossing where the exhaust went under was at N14 41.492 E106 17.259, shortly after the carry thru crossing.
    Naturally they will get easier towards the end of the dry season

    Where the road becomes a trail one is riding thru sections of canopy for around 50km in total

    These kids offer a professional service at the last river crossing ~35km before Attapeu, N14 42.468 E106 29.695

    Its a great ride. Ride time was 5 hrs from the turnoff on R13 to Attapeu.
    I paid the bike carriers Kip40K and the small ferry Kip10K.

    Gt-rider proved to be an excellent source of info to plan this trip.
    Thanks to Auke for gps maps, Jimoi for latest info on track conditions and where to stay etc. For the HCM Trail, Matt Wards trip report at the following link is a must read. ... t2462.html
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  3. Pauche

    Pauche Ol'Timer

    great report!

    i fully understand what u meant because I went thru exactly the same shiiit between Phin to Toumlan last month. I was stuck in a mud hole for almost an hour and had to used up my energy pulling the bike out. after that my hands/legs were soft like jelly and had problems going up the steep and rocky inclines around the numerous river/creek crossings!
  4. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Hi Pauche
    I enjoyed your trip report too and read with interest the section on the Toumlan route.
    This was suggested to me as a possible add on to the Tai Oi route making one big loop!
    Yep, those mudholes can slow you down. Getting a puncture on top of that must have been fun.
  5. jimoi

    jimoi Ol'Timer


    Glad you had a good return trip and no problem with the updates when you called. We should ride a bit together and I've some tracks still up my sleeve.

    Love that run in the south. The video of one of the trips is at

  6. mat.ward

    mat.ward Ol'Timer

    Bloody awesome rides Bill.

    I bet you would have felt a bit lonely out near La Hap all by yourself with your bike sucked into the mud.

    Just a note to anyone thinking of heading out this way: it is chock full of UXO, and due to it being away from good roads there has not been much done to deal with it. It gave me the shits when I found out exactly how hammered this area was after we did the ride. Seriously, be careful.

    To give you an idea, here is the frequency of US bombing in the area west of La Hap (the old road (92) we and Bill went through is the blue line obscured under the bombing data "towers").

    See ... t3274.html for more info on the US bombing data.
  7. bill

    bill Ol'Timer

    Good info Mat and well worth re emphasizing.

    Should also note that I would not have attempted the ride solo without your excellent gps track.....enough things can go wrong without getting lost.
  8. burnjr

    burnjr Ol'Timer

    nice ride /report brothers. :D
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Great report. Don't know how I missed it before.
    Thanks for the contribution.
  10. Axel_F

    Axel_F Member

    On the route Xepon/Dong to Salavan it is possible to stay in both Nong and Ta Oy.

    Ta Oy has two guest houses which are easy to find; 2km past the bridge when coming from the North.

    Nong has one semi-guesthouse. The place in Nong is actually the office of Thai Hao Rubber, a vietnamese company. The second floor houses a few decent rooms. Apparently it is not 'run' as a guesthouse - presumably because it is hardly used - but the rooms are quite decent. Tel number is: 020 6963559.

    When traveling on to Ta Oy from Nong there are three options: (i) follow the main road, which gets you to some kind of 'cliff'; quite hard (I suppose this is the 'boat crossing referred to in the post below), (ii) go slightly West for a few clicks (I think it was West, better check with the locals) and cross the river through the water (you will see the ramp leading down to the river), or (iii) drive a bit further down that same road and take the bridge. Latter option will get you on what i think must be a slightly different track/trail than the GT rider map, but eventually also leads you to Ta Oy.

    Attached files 274142=7142-P1050518.
  11. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Great follow-up note Axel & a bridge that would be the envy of all to cross.
    Your profile indicates that you are based in VN - any reports to post from there?

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