The Elephant Trail Odyssey 2012

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by ianyonok, Mar 22, 2012.


  1. It all started
    when David the GT-Rider mentioned the old elephant trail that runs from the Nan border crossing up to Luang Prabang. The trail that was used in the 1800s for trips from Bangkok to the old Lao royal capital. This just had to be ridden….. friends also got the bug… we’ve GOT to ride the elephant trail….

    So, in February 2012, the team came together;
    Chris the Ex Dread – motorcycle racer, skydiver and world adventurer.
    Gary – 4 wheel drive expert, on a one year bike tour of Thailand and Laos.
    Alan – dirt rider and Mt. Everest classic bike tour veteran.
    Eric – dirt rider and Harley cruiser.
    Ian – classic bike nut, ex-rockstar and manager of Viang Yonok hotel

    Chris, Alan and Eric were riding Honda XL250s hired from ST Rental in Chiang Mai at 1000 Baht per day. Ian was riding his Kawasaki KLX 250 and Gary was driving the support truck with bags, tools, food etc.
    The girls came in support;
    Vassana – Ian’s wife, Nong – Gary’s girl, Daeng – Manager at Viang Yonok

    Day 1; Chiang Saen to Pu Chee Fah. 168 klms.


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    The view point on the way to Chiang Khong

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    A neat Yam SR400 in CK that sounded fruity

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    To the top of the mountain

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    Alan living life on the edge at the incredible escarpment of Phu Chee Fah

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    Phu Sawan, a favourite guest house with great views……. at the right time of year...

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    An easy first day

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    Day 2; Pu Chee Fah to Bo Klua. 235 klms.

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    Reality of touring in March

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    The great run off the mountain at Pu Chee Fah through Pu Sang National park twisties down to…

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    The lovely waterfall. Still need to do the 1 hour walk up to the hot spring there sometime

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    Get your kicks on route 1148… Great road surface, lotsa bends, lotsa fun.

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    Over the mountain at Doi Phukha

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    Don Tong waterfall… 500m down the side of the mountain…. With a 50 minute trek back up, but worth it

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    Perfect timing for the Chompoo Phukha tree flowering.

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    A privilege to see this very rare tree in full flower....

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    ....next to the ancient dinosaur jungle.

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    What we are here for….

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    not this....

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    ....but this

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    Salt wells at Bo Klua

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    Bo Klua View Resort is a great spot, in a still unspoilt area.

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    HRH Princess Sirindhorn was staying here a couple of days before us.

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    A cheaper place just across the river, Oon Ai Mang, stay in a tent.

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    Day 3; Bo Klua to Luang Prabang. 265 klms.

    1081 north up to Huay Kon, great road.

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    With friendly border guards

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    Crossing from Thailand took about 1.5 hours. We met two guys from CM on ER6ns. They reckoned the elephant trail was putting their bikes right to the limit. I’ll bet it was a tough ride on road bikes.

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    No man’s land

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    Crossing into Laos took about 2 hours but straightforward.

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    The Elephant Trail; 120 klms of dust road and trail to Luang Prabang.

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    Great fun.

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    Serious landslide

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    Choice of bamboo bridge or water crossing

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    A remote Hmong village. Lovely people.

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    And….. a working elephant on the Elephant Trail……. Superb… just a shame the work was probably removing logs from the forest

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    Fill up the tanks with fuel sold by the fanta bottle.

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    They breed young here.

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    On the ferry at about 8 pm, across the Mekong to LP, after a hard but most satisfying days ride.

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    There were about 20 klms of serious trailing with some tricky technical sections. A tight squeeze for the pick-up support truck in places.
    We did what we came for, rode the Elephant Trail and it was great fun.

    Day 4; In Luang Prabang. 0 klms.

    Looking back across the river, to the ferry crossing point.

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    Temple at the old palace.

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    A royal Edsel.

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    We stayed the Mekong Holiday Villa. Mr Dan runs this and the Muanglao Riverside Villa. Rooms for 1050 Baht. Nice rooms. This is their “beach area”.

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    Day 5; Luang Prabang to Phonsavan. 230 klms.

    The “Royal Road” highway 13 to Karsi. Great views if the haze clears. The road is getting a little busier and some slippery looking surfaces, but still a great ride.

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    Breaking rocks by hand……..

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    Phou Khoun junction to take road 7 out to Phonsavan.

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    Madam Vassana having a snooze.

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    Ian having issues getting aboard…

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    Traditional meets Sat TV

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    Beautiful countryside

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    Ying gratai.. Thai expression meaning “shooting rabbits”…

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    Spiderman

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    Lunch and dinner

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    Site 1

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    Jars and bomb craters

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    Safe haven

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    Site 2

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    Long Cheng CIA HQ airbase still off limits according to this travel agent

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    Craters - best restaurant in Phonsavan…

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    …Opposite the MAG de-mining Information centre

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    We stayed at the Anoulek Khen Lao hotel; good enough

    Day 6; Phonsavan to Vieng Thong. 200 klms.

    Highway 7 to highway 6 to route 1C.

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    In a Tai Dam village

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    What a sweetie

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    Bit of road slippage on 1C

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    More beautiful scenery

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    Another great sign…

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    Lunch with Mrs Nang, Mrs Tar or Mrs Jai

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    Happy faces at the bicycle repair shop

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    Route 1C is a great road, quiet, good tarmac, great scenery, 1,000 bends

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    Natural springs at Vieng Thong for a hot shower….

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    Sweet potatoes

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    Not a great guest house, but little choice here.

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    Day 7; Vieng Thong to Nong Khiew. 160 klms.

    Beautiful day of scenery and great riding today.

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    Village rice mill

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    Getting blessed enroute

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    Through the lovely Nam Et National Park

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    Caves of shelter during the war at Nong Khiew

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    Lovely spot Nong Khiew, but growing fast.

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    Sunset Guest House, recommended.

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    Day 8; Nong Khiew to Luang Namtha. 280 klms.

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    A bit narrow, this waterfall trail....

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    Pak Mong to Oudom Xai; not a great road

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    Dusty but happy..

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    Great road of new tarmac twisties from Oudom Xai to Luang Namtha

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    This grasshopper was about 6" long, so we moved him out of the road before he got squashed.

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    Zuela Guest House – recommended in LN, in the centre of town.

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    Day 9; Luang Namtha to Vieng Phoukha. 170 klms (17A, 17B, dirt trail).

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    Muang Sing, near Chinese border

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    On the superb dirt trail from Bahn Long

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    Chris showing us how to drift through turns… honest….


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    More beautiful scenery..

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    .. and remote Hmong villages

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    More great scenery through the Nam Ha National Park

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    Ian on a river crossing…. must do better…


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    Eric’s river crossing style… interesting…

    More remote villages of lovely people

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    Where are we…?

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    Illegal logging brought a tree down over the trail

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    Triple river crossing, now we’re getting the hang of it..

    Poor choice of guest houses in Vieng Phoukha, no problem after another great dirt trail.

    Day 10; Vieng Phoukha to Chiang Saen. 200 klms.

    Fast sweeping tarmac from Luang Namtha all the way to Huay Xai

    Favourite bar restaurant in Huay Xai, Bar How

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    The 100 year old French built fort at Huay Xai, being restored as a tourist spot.

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    The horse trough

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    On the ferry home, a happy bunch

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    Great restaurant in Chiang Khong; the Bamboo

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    Got back to Chiang Saen after a total of about 2500 klms.
    A Grand Holiday for the lads........
    The girls in the truck however, decided it should be called the Thoraman Ouak Tour (Torture and Vomit Tour). They finished the trip with bruises up the arms after the 10,000 bends we went through and Khun Nong was throwing up due to car sickness about 5 times every day.
    On the bright side…. They won’t ask to come again on a lads biking holiday!

    Overall, a tremendous trip. We completed the Elephant Trail and a second long dirt road and both were superb. Some tremendous tarmac roads too, with almost no traffic for 10 days. Great scenery and the privilege of getting to places most people never see. We all threw the bikes a couple of times, to be expected on the dirt, but no injuries and no bike issues. I would recommend this route for those on dirt bikes who want some fun and adventure. :thumbup::D:thumbup:

    Best wishes
    Ian
     
  2. Well done Ian. The Photos on the Elephant trail section didn't load so missed them but all the rest seemed to view OK? Big Trip and a lot of Fun by the looks well done.
     
  3. This looks like a terrific trip Ian but for some reason the pictures for days 1, 2 & 3 didn't come up. Maybe my computer, don't know.
     
  4. Yep, sorry guys, I've found it's best to avoid the "back" button, it tends to screw up the photos..

    Anyway, fixed now. All pics should be there.

    Indeed, a superb trip.

    Ian
     
  5. Yup that works. Brilliant. Off to buy a KLX. Thanks for posting a terrific report and pix Ian.
     
  6. Brilliant report told so well through the excellent sequence of photos. Half your luck.
    Intrigued, given pollution levels thus year, to see so many fires still smoking away along your trip.
     
  7. Great trip report and Pics.. would love to do something like this in the future.
     
  8. Thanks Ian, really enjoyed that .

    Great photos and loved the videos.
     
  9. Great report ..... should be sponsored by kawasaki .... I am afraid I will need a off-road bike very soon!

    Chang Noi
     
  10. Great report and photos.

    Love the village pix that you took on the Elephant trail and 17B.

    Thanks for sharing your “Elephant Trail Odyssey 2012.”

    Moto-Rex
     
  11. An excellent trip, makes me keen to explore, thanks for the report and photos, well done
     
  12. Awesome...... I hadn't caught up with this report till now...... great pictoral trip report, many thanks...... when's the next ETO? :thumbup:
     
  13. Wonderful, Thanks very much for sharing.
     

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