The Loop In Central Lao. Phin - Toumlan - Salavan - Ta Oy - Nong - Dong

Yuri Orlov

Nov 13, 2018
Perhaps january is the best time to ride in Southern and Central Lao. With no precipitations for one month or so the trails are easy to pass and the temperature is beneath 35 Celsius.
From Phin the old road 23 leads 40 km or more south through the forest to Tat Hai village. It is a decent gravel road with a few detour possibilities to ride smaller trails in the jungle

The famous bombed bridge. Nowadays a tourist attraction.

The construction of the new bridge began already. Today still need a ferry to cross the Banghiang river.

After the river begins a sandy net of trails through the bush to the first village. It looks like Australian outback a bit.

This is what called the
Ho Chi Minh trail

Sometimes I had to abandon the route 23 to take a detour. Demining is still not finished.

Following this sandy trail that used to be a road 23.

In the beginning of january there is no water anymore in the streams. So sad about the wildlife. It was very hot also in this area.

After 40 or 50 km in the jungle with only few small villages (I do not remember how many km. Sorry) the trail begins to be easier with more villages on site. On the next picture you can see the destroyed bridge and the steep descent and ascent. The remnants of the bridge are on the left side of the picture

Approaching Toumlan intersection the road begins wider

Last time when I have been in this area four or five years ago I continued further south on the road 23. But this time I preferred the easy sealed road ride to Salavan.
I am anticipating so much an adventure model of electric motocycle. With no noise in the forest there will be much more chances to spot the wildlife.

Tasty and very spicy to cry seafood salad in civilisation

After the overnight stop in Saravan I rode 150 km to the Lalay border with Vietnam. The officials told me that it is a fully international border crossing already open for westerners and I am allowed to cross.
Beautiful river on the way to Lalay


Close to Ta Oy begins a 50 kms long road to another one hydroelectric project.

This a very new gravel road with a lot of cobblestones. It was very painful for the tyres. Lot of trucks.

Cobblestones and sand.






I did only 27 km and decided to come back before dark. Does anyone rode the remaining 23 km to Kalum? Does it exists the further link Kalum - Saravan or Sekong? Locals told that this is only way to the dam.

From Tha Oy there is a new road to Nong. I decided to check this alternative trail. After few villages on a good gravel and sometimes sealed road the way leads to the lovely bamboo bridge. The locals asked me 50.000kip. Finally bargaining price was 10.000.

The road is almost with no shade. It is new. No villages after the river crossing for 30 km.

In the first villages often there are houses and sala on war missils pillars

This alternative route is easier than the wild one, but not so beautiful. However there are some nice points like this stream crossing with very steep and sleepery sandy ascent. No idea how it is possible to ascent after the rain. Close to the ford they began to built a bridge.

The next picture I took from the new bridge close to Muang Nong.

I rode 30km or so to the rapids in Tangatai. Rapids are nice and impressive. But I think it is quite touristy now. The beggars are annoing. This is a very insane area also. The people looks drugged and drunk. Men and women. I have seen syringes on soil. Lot of litter. Nature is almost destroyed.

The legendary (I think it merits this epithet already) bamboo bridge over the Banghiang river. Locals confirmed - it was build in two days only.


From Nong to Dong the road is sealed. With almost no trafic it was a pleasant soft ride for 40 km to the small but interesting war museum in Dong. Worth a visit. On the way from Nong to Dong I did also a 16 km detour on another line of the Ho Chi Minh trail.


I spend more than a week riding each day 200 - 300km in this area. Almost all on dirt and stones. Walking also. I will upload some reports later.


Staff member
Mar 22, 2016
Thanks for the effort in posting this trip report! Wow, that house built on "war missile pillars" is impressive. I'm not sure it would be possible to get a good nights sleep there! Too much worry about an explosion... :cold_sweat:

The bamboo bridge is amazing...

Looking forward to the next reports!