To Four Corners of Laos - Road Summary

May 29, 2006
Vieng Xai - Phongsali - Houey Xai - Salavan
and bits in between



This is a summary of the roads we did in early 2007. For full reports, photos etc go to:

Nameo border crossing - Vietnam to Laos:
Vietnamese side the problem. No Guarantees on a bike, but worth a go if you have a Minsk or stepthrough. Have the ownership papers of the bike.

Nameo – Xam Tai 82km
Turn south 12km west of Nameo for the road to Xam Tai. New road, asphalt upgrade finished late 2006. Up and down big hills. Enjoyable corners. There is a good Minsk mechanic in Xam Tai.

Nameo – Xam Nua
Pre-loved asphalt road. Pretty good condition. Scenic near the Vietnamese border. There were road works near Xam Nua (Feb 2007).

Xam Nua – Houayma
Did not ride as we were discouraged from doing so by the 7 locals that we discussed it with. May be due to Hmong activity near Phu Pathi? Sounds like you would get stopped if you gave it a go, but who knows.

Xam Nua – Suan Hin – Nam Nuen
Enjoyable ride from Xam Nua to Suan Hin. Suan Hin is worth a look, take the turn east at the signpost and stay on that road for 5km or so, you will not miss it.
The ride from Suan Hin to Nam Nuen is fantastic. A good 1 ½ lane road with a good even asphalt surface, many curves on the ridges of the hills. Beautiful.

Nam Nuen – Vieng Thong
A good ride. The roadwork to the east of Phou Lao is progressing. At the end of February 2007 there was 20 – 25km of rocky road, and a lot of newly sealed road, the rest is OK asphalt. Some jungle scenery as you approach Vieng Thong.

Vieng Thong – Nong Khiaw
Great ride. Fantastic passing through the Phou Loei NBCA, awesome during the 15-20km approach to Nong Khiaw. Middle section of the ride had broken sections along the road – a bit of a pain.

Nong Khiaw – Oudomxai
Not as scenic or enjoyable a ride as the ones previous, but that may have been because of a bout of giardia I had. Well-used tarmac, old, broken up in quite a few places.

Oudomxai – Phongsali
130km of the 235km is rocky dirt road. The first 63km (to Sin Xin) is newly sealed and awesome, no potholes/dips, sweeping moderate corners following the river, nice hilly surrounds. Turn left at Sin Xin and prepare for 110km of dirt/dust/rock. First 50km pretty good, last 60km rougher. At Ban Yo it turns to tarmac, but you still get another 20km of dirt road on the way to Phongsali.

Phongsali – Hat Sa – Muong Khua
20km of dirt road to Hat Sa, not too bad. Hired a boat for three bikes to Muong Khua for US$90. Relaxing 5-hour trip down the Nam Ou to Muong Khua.

Muong Khua – Oudomxai
Great road. Newly sealed. Curvaceous.

Oudomxai – Luang Nam Tha
First 10km or so broken asphalt road, after this there is a good stretch of used asphalt, windy, not overly hilly or scenic. A few more broken areas near the junction at Na Teuy. From Na Tuey you are on the Northern Laos Autobahn for the 37km to LNT. Wide, fast, smooth, bizarre.

Luang Nam Tha – Muang Sing – Muang Long – Vieng Phukha
From LNT to Muang Long it is a dirt road, not too bad. Jeremy rode south into the Nam Ha NBCA and made it to Vieng Phukha, but it is a walking track for most of the way. See the post about it: ... t2336.html

Luang Nam Tha – Houeyxai
This Thailand to China highway is approaching completion, only 30km or so is road construction. The rest is smooth, fast, and quite curvaceous in places. Some of it is very good fun. Quite a bit of jungle.

Houey Xai – Xiengkhone via the Mekong and Kone Teun
It was US$10 for a bike and person on the backpacker boat. We disembarked at Kone Teun which is just before Pa Khop. From here it was a 2-hour ride on small dirt roads before we got near Pa Khop (we are not sure if we took a wrong turn). A couple of deepish water crossings. The roads in this area are very dusty (or muddy if wet). Deep dust/sand and rocks over a packed dirt base.

Xiengkhone – Hongsa
Deep dust/sand and rocks over a packed dirt base. Some quite steep hills. Would be tricky in the wet season. There is road construction going on east of Xiengkhone and we were sent on a detour. Stopped by the army and asked for passports – no problem. Quite barren scenery, lots of burn off. After Muang Ngeun the dirt road improves and better time can be made before getting to Hongsa.

Hongsa – Luang Prabang (directly east rather than heading through Xayaboury) 124km
The turn off left to take this road is 8.5km east of Hongsa (N 19 41.376 E 101 24.024). From the turn off to LP it is 116km. The first 60km is STEEP packed dirt/rock road with rutting from the wet season. The last 50km is flatter and pick-ups do it. There are about 8-10 stream crossings, nothing too deep in the dry season. We did not see any vehicles (even the small tractor units) on the 20km to 60km section. A bit of jungle. A good fun ride but take enough gear/water to sort out any problems. ... html#15541

Oudomxai – Nga – Ban Lathane – Pak Ou – Luang Prabang ... t2461.html
To get to Nga head south west from Oudomxai on highway 2W, 14km from Oudomxai turn left. Good all season dirt road till Nga. After Nga it changes to a lower quality dirt road but its still pretty good for a while, with one deep water crossing (there was a dodgy wooden bridge that was padlocked up when we were there) then it changes to a fun 4x4 rollercoaster of a road for 40km or so until you hit the end of the dirt road at Ban Lathane on the Mekong. This road is awesome fun on a dirt bike. There were a couple of junctions, so maybe you could end up somewhere else. We hired a large boat for US$16 for the 40 minute trip down to Pak Ou. Getting up the bank at Pak Ou is a little tricky.

Luang Prabang to Vientiane
Tarmac, twisting, good views near Phu Khoun, not as good after Vang Vieng.

Vientiane – Pakxan – Na Hin
Straight boring highway until you turn east onto highway 8 at Vieng Kham. Then it turns into a very scenic tarmac road winding through black karst and jungle.

Na Hin - Kong Lor Cave 40km-ish
This will soon be a fast sealed road. At the moment it is a fast dusty packed-dirt road where you need to slow for the unfinished concrete fords. Cool karst scenery. Check the 7.5km long Kong Lor cave out, US$10 for boat hire and boatmen (return).

Na Hin – Lak Xao
Na Hin to Lak Xao is winding great condition asphalt that travels through awesome limestone karst and jungle. Excellent.

Lak Xao – Nakai
Winding dusty/rocky road through jungle. You will get dusted/taken out by the trucks heading to/from the dam.

Nakai – Mahaxay – Xaybuathong
Fast packed dirt, the karst of Khammouane continues. The turn off to Mahaxay (N 17 45.089 E 105 15.041) is at a west-facing condom billboard as you start to head directly west towards Thakhek. Fast dirt road to Xaybuathong which continues after Xaybuathong for another 15km or so. Then abruptly it stops and there are small tracks leading straight, left and right. We took the right fork and followed these small tracks turning south at each fork until we hit the river. There was a small bridge at N 17 03.946 E 105 64.07. Head south from here and you will find the road (10). If you follow your nose on this fast dirt road (with asphalt near the villages) you end up at Xepon.

Xepon – Dong – Nong – The Wops - Ta Oi – Salavan
Easy to start, then you hit a big river at Nong and it all goes downhill from there. ... t2462.html

Salavan – Toumlan – Phin
Ok-ish dirt/dust/rock to Toumlan. The middle section of this trip is challenging. There are two big river crossings. You need a boat for one of them. See post.

Phin – Vientiane
Fast and straight.

Road to the tin mines.
Great scenery. Dirt road with a few dips and bumps. Well worth the trip to the mines and the old French township.