Wet Season No Plans Tour - Southern Laos Jun - Jul 2013

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by brian_bkk, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    G'day All,

    Another ripper ride with the Ubon Shogun (James) recently.. End June - Early July 2013

    We have done a few rides recently out and around the Thai - Lao border in the Chong Mek / Srindahorn area.

    Together decided it was a good opportunity to get over to Laos (weather permitting) for a final romp around prior to the rainy season proper setting in..

    Extremely lucky with the weather.. You could not have asked for better for this time of year.
    Last day was overcast but no rain at all..

    The PLAN:-

    Get to Ubon, cross the border and spend one night at Tad Fane resort leaving our gear and ride around the Plateau for the first day.
    After that.. No Plan... take it as it comes..

    In part as we were not sure how the trails and weather will be as previous two weeks there had been a bit / lot of rain..
    As we were riding these 6 days.. It was very evident that it could have been a lot more muddy only a week or so earlier.
    We still have some very slippery clay and some good mud to ride through.. but on the whole.. It was as good as could be expected for end June early July.

    James meets me at the airport with bikes and gear in the pickup and off we go to the hotel in Chong Mek.
    Diet Pizza in the pick-up to sustain us until the morning.

    While on the way we discussed the possiblility of trying to get down the Plateau from Paksong to the last big river crossing on Route 18.
    James had traced as best he could from Google Earth the trail that goes down and where he couldn't make it out.. Guessed the in between bits..
    We were both hesitant as rainy season, clay and the unknown.. Can we get through, how high are the rivers and hope we don't get most of the way to turn around..

    Day 1.
    Up bright and early to the border.. first ones there for the opening.
    All very efficient and fast as usual. The officials as usual very friendly at this crossing

    Arrive on the Lao side.. Big upgrades going on..

    Report on the border upgrade below

    Arrive at Tad Fane to be greeted by Dirk (Koffie) Well known character for his love of all things coffee....


    The accommodation

    Breakfast with the best view you could ask for.

    Short clip of the waterfall in all its glory.

    After a great couple of hours chatting with Dirk and drinking copious amounts of his lovely coffee..
    We decide we had better do some riding or we head for the hammocks for the rest of the afternoon.

    We decided on the riding.. Taking a few trails here and there that always ended up back on the big and rutted main tracks.
    After the riding we had been doing in Chong Mek it was a little boring to be honest..

    So we decide to do a recky on the track down from Paksong to Route 18 - last river crossing...

    Ride out of Paksong for around 15km and turn off.. All good so far even if a bit of a boring main track..
    You can see where it had rained and been a mess.. but had mostly dried up...


    Still at an elevation of over 1,200 metres above sea level and flat.

    Some nice riding and creek crossings


    Making new friends along the trails

    It begins to get a bit slippery but nothing too bad.. the sun is out and helping.

    The the trail has a bit of cover from the sun.. more and more slippery. No offs so far.. All good.

    Riding along thinking this is looking good and we may be able to ride this tomorrow with an early start..

    Next thing arrive upon major road construction... Thinking there goes our adventure, the track must be road all the way from the other side..

    I venture a little closer than the pic above but don't go too far as waiting for James.. .
    No sign of James and I turn back around and head back to make sure all is OK...

    GT SLIDER....

    It was bloody slippery as you can see below.. Green moss all over the trail..


    This was the beginning of our GT Slider ride back..

    Now the elevation is up and going down is easier.. a bit of throttle at the wrong time or anything really and you get the following






    We attracted a lot of attention and had some good laughs with the locals.. One of the locals told us he came off his Honda Wave 5 times..

    My turn.. The Ubon Shogun can't have all the fun...

    What is the first thing you do when you crash? Get up and take a photo...

    Bike facing in the opposite directions we were heading.. Good long slide as you can see in the picture by the scrape in the clay.

    We head back to Tad Fane to lick our wounds.


    We decide that night to head back the next day and check out the road works and how far we can get....

    To be continued...
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  3. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    I been looking forward to this report, two blokes riding the slippery red Laos trails in the wet season,... adventurous to say the least.

    I think it would have been hard to leave that beautiful view where you guys had breakfast. I would have stayed there for lunch, dinner, sunset beers, and night caps as well.

    Cheers Rex
  4. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    G'day Rex,

    You hit the nail on the head there. After a great night eating and drinking at Tad Fane with lovely views..

    It was indeed hard to leave.. We were up early, not sure what happened.. The time just went and breakfast turned in to lunch time..

    Plus we had to fix up the bikes from the Sliders the day before..
    Again bent my gear lever..
    Doing my own repairs!! Still need to learn to change a tyre ;-)

    One last view before we go..

    We are really not leaving at the best time.. Gone mid day and heading up to Paksong and we still want to attempt the route down the Plateau to Route 18..

    Refuel and leave Paksong at 1pm.

    Go and check out the road works and see how far we can get and may be turn back or keep going. Depending on conditions...

    We delve in a little deeper.. crickey.. Look at this mud..


    That looks pretty sloppy and I really don't want to have to pull bikes out of mud for the rest of the afternoon...
    Better walk it first and see if I disappear or make it to the other side...

    One last look back in case this is the end

    James has the rope handy to throw me and pull me out in case the Boolaven Plateau decides to swallow me whole

    The Ubon Shogun decided we should proceed...

    We make it to the other side.. I decide to go for a walk as far as I can in the distance to the dirt mound.

    Give the signal that the other side is looking OK...

    Looking back to where we came from.. The mountain being devoured by machinery

    We have two choices to pass



    With one looking slippery and dodgy as hell walking it..

    Two was my choice.. Also good fun. When you are first.. You never know.. Will I sink, slide, etc etc..

    Next is the Ubon Shoguns turn.

    Yet again we attracted some attention.. We were probably the most entertainment the workers had for the month if not year to date.
    They all came out and chatting and encouraging us to go on.. Every step of the way following up to the next part..

    Then the road gets a better


    Time to confess..
    I am having serious reservations about getting down the Plataue before dark now.. We messed around here for around 45 mins 30 min..

    James and I discuss the options and concerns. Then decide to push on for 30 mins and check out the conditions.
    If OK we keep going if not, turn around and go back and start early the next morning..

    Then with in 1 to 2 km we came to an abrupt end to the road works..

    That 30 mins became a point of no return.. You can see the moss and it was so so so slippery.. When we reached the bottom.
    We both knew we would not get back up easily at all.. so pushed on and it got a little better, then slippery as hell.

    That is it.. We have to keep going as heading back is not an option...

    More to come...
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    This looks like a gripping ride & read. That slimy green film on the wet clay tightens my sphincter right up, just sitting in my computer chair.
  6. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    These sphincters were sealed right up for the next 4 hours at least. Until we reached some less treacherously slippery trails at the base of the Plateau..

    We begin our decent ever so slowly down.. slightest move and you went sliding sideways..

    We made it with out dropping it down the first green slippery part.

    Hmmm. If it is like this all the way. It is going to take us a month to get to Attapue. Now around 2 + PM
    Me: Shall we turn back? James: Lets go 30 minutes.. OK..

    The trail has turned in to a creek from the mountain run off..

    Ok going for a while.. Then steep and slippery again.
    The next 5 KM took us 2.5 hrs! We knew we couldn't ride back up.. It was difficult enough getting down.

    We lost count and stopped taking photo's of the GT Sliders shortly after.. Just pick up the bikes and carry on.

    Steering your bike around an obstacle and not dropping it was a herculean task.



    This is an easy bit where you could get a bit of speed.. Not a full monty GT Slider, but you get the idea.

    Coming down the mountain.. I am leading.. Left or right.. They both join up..
    I take the left.. Turns to mud and open the throttle to get through and come around the bend to a tree across the trail.
    Rather than drag and turn the bikes around and get out the mud.. James brings out a trick "chain saw". Great knife and cuts the tree branches off and we could pass.

    The Honda Wave boys have mastered these trails.. Riding down like some kind of Snow Ski.. Flip flops as the stabilisers and it works..
    James had a GT Slider moment.. Me walking back down the trail, Honda Wave boys passing.

    The Honda Wave boys offered to lead us out.. But we didn't want to slow them down.. LOL
    We never saw them again..

    While I didn't have a GT Slider moment " Technically " I did seem to get sucked in to bloody great big holes.
    Like some kind of black hole that I couldn't escape.. Once in, dismount and pull the bike out....


    I am not crying... after dismounting the bike and standing on the clay I started to slide off down the mountain.
    Jumped in to the hole and grabbed on to the earth wall to gain my balance.. Then managed to rub mud in to my eyes..

    Dragged out of one hole and slide in to another...


    At least once on the way down we started talking about camping along the trail and what food etc we had
    We could have no worries.. I had some beef jerky and the life straw and James has some bits and bobs too.

    After getting out of the Black holes, we rehydrate and continue..
    Finally, not as steep but still slippery.. Now we can do at least 20 kph if not more some times..

    A small creek crossing.. Probably impassable if there had been more rain.

    Walk the next crossing to see how deep it is

    We spot a small bridge further upstream.. Luckily as this was too deep, rocky and fast flowing.


    Another small creek crossing along the way to route 18

    Now we finally reach flat graded roads.. One last big river to cross..

    The last big river crossing and dusk is not far away and we still have some KM's to cover to get to Route 18 river crossing..

    We pull up at the river.. There is no way we are riding this..

    As we pulled up two locals came along and I asked which way..
    They looked at the bike and us then point to the bridge.


    A closer look



    Time to ride over the bridge

    Next the Ubon Shogun

    Next we are able to open it up on the graded trails.. 70 / 80 even 90 kph.
    Felt like freedom after the crawl down the plateau.

    We stop at a village to refuel.. They tell us the rest of the way to Attapue is Sabai Sabai.. and laugh when we tell them about our journey.

    Only 1 hour away.. Now the funny things is.. except for the very start at the road works.. Where we were told 2 hrs to Attapue.
    Everyone we met along the way said.. Attapue, 1 hr away.. By this stage we have been hearing 1 hr for the last 5 hrs..

    We arrive at the last river crossing on route 18 right on dusk.
    Pull down to the river looking for a raft to get over.. The river is too high to ride.
    No rafts.. Go back up to the village and they direct us further down..

    There is now a bridge over the last river crossing.. Also looks like road works going further in to route 18.

    After a couple of KM it is pitch dark.
    We are able to make good time.. Road works and bridge works and cows laying on the road to dodge..

    The last part of the road just before Attapue was hard.. Really rutted and really rough and not much fun in the dark.

    Shattered and had enough.. Suggest to James we head for the biggest and best hotel.. James agrees.


    Time to check in

    Bike friendly hotel.. Bikes sleep in the lobby

    We arrived at 8pm. 7 hrs ride..

    Accommodation report here:-

    The track:-


    Shattered we head for food and beers.

    More to come.
  7. Ubon Shogun

    Ubon Shogun Member

    The ole sphincter loosened right up as soon as you hit that ground though.

    Thanks for posting the report Brian. Reliving each time I read it.

    Tracks slippery more than before with deeper rivers too cross. Am I mad to want to go back before the dry season?:happy2:
  8. bsacbob

    bsacbob Ol'Timer

    Great report Brian, the roadworks area looks interesting :crazy:
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Love some of the bridge pics, especially the ones you wouldn't get me riding across anymore. :wave:
  10. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Bob...

    Going to save this for the end of the report as not complete yet..

    But might as well share now :)

  11. RBM

    RBM New Member

    Wow amazing pics and videos guys.

    Sure makes our green trail riding here in Cebu look tame.....
  12. Moto-Rex

    Moto-Rex Moderator

    Brilliant video Brian.

    Riding the suspended bridge must have been nail bitting,….what a ripper.
    Love the big river crossings and sloppy mud.
    But the best is that little kid steering the ferry to shore. The young fella looks about 7 years old,....classic Laos.

    What a winner.

  13. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Interesting contrast..

    Day 1 - Look at the clean clothes

    Day 2 - Look at the not so clean clothes
  14. Ubon Shogun

    Ubon Shogun Member

    That dirt is just from the last 2 hours up Road 18 to Attapue in the DARK! Riddled with pot holes, loose stones and DUST...the hot shower sure felt good.
  15. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    The next day we woke up and met for a nice breakfast which is included with the room rate.


    Both still really shattered.. we talked around what we should and could do for the day. (Neither of us very enthusiastic)
    It became apparent to both of us pretty quick.. We were both stuffed and needed a rest day..

    First order of the day was to find and get a soapy.

    James is your man if you need soapy in Attapue


    The bikes certainly needed it.. My chain started making a clunking sound which was a bit disturbing..
    The sound disappeared with a soapy and a good jet of water in the right places ..

    Next to the Soapy place there was a great little shop with bits and pieces for bikes, trucks etc.

    We needed more oil for the chains.
    The kids loved our bikes

    Then we went for a ride around town, over the bridge and back and then along the river looking for a nice place to relax the afternoon away..

    James having some fun with the owner.. She thought this was quite funny when she woke up and we showed her..

    My turn in the hammock and about 6 or 7 beers later.. I was nicely primed.

    Nice afternoon just chatting, boozing and watching the world go past.. (Smelling the roses)

    Next destination Sekong
  16. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Quick discussion over breakfast and unsure if the weather will continue to be good to us..

    We decide against riding up along the HCM trail to Sekong.. Plus we have both done this before.
    It is steep and there is a massive amount of road works when you get closer to Sekong.
    Last time I rode this with Rex it felt like we had been teleported to Mars in a futuristic sci fi movie.

    Last thing we want to do is wade through dry season bull dust that is now turned to a mud fest and slip and slide up and down the mountains.
    Even in the south there are mountains 1000 metres above sea level .

    Neither of us had gone north west from Paam towards the river and up.
    Very nice ride actually.. Flat, but as you get towards the river nice villages..
    Not sure if road works going on but definitely running the graders over the roads out that way

    The route.


    New trails popping up every where.. with bridges going in.. This trail was not on any GPS or paper map we had with us


    Giving way to the locals
  17. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    We had been following the graded roads which are OK.. but ideally it would be nice to ride along the river though the villages

    If you had been belting along here.. A surprise is install..


    (Dodgy crossing on the map)
    We stopped and had a look.. The entire thing moved when you stepped on it.
    Not built for 130kg bike and 80 / 110kg Farangs..


    My more cautious side kicked in and said.. Lets go back.. Would be nice to keep following this trail.. but.. If it is a dead end as we expect.
    That means we have to cross back over this bridge.. providing it doesn't collapse in our first effort to get over..

    Back to the wider graded road and still interesting sights to see and interact with the locals.

    If you look closely at the first person.. You can see a big smile.

    Stunning views of village life and the Boolaven Plateau.

    (Dead Track on the Map)

    We continue on and the road runs out.. literally comes to a stop.
    There is a ferry crossing for people and bikes. We want to try and go dirt all the way as much as possible.
    So take a narrow muddy track that should lead us to a track that is on the GPS and maps we have..

    We managed to get a little lost back and forth until we got on the right track

    Some nice riding through here..

    At about this time.. The HTM started getting real sick.. James pulls over and decides to go back to the creek and cool the bike down.
    I am sure we have gone past the trail. While James is cooling down the HTM I go back and look for the trail.
    On the third ride by.. I spot it. unused track and ride in. Soon to come to a bunch of trees across the track.

    Hmmmm. No other tracks to get us to Sekong on the GPS or Maps..
    Pretty sure the other tracks we had been following will lead us around here. I venture on while the HTM is cooling down

    You could see it had been a mud bath further on.. Go back to see how James is getting along.

    HTM still very sick..
    We decide not to risk it as we have no map and don't want to get stuck in the bush with a broken bike and better to limp back to the village at the ferry.

    Eventually make it back.. James thinks he picked up some bad fuel from the gas station in Paam.. It was a brand new station.
    Just goes to show.. Those smaller places selling out the drum can be more reliable.

    Looks like this is a new or upgraded ferry crossing.. Sponsored by the German Gov't..

    Concrete all the way down both sides of the river.


    Waiting my turn.

    Kids playing slippery dip with the banks of the river.

    Time for the Bangkok Weekend Warrior.

    Son learning the family business.

    Ride a little further on dirt and it takes us to the main paved road up to Sekong.
    We pop out about 1 or 2 km before the road that goes up to Paksong.

    Amazed at the progress again.. When I first rode this 3 plus year ago.. It was a trail mostly.
    Then two years ago getting dug up..
    1 year ago and not much trail left, mostly all road works.

    Now it is being paved...

    Up to Sekong with a stop off at the river to look at the waterfall.

    Check in at the GH near the ferry terminal.

    Head up to the place Rex and I stayed last time as the tucker is real good..

    Next destination Saravan.
  18. VietHorse

    VietHorse Ol'Timer

    Great photos and impressive trip, Brian.
    Did you guys clogged the hotel drainage system??
  19. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks VietHorse.

    Usually Lao food has the opposite reaction on me.. Anti clogging agent... ;-)

    Every where we went we had fantastic food and big portions.
    Best food yet.. Lao is on the up when it comes to food that is for sure.
    No Lao belly either..

  20. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    Sekong to Saravan the long way round.

    Rex showed me this route a year and a half back

    The first long bit before the village turn off seems to be busier and not so nice this time around
    We passed a lot of logging trucks :-(

    There were still a few nice snaps to be had along the way.



    Toll bridge ready when the water rises.


    Make it to the village turn off and James needs to refuel..

    We spot this little girl walking up the road taking shelter from the sun

    Next a really fanastic ride down the trail to Saravan.. Really is pretty.
    Also the most mud and water we had faced yet.. A REAL mud bath earlier



    We stop here and really can't see any easy way around

    James goes first.. So I can take pictures ;-)


    I pull up further down as close as I can and try and find a better line.. There isn't one..

    Just about to take off and wish for the best.. When a lady in the rice fields yells out and gets my attention..
    Go back 100 150 metres and there is a track that takes you through the village and out the other side.

    Pretty happy about that..

    Next a couple of bridges to cross..

    The next bridge

    Last time with Rex

    A lot more mud before we reach the next river crossing


    Last time with Rex

    The next crossing just before Saravan rex and I rode last time

    This time the river is too high


    Last time with Rex

    Over the bridge and in to Saravan for another ripper feed

    Then up to Tad Lo Lodge.. My favourite resort in this area.

    Sundowner beers

    Sent Rex a few Whatsapp pics.. Told him the next beer was for him

    Next ride to the border and back to Thailand, but first we must cross the mighty Mekong.
  21. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    That's quite a river crossing.

    Well done!
  22. rhiekel

    rhiekel Ol'Timer

    Amazing ride, loved the water crossings. That long suspension bridge would have given me a
    pucker factor...If you fell to the side, looks like the wire would catch the bike, and you would
    plunge into the river. You guys did it just right, nice and slow.

    The level of road construction in Laos is nothing short of astonishing. I wonder where all
    that money is coming from, as clearly Laos cannot afford it... :)
  23. mikehohman

    mikehohman Ol'Timer

    China. The money is from China.
  24. brian_bkk

    brian_bkk Moderator Staff Member

    The final days ride.....

    To be honest.. I tend to take a less challenging and more well known path on the last day of a ride.
    Just don't want to screw up on the last day if possible.. But the Ubon Shogun had other ideas.


    The night before James had suggested we take this track through the rice paddies on the other side of the river to Vang Tao.
    BUT.. What would it be like over that side.. it is flat and rice paddies.. We had one very muddy experience in similar terrain already.

    We decide to try it.. Rather than taking the paved way.. Look and plot a direct path down the plateau to route 13.
    This track was nothing too exciting.. Neither of us had done it before..

    The best part was the last big river crossing.. What a ripper..

    Overview with car ferry.

    Collecting the toll on the raft..

    How and where did that bridge come from

    Then you go along a bit more dirt before you pop out on tarmac. The 13 is not far away.

    Blast down the 13 for a good 20 or 30 km...

    Find the turn off and head to the Mekong and the ferry.

    We had to get the bikes part way down, then turn them around and back them on to the raft..

    Glad some locals were there to help back the bikes down..
    I was already looking under my armpit to make sure I didn't mis step and end up in the Khong.

    Don't have a very good picture.. But when you are on this little 'boat' the Mekong felt like the pacific ocean...


    The next two pics.. Neither of us have a happy face.
    1. The struggle down the Khong and crossing the Khong.. You will note we are sitting low so we don't 'rock the boat'..
    2. The unknown possible 26 km mud fest to the Vang Tao / Chong Mek border.


    Chris (AKA - Steve Canyon) said it looks like we are special forces coming back from Ops LOL..

    All I know is.. When I saw this pic and how dirty we are.. I knew why we had stares and gasps at the duty free shop.

    No pics on the other side.. Flat and rice fields, not too wet..
    Nice to go this way than the usual route to Pakse on the tarmac..
    This route was around 26 km.. If we had gone all the way to Pakse and back out it would have been over 70km.

    Back to Chong Mek and while we rented the rooms for 100 baht each.. Changed and cleaned up.
    The bikes had a soapy..

    What a setup.. Accomodation, food and soapy all owned by the same person.


    Plus they were happy to see us..

    For those that were wondering if this trip report would ever bloody end...

    Fabulous 6 day ride. When we started this trip.. We had no idea how the weather would be or where we would end up.
    Planned for the first day and night only and play it by ear..

    Never in my wildest dreams did I think we would end up in Atapue and do that great trail down the plateau followed by Sekong and Saravan.

    Pictures in the report taken by both of us. Good Job James with the video.. Had no idea you were videoing most of the time.

    Big thanks to James.. Pleasure riding with you mate.. Looking forward already to the next ride along the border at Chong Mek.

  25. Rod Page

    Rod Page Ol'Timer

    Brian, just got to this - FANTASTIC. Just a little different here in Bora Bora.
    You & Moto-Rex & the reports you furnish add greatly to an already enjoyable life.
  26. muddyrider

    muddyrider New Member

    Awesome trip report Brian, nice place for ride also.

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