KTM Military in the north of Laos


Junior Member
Feb 10, 2011
Well,there I was with my idea of going out on a nice bikeride. It's just that I am not in my own backyard for this. It is about 10000 kilometers from home, wich is Germany.
Never mind all that, having been through mountains in Europe quite a bit ( the Alps and the Karpatian Mountains for instance), I thought nothing could surprise me considering going up and down some hills and going through some bends.
Man was I wrong!
There are mountains without end and about 3 zillion bends in the north of Lao and one is more beautiful then the next one, the scenery changes every 5 seconds and you never ever know what you have to face or what is waiting for you around the next bend.
Since riding offroad is illegal in Germany we have to go elsewhere, and 70 - 80% of all roads in Lao are without blacktop, well I came to OFFROAD HEAVEN.

But to take all the worries away from all you readers, nothing ever went wrong on just about 3000 klicks, nothing ever. In my book riding on a bike through Lao is about as save as it could get out here by any means. Sure I pulled some stunts while I was travelling alone on the bike , wich I would not all repeat if I look back in hindsight, but we all smarter afterwards, arent"t we?
So here I was on a KTM LC 4 Military starting out alone in Vientiane to go to Vang Vieng, Luang Prabang, Oudom Xai, Luang Namtha, Muong Sing, Luang Namtha, Phong Sali, Oudom Xai, Nom Khiew, Vieng Thong, Sam Nua, Vieng Xai, Phonsavan, Luang Prabang, Sayaburi, Pakley and finally back to Vientiane.

First road sign pops up and all of a sudden I am made aware of how much road, dirt and blacktop is waiting out there for me.

End of the first leg is in Vang Vieng. In order to get to the quiet side of town you have to get across the river. There are 2 ways, one you see right here, over the makeshift bridge and hopefully not into the river.

As you can see I opted for the shortcut. Took a deep breath held it for a moment and tried not to push anybody of the bridge.

After some scary moments I could breath out again reaching the other side of the river and the Otherside Guesthouse.

Took a bungalow in the Banana guesthouse, right next to the Otherside guesthouse. I was right at the edge of their lot. No tourists just nature and beautiful scenery and the Karst mountains.
It didn't matter where I stayed, it's all run by one big family. Just go and stay there, lovely place.

Next morning the rickety bridge looked even more dicey, because it got wet during the night. So I opted in this case for way nr.2 a bigger toll bridge about 500 meters down the river.

But before I went over the toll bridge I got out into the countryside for a nice off road ride. A couple of nicely muddy river crossings just to get into the swing again.

Sometimes the river crossings are multi use, as in this case it became the local scooter, motorcycle washing point. Shiny as new, isn't it?

Along the way there is always the chance to find some snack. In this case it's barbecued frog on a stick. yum, yum,yum.

Next day just outside Luang Prabang, there are the Pak Ou caves. It is a nice 30 kilometer ride . 25 of the 30 kilometers nice dirt. Then you park your bike at the parking lot, walk to the boat landing. Ferry across the Mekong, visit the caves and ferry back.

Kuang Si Waterfall is also just outside Luang Prabang. Instead of going northeast, the waterfall is southwest of town. about 40 kilometers. After the intersection , where one branches of, its only one road leading straight to the waterfall. A nice easy , rather beautiful ride through the countryside.

If you want to go for a swim, don't forget to bring your swimming trunks and a towel and it is all yours.

Further up the road, going straight north is Oudom Xai. Up till here the main road ( highway 13) is all blacktop, at least most of the time. Just a few patches of road are in need of a fixer upper.
Then if you go astray, like for example to visit the Nam Kad waterfall, you will have at least 6 river crossings. But no real problems there. Just don't do it on your own like I did. That is, I would say asking for trouble, because after a certain point of the way, maybe halfway there is absolutely nobody out there to pick you up if anything goes wrong. So bring at least a fellow rider, then you don't have to worry about ditching the bike in the river like I had to. The ride out there is magnificent. One has about half a dozen river crossings with very clear water. That means that the depth perception is rather difficult and till the moment you really go for it you don't no for sure how deep it really is , so there was always a little adrenalin involved on my side and on either side of the crossing,
29 Kilometers from the main road in Oudom Xai, after 4-5 the blacktop stops and dirt and mud and cowpaths apear, after that only forest. Then at the end , you park your bike and walk for 20-30 minutes. Even in dry season this waterfall has a lot of water.

Next day still in and around Oudom Xai, the dirt roads are a muddy because it rained during the night. It is slip and slide all the way into the boonies, after about 30 Kilometers into the countryside I get to think it might be better to swing around, because even the locals start to get problems like getting stuck in the mud or falling over with there bikes. After turning around and getting going again I was a bit relieved as you might see on my face.

Still some of the locals are traveling with just everything imaginable on the back of there bikes. Well this was certainly not a pig in a blanket.

It looked more like little piggy went to market on a bumpy ride.

Back in Oudom Xai I ran into Anita and Matthew from the Uk. They are traveling from Down Under all the way back to their beloved U.K.
We are sitting in Siso Cafe and talk about the officially issued safety helmet given to me for the pillion rider I had that day by the tourist and information office. A fellow German who wanted to get a feeling of how it is offroad in the countryside on a rather muddy sliding day. This helmet is supposed to be better than any Chinese helmet was the info given to me by the guys in the tourist office. never mind that, it looks rather swish and snazzy wouldn't you say? Well if only looks could help sometimes in order to prevent an accident.

As I wrote earlier at the beginning of my story, you'll never know what is waiting for you around the next corner. Well, half of the brand new road going to Luang Namtha just vanished into oblivion.
The good guys are at work already, but it will take a while to get that fixed.

Especially the way they have to use the tools being given to them, it might just take a couple of days longer then on average

Nevertheless I pitied them a great deal, but they didn't mind at all to put their backs into it.

Beyond Luang Namtha, due north comes Muong Sing, it is a wonderful scenic ride of 60 Kilometers till you reach the rice paddies on the fringes of Muong Sing.

Passing through Muong Sing, going down the road about 15 klicks on the plains of Muong Sing you will come to the Chinese border, where I met a couple of rather beautiful ladies of an ethnic minority I forgot the name of.
I am very sorry about my ignorance in this particular case. I admit my short comings.
Nevertheless, all of us had a very good time, even the border patrol guys you can imagine are hanging around in the background and are fingering their sidearms, just in case I would make a dead run for the border. They are extremly touchy about taking pictures at their border crossings to china I suppose.

Back in Luang Namtha I really had to go and pay the highly praised local museum a visit. I was slightly irritated by their arrangement of their exibits. A rather strange assortement of a machine gun, a mortar, devices of mass media, all in close quarter to farming tools and an ox cart. A rather odd combination nobody could explain to me, but who am I to be the judge here.

Back in the open again after this cultural event I ran into a french chap who just rode in the evening before on a very old Honda he bought in Vietnam and drove through DBP ( Dien Bien Phu), coming into Lao. He told me about a -SHORTCUT- to Phong Sali. One could ride it he told me its just river crossings and very small bridges made out of bamboo and not wider than 80 centimeters made to serve the locals with their little scooters. Nevertheless, since I love -SHORTCUTS- especially those who lead somewhere, I thought I give it a try.

But first I had to try and sit on this antic piece of Asian technology. Anyway, it needed every once in a while some fixing up I was told, but are we going to sweat the small stuff here? We won"t, will we. I have great respect for that undertaking.
I really loved his ( Francois) backpack / saddlebag combination.
It just proves the point that one can get anywhere , anytime with just about anything

Riding along the shortcut from Luang Namtha towards Phong Sali I ran into a couple of fellow bikers, both on Honda Baja 250 cc. One guy from Belgium the other one from the Netherlands.
We met at the first intersection along this dirt road, where, if one follows the main road will end up at the border crossing to China. But it will take you about 30-35 klicks in order to find out and then you have to turn around and do same same but backwards. So if you travel this road do NOT turn left here and do NOT follow the main road. Instead go straight further on and you will be just fine, there are only a few river crossings and/or small bamboo bridges of about 80 centimeter width. Don't start thinking about crossing over those bridges, just do it, they only LOOK as if they will collapse under your big bike and the weight. Open up your bike and the word -Flyover- becomes a different meaning all of a sudden. It's either a fly over all right or going through some nitty gritty bit. So take your pick.

Next day I woke up to a rather chilly morning in Phong Sali. So please bring a warm jacket or inner lining for your motorcycle equipment in order to stay warm. On the other hand if it is this cool the view you will find is absolutely breath taking. I was, as a matter of fact above the clouds and I felt that way as well.

Even my little KTM got a spiritual lift when she was sitting/standing on the clouds. I tell you it's quite a feeling. Like nothing ever before.That's for sure!

Turning around the next day going south towards Oudom Xai again I ran into a rather large group of ethnic women. While all the other shied away from me taking a picture of them I met this beautiful lady who actually liked being on the picture and she put on a lovely smile, wouldn't you say?

Sometimes it is not bad to look back over ones shoulder. In this case it's a reminder to me of how hard it is for the people up there to make a living in such harsh conditions. I do admire them for there daily undertaking and fight for survival in the mountains. This picture is of the main road (highway) leading up north or south between Phong Sali nd Oudom Xai. This is the better part of 109 kilometers dirt. Go out and have fun.

Phonsavan the famous Plain of Jars.
There are several sites, but only 3 sites Nr.1,2 and 3 are declared save by MAG ( Mines Advisory Group) The 3 sites are all different. So in my humble opinion it is worth to visit all 3. They are easily accessable by motorcycle. Signposts lead now the way. You really can't get lost anymore and don"t have to do some guesswork at wherabouts. The jars are just everywhere.Try to get there rather sooner then later, because it is now a wolrd heritage site by the UNESCO. The big jar you see in the picture (not the one in the blue jacket) weighs about 6 metric tons. The smalest ones start at about 200 kilogramms. Nobody knows for sure up till now who exactly created these huga jars and for what purpose. It is generaly agreed that these jars where used at some point in hisory as burial devices. Remains of skelletons and burial gifts have been found. So the say scientists.
But nothing so far is 100% prooven or for sure. So what it boils down to is this: there still remains quite a mistery about the whole story about the jars and there use and WHO really made them?

Not only I was puzzled about the jars. This young english couple from Singapore was puzzzled just as much. They drove up on a Honda 223 from Vientiane in order to see and admire the jars.

Back in Vientiane I run into these two guys. They are not from the funnyfarm nor are they going to a carnival or halloween party. These two guys are fellow Germans being on the waltz.
Being on the waltz does NOT mean you are dancing a dance, the walz in this case. Several of you valued readers are familiar with the song -Waltzing Matilda, Matilda with me-. Mathilda is not the lovely lady you ask for a dance, it is the bedroll of a craftsman travelling from town to town to seek work. This is the waltz!!
Back to our two fine chaps in the picture They are being on the waltz themselfs and are wearing their traditional German Waltz outfit. Both are expert craftsmen. One a carpenter, the other a roofer.
It is German tradition for every craftsman to go on the waltz for 3 years, travel the world and seek work in foreign places in order to broaden ones horizon and work expertise as well as sharing ones expertise among other expert craftsmen around the world. One has to finish this task before reaching 30 years of age.

Even though I had finished my loop, or so I tought., I felt inspired again by the two German craftsmen being on the waltz.Therefore I decided to take a trip tp Pakley and back. Just in order to have closure for my trip. Outside of Pakley I was taking a break from a rather dusty bumpy ride, when these two monks walked along. Take my word for it, these two where really interested in the KTM and after checking out the bike they peppered me with all there questions like where are you from, where are you going,how fast is this bike , is it from germany and about one thousend other questions I asked them one question -can iI take a picture of you and the bike-?
To my surprise there wasn't the smallest hesitation on their side and in a couple of seconds we where done. We wishes each other goodbye and farewell for the future journeys the three of us are about to undertake.

Next day after a good rest, I start out on my final episode, the last leg of the journey. Going from Pakley back over the mighty Mekong River using the ferry and having again met a lovely crowd of friendly and very helpful people.

Finally arriving in Vientiane, after having swallowed about 10 Kilogramms of dust and dirt, never to mention the fumes, as you can see on my BUFF. It was once at the beginning of my trip bright orange, well the colour has changed quite a bit, but that was to be expected.

After peeling myself of the bike, it was strange to know that I came to -The end of the Trail-.
There was nothing to be done except giving everything a good wash, the bike, the outfit and the rider.
But I tell you what, if you haven't gathered that by now.

Hope to see some of you one day down the road.
Wishing you all well , you fellow bikers.
Might be the best touring bike in Asia (a German military KTM LC4, sleeved down to 400cc, with a 18L military issue fuel tank).

& a wonderful report, I love the pig on the back of the moped!
wow jens i really love your report! sounds like quite an adventure, one of those you won't tell your mother about. pictures are great, too, i really can't tell which ones i like the most. maybe you with the hill tribe people?
wie lockt man dich denn jetzt auf eine tour durchs asphaltierte sauerland? da gibt's ja nicht mal froesche unterwegs...
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