Laos February 2020 - Just another ride...


Senior Member
Jan 23, 2011
I decided to base the ride from Luang Prabang this year & left it a bit late in the season this time.
This is my 7th trip in Laos so I was hoping to find some new tracks & checkout some bits I've been meaning to do before.
Alas, as always here, the plan never pans out.
I have never seen it so dusty with water crossings shallow & easy

Feb 2nd & 3rd
Left Perth, overnighted in VTE so 4 airports later & we rock up in LPQ around midday. Get to the guesthouse, wander around a bit, get local SIM cards & decide we best get accustomed to the Beer Lao early.
Semi drunk night then the next morning we walk over to get the bikes from Chris at Lao Adventure Tours
Back to the GH, spend some time setting the bikes up with GPS mounts etc then beer time again.

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Feb 4th
Heading north today to Muang Khua. Before we even leave town my clutch is slipping so we duck over to the hire shop & get it adjusted. (much more on this later)
We head to Ban Lathan on the Mekong via Pak Ou & the road to Ban Lathan is even worse now due to the trucks heading to the Mekong train bridge just north of there & the lack of rain.
Most of this route I have done before except for the 3032 between the 1801 & 13N. It's a good trail that isn't over used & passes through some nice villages with a raft required river crossing at Khoknang. The track from Nambak over the moutain to Khua is still a good trail, but the dust, which will have a staring part in this trip.
Beers on the balcony & the water level in the Nam Ou is really low, dam No. 7 I think is being build no more that 10 klm's north of Khua.

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Feb 5th
Muang Khua via Samphan to a small town called La with lunch in B. Latxang
We head north along the Ou & see the new dam & as we pass through the 3 hut villages heading to Samphan there are brand new Laos & Hammer & Sickle flags everywhere.
Just before we hit Samphan we're pulled up at a roadblock & the full "Who are you, where you go, show passports" routine is asked of us. We comply once we do the sign language & semi translation.
2 klm's later right at the entrance to the town we get stopped again & go through the whole process once more?
This is very strange but once we get into the town itself it sort of dawns on us, there are serious looking people everywhere, meetings & gatherings, large groups drinking beer (it's only 9am). Must be a big Communist Party thing going on & us Falang threw a spanner in the works by showing up.
We get a feed & look for the ferry crossing but there ain't one so we head south (through the same checkpoints) to the abandoned bridge & cross there & start heading southish
The villages we pass through before we hit the 1B are of an ethnicity I hadn't seen before with every women in full traditional dress.

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Feb 6th
Heading to Nale today, every other time I'd been there I could not get a room, so we'll see.

We take the direct route to Oudamxai. I was going to head west then south to Ko Noy & bypass Oudamxai but that track will have to be added to the "to do" list as well.
Main hwy to the Chong On cave turnoff then what is now a full proper road more or less all the way through to Nale. There are still some nice narrow bits with 3 small crossings but the once great 10 river crossing route is no more (sad face)
Tommy gets the first & only flat tyre of the trip just as we hit B. Phouchule. Once the kids see us they're all hiding in the scrub & surrounding us too shy to come say hello.
Into Nale & getting a room is of no problem this time.

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Feb 7th
Nale to M. Long
I get to tick off the road from Nale to Viengpoukha today.
It's a good dirt main road with some steep bits & great views & one rather dodgy bridge, other than that nothing special.
From there to Long is a good winding steep road that has improved slightly from 8 years ago when I first did it.
2 years ago we met a local school teacher Mr Boun who invited us to have hotpot at his parents restaurant, so I guess we'll give it a try again as it's a good feed.

Feb 8th & 9th
We'll head from Long to Sing today via the Mekong route north then south to Luang Nam Tha via the main hwy.
4 years ago it was pissing down & we struggled on this route. Today will be the polar opposite with nothing but rocks & deep bulldust, but I do get to check off a small bit out to the village of B. Xiangkheng on the Mekong border with Myanmar.
This is where we see the skins of dogs placed on platforms outside a lot of the villages. I send Mr Boun a message asking about these & this is his answer.
"a dog skin on a platform is only in villages of the enthnic called Aka . Aka people believe dog prevent all people in their village , dog will kill all the risks will come to their village.
Aka people usually change the dog skin on a platform once a year"

We spend 2 nights here as I have to change out the 2 spare cluth plates I have as my clutch has needed adjusting every day due to it slipping & we've also been to the bus station to collect a new tyre for one of the other bikes that has been sent up.
The local mechanic hadn't done a CRF clurch before but watching him, he was pretty clued in on what to do with some minor pointers.
I've been here several times but have never had a chance to wander about, so it was good to to have time to look through the town.
Feb 10th
Phongsali via Boun Thai
Progress is coming to the area too, the small town of Boun Nuabu that was just a bus stop 8 years ago is growing fast.
Uneventful sort of day, some short good trails, a bit of single & a crappy lnch in Boun Thai
The hotel in Phongsali is now run by a West Aussie bloke. Got there early so we wandered around a bit but nothing was open so a very basic noodle soup for dinner

Feb 11th
The plan today was to head to Hatsa then further east towards Vietnam on the 19. Then head due south to try & get back to Samphan via some unmarked trails I've been trying & wanting to do for several years. LOL!
The downhill run into Hatsa is 20 klm's of thick fog. We look around, find the bridge across the Nam Ou & head off. There is some serious roadwork being done here so maybe this whole area is being opened up too.
My clutch has decide to start slipping again & after 10 or so klm's I make the decision to turn back as there's sweet FA adjustment left & what's ahead is unknown. It's disappointing but better than being stuck in one of the most remote parts of Laos.
We have to head back to Hatsa spend 1.2 million Kip to find a boat to take us 50 klm's down river which turns into 3 hours on the water.
I forget to unplug my GPS so my battery is flat when we go to ride off heading back to Khua
We get to Samphan again & there are no road blocks or police anywhere but still a large crowd sitting around drinking.
Tommys exhaust falls off on the road from Samphan to Khua so we hunt down wire to tie in back on.
I've already messaged the hire shop & a whole new set of clutch plates has been put on a bus for me to collect.
I meet the bus about 6 that night, race back to the Honda shop & arrange to have the clutch done first thing next morning.

Feb 12th
Up early, head to the Honda shop. This is another case of the mechanic never ding a CRF clutch but he is very skilled, I don't need to guide him at all. On a side note, 4 years ago we had to replace a gear lever shaft in one of the bikes & it was done here without drama, so if you're looking for a good but slightly "overcharge the Farang" mechanic in Northern Laos.
On the other hand, the bloke Tommy asked to adjust his chain, well he only adjusted one side to tighten it...
Today will be a short highway ride to the Vietnam border then back to Muang May or the night.
It's good to have a bit of fun on a good winding tarmac road
May is just another crossroads truckstop type town.
Feb 13th
Today I fill in a piece of missing road/trail/route on the GPS.
I'd always wondered if you could head directly south from the 2E border point as there's nothing on any GPS or maps to say you can.
This is a good route that is worth doing, narrowish trail with a couple of creek crossings & a police checkpoint who were very suprised to see us but let us through without drama
Once you get down to the 2508 it is just another big dirt road, right to Viengkham or left the border.

Feb 14th
Heading to ViengXai today
As it's all highway I decide to take a short detour section. We're following this but it starts heading in the wrong direction away from what's on the GPS (this is worth checking out to see where it heads!) We backtrack a bit & Tommys spots an offshoot that heads where we want & after a bit it suddenly turns into a short but great piece of single that is a forgotten, except for local scooters, powerline access track.
15 minutes of fun then it's back on the highway.

Feb 15th
Spend the day looking around & doing the Pathet Lao caves that they used during the American bombing of Laos
Interesting history & worth doing if you're in the area.

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Feb 16th
Today will be a longish day as we're heading for Kham
Before we get going, Rolands clutch cable breaks. Down to the local honda shop but he can't repair it so we hunt through a hardware/general shop next door that isn't open & find a scooter or pushike cable that will do the trick. The same thing happened to Jnr last year so I know from watching a local we just feed it through the clutch arm & tie knots until it's secured. Good to go with a spare cable as backup.
4 years ago this is the route where me & a mate fell out of a canoe into the river & we ended up doing a long night ride. Last year I did it again but heading in the other direction.
This year I want to head south from Xam Tai & check out a part of the route I haven't done via Kouan.
To Kouan it's all main road, some tar, some dirt & some steep winding through the cold mist.
Once you get to Kouan the tar abruptly ends & the road gets a bit less maintained. Good riding though with one nice river crossing.
There are so many unmarked & old/new roads out in this area. Bikers don't seem to come here for some reason but it is a fantastic remote area that has a lot of potential.
We get into B. Phianghong & I know that from info from Shane that you can now cross the abandoned bridge instead of paying the ferrymen to rip you off. I know from his photos it's a wee bit dodgy so I ask one of the guys to have a look on foot first.
He's taking his time so I bite the bullet & take one for the team & be the frst to defy death. Getting onto the bridge is a little bit un nerving but once I'm on I feel good. You can't plunge to your death as the bikes won't fit through the gaps but you could drop a wheel or foot into one which could cause damage.
I actually enjoyed the crossing bit, it's something new again. The other two, not so much.
The route from here to Kham is the night ride we did 4 years ago so all the scenery is new to me but the road has gotten worse. Some many rocks, ruts & bulldust. The road south to Nonghet (last year) is a much better route, scenery & road wise.
It really was a hard ride today, both my knees have seized & I'm struggling to stand up on the pegs.

Feb 17th
The route I'd planned has turned to shit because of bike problems & other things, so from Kham I decide to do some tourist things for the other two.
Today we'll do some of the Plain of Jars, look at the Russian tank the head down to Long Chieng
The road south into Lima 20A is now more or less fully widened but still ankle deep bulldust which is just absolute shit to ride in. The village is undergoing changes with a new road, some bew food shops & other minor changes. A lot can happen in the 4 years it's been open to the world.



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Feb 18th
I'm just about over the dust, so it's easy riding planned from now on. We'll follow last years route from here to Kasi via Vang Vieng, even though the middle bit via the iron ore mine really isn't easy or not dusty.
At least the main 13N is now fully repaired & easy riding. Lots of progress along here where the highspeed rail is going.
We get into Kasi & stay at the same guesthouse & have dinner at Nale's restauant again as it's some of the best BBQ pork in the world.
50k for a No.1 haircut! Someone was ripped off...
Whilst having a beer I realise this is the first trip here where I haven't crossed the Mekong. We sit down & look at the maps & Tommy points out a route that is worth looking at as a shortcut to Xayaburi. The GPS say it "needs updating" which is a good sign for a good track. Lets do it!

Feb 19th
Heading to Hongsa.
We have about 10 k's of highway to the turn off then 20 k's of whooped out dusty main road to the turn off.
Once we find it, bam, it's straight up the steepest hill I've ever done. (it's that little peak on the elevation plot.)
Deep wheel & power sucking bulldust. Well let's keep going & see what's ahead. One of the bikes is struggling with power, the 2 others have boiled their brakes & then we're in a river valley. Jesus, they were the steepest hills I have ever done anywhere, ever & on bikes not really cut out for it.
We see some locals with looks of WTF on their faces & then get stuck behind a truck who has no intention of letting us pass, which is a good this as I didn't notice there was no one behind me. I turn back to find Tommy had clipped a log & bent his brake lever.
We stop & have a chat about continuing on & bail on it as the GPS says there's 2 more really steep bits plus once we reach the Mekong we have no idea if we can actually cross it.
You local blokes should do this, but be warned, if it's even slightly wet you won't get anywhere. When I say steep I mean steep, so any mud will stop you dead.
As this is our second last day on the bikes, it's best not to get stck in the middle of nowhere so we head back & do the highway run over the Kasi Pass & then the crappy 4A into Hongsa.
We get there & the guesthouse has no power so we just wander over the the big new markets that have finally been built after years of nothing. Beer time then eventually a shower & food.

Feb 20th
Last day so back to LPQ via the new 4B which I haven't ridden yet.
If you're on a big bike, this is now a great full tarmac road but there is no fuel along the route yet apart from a few bottles in the small villages.
On a small bike, if you'd ridden it as dirt, it's a lot more boring.
We get into LPQ around 11 back to the gusesthouse & relax for a bit after stripping the bikes & returning them.

All in all another good trip but not as good as previous which was own to the expansion & progress in a lot of areas, (yeah I know, Falang problems) lateness of the season, lack of water & the bloody dust.
But I will be back as there's still more to see.

Thanks Pounce enjoyed that, brings back happy and sad memories, was surprised how much the trails have changed the Nale trail used to be great likewise the trail North out of Long to Sala I remember being pretty tricky and rocky in places.

The ladies North of Khua are Paloeng i believe always in traditional dress, great report and one of the best riding areas in Laos, hope it stays that way for a while.
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