Phonsavan To Luang Prabang (Dirt)


Administrator (Retired)
Jul 1, 2012
Chiang Rai
Honda CRM-AR 250, Honda CRF 250-L, Suzuki V Strom XT 650 Honda XR250 Baja BMW F650GS

If you plan to travel to or from Phonsavan to Luang Prabang you have a couple of options, you can ride the paved way on routes 7 and 13 which is a pretty nice route or you have two alternatives the 3901 or the 3909 both meeting up on the bridges trail 2504 as the attached map, the 3901 is NOT for big touring type bikes the 3909 is graded all the way and should pose no problem for any ADV motorcycle.

Screenshot 2015-12-22 15.21.08 by bsacbob, on Flickr

As you can see there are a couple of nice climbs along the way.

Screenshot 2015-12-22 15.21.34 by bsacbob, on Flickr

I started the ride pretty early since i had not ridden the 3901 before, my plan was to gas up before leaving route 7 and stop for a while until the morning mist had cleared so i could see the views.

Untitled by bsacbob, on Flickr

Rest up point watching the locals pass by, all graded to this point.

2015-11-21 07.52.06 by bsacbob, on Flickr

2015-11-21 07.52.11 by bsacbob, on Flickr

2015-11-21 07.55.22 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Sun beginning to break through it was time to go.

Untitled by bsacbob, on Flickr

Freshly graded looking good.

2015-11-21 08.25.05 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Came across a small Jar site on the side of the road.

2015-11-21 08.48.31 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Untitled by bsacbob, on Flickr

Now the trail starts to get rutted, but nothing serious.

2015-11-21 08.45.00 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Looking at the track not many 4WD's come this way.

2015-11-21 08.56.33 by bsacbob, on Flickr

More interesting ruts.

2015-11-21 09.00.16 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Starting to climb down.

2015-11-21 09.01.37 by bsacbob, on Flickr

One of the easier sections.

2015-11-21 09.14.22 by bsacbob, on Flickr

This was very steep.

2015-11-21 09.11.24 by bsacbob, on Flickr

First signs of life for a few hours, just two small hut's.

Untitled by bsacbob, on Flickr

Untitled by bsacbob, on Flickr

Further along i came across this guy living in a small hut weaving baskets, he had the radio on playing an all English station but did not speak a word of English.

2015-11-21 09.59.58 by bsacbob, on Flickr

Eventually i come to the scenic nam Khan river, a word of warning here, as you come down the hill it turns sharply right onto the landing and its very steep downhill, making it very difficult to dismount your bike even in gear !!

2015-11-21 10.31.55 by bsacbob, on Flickr

I sat there for felt like a dog's age trying to get some attention across the river, i could see a pretty good ferry capable of taking a pickup and some, but no signs of life, eventually a bunch of kid's rowed across i explained i needed a ride across (pretty obvious really).

2015-11-21 10.35.34 by bsacbob, on Flickr

To my dismay, an old guy came puttering across on a wide canoe, what happened next was oscar winning, the old guy got his boat side on to the bank (he was alone) holding one end of the boat he called me down onto the short ramp and onto the platform, easy you would think, well it should have been if the idiot had tied off the other end of the boat. So you guessed it i hit the ramp the boat moved away the ramp fell off the boat along with myself and the bike on top of me. His frantic screams got the attention of several kid's who managed to extract me and my now ruined camera from the river. To cut a long story short he blamed me charged me 50k kip for the crossing which incidentally dropped me off on the nice ferry i hoped to cross on and i was on my way !!!

2015-11-21 10.56.05 by bsacbob, on Flickr

2015-11-21 10.36.21 by bsacbob, on Flickr

So that was it for pictures, for your information the section after the water crossing from hell is very very rutted until you reach the 2504 after that it plain sailing all the way to the cave of teeth and Luang Prabang.

Here is the only picture after the event from my waterproof phone, of what is obviously a very cute mixed race girl at a drink stop.

2015-11-21 13.14.27 by bsacbob, on Flickr
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Well, at least the price hasn't gone up there in the last 3 years. Cost me 50,000 kip in Sept '12. Bit of a fixed market, eh? Lots of other places, only 5,000.
Isn't that the trail where someone got held to ransom for real by an armed bunch posing as 'Officials/Army' for a 'toll'? Seems like a trail to avoid!
Not heard of that one, there is an army check point at N19.68894 E102.86420 which was just a simple pole on a rope, i unfastened it myself and waved at the army guy's no problem at all.
Isn't that the trail where someone got held to ransom for real by an armed bunch posing as 'Officials/Army' for a 'toll'? Seems like a trail to avoid!

Not sure to which incident you refer to but if it is the one which involved AlexUK. that trail is to the south off Highway 7 and not this one

A couple Qs for you re the Purple route, 3909. Next month, January 2016, I'm thinking of making the LP to Phonsavanh (PSV) trip via the back country route. 3-4 years ago Lone Rider and I took a pickup from PSV up to the Nam Khan via the Green route, 3901, nice enough road then, newish. Sure looks like it's gone downhill since then, which is why I'm thinking of 3909, the Purple route. We've been up a portion of that route from PSV to Ban Langchong this past June 2015, have a small school project there, new concrete floor for the old secondary school, so am at least familiar with the southern section of the road. Didn't get on up to the Nam Khan, tho.

-- Is there a 4-wheel vehicle ferry available where 3909 crosses the Nam Khan?

-- What are the timelines, LP to where the Green & Purple routes split, and from there on via the Purple on to Phou Kout, or PSV?

Hi Mac, the 3909 and 2504 is graded the whole way and sadly all of the fun water crossing are all gone, the water crossing you mention is at vangthong N19.82715 E102.98824 the last time i crossed the fat lady had an upgrade and the boat was able to carry pickup's.


On the 3901 i followed a 4WD from the water crossing at Nam Khan north to the 2504 junction for a while and he bottomed out several times. South from the water crossing on the 3901 it didn't look as if anything other than motorcycles had traveled the route in a long time although sections had been graded south of the army checkpoint at N19.68894 E102.86420. As a guide i travelled for 2 hours 20 minutes to get from the 3901/2504 junction to the 13N junction north of Luang Prabang, from the water crossing on the 3901 to that same junction was around 50 minutes.

Thanks, that's exactly the info I needed, so well be taking 3909 mid-next month. Do hope the Fat Lady is still singing and her ferry is still there! It'd be a long way back to the alternate route!

FYI, the school we (the TLCB) helped out with the concrete floor is at N19.8000 E103.0075, not much shown there in Google Earth as imagery is from 2005. We were up there last June with Long Rider, happy folks, have electricity now, but no cell tel yet, unless they hike up to the top of one of the local hills.

On your map, note the airfield symbol just to the west of the Vang Thong crossing of the Nam Khan. Believe that's LS-271, a small airstrip I help site spring 1969. Would like to get back there one day to see if any of the old Khmu refugees are still around. N19.8337 E102.9547

The crossing of the Nam Khan via 3901 also had an airstrip, LS-261 back in The Day....


The fat ferry lady will be there for sure Mac, yes LS271 is at N19.82863 E102.95443 LS261 is shown at N19.81562 E102.82373 and LS312 a few Km's south on the same trail at N19.74316 E102.82188.

Thanks for the co ords of the school will call by one day.
I have I will send it later today. Hey I understand you may be in Chiang Rai soon give me a.shout if you want a beer.


Sent from my SM-G900F using Tapatalk

Would you happen to have the Lat & Long for the junction of Rts 3901 and 3909? Don't want to miss it when headed east from LP.



The 3901 / 3909 junction is at N19.63671 E103.12113 the 3901 / 2504 junction is at N19.92364 E102.82497
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