Phu Chi Fah..... from the Laos Side

Shane

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Phu Chi Fah….. from the Laos side - May 2019

I’ve stood on top of Phu Chi Fah a few times on the Thai side and often wondered what it was like on the Laos side. From the viewpoint in Thailand you can make out a village in the valley below surrounded by an impressive mountain range. Having read a few other articles online, I could see that it was possible. So as part of my recent trip to Laos I decided to give it a crack.

(Phu Chi Fah Viewpoint on the Thai side looking out over Laos)

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(Phu Chi Fah from the Laos side looking up)
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I was staying at Huay Xai, Bokeo province which makes a decent base for tackling this trip. If you were to head straight there with no detours, it would be roughly 100km. However, I took lots of detours along the way.

Leaving Huay Xai, I headed out past the friendship bridge and toward Pak Tha. This is a really nice road that takes you along the banks of the Mekong with plenty of postcard worthy viewpoints.


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At Pak Tha, I headed toward the river to look for a crossing point. I arrived just as the ferry was loading up so there was no delay at all. Pretty lucky.


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Once on the other side you are really in the wilds. It’s quite an isolated area, sandwiched between the Mekong and the jagged mountain range that forms the border with Thailand. I took the dirt road heading south that runs alongside the river. Lovely scenery the whole way along.


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On my way I wanted to check out Phu Pha Tang and see how close to it I could get. I found a track heading westward so I decided to check it out. I eventually came to a not so friendly army base. I tried asking if I could go a bit further on to take some better pics, the answer was pretty much, get out of here. I decided to push on. I got some decent pics on the way up and on the way back anyway.


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I headed back down to the track by the river and continued south until the town of Kontun. There’s a bridge across the Mekong under construction but it doesn’t look like there’s been much progress any time recently. After this town the dirt road turns into an immaculately paved tarmac road. I followed this for a few kilometers until I got to the turn off for Baan Jiang Tong which is at the base of Phu Chi Fah. I was back on the dirt again.


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The dirt road and the surrounding scenery were absolutely amazing. Huge mountains, giant valleys, jagged rock outcrops and a cool dirt road just weaving through it. The way the views opened up after each turn was like something right out of a fairy tale.



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When I got to the valley with the village, I could see the very distinctive Phu Chi Fah. I decided to continue as far as I could knowing I’d probably run into the army sooner or later. The village itself isn’t your usually friendly Laos village and I definitely got a few very funny looks from the villagers. Nonetheless I pushed on.


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When I got to the army base, the soldiers were actually quite cool. I had a chat with them and explained that I had been to the Thai side and wanted to check out the Laos side. No problem taking pictures and hanging out for a while.

I can tell you that looking up at Phu Chi Fah from the Laos side, is just as cool looking down from the Thai side. Really spectacular and the pics don’t even nearly do it justice.


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On leaving the Phu Chi Fah area, I decided to take an alternative route keeping me in the hills near the border rather than heading back towards the river. Again, this was a really cool series of cool mountain twisties in the dirt with epic views. I could see an endless amount of single track going in all directions, but I stuck to the main trail this time.


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My plan was to eventually end up in Pak Beng for the night, but I had one more thing I wanted to check out. I wanted to check out the Laos side of the Ban Huag Phayao border. I wanted to see if it was possible to cross. I asked one of the officials who claimed that they would be ready to let foreigners across in about 4-5 months…. Mind you I heard the same thing when I asked at the Thai side about 6 months ago. I wont hold my breath, but it would definitely be a handy place to cross as I reckon its only about 4 hours from Luang Prabang.


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Leaving the border area, the road on the Laos side is immaculate tarmac. You could ride a skateboard on it no problem. I though I’d make Pak Beng, but then came the rain…..and then the lightning…. I had to terminate my ride at town called Xienghon. I never heard of it before and virtually no information about it on google. Not a whole lot going on there. Thankfully there are a few guesthouses, so got a bite to eat and an early night.


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The following day I headed back towards Huay Xai. I noticed a track on the East side of the Mekong so I decided to check it out. I got the ferry across the river and headed north. It was a nice pleasant ride. I didn’t take any detours this time so I made good time getting back to Huay Xai. The trip back took about 3 hours and was relatively uneventful other than coping a soaking when the heavens opened up in Pak Tha. All good though, by the time I got back to Huay Xai, 40km later, I was pretty much dried off.


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I always enjoy chilling at Huay Xai. There are some great restaurants on the banks of the Mekong. There are spectacular sunsets overlooking the river and the Thai side.


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Overall, the routes along the Western side of the Mekong were epic, especially towards the Thai border area. I would definitely go back to explore around this area again. As mentioned, there are seemingly endless amounts of single track criss-crossing the rolling hills. I reckon you could knock a few days adventuring out of this region.
 

bsacbob

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Excellent first post Shane, welcome to Ride Asia.

I recall the last time I rode on the west side of the river from the new bridge at Pakkop it wasn't very enjoyable with convoys of Chinese trucks shipping bananas carving deep ruts in the riverside trail up to the ferry just south of Paktha.
 

Shane

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Honda Africa Twin, Honda CRF250L
Cheers mate. I must have been lucky. The bananas mustn't have been ripe that day :)

Excellent first post Shane, welcome to Ride Asia.

I recall the last time I rode on the west side of the river from the new bridge at Pakkop it wasn't very enjoyable with convoys of Chinese trucks shipping bananas carving deep ruts in the riverside trail up to the ferry just south of Paktha.
 

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