Having been into hot air ballooning, and having witnessed some tragic stuff first hand, I found this TA review alarming;
"serious problems with safety"
Reviewed May 30, 2012
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I am a UK commercial balloon pilot and took the flight a year ago not saying that I was also a pilot. The safety procedures (no briefing for landings for the passengers, changing tanks whilst cruising low over power lines and many other issues) were appalling. It won't take long and there will be a serious accident. The guys flying the balloon are Chinese where there are no rules and regulations whatsoever concerning flight safety, equipment , insurance or pilot training. Sorry but for your own safety I cannot recommend this ballooning experience to anybody. And the sad thing is, that once there is a serious accident it will probably forever prevent any other properly set up balloon business from operating in this country!
I was 2wheels riding partner on this adventure, and like you, appreciate the eloquent word-smithing that makes the report so readable and warm. For me, it has ben one of the finest things I have ever done in my life. 2wheels and I cruised deserts 40 years ago and have not ridden together for any length of time since the early '70's. A trip to Chiang Mai changed that last year when we took to the hills and H'Mong villages and the plan was hatched. A 5 week leave pass from my wife shows the trust she had in me and the faith she had in 2wheels that I would return in 1 piece. Besides, she knew what a pain it would be if, in the nursing home in 20 years time, I reminded her that I should have done this when I had the chance.
Plans are afoot for other parts of Thailand and Myanmar in a couple of years from now. By the way, I was with 2wheels when we were approached by a lovely Lao lady in Vang Vieng whose first word to 2wheels were "Sabaidee, massage, boom boom?" I would like to tell you what happened next but it remains a secret between 2wheels and me
There are a couple of photos from the trip that must round out the report
I saw the famous Luang Prabang Citroen shortly after 2 wheels had headed off in another direction. Quite stunning really.
The main roads around Phonsavan vary but towards the Plain of Jars site #2, they change from the sealed to the unsealed
Thanks for positing these Ron. Yes, it is important to count your kip in Luang Prabang...it is the first time in many years of overseas ravel I have been ripped. Every group or 50,000 kip (all 20 of them) had only 19 notes in each one..very clever. i ended up bring home the silver and posting my clothes. Phonsavan is the place for good quality an cheap silver
Hobo maps has several city maps for Laos including Vientiane, Luang prabang, Vangviang, Houayxai, Muang Xing, Oudomxay, Nong Khiaw, Xam Nuea, Viengxai, Northern Laos, Pakbeng - see: hobomaps.com from where you can download the maps.