Thank you New Zealand, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, East Timor and Australia for the people we met, the friendly welcome everywhere, the roads we rode, the food we could taste, the adventures we could master, the experiences we made and finally thank you for all the dust in our faces ;) All the best Kerstin and Sascha, www.RTWbyBIKE.com
February and March 2012 we rode 4 weeks through Laos on our tour through South East Asia. About 2000km of an unforgettable adventure full of stunning tracks and great people. Our Africa Twin was one again a faithful companion. One day we will be back.
works best in HD full screen ;)
Taking over the Motorbike from Nakasang to Don Det was a special experience ;-) First we had to negotiate the price with the “Mama” of the family. After we checked the “boat” which is just built out of two little longboats with a plateau build from some plnks in between. We agreed on the price and we went down the sandy beach to get on it. So far so good! We went on even though there was not even place for a mouse anymore… The trip was exciting… passing the Khong with the low water, sharp stones and heavy currents made us feeling strange sometimes ;-) When we reached Don Det the boat landing was at a steep sandy beach which made us troubling bringing the bike up there – in between we just “parked” the bike in the middle of the way without putting it on the stand. It was just dug into the sand that deep. Finally we did it and realized the place is looking like a party town… Actually it was not at all what we were looking for. Completely sweated and full of sand we left south driving over the bridge to Don Khon and found a lovely little family place where we moved in our little bamboo. It`s already the fourth day here and we enjoyed every second. Exploring the tiny tracks around the islands, watching the waterfalls, going for a swim at sandy beaches into the Khong and floating with the currents, playing boule, going for boat trips to watch the Dolphins, sitting in our hammock or at our terrace… What is funny is that we meet people we met somewhere before again and again… sometimes a long time ago or at really remote places or in other countries. And it is always nice to exchange what was happening in between… Tomorrow or the day after we will go over to Cambodia and we are just wondering once more how fast the time is passing…
OK a bit late but here we go:
March, 2nd – Central Laos – lovely friendly people mountain villages, sad relicts of war…
In Phonsavan it is hard not to be reminded of the wars happened here. You find cafes called “crater” full of relicts out of the war, bombs, bullets, grants… even our guesthouse was fully equipped: Lamps out of bombs, key rings out of bullets etc. The USA were flying more than 580.000 missions over Laos and dropping more than 2 million tons of bombs worth two million dollars a day between 1964 and 1973. These are more bombs as in the whole of the 2nd World War! The “funny” thing is that they declared the war in 1974; so for 10 years it was “only” a CIA operation. Many failed to detonate and only a tiny percentage has been removed and it will take more than 100 years to make the country save. Therefore it is no good idea at all to leave the roads or tracks… We did a trip to a crater field in the sunset following the dirt roads and it was depressing but impressive and a bit scary to see the big wide holes on this hills. It makes you think a lot… In some villages the recycle bomb materials to knifes, spoons or jewelries – we think you should not buy any from them because this would make them go to look for more material. Still to many people die while walking over mines.
Another “attraction” of Phonsavan of course is the jars of Stone Age (Plain of Jars), which are possibly 2000 years (nobody really knows) old and their purpose remains a mystery. Some suggest they were used as stone coffins or maybe for storing Láo Láo (rice whisky)… it will be a mystery forever perhaps -which idea we like ;-)
The Road number 7 from Phonsavan to the west was a real pleasure! When we hit the road 13 direction south the traffic increased immediately but still nice with incredible views on the Karst Mountains until we reached Vang Vieng. It was a completely different impression compared to the rest of Laos when we entered this small city: shops everywhere and you can get everything you want. When we took of our gears in the guesthouse we recognized that one screw of our pannier holder was broken and on a different place as well the steal from the frame needed some little fixing. Luckily the owner of the guesthouse was a Kiwi and could lend us a driller. After fixing the screw Sascha found a place to get the rest welded. Early afternoon everything was fixed again and we had time to enjoy driving around the little side roads through the mountains nearby.
Vientiane was not really our cup of tea. Far too expensive and suddenly it was really hot again which we were not really used to anymore after the mountains. The original idea was to get our visa prepared here already for Thailand but unfortunately we forgot to check the weekday and of course it was Friday! For sure we did not want to stay here for 3 or 4 days. At least we found a nice local place out of the center where we enjoyed dinner with a view over the Khong River and live Lao music. The next morning we left very early.
Heading further south we left the main road and turned to road number 8 where we stayed in Khoun Kham. From here we explored the incredible cave “Kong Lor” which is worth a visit without a question!!! Watch the pictures… and it was even thousand times better live! And at the entrance you have a paradise lagoon where you can relax and having a swim. After the excursion through the cave we had a swim with all the locals in the lagoon. Further we continued east taking the 8s passing the dam lake to Thakhek. Partially the road was bad but all in all ok and interesting to see the dead trees in the floated areas.
From Thakhek we went south for a long distance; about 230km on the 13 until we left to the east again to Salavan. From there we did a great tour around the Bolavan Plateau over Thateng, Sekong Pakxong until Champasak. Shortly we were thinking of staying a night in the jungle in a little village, but the clouds coming up made us a bit afraid as we were driving on a real sandy dirt road. Luckily we decided to continue as we got catch by heavy rain thunder and lightning just when we reached the asphalt road in Pakxong!
In Champasak we found a place to sleep for very little money. We had a trip around over there and spending the night again at the river side of the Khong. Yesterday we reached the area of the 4000 islands, taking the ferry to Khong Island. It is the most north located island and the biggest one with a nice relaxed authentic atmosphere and not overloaded at all. Today we spent the morning exploring the island in each corner, watching the buffalos, the fishermen, visiting the temples, chatting with the villagers… The afternoon will be without riding the bike. Relaxing, updating the blog, reading, having probably fish for dinner… of course sitting directly at the riverside of the Khong ;-)
Tomorrow we will leave to explore some of the other Islands here around and getting closer to the Cambodian border – latest by the 12th of March we have to leave Laos…
When we arrived early morning at the ferry to go over to Laos the paperwork was done in 5 minutes and the customs officer told us the boat will leave at 9am. So we went to get the ticket… and we got told: The ferry boat will not go unless there are coming at least two more cars or we could take one of the longboats! Hmmm, as we were early we decided to wait for a while and hoping of cars trucks or whatever to join us instead trying to get the heavy bike backwards on the little wooden longboat. Lucky us! Suddenly a group of motorbikes arrived (an organized group going for off-road tracks to Laos with their support jeep). Now they were willing to go over with the big ferry, hurray!
Arriving in Laos we got the insurance for the bike for one month but unfortunately at the customs they wanted to see a paper from the Thai officials which the Thais kept of course when we left the country. After a longer discussion we decided to pay 100 THB and using the Carnet and not spending the whole day discussing a paper we would never get back from the Thai officials… The visa was done in a minute, paying an extra fee of one Dollar pp because it was Sunday and finally we were allowed to enter Laos!
First direction is north and the first impressions: an unexpected big “highway” was going direction Luang Nam Tha. When we passed the villages you could not see street kitchens or supermarkets anymore like in Thailand. Further we went the villages became more and more simple with rarely shops to get something to drink. When we had a stop next to a village the people came slowly to watch us, standing next to us with their kids – we and as well them did not know really what to do or what to say; they accepted us to have a break and we accepted not getting to close. In Luang Nam Tha we stayed two days practicing our first words in Lao, we had small trips around to Muang Sing next to the Chinese border and were visiting waterfalls and having chats around with the Lao people. The evenings we spend on the night market getting into the food over here – you do not get the same range of food like in Thailand, simpler but never the less good.
Our next destination was Phongsali; the highest city in Laos (1430 m) and we decided to take the small roads over the mountains. With the early morning mist in the hills we started a lovely curvy asphalt road going up the hills. When the sun came out it was time for us to leave the road direction north on a gravel road for the next 190 km. The beginning was a bit rough; clay road with big stones in it but very soon it went better and we enjoyed the ride through the mountains with small villages growing Tabaco and vegetables and all the kids along shouting “sabaidee!!!” and waving towards us. We had several rivers to cross and after a while the unsealed road became very wide: they started to build a big street here. On the next kilometers we had to stop and to wait several times because they were just working on the “street” with their bulldozers and it was not always easy for us to go through the fresh earth with big stones but therefor we had nice chats with the guys around. Unfortunately again one of our panel holders broke because of all the vibrations and we fixed it on the go with stripes. When we reached Boun Tai we stopped in a place which was looking like a garage. It took a while until it was clear what we need but then everybody was helping to fix it as fast as possible and everybody was excited to see such a BIG motorbike and started to observe it from every angle. (Honestly, it looks quite funny sometimes when the guys are standing next to the bike and measuring themselves – not even tall as the bike ;)
The panel holder was welded and off we went again hoping the road is becoming better now as it is supposed the main connection to Phongsali… but of course not! Good test for the job the guys just did at the bike and really tiring for us… After another 30 km we finally reached Bon Yo and an asphalt road! Happy and rewarded with a beautiful small road full of turns and incredible views we were heading to Phongsali into the sunset.
In Phongsali we met a group of people from all over the world and spending the evening eating and drinking LaoLao (Locally distilled RiceWine) together. Due to the geographical situation you have beautiful views up here, you can feel the influence of China in many ways and not that many tourists are around. From here our direction will be south.
We spend one night in Oudom Xai, a city which is more or less in Chinese hands. Unfortunately I was facing problems with the stomach for the first time and only happy to have a proper room to relax. Next day we went to a small lovely village at the Nam Ou River within rocky mountains: Nong Khiew. The best place for having a longer break and to recover from travelling, taff roads and grumbling stomachs. We found a fantastic little guesthouse a bit further from the riverside run by a lovely family who “adopted” us immediately. For the next three days our home was a nice clean little bamboo in a quite yard of Mr. Lin`s Family who does speak French, they have the best Guest House at this place. His son Tin and his wife Mone do speak well English. We went fishing in little river together with Tin. The technique for fishing is to walk up the river throwing a net with a chain out and towing it out again. For dinner we had of course grilled fish and fish soup. When we went to take gasoline we met two bikers on their trip around the world; Roland from Switzerland and Ingo from Germany. We convinced them easily to stay a night in this nice village and had a nice evening together with them. Hopefully we will see them again in south Thailand – they are doing the loop Lao-Cambodia the other way around.
The last evening we were invited to a ceremony to say good bye to Gaeto from Switzerland who spend a lot of time with the family. It was a very special experience and very touching as we got praised the same time with food and many ropes on our arms to be protected in the future. Of course Mama Ling did not forget out Motorbike to praise with ropes and food as well! It was hard to leave but nevertheless we had to continue slowly.
We took the road 1c via Vieng Thong to Phonsavan which was really breathtaking and a dream of a road for the motorbike – windy, up and down the mountains, passing little villages we were driving most of the time on a level of 1000m up to 1680m.