Golden Triangle & riding to "Secret" Laos
Learning to ride a motorcycle up in the northern Golden Triangle region of Thailand
was something my Dad set up for me in the Easter holidays.
The aim was for me to get trained up for us to tour Laos in August on Honda XRs, all the way to the Vietnam border
and on to the secret headquarters of the Pathet Lao.
I had been to Laos & Cambodia before, riding pillion on the back of Dad's GS last year.
But this time I would be riding my own bike!
But back to training, I had Thai Enduro ace Khun Nop training me on his training course outside Chiang Mai.
I stared out on his ratscoot but it wasn't long before I graduated to the Honda XR which was going to be my ride
for the rest of my time in South East Asia. though it wasn't until the second day that I finally got some "air"!
On the third day we went up the dirt track to Doi Suthep Mountain above the city of Chiang Mai.
This was great hair-raising fun, especially the very steep sections -
I didn’t think I would make it up to the top as the deep ruts
sometimes didn’t give you much of an option, barely inches from the edge.
Terrifying but incredibly exhilarating at the same time.
But Nop had taken all the indicators and headlight off the XR making it cheaper to crash.
Apparently, I still bent the handlebars and broke both brake & clutch levers – 500bht – cheers Dad!
April is the hottest month in Thailand and understandably the time the Thais celebrate Songkhran the water festival
celebrating the lunar new year.
In Chiang Mai they stretch a one-day holiday into seven days of water splashing mayhem.
No one is immune no matter how cute
We had to adjust our riding accordingly - it is safer to pull up and be drenched
than trying to continue through a wall of water.
Some of it had blocks of ice!
After three days riding mostly way out of town on dirt tracks I knew I had been bitten by the biking bug
and was only too keen to come back.
As they say in Amazing Thailand anything is possible.
But protection is necessary and Dad insisted in ATGATT.
So when I returned in August the emphasis this time was on road work
as our time in Laos would be primrilly riding on tarmac but on narrow roads.
So Dad had arranged another 3 days of XR riding with Khun Nop.
On the first Day we headed out towards the stadium, where Nop put me through slow control exercises.
Riding fast on the roads, on the whole, presented little problem;
but controlling the throttle in conjunction with the clutch, I was finding,
determines your ability to ride slow & steady - whilst hopefully keeping the bike under control.
Nop, as you can see, demonstrated his one-sided riding technique.
After a morning of skills, we headed out to Houai Kao Lake,
where we had lunch at the lakeside with fried chicken & rice.
Meanwhile a brief shower came down. Biking in Thailand, especially during the rainy seasons,
can be a soggy affair. But it never gets cold so it is not a real problem,
providing you take account of the sometimes slick surfaces.
Back on up the hill, hanging a right, along a scenic side road,
which I was told would be similar to the roads I would be riding in Laos.
Eventually we reached the top where we took a dirt road through the Hmong hill-tribe villages.
We had to be careful of oncoming traffic as the road was barely a car’s width wide.
The next two Days Nop and I went out together.
We rode the Samoeng Loop in its entirety and did a lot of traffic work in Chiang Mai,
culminating in ten circuits of the moat.
In the evening we would meet the other GT Riders www.gt-rider.com including David Unkovich who set it up,
and Beamer Boy back from his epic China trip.
All of them helped my dad in putting my trip together.
By now I had clocked up some 700 kms of riding in the north and Nop declared me ready
for the next part of my adventure.
Next stop Laos!
Laos Adventure - Part I
We flew from Chiang Mai into the old royal Laos capital of Luang Prabang.
A roller-coaster ride with the old ATR turbo-prop being flung around in some very big black clouds.
As we descended we could see the terrain we would be riding across, crossing the grain of the country
across cloud covered mountainous terrain, heading east to the Vietnamese border
before heading south to the capital Vientiane.
The twisty roads below, promised a fun time let’s hope the weather will hold off.
Our plan was to ride east towards Vietnam and the Pathet Lao caves in Vieng Xai.
Then head to the plain of Jars and on to Vang Vieng before heading back to the capital, Vientiane.
In town we checked into the Ancient Luang Prabang hotel, a little upscale
at the beginning of the main drag, with WiFi throughout the hotel.
Waiting for us outside our hotel were three Hondas – one XR for myself
with Dad and Thongkhoun, our guide from Green Discovery, on Bajas.
It was quite late so we walked down the main road for a pizza,
just in time to catch the sun setting behind the royal family's temple
before going to bed early – the next day was to be the first of our Laos adventure and a preparation & work-up day.
Breakfast was disappointing, so we went down the road to Jomos, a coffee shop that puts Starbucks to shame.
But the sun was out glinting on the golden stupa above - magical!
And the silver hydra-headed serpent steps were beautiful but strange!
Then we fired the bikes up and headed north out of town up the main road to Pak Ou,
where we found a Hmong village on the banks of the Mekong, entirely devoted to serving tourists.
Here boats from Luang Prabang made an obligatory before going across the Mekong to the Buddha cave.
Where we parked up a stall holder selling lao-lao rice wine had small shot glasses line up.
Thongkhoun passed me a glass – yukkkh!
He finished mine and his quickly.
Crossing by long-tail we walked up the steps to the Buddha cave.
Inside hundreds of Buddhas of all sizes and some said to be many years old were terraced far back and high in the cave.
It is supposed to bring you merit to bring a little statue and then to visit it on auspicious days every year.
It is also said that the really old ones have become valuable and some have been stolen by collectors.
A beautiful place nonetheless, and despite the gaggle of tourists jostling up and down the steps.
I had thought that riding the bike on the right would be a problem having learnt in Thailand,
but dad was right and I didn’t notice the difference after a short time.
After the mele of riding the Chiang Mai moat at rush hour,
Luang Prabang and Laos were proving to be a pleasure and far less stressful.
Dad had hired Thongkhoun who is probably the best motorcycle guide in Laos
and an awesome off-road rider, as our guide and who would always be riding up ahead of me.
Dad was the tail-gunner.
Tomorrow the ride starts for real!
It sure is beautiful on that part of the world!! And it looks like D-S paradise.. :thumb
Thanks for the appetizer :clap let's have the main course :lurk
Fantastic ride report, keep it up!:clap
I have ridden in Thailand and Cambodia, but have yet to hit Laos and Vietnam.
Can't wait to see more!
Awesome...can't wait for more.
Well done! A first-timer with the right attitude. Keep smiling. :D Your dad will tell you why.
Chohk dee! :ricky
Day 1 Luang Prabang to Vieng Thong
Day 1 Luang Prabang to Vieng Thong
Left from Luang Prabang at 08:30
After coffee and cream cheese & bacon bagels at Joma’s. Yummm!
Then we filled up with fuel at the Caltex station.
Dropped by mechanics to adjust chains and top up tyres before heading north on Route 13 out of town.
Then over the Nam Ou river and the turning to the Pak Ou Buddha cave.
Thongkhoun - the Rider in Black - and I were riding up front with Dad riding sweeper at the rear.
It wasn't long before we started a gradual ascent into the mountains.
Got to Pak Mong after two hours, a rather squalid junction town,
we then headed east on what looked like a temporary road [don't be fooled by false expectations!] to Nong Khiaw.
Whenever we got the chance we would ride the odd dirt side roads
Picturesque on the Nam Ou river. Delightful ride into Nong Khiaw following the Nam Bak river.
Lunch at Nong Khiau Riverside Resort (www.nongkiau.com nice Danish owner Eskil).
I had an interesting entry into the resort, riding down the small track and clipping a sandbag,
which sent me sliding down the slope ending up beneath the stilts of one of the villas with the XR on top of me!
Pride rather than physical injury was what was hurt most- more of an eggplant than a face plant!
Great views of the Nam Ou river from the resort
A killer cat was playing with a lizard whilst we ate delicious fried chicken noodles.
Having punctured the lizard a number of times he hid in disgrace in a BDU cluster bomb casing!
A shame we didn't have time stay a night as the food, views and rooms were outstanding.
1:15 headed up highway 1C, an unprepossessing tarmac road that in parts turned to apple crumble topping with a muddy custard.
Dad for ever lagging behind, one moment it was bugs in his helmet, the next it was spiders.
When he caught up he spluttered:
"These knock-off Chinese IRC tyres are darned dangerous. You can ride this bike.”
to our by now long-suffering guide, Thongkhoun. Bikes were quickly swopped.
Thongkhon did have to agree that the IRC's had little sidewall strength, making corners interesting!
Thongkhoun - the best motorcycle guide in Laos.
Contact him through Green Discovery - www.greendiscoverylaos.com
Dad & I at an amazing viewpoint along Route 1C
Few vehicles on the road allowing momentary glimpses to take in the stunning views,
Those darkening clouds were the beginning of a cyclone which we were to find out tomorrow!
Taking a break - hot & humid
On the twisties you have to stay with in your side to avoid nasty surprises around the corner.
The police pick-ups particularly have a tendency to come flying around the corners AND on the wrong side of the road!
Filling up in Sam Soun - incredibly friendly people!
It was a joy riding through the villages in comparison with Thailand. Here the villagers are all beside the road and the kids especially,
wave joyously as we pass through. Natural hazards like poultry, dogs and kids should be best avoided.
By mid afternoon the sun had disappeared and the darkening gloom heralded rain clouds with spattering drops.
At one stage coming down the hill I managed to contact a jumping rock, which sent me swerving, legs akimbo.
Heart in mouth, I recovered, only to wait for Dad - who did the same!
Along the route there were signs advertising the presence of tigers in the national park Nam Et-Phou Louey “We’re Proud To Have Tigers Here”.
The word is that there is barely a handful of tigers left, most of them have been killed off for the nefarious tiger parts trade going to China.
We got into Vieng Thong just before dusk
It was a 9 hour day with stops - not difficult but great fun.
Before dinner we headed out to the hot springs. Down a dirt muddy road for 2 kms we arrived just in time for evening ablutions.
The Steam was rising from the picturesque hot springs though a large floating green scum made the warm pool of water uninviting.
Under long pipes protruding from the concrete wall locals had come to shower.
Supper of garlic fried pork and sticky rice followed by BBQ duck in Vieng Thong’s main restaurant
– a fly-blown establishment that required the “Aussie Wave” to clear through the cloud of flies just to eat.
We stayed at the Dokchampa Guest House (064-314-469, 020-2002-446)
clean and adequate, secure bike parking and is better than the other option the Souksakhone.
Beds are Pathet Lao war issue - if you have a numb bum after hours on an XR, then expect a numb night).
KMs today LPG 32, 40, 40, 30 Nong Khiaw 46, 21, 95 +5 VT 309
Awesome trip! :clap
I am reeaaalllllly jealous.
Sweeeeet ride!!!:thumb What a great trip to do with your dad!!:clap :clap :lurk
great pics and commentary
i'll have to check this thread often!!!! thanks!!!!:ear:clap
Good insights .. give me a good idea of what Laos road will be like. Will be heading there next week covering 5 countries comprising Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar hopefully and Cambodia. Will post a ride report if everything goes well. Wohooo can't wait. :clap :clap :clap
Great thread! I want to go over for the water festival!!!!
Fantastic ride report :thumb
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