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Old 12-10-2012, 07:08 PM   #481
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Hey SJ, of course I was doing it tough... here's proof



I'm the damn taxi driver / shopping cart driver for the staff when they head off to the markets... well, sometimes I am.

Mostly in Chiang Mai it was relaxing evenings at the Riders Corner bar, catching up with the crowd of riders coming through. Greg Frazier, for example



or checking out the bikes of guys coming through... this Screaming Eagle is owned by another Aussie living up the road a bit



.... and chasing around seeing if I could find a nice Vespa to bring home. Failed on that last count. They've taken on a bit of a cult following over in Thailand and I reckon I'd have to go further afield than Chiang Mai to make it worthwhile. I'd secured the Norton and had a few other interesting leads to chase, but more on that later.

I was back in Chiang Mai to organise getting the Super Enduro home and to take in the festivities of Loy Krathong and another opportunity to ride into Laos. This from the Facebook page of the FIM Asia Laos Motorcycle/4WD Charity Adventure:

FIM Asia Laos Motorcycle/4WD adventure is a organisation for the purpose of proving underprivileged children and families in Northern Laos with basic necessities, mostly clothing

Our organisation called "Chan Chouy Noi" which translates to "I help a little" is based in Chiang Mai northern Thailand. Chan Chouy Noi is a make up of like minded motorcyclist and 4 wheel drivers who enjoy and appreciate the beauty and wonderful people of Laos. We have a driven need to give something back to the warm friendly families of Laos that make us so welcome on our adventures through their country.

We offer people the opportunity to give by donation, or join us on a annual motorcycling and 4 wheel drive adventure, to distribute clothing to needing villagers in remote rural areas of Northern Laos.

Chan Chouy Noi is 100% non profit and incurs no administration cost. All donations contribute 100% towards buying basic life essentials for needing Laotian people mostly second hand clothing. Distribution and transport cost are incurred by our members

Mark Rossi, from my old home town, Coffs Harbour, kicked this off last year and enough funding had been secured to make another run. The FIM in that title incidentally, is the FIM... the motorcycling sport governing body. Its great to see them contributing here. Mark kicked it off because Laos had given him so much. So many friendly and helpful people who never asked for anything in return... but were desperately poor. Mark has been part of running tours through Laos and loves the place.

Som, who owns the Riders Corner Cafe in Chiang Mai, did a massive amount of the pre-work. We had enough in hand to buy 400 blankets (it gets cold in winter in the mountains of Laos) and hundreds of sets of second-hand kids clothes, along with some medical supplies. We had three ute loads (that'd be a truck in the USA). There were to be more bikes, but Phil stacked and hurt a wrist, Justin had also stacked and had three plates in his arm... and I ended up being the sole bike this year... on the Super Enduro.

I had the misfortune of being the only guy there when 400 blankets turned up and had to be unloaded and carried inside. Sounds easy eh? Yeah, right. Meanwhile, the pool table got encumbered with the kids clothing... which had to be sorted into a dozen or so sacks so that we could handle distribution to the three remote villages we were targeting.

The ladies seemed to relish this.... and not just the staff. Friends who called in joined the production line for several days





Kitchen staff and waitresses... not always working hard



We split the load between Mark, Auke (aka Lone Rider on the Ride-asia.net forum ... Auke being an incredibly helpful and knowledgeable chap who has produced several maps and GPS products for northern Thailand and nearby areas) and Phil's utes. Here's Mark loading up



We set off in convoy but about 115km up the road from Chiang Mai, I pulled away and started enjoying the fabulous twisties and sweeping corners that abound up there. That lasted about 5 kilometres before I went sideways around a lovely downhill lefthand sweeper.... my second flat tyre of the week. I'd had that repaired at a bike shop in Chiang Mai... and the guys had thrown the new tube in before I got back inside from the water tub, having found where the puncture was. Wrong. They hadn't corrected the problem.... which turned out to be a worn out rim band.... with a spoke head sticking through.

I tried to roll into the town at the bottom of the hill... but it wasn't to be, so....






Justin, Bill and Auke all providing moral support. Bill, incidentally, hadn't been in Laos for 47 years.... and this was an entirely different sort of mission to his previous visits.

Justin couldn't resist in the end....



The others all left while I was still tidying up, as I had the ability to travel a lot faster... sort of. I trundled into town and got the pressures right and set out to chase them but I really didn't trust the rear wheel to stay up. I'd gaffer-taped over the spokes where the rubber strip was damaged, but I didn't trust it. I wasn't going to be hammering through the sweepers. Still, some pretty spirited riding on the straights saw me catch them at a fuel stop... and we kept at it, heading to the border. We took a bit of an unusual path to the border post at Huay Khon... the northern bit of this track



I could sense from Auke's driving that he was worried about not getting through the Thai and then Laos border posts before the 6pm close, so I bolted on ahead... prepared to try and persuade them if necessary. There was a bit of construction traffic headed to the border as well... this is steel for the big coal-fired power plant that the Thais and Chinese are building near Hongsa.



In the end, we left the Laos post right on 6pm. and got to Hongsa in the dark

Last time Phil and I had been to Huay Khon, about 8 weeks earlier, vehicle clearance was being done out of a portable shed... now, the new building is in operation



Immigration control is still at the bottom of the hill. There were some Thai riders from Phuket coming back out of Laos while we were there. Didn't look like they'd seen much dirt



This guy was lucky... they'd made me ride up over that earth berm from the grader and park on the other side. I had to smoke it up to get out and probably sprayed the customs guys with gravel... so they saw common sense with this guy. Here's where they made me park... a prick of a place to get out of with a dished gutter




Phil took most of these shots at Customs.... I'd already bolted the few km down to the Laos post. I'd had a bit of the normal fun clearing out of Thailand. The word "fine" was mentioned - I was a couple of months out of date on my temporary import permit - and was expecting to be paying. Its an official fine btw... I've not been asked for any dodgy ones... The TIP is good for one month. You pay 200 baht a day if you overstay, with a 2,000 baht max.... and that's good for a total of 6 months. I don't think I'd like to test the friendship beyond 6 months. Anyhow, these guys must've been in a good mood. I got out without the fine. Coming back, I had more "fun"... they wanted some Thai paperwork that I don't have, because I'm on an Oz registered bike... but the normal nice but firm approach prevailed.




When you are cleared out of Thailand, its about a kilometre over to the the Muan Ngeun Laos border checkpoint. They are now making you park 150 meters from the Government administration office and you have to walk the rest.



This is the immigration and customs building on the Laos side. I took this on the way in while I waited for the others to catch up.



On the way in, they'd run out of their green temporary vehicle import forms, so they just told me to go. I got them to stamp a photocopy of my bike registration papers. On the way back they were demanding the green form. Again... polite but firm.. and I showed them their stamps on my rego papers... and I got waved through. Damn glad I got that stamp on the photocopy....

Just as a matter of interest... they want US dollars for a visa... $30 for me, not sure if it varies by country of origin. They sting you if you pay in either kip or baht... equivalent to another $6 or so (1200 baht). I'd exhausted my USD, so got stung.

We all left together, just on nightfall and headed to Hongsa. The next day, we'd visit three villages on the northern arms of this Y



We checked in to the Jumbo Guesthouse (half of us did, the rest went to the guesthouse we'd stayed at last time).. Monica, who runs the Jumbo had been organising the Laos end of things with the Hongsa regional government and we had one of their officials and an interpreter joining us the next day. Its a lovely place, 120,000 kip





I missed the briefing session with the government guy...

Dunno why....



Matter of fact... same thing happened the next evening



and the next.
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Old 12-16-2012, 03:49 PM   #482
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Here's our mob settled in for dinner at the Jumbo Guesthouse. There's two ring-ins (the guy on the left with the comb-over and glasses resting on his moustache and his son)... the rest of us, along with Monica were doing the clothing run.



I enjoyed dinners out there... nice and relaxed, although we did have one snake slide through and over my boots one night. A small one... just about the right size to decide that a boot is a nice place to curl up inside. I banged the boots out before putting them on after that.

Next morning, I did my usual walk through the markets. Amazing place. This is one of Phil's photos from our walk through... a squirrel and a civet. Sad. Monica saw a dead Slow Loris too, but it was gone when I went over for a look



There's always lots of bushmeat at the Hongsa market. This is a whole lineup of Drongos... the birds



Here we are, ready to go. We had a government official and an interpreter along for the ride.



I must've been taking dopey pills.... I ended up back in the line for the first half of the day.... chewing bulldust.



Some of it was serious bulldust... a layer several inches thick of very fine dust. I nearly went down in one section where it was dust over loose gravel... I had to slam a boot down, which of course just stretched all the tape on the boot. Not a lot of support left in those boots.

It was funny going up the road and seeing a lot of elephant tracks... then we caught the elephants



I quite like the shot Monica took



They lumbered off and we went on our way too



I came across this young woman with a load of wood and offered her a lift, which to my surprise, she accepted...



I gave her a lift about 5km into Ban Nam Tup village




This is how she was carrying the wood when I picked her up.



That wet (saturated) wood weighed at least as much as her. When she passed it up to me on the bike, it was a real struggle to get it lifted and then pass it around behind me. She sat on the rack. I'd have been knackered carrying it 100 metres... let alone the next 5km and however far she'd already carried it. Its a tough life.

Her village





Our little convoy





My new lenses didn't survive this trip either. That's two trips out of three into Laos that have done a pair of glasses in...




There was a motorcycle-only bridge on the way, but I followed the utes around it anyhow

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Old 12-17-2012, 07:20 PM   #483
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Our first drop point for blankets, clothes and medical supplies was Ban Huay Lai village













Plenty to go around.



It might seem strange, handing out blankets in Asia, but it gets cold up here in the hills and this run was timed to beat winter

Some village life photos







This bloke was getting around with a crutch and a wooden leg



Justin getting around the ladies...



I'd picked this lady as much younger, but the interpreter said she's 30



Phil, Som and Alyssala from Riders Corner in Chiang Mai



Guess who



This is an interesting one. The locals use timber as their "bank". These pieces are their emergency funds





The local single girls.



.... and one just a bit older....



Local life....



Not nice to see...



Quite a lot of character in this lady's face



Cute kids







I wandered over to the school and discovered this mob doing some dance practice, so I shouted them all an orange juice



You can't get happier than a pig in poo

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Old 12-18-2012, 12:14 PM   #484
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Thanks, Ian.

You've had a wonderful journey, this year. We've enjoyed the ride.

All the best for Christmas and I hope you find a job in 2013.

SJ
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Old 12-18-2012, 01:09 PM   #485
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Still some more to come mate.... couple more days needed to get it written and posted.

But in the meantime, what's this "job" thing?
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Old 12-18-2012, 03:37 PM   #486
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one piece, all plastic frames,with the biggest hinge you can find,then take two.also clip on, flip up sun glasses.
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Old 12-21-2012, 08:20 PM   #487
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im still reading. keep it going man.

you're getting good with that camera (someone read the instruction manual )


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Old 12-23-2012, 12:54 AM   #488
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I need some holiday reading, Ian!
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Old 12-23-2012, 03:33 AM   #489
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I need some holiday reading, Ian!

Get orf yer butt and go for a ride fuggers, stop harassing the poor bloke...oh that's right you're winged like me right now...
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Old 12-23-2012, 07:45 PM   #490
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Sorry guys.... the update's going to be a lot shorter today..... another long post just disappeared into the ether. I do so love forums that have autosave.

I'll leave it with the last photos from the first village and do the rest up (again) later.



This water point will almost certainly have been an aid project. Potable water is almost always the first bit of aid to reach remote villages and it has a major impact on health



Grandmas get plenty of work here... if they are still around



There was a bit of waiting around...





They aren't exactly tall in this village








Yeah, she didn't look overly happy, but she got some aches cream... and she was smiling at times after that... just not for the camera







Eventually, folks were gathered and words were said...



The folks from the village wanted to do a full-blown thank you ceremony, but we had to get to two other villages that day, so off we went

Here's where we stopped for lunch. We simply pulled up near a creek, spread out the picnic that Monica had prepared, jumped up onto a bamboo shelter and chomped away.



There's shelters like that all over Asia, the farmers build them so they can watch the rice grow... or whatever.

One of the dishes Monica had sourced, ready prepared, at the Hongsa market, was a Buffalo skin salad. Its lovely.... and we had it back in town too

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Old 12-23-2012, 09:55 PM   #491
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a lot of pictures....

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Old 12-24-2012, 12:27 AM   #492
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Sorry guys.... the update's going to be a lot shorter today..... another long post just disappeared into the ether. I do so love forums that have autosave.
Glad I found this ride report. I look forward to reading all of it when I get some time. I might be picking your brain some on a similar route in 2013/2014 when i get over that direction

As for the auto save.. I type the long ones up in a word doc then past it in. I try to save it a few times in a word document while i'm adding the pics.

Again.. looking forward to getting caught up on this one!
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Old 12-24-2012, 04:31 AM   #493
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Wow....your remote travels and pics are well beyond the standard AdvRider fare we are used to here in North America. Truly inspirational riding you are doing through an area I know little about. Your pics really capture the essence of that region. SO much different than life here...

Thanks for sharing!!
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Old 12-25-2012, 03:45 PM   #494
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Laugh

Christ , someone send this guy some new boots
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Old 12-25-2012, 07:26 PM   #495
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Thanks folks. New boots you say? Phil has offered to have them repaired for me... he reckons there's a mob in Chiang Mai that can sort them out. I have my doubts.

I did have a bit of fun with that right boot on the way to the second village. I hit some marble-like gravel hidden in the bulldust and had to stab the right boot in. The tape just stretched, of course, and the feeling was a bit like stabbing a foot down while wearing flip-flops - zero ankle support, but all was OK. I went sideways at the same spot on the way back too... but a bit slower, so no foot stab needed.

Funny thing though... I just dislocated a little toe on Christmas Eve, stepping around the missus' crutch that was blocking the way in the kitchen (get yer minds above yer waist... her crutch is a metal thing... something to do with her hip replacement) - slammed my toe into an architrave and there it was... sticking out at 45 degrees. It went back in OK but, stuff me, its sore and bruised.

The second village, Ban Huay Xong, is on the banks of the Mekong River and we'd been told it was water access only, so we headed to the river. There were no boats available at the pickup point, but we discovered that the Laos government had just finished, sort of, a road out to the village. They built it themselves, as the various aid funding agencies said that it was a waste of time building it, as it wouldn't survive the wet season.... and it won't. We got held up with roadworks at a couple of places



As soon as that was done, we were off through some wet cement... to the next holdup



I walked that plank to see if it'd hold me.. and decided it wouldn't. It was too short for the gap and my weight would've collapsed it for sure. It didn't take the road crew long to fill it all in.

They'd carved straight through a teak plantation here... and it was a bit greasy



The views over the river were stunning. I took this shot from that road while heading back... just before sunset. Lovely area.



It was obvious that not many cars / 4WDs were using this road



I probably shouldn't have taken this photo.... I was riding one-handed, of course, as I was taking the photo, while sliding down this very steep slope towards the creek with a bit much speed up... with the rear brake locked on and off and unable to stop... not that I wanted to stop.


I got to the village, said G'day



... and was heading back to the utes to tell them that the 2WD ute wouldn't make it. This was the view from the village, back down to the new road. There's a couple of micro hydro power setups down in the creek. Awful little things that have incredibly variable output, as I recall from watching the meter attached to one back in the Nu Pho refugee camp. Still... its the only power that gets to the village, albeit only a few hundred watts



About 600 metres back up the road, I met the utes. Phil, in the 2WD Vito was stuck.



Auke winched him out and Phil's family hoofed it to the village. The other two utes made it in low range 4WD.

Here's a panorama I shot from the village school the next day (more on that later). That's the Mekong on the left. There's an old logging track up on the right by the look of it. It would have washed away in places years ago.



It was lovely wandering around meeting the people. This lady was by far the oldest person in the village



I'll post some more photos of her later.

Here's something the locals put on for us when we were dropping the blankets and clothes off. Lao Hai... which means jar alcohol and is drunk communaly through bamboo straws from an earthenware jar. Its made from fermented sticky rice and this one tasted quite fruity



There's no truth in the rumour that its an aphrodisiac...



By the time we got to the second village it was already getting late. We'd unloaded the blankets and bags of clothes and some of the group had already headed back to go to the third village. I'd taken a few photos of this lady



Like many of the older women in the village, she suffers from what I think is goitre. The old lady also has it



That's from an iodine deficiency apparently.

So, Monica was taking another photo of the first lady and glanced down and saw this



Yeah, no shoes... she was walking around like that, with an open sore that went deep... very deep.

Only Monica, Auke and I were left and we had a chat and decided that we had to take her to hospital. Her husband wasn't there, however, and she wouldn't leave without talking to him, so we told them we'd come back the next day and take her to hospital. We were quite concerned that she'd not survive. There's animals and crap everywhere in these villages. I was worried about the black area... but I'm no medical expert.

Auke and I stayed on in Hongsa while the others headed back to Thailand and we came back the next day after showing the photo above to a doctor at the hospital. "Bring her in" he said as soon as he saw the photo.

Meanwhile, the others delivered the rest of the blankets and clothes to a third village... and we all met up back in Hongsa.

I stopped for a few photos on the way back in. The bulldust is readily apparent here on the roadside vegetation



At times on the way out, I'd been totally blinded in the dust... and the road is littered with rocks like this



Hit one and it'd hurt.... so on the way back, I cleared the road at maybe 10 spots. The rocks are where people have had to change a flat tyre or have broken down.... they chock the wheels and then invariably drive off and leave them there. No-one clears them it seems.

... and for something totally different, I took Monica around to the bar on the other corner of her block. She hadn't realised there was some additional services on offer there, and we were interested to see what the story was. Its just an open bar



Its a dog barbecue restaurant though... and there were dogs yelping in a cage. We were tempted to see if we could get to the cage and open it.... but it didn't happen.

Nor did this... but we had a good chat about life and her work, getting down to discussing prices and why locals get cheaper prices, etc. Her office is a mattress on the floor out back. Bear in mind folks, sex between foreigners and Lao women is illegal outside of marriage.



Its a boom town now, with a lot of construction on and around the power station that's being built there. Bright lights, lots of money.... She seemed happy enough though, although its hard to understand whether its just for show.

Come morning, we grabbed another interpreter (Monica and Auke speak some Lao, but we needed better language skills than they had) and we headed back to the village. I went in the 4WD this time.... happy to avoid the dust for once.

The drive out demonstrated why the power station is going to be a problem here. Here's the new smokestack in the valley.



I'll post a couple more shots of that old lady....





I never saw her leave her house or its verandah.

When we got to the village, the lady with the injury wasn't there... she was working "in the fields" so someone was sent to get her, which took several hours, but we kept busy

They aren't tall in the second village either




The blankets and clothes we'd left hadn't been distributed... they were tarped up in the communal building. Our suspicious minds got to work and we wondered if the village headman had other plans for them... Its a funny setup with these villages. The headman is appointed by the government... and isn't a local. Communism at work. Anyhow.. we decided that while we waited, we'd do the distribution... just in case.

It started off slowly









and hotted up as more got involved





Some just looked on



Perfect



I think I'd seen him the afternoon before



There weren't too many men around... most were out hunting. I think Monica took this shot, maybe Auke



But it was all good fun when everyone loosened up



She's a bit of fun, that one, but I think she's discovered the secret of birth control....



Not sure I'd like to slip the tongue in there...

The youngsters were taking it all in while the clothes were handed out



The single girls tended to take it in from a distance.





No.... not hers... her brother at a guess. She's 8



The headman still hadn't brought the blankets out.... so we did and handed them out



We noticed that they were ending up back on the tarp. We got the interpreter to find out what was happening and it turned out... after some digging, that the headman was worried that some people weren't there and would miss out, so....



We solved it by getting him to record who got a blanket. Sheesh. I reckon next time, given the government has been happy to send someone along, there's some pre-work that can be done. Get the Headman in each village to prepare a list of family names beforehand... then he can just check the names off.

To be fair, some were still coming in from the fields.



Our lady of concern, who we eventually discovered is called Mon, finally turned up and got showered. Showering here is done in the open. There's two water points in this village... and there's a degree of modesty involved... although I have ridden past some rather less modest folks... I took a few photos of this young lady taking a shower while I waited for Mon



While I think of it, this is the school. Three rooms



Quite well um, air conditioned.



That's some sort of animal poop all over the floor... Note the seats and desks... single planks.

Mon finished her shower and I noticed that she's got, shall we say, a shorter sarong and isn't at all bashful

This is Mon heading into her house to get dressed



Still barefoot... she can't afford shoes or even some flipflops



From four in the ute on the way out, we suddenly had seven heading back. Mon got to ride inside, but her daughter, trying to get in here, had to ride up back with the interpreter and the male family member who accompanied them to hospital. Her daughter looks like she does it tough too.



It wasn't too bad... except it rained on them going back in to town...



I reckon what these nurses did then and there in the hospital would have been an operating theatre effort in Oz.



They cut away the dead flesh on both sides of her foot, cleansed it and dressed it and set her up on IV antibiotics




Mon ended up being in hospital for 11 days, on IV antibiotics, etc.

She was tested for leprosy (and found to be negative), fortunately. I'd run across leprosy in PNG 20 years ago, when walking down a track in the highlands and a woman shook my hand. Ughh... I washed my hands in the first puddle I could find after that one.

Monica fed her and her family members (not part of the deal with hospitals there) and bought Mon some shoes and clothes and got them all back to the village. She'll keep an eye on her.

That was a month ago - and I reckon that Mon wouldn't have seen Christmas if Monica hadn't spotted that injury. Mon would have worked until she dropped.... and with zero medicine in the village to treat an infection, that'd probably have been the end of her.
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