|05-19-2011, 07:10 AM||#1|
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Not from round these parts.
Lucky Route 13; Laos
When my buddy J came to visit my wife and I in Thailand last year, we took an epic ride up to the Golden Triangle (Link). It was there that we made our first foray (albeit briefly) into Laos. While we were hanging out in the “special free economic zone” we picked up a copy of the GT-Rider Laos map so that Canoli Wife and I could start planning another trip.
Fast forward a few months and we secured the visas and the crossing papers for my bike and....... queue the riots. Yep thats right.. the very same day that we were going to leave there was a redshirt\ police shootout right along the route that we were going to take. Because of this and the fact that they closed the border crossing that we had planned to use we postponed our trip for 1 year.
This past week the opportunity for a Laos trip we once again presented itself so we packed our bags and headed for the border.
Since we only had 4 days to kill and wanted to maximize our time in country, we opted not to ride from Bangkok, but rather we took a Friday afternoon flight and after a whopping 55 minuets we landed in the capitol city of Vientiane.
Once I was done having my balls busted by the customs commie, we were met by a driver who brought us to meet Jim a Tour Consultant Remote Asia Travel (www.remoteasia.com). Jim had arranged for us to pick up a Transalp 400 in Vientiane and drop it off a few days later in Luang Prabang. Without Jim’s help this tour would have probably not gone as smoothly as it did and he is owed a HUGE thank you.
The bike itself was three different shades of ugly, looked to be older then dirt, but hay.. it had new tires a fresh battery and was absolutely the most perfect machine for the weekend we had planned.
We made a quick stop to fill the bike with gas and another more relaxed break to fill our bellies full of good food (Jomas restaurant) then hit the “highway”. I put the word highway in quotes because Route 13 north out of Vientiane is not a highway in the normal sense of the word. It is one of the only paved roads in the country, and consists of roughly two (marked) lanes, millions of bowling ball sized pot holes and is lined with stalls of vendors selling everything from hand made brooms to live poultry. Additionally the traffic is bat shit crazy insane. Cement trucks three wide and scooters going the wrong way kicking up dust so thick that visibility gets to be a problem. Combine this with the tons of cows, pigs, & chickens that wander across the road, I decided to break the law and turn on my headlight. Yep that’s right, from what I was told, having your headlight on during the day in Laos is a crime. Not sure what the penalty was but I figured that the price of the ticket was cheaper then the price that we would pay if one of those trucks didn’t see us.
After 90 kilometers of the most intense riding I have ever done, the road started to get fun. First it’s a slight elevation change, then a series of right and left turns that seem to bewilder the truck drivers. With the truck drivers trying to make sense of what was going on, I cranked the throttle on the Transalp and the mighty 400 quickly turns the large trucks into small dots in my mirrors.
Just as the rain starts to make the twisty road more interesting then I really want, the surrounding scenery pays some dividends. Massive green peaks of jungle covered limestone burst out of the ground and welcome Canoli Wife and I into one of the most beautiful areas we have ever visited. The views are truly spectacular.
3 hours of riding later and we arrive in the backpacker paradise of Vang Vieng. We check into our room and head out into the darkness looking for food & beer.
Canoli Wife and I spend the next few days in Vang Vieng, eating good food, meeting some cool people and hiking around those beautiful mountains. We even managed to catch the tail end of the local rocket festival.
Two days later and the road was once again calling to us. We had enough of the 20 somethings getting stoned on shrooms & magic pizza …
so we load up, aim the tire north on Rt 13 and at the crack of 10:30 ish start rolling.
Words cannot describe how amazing Rt 13 is. It twists and winds its way though jungle so thick with trees that you can actually feel the amount of oxygen in the air. It passes though picturesque villages that seem to be right out of a storybook,
and it cuts a path into the sides of mountains that are so tall that we spend a lot of time above the clouds.
Stopping for a healthy lunch
.. and to snap a few pictures
we got a chance to talk with a few Thai and Lao tourists who thought that we were crazy for riding on this road on a motorcycle. Canoli Wife shakes her head and says something like she couldn’t imagine NOT riding on this road via motorcycle (She makes me smile).
After 6 full hours of riding and nearing the town of Luang Prabang the pavement suddenly and without warning ended. Instead of dodging potholes & livestock I’m trying to keep the bike upright on loose gravel and slick as snot wet clay. The pouring rain wasn’t helping matters any, and neither did that bus that came at us head on blaring it’s horn and at a closing speed that caused my life to flash before my eyes.
Just as I was about done we rolled into town, found our room for at the Guesthouse Manichan and collapsed. Dragging the bike inside the gate, the caretakers shoved a cold Beer Lao (dark) in my hand and I was quickly back on my feet and went out to dinner with the missus. When we got back to the guest house we sat around talking\drinking with the other guests who were an odd mix of two Rhode Scholar’s a UN rep on vacation few backpackers that were out exploring the world and a few other folks that seemed to be hiding from it.
In the morning Canoli Wife and I spent another day hiking around and visiting a popular waterfall
and bear reserve
That evening we went out to dinner with some of the guests from the house and unfortunately made several key decisions that altered the course of our vacation plans.
The first was that I chose to order a pizza with onions, sausage & whipping cream on it (blasphemy).
The second was a joint decision for us to get an Oreo milk shake from a street vendor after 10 PM.
Not going to go into gory details but when I had to drop off the bike in the morning I had the chance to walk through the local market and it took all of my strength not to throw up all over the place.
A few hours of rest later and we dragged ourselves into a Tuk Tuk and onto an airplane back to Bangkok.
As of this posting both of us have just started eating solid food again and we are already talking about our next motorcycle trip into Laos (Route 7 perhaps?).
In the end we both loved our brief visit because of the (mostly) friendly people, the beautiful countryside and the fantastic Transalp 400.
Until next time
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canoli screwed with this post 05-19-2011 at 07:17 AM
|06-12-2011, 08:40 AM||#2|
Joined: Feb 2011
Location: Bendigo Vic Australia
We know what your talking about when you mention the scary conditions on the road, we traveled by bus from Vientiane to Vang Vieng and it was a white knuckle ride, the driver was off his face and traveling at crazy speeds, the month before we went up there I read in the local paper that there had been a dozen fatalities however we still went and hired motorbikes when we got there and had a great time.
|06-29-2011, 08:16 AM||#3|
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Augusta, GA
Not sure how I missed this RR. Good write up Canoli! Loas look gorgeous! Would love to explore SE Asia sometime.
Never knew they made the Transalp in a 400 either. Pretty cool. How'd it compare to your DR?
|06-30-2011, 08:26 PM||#4|
Joined: Jul 2008
Location: Not from round these parts.
Thanks man dont forget to check out my latest report from last week LINK .
You really should take a trip here. The living is EASY and the roads are fantastic.
Honestly I didnt know they made a 400 either. When I rented it I thought I was getting a 650. Turns out that this was the first bike I rented that I liked more then my DR. It sat about 2 inches lower, had a bigger fuel tank, the pegs were also set lower so I didnt feel cramped the stock seat was comfortable and the fairing helped a lot in the rain. The only downside was that it was a bit heavy but I am seriously looking at trading my DR for one.
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