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Old 04-08-2012, 09:58 PM   #1
Marcbar OP
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Adventure Laos Style!

After our adventure through the Indian Himalayas two years ago we immediately set about researching our next trip and decided that Laos would be a great country to see. Two new members one being Amador from Trafalgar and Rohan from Ballarat joined the original four lads on the India trip including Dick, Phil, James and myself Marcus. This kept the balance at three from each town!
Laos is a largely unspoilt country with very friendly people who live a very simple but happy life.



This is a map of Laos with the route we took.



A close up of the route we took.

For this trip we hired six Honda 250 motorbikes and also chose to take a guide. English is not spoken widely so having a guide would be a great benefit.
We flew to the Laos capital Vientiane where we stayed for two nights in a hotel in the heart of the city. The planets must have all aligned well because right next door was a French wine store where for $25 we could buy excellent Burgundy or Bordeaux so of course James and I tucked in!
Anyway the morning came for us to leave and our guide Yee lead us out of Vientiane and after only 30 odd kilometres we were on our first rough dirt road still trying to get used to riding on the right hand side of the road. This in itself took some getting used to especially when entering back onto the road from the left hand side, you naturally stay left until you see a car or truck coming straight for you! We experienced our first river crossing when we loaded three motorbikes at a time on small boats to cross the mighty Mekong River, now that was exciting trying to ride the bikes up onto the boat but not over the other side. We arrived in Paklay for our first night and we were all quite tired from a tough days ride.



Charcoal ovens.



Albino Buffalo!

The next morning from Paklay we rode North hoping to get to Xayaboury for the annual Elephant Festival. We arrived in Xayaboury just after lunch and were keen to stay for the night because the Elephant Festival was on but there was no beds anywhere to be had. We had a bit of a look around and along with many Laos men, women and children were entertained by a bull elephant having his way with a female, needless to say I wont go into the details! Well we had to keep moving because the next town of Hongsa was 100 kms away and in Laos that distance takes about four hours.



Elephants at Xayboury.

We arrived in Hongsa late in the evening and had a chat to two guys from Brisbane who had hired bikes in Thailand and were just spending a couple of days in Laos. The next morning we all went off down to the village market to find something for breakfast and James found a lovely snack of chicken feet on skewers, now they don’t really taste bad but are very chewy! This is also where I first discovered Smoked Rat for sale in the market and no I didn’t try it! We also found some lovely mangos, paw paw and bananas that we had cut up for us for breakfast. Generally breakfast in Laos was made up of two fried eggs, lettuce, cucumber and tomato. Elephants are still used quite a bit in this area to transport goods and also for farm work, many of the elephants from Hongsa had made the long trip on foot to the Elephant festival.



Tobacco drying in the back yard.



Chicken Feet Skewers!



Smoked Rat and Bird yum!



Wonderful fresh produce at the markets.



Fresh chickens. Whole chicken if you can afford it or the feet, neck, wings and head if you can't.



Live Catfish which when cooked up were delicious.

That morning one of the guys Phillip was not well but was keen to keep moving so off we went on quite a good road to Pak Beng arriving at mid morning but by this stage he was worse and the road in front of us was going to be very rough so a decision was made to stop for the rest of the day. To make the most of the day the rest of us hired a Fast Boat and the young driver took us for a fast ride up the Mekong and then stopped for us to have a look at some locals panning for gold. We also had a swim and even though the weather was hot the water was very cold but refreshing all the same. In Pak Beng we had some very Laos sausage and chicken from a roadside BBQ that were delicious.



BBQ Laos sausage and chicken. Better than any Western take away food!



A typical village was either on a ridge like this one or down near a river.

The next morning Phillip was well enough to keep going but we had heard about a ride that we could do around a National Park in a very remote region of Laos and after encouraging our guide Yee into deviating off the itinerary we had to do a huge days ride to get to the area. We were coming across more and more very remote villages where the children were not too sure what to make of us but after singing out a cheerful “Sabaai-dii”(hello) they became more inquisitive. Going through one village I was about 4 bikes back when I came upon a little girl of about 1 or 2 walking down the middle of the road with no one around at all and was not too concerned about us going right past her.



The little girl walking down the middle of the road!



Sabaai-dii......



Amador with his fan club.



Very happy children always keen to say hello.

Each village is very self supporting in that they have their own rice paddies, vegetable gardens, chickens, pigs, ducks, goats and cows so very little is transported into the area. We found Laos to be far cleaner and more hygienic than India and we didn’t witness anywhere on our trip any signs of starvation.



Two girls take great delight in seeing their photos!



Sabaai-dii......!!!!



Cool hat!



The cool hats model.

The first half of the days ride was from Pak Beng to Houei Xai and was as expected a tough ride with lots of rough mountains to cross but also some lovely friendly villages along the way. The second half of the days ride from Houei Xai we rode on an incredible road that was as good a surface as any racetrack in Australia so we took full advantage and pretended we were in a GP race. The road was at least 150 kms long with hardly any traffic and was according to Yee paid for by the Chinese.
So after a long days ride we arrived in Vieng Phoukha and as usual booked into a Guest House which were about $10AUD per night and quite comfortable apart from having very thin mattresses on very hard boards. Most had showers and some worked well and others even had hot water! The other thing that amazed us was that most guesthouses had free WiFi, which begs the question why do the hotels in Australia charge so much for it.



Yummy banana fritters.

Each night our guide Yee would find out where the best place was to eat and also order an array of food for us to share, this was great because we would often try something quite different. Beer Laos was about $1 for a tall bottle and was a very nice beer indeed especially after a big day on the bike! Even in some of the smallest villages we could always get a noodle soup for lunch, all a bit different to each other but with the one thing being in common was the generous use of chilli!



Cool shoes!

The day dawned for our ride around the Nam Ha National Park where even Yee had not travelled. The first leg was via what can only be described as a goat track and took about four hours to cover 60 kms. It was magnificent old growth rainforest and had the most remote village we visited on the whole journey, so much so that when we rode into the village a little boy saw us and took off crying. We arrived in Luang Namtha late that day very dusty and tired but also having had one of the best days of the trip. In this town we met three guys who are Americans living in Bangkok and were in Laos for a weeks riding when one of their friends had a bad accident and had broken some ribs. Yee used his local knowledge to help them with medical help and also transporting the injured guys bike back to Vientiane. You are a very long way from any good medical help here and most cases are evacuated to Thailand.



The remote village of Tha Luang.



The communal bathroom and laundry.



Our guide Yee. Just a really great bloke.

Marcbar screwed with this post 04-09-2012 at 04:46 PM
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Old 04-08-2012, 11:13 PM   #2
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amazing photographs! hope to see more
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Old 04-08-2012, 11:42 PM   #3
Comrade Art
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Looks like an epic adventure

You don't hear to many things about Laos. Thanks for sharing and keep posting!
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:26 AM   #4
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Awesome ,cant wait to get back there
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:16 AM   #5
Marcbar OP
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Wicked The ride continues......

The Northern Western part of Laos is very mountainous and so we had started doing a lot of climbing and along with that millions of corners. This is where we had to be very careful not to go cutting corners or taking them too wide because at many times we encountered long buses or trucks having to take corners on the wrong side of the road due to the corners being so narrow. That night was spent at Nong Khiew in tree houses over looking a spectacular river and was one of the higher standards of accommodation we had in Laos. Over dinner that night all the guys were in a bit of a playful mood so a great night was had and we also managed to entertain other tourists staying there.



The river looking one way....



and the other way.....



The tree houses we stayed in for the night were very comfortable. A great place to stay.



From left Dick, Amador, James and Rohan enjoy a Beer Laos and Gin and Tonic on the deck of the treehouse.



Some boys playing up for the camera!

The next morning was Amador’s birthday and in “Top Gear Vietnam” style James and I had bought him a lovely pink hat and a Sponge Bob back pack. Amador was made to wear the backpack all day and when ever we stopped had to wear the pink hat!



Happy Birthday Amador!!!!!



Amador heads off on his Birthday!



Amador was sure that we were up to something so decided to set James up with a nice little red number!

Our next day was to get to Vieng Thong where we met with a Laos guide who was to take us on a two-day riverboat trip up into a Tiger protection area. This is a very small-scale tourism venture and they are only expecting to take 120 people on the trip this year so we felt very privileged to do the trip.



Tiger country.

The journey started in the town of Phou Lao and we were put two to a long boat with a driver and a scout for an exhilarating ride up river through a lot of rapids for about two hours, eventually reaching the Nam Et National Protection Area camp. On arrival we were treated to a scrumptious lunch that was way to big and afterwards had a swim in the river.



The boats that were to take us up the river.



Our skipper!



The second mate!



There were a lot of these water turbine generators in the rivers and were used to power lights etc in river side villages.



The water in a lot of the river was very shallow and by keeping the propellor just under the surface the skipper was able to keep the boat moving along well.





In fact it got so shallow the guys had to clear a lot of rocks away so that we could get through.
I did want to help but they insisted that I just sit back and relax



Lunch was a great feast of sticky rice and assorted dishes.

At around 3 pm the boatmen picked us up again and took us further up the river for about another two hours where we stopped and the very versatile boatmen cooked us a lovely BBQ dinner on the banks of the river. After dinner we sat around the fire sipping home made rice wine directly from a large pottery jar and then we went around the fire telling each other about our families, jobs and dreams. It was great to hear how happy these people were with their lives. Now that it was fully dark we piled back into the boats and drifted down the river with the current while trying to spot tigers with our spotlights! No tigers were spotted but we did see a Civet and heard Sambar and Barking Deer. There are only about 30 to 40 tigers left in this area of 30,000 square kms and poaching is still the major problem. The next morning we were taken on a walk around the bush learning about the natural medicines they use and then it was back into the boats to return to the motorbikes. This was definitely the high light of the trip for me and would recommend it to anyone doing a trip to Laos.



There were loads of these butterflies along the river banks.



BBQ dinner on the banks of the river.



A message left by the poachers for the tiger protection squad. "Try to stop us and we will shoot you"



Our tree house for the night.



James models in front of his bed!



This was the view you had from sitting on the dunny! I'm not sure looking at James was helping me with what I was trying to do!

From here it was on to Xam Neua where we stayed for two nights so were able to catch up on some cloths washing as by now we were all starting to get on the nose a bit! It was also here that James, Marcus and Amador gate crashed a party to see what all the noise and singing was all about. We ended up managing to communicate with two brothers who would not let our beer glasses get below half full before filling them up and demanding that we drink!
While in this region we spent a day having a look through the caves at Vieng Xai which is where 23,000 people made up of villagers and Pathet Lao Revolutionary forces set up their headquarters in the surrounding caves during the Second Indo China War. A little known and sad fact is that the Americans dropped 200 million tons of bombs over 9 years on Laos.



This was a huge cave that had a stage and was used to entertain the troops.



You can see the size of the concrete blast wall at the entrance to one of the caves, this was to stop any in coming bombs entering the cave.



We came back out from the cave to find these guys having a rest in the shade of a bike wheel!



Not to mention this turkey looking very delicious.



At the entrance of one cave this little bloke was playing next to a stream. Simple fun without a Play Station in sight!



Boys on their way to school.



On our way back from the caves we thought we would visit a water fall. Well it was about a 3km walk down a steep rutted track but was very worth while when we got there.
All three guys fro Trafalgar and Yee had a swim but the Ballarat boys chickened out.

Leaving the next morning we headed for Phonsavan along a very mountainous and twisty road and at one stage we found a bus stuck half way through a corner not able to go forward and not able to go back!



The scenery was spectacular but not very clear with a lot of smoke spoiling some views.



Yee wouldn't even let me fix my own flat tyre.



This is one way of getting water from a stream closer to the village. Just run it down some bamboo cut in half!

We visited a site called the Plain of Jars where there were around a hundred jars chiselled out of sandstone and granite varying in size from 1 to 3 metres high and 1 to 2 metres wide. The research suggests that they were used for the cremated ashes of family members however Laos story has it that they were used to brew and store Lao Lao Rice Wine. There are several different sites where the jars can be found but as our guide Yee told us “once you have seen one jar, you have seen them all”!



The Plain of Jars.



The jars may also have been used as a human canon!



Theres always someone playing up for the camera.



Just one of the many bomb craters around the Plain of Jars.



A mighty handsome bloke that Phil.



Amador showing us how they made sure there were no more UXO's (unexploded ordinance) left around the Plain of Jars.

Marcbar screwed with this post 04-09-2012 at 06:11 AM
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:59 AM   #6
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and continues some more....

Shortly after we started heading for Luang Prabang Yee pulled us all over and asked if we wanted to take a very rough track that he had never attempted or would we prefer to take the tar and do it easy. Four of us wanted to take the opportunity to see some more of the really remote areas of Laos but Amador and Phil were keen to take the tar. Yee was not happy to split the group so a fair amount of pressure was brought to bear on the two naysayers and eventually they agreed to come with us. Well to say this was a hard ride would be an understatement and the 200 km trip took us 9 hours of riding some of the roughest tracks and most of the time through thick bulldust. We saw some incredible sights along the way as we climbed over an incredibly high mountain and then down the other side to a village on a river. Here we had to cross one bike at a time on boats that were not much bigger than canoes. As we crossed with the bikes we were fully kitted up and would have sunk like stones if we had fallen in. At the village we had a very simple lunch of noodles and fresh fruit and watched the women use a very simple hand cranked machine to separate cottonseeds from their cotton before they spun it and then weaved dresses. We arrived at Luang Prabang just as the sun was going down and were all covered in dust and totally exhausted but very happy with the days ride. Yee was so happy with our ability to get through this days ride he came round to each one of us and gave us a high five, this was unusual for Yee to show such emotion.



Typical of some of the off the beaten track type roads.



These girls were very shy but let me take a photo.



We used Yee as the Guinea Pig to see if the boat would get us across the river.



This was a matter of great balance to stop the boat from tipping over as we crossed.



James looks like he is saying "Should I really be doing this, is it safe?"



Maybe not James



On the other side of the river was a village and these girls were using this equipment to separate the seeds from the cotton before they then spun it for use in weaving garments.



Another one of those smoked rats!



Another of the river crossings.



This was the sort of conditions that we were in all that day. Foot deep bull dust for most of the day.



Very very dusty.



Fueling up in a tiny village.



More rivers to cross.



The Stig was in Laos too!



From left Dick, Marcus, Phil, Yee, Amador, Rohan and James.
The end of a very long, hard and dirty day!



You can see just how tired, dirty and at the same time delighted I was.

Luang Prabang is quite a big town accessible by air from outside Laos and so was quite touristy. We took advantage of the shopping there to get small gifts to take back to our families because as you can imagine you can’t fit much on a motorbike. We had two nights here and on the second day took a ride out to a waterfall 25 kms out of town and it was a beautiful place. It was kept very clean and the water was a turquoise blue colour I presume from the limestone rock but was a great place for a swim and also to have a chat to other people from around the world.







The photos above are of the water fall we visited. Great swimming but maybe a little cold!



This BBQ stand was just near the water fall and the food was scrumptious





This was a very nice place to have a two day stop over.



Scaffolding used to sand down the walls ready for painting!



A most beautiful flower.



Father and son.

We left revitalised after a day off the bikes and headed south to Vang Vieng getting in late in the afternoon. This is the town that young people from around the world come to for tubing down the river and where recently there have been a number of deaths due to drowning and also drugs. We were only there for one night and boy did I feel old when we walked down the street past all the bars! Again here though we had really good accommodation overlooking the river and we were able to sit on the balcony and watched the sun set as we drank a Beer Laos.



Sunset from our guest house balcony in Vang Vieng.



The river side restaurant at the guest house.

Well the last day on the bikes was upon us and we set off for Vientiane on a road that was a main road but was in a horrendous condition with potholes covering the complete road and sometimes 30 cm deep. Yee turned off after a while and took us the back way and that was a much smoother and more scenic way. Along the way we stopped at the huge Nam Ngum Dam used for hydroelectric power and is a significant source of foreign exchange earnings due to exporting 70 to 80% of the power it generates to Thailand. When we first stopped at the dam Yee announced that this was the Laos Ocean, not bad considering Laos is land locked! We had a very nice farewell lunch with Yee and all took turns to tell him what a grand bloke he was, washed down with a couple of whiskies and then being a very hot day we went for a swim in the dam before getting back on the bikes and doing the last 70 kms into Vientiane.



The Laos Ocean!



This is how the electricity linesman fix things in Laos!



This was a stunning view.


As we did on the way over to Laos we had a stop over in Ha Noi, Vietnam and spent the day having a look around the city and also finding a barber shop to shave off the three weeks of whiskers with a cut throat razor shave.











As in India James fell asleep during a guided tour of the Old Quarter in Hanoi.



Before......



During......



and after.......


Then it was back on the plane to Australia to a great welcome home from our families and for me a yummy roast lamb with all the trimmings!

Where next you might ask? Well I’m thinking Mongolia in two years time so just enough time to do the research!

For us adventure is mandatory!


Just had some photos sent to me by Phil and thought I should add them. It's great that we all seemed to take such different photos.



Crossing the Mekong River by boat. Mind you this was a lot more stable than the single boat crossings.



An elephant and its Mahout in the town of Hongsa. I found it quite amazing that this elephant and two others were living in the town with the family that owned them.



Best way to transport people and goods around a lot of Laos was by these long boats.



Man we ate a lot of dust this day as can be seen by Rohans shirt.



A common form of transport for people and goods in Laos was this machine.



One of the more beautiful temples we saw in our travels. This one is in Luang Prabang.









Sunset in Vang Vieng.





Panorama shot of the mountains that surround Vang Vieng.

Marcbar screwed with this post 04-10-2012 at 05:43 AM
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Old 04-09-2012, 06:59 AM   #7
Dee Cee
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Thumb Laos

Brilliant mate.

I have finally sorted our computer and I will send my best pickies over to you and James.
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Old 04-09-2012, 07:00 AM   #8
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Laos

And Amador!!!!
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Old 04-09-2012, 12:13 PM   #9
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Laos

Nice ride report

Laos is on my shortlist!!!!
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Old 04-09-2012, 05:20 PM   #10
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Great pics and RR.
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Old 04-10-2012, 03:21 AM   #11
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Great RR. If there is room will jump in for the mongolia trip.

Cheers
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:41 AM   #12
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GREAT!
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Old 04-10-2012, 03:41 PM   #13
Ed Muggles
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Great work guys looks like an amazing trip :P
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Old 04-10-2012, 09:17 PM   #14
Comrade Art
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Amazing scenery!! Does Yee have his own tour company and do you have any contact information? Thanks mate.
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Old 04-11-2012, 01:10 AM   #15
Marcbar OP
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Amazing scenery!! Does Yee have his own tour company and do you have any contact information? Thanks mate.
We used a company called Remote Asia Travel. http://www.remoteasia.com/Home_Page.html

They run tours in Laos and also other Asian countries.

We however only used them to hire the motorbikes from. The guy we dealt with is James Barbush and he also arranged Yee our guide for us.

From memory the bikes were $700 Australian to hire for just under three weeks and Yee was about $700 for the same time frame.

We did also pay for most of his accommodation and food which did not amount to much when divided by the six of us.

Hope this helps and if you have any more questions don't hold back!

Marcus
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