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Old 12-26-2012, 09:12 AM   #46
LethPhaos
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I might be completely wrong, but didn't I read earlier about unexploded ordinance or mines being a problem in Laos? Seeing pictures of you riding through the fields in the middle of nowhere had me worried. Wouldn't want a fellow ADV'er to end up in pieces all over some field in Laos
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Old 12-26-2012, 01:54 PM   #47
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Top RR, sir. Hope you'll permit a reminiscence...

Exactly 22 years ago today, I was in Lao, for the second time in a year. The first was a week after the Berlin Wall had come down in '89, when Vientiane was still crawling with CIA and KGB, there were no cars or even motorcycles to speak of. Everyone had pushbikes or hoofed it, and there were a few Soviet and one or two Japanese transport trucks around. I had been travelling for two years (S Pac, NZ, OZ, Indo, Mal, Thai) and was a bit jaded. But all of that melted away when I crossed the Mekong in a little bum boat to the Lao immig. checkpoint. The only guy on earth who could get you a Lao visa owned the Mut Mee Resort on Nong Kai.

My first trip I hitchhiked Vientiane to Luang Prabang, stayed at the Hotel Phousi, ate rat, cat, dog, bird, pangolin, christ knows what else along the way. It was all very tasty -- though the split dog-skull soup I'd call an acquired taste.

Second trip I hitched all the way to Xam Neua, via Ponsavan. Still have a .50 cal bullet on my desk that I found out at the Plain of Jars. Then the road NE to Xam Neua -- with those 6-man caves carved into the cliffs by Pathet Lao to avoid the US air attacks as they marched south. The scenery was so out there -- that karst, the 4,000 ft vertical walls of Swiss cheese over jungle. The Xam Neua police chief joined me and a Yank anthropologist on assignment whom I was travelling with -- told me I was the first tourist to make it there since the French had left. Not sure how true that might've been, but it wasn't too hard to believe at the time.

Lao was so extreme every minute and to every sense... getting super drunk with 7 Russian filmmakers, having a Viet trucker in Vientiane try to sell me uranium he said he had in a briefcase downstairs in my hotel, discovering by accident the crazy-potent sticky weed avail in the morning mkt for a buck an oz, getting shot at by anti-communist rebels near Muang Kasi, hearing rumours of MIAs, drinking Beer Lao every night, eating sticky rice with aged fermented fish paste (that looked, smelled and tasted like fresh dogshit) while getting drunk on lau lao whisky at 6am with truckers who'd picked me up, seeing a wrecked US fighter in a village a few hours south of XN, a guy in Kasi trying to sell me his 12 yr old daughter...

Sorry, lost in memories. Always thought it would be great to do the place up on a 125 dirtbike, much as you are, but in those days, too many bombees, etc. to go offroad safely.

Loved The Ravens, Air America, and Backfire. Met an ex-Raven in Changi Sailing Club in S'pore once. He told me much stuff the books don't.

Ok, enough stealing of thunder here. Back to you...
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Old 12-27-2012, 04:15 AM   #48
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Good report thanks. I think I'll have to go back and see some of the south
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:10 PM   #49
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Laos

Quote:
Originally Posted by LethPhaos View Post
I might be completely wrong, but didn't I read earlier about unexploded ordinance or mines being a problem in Laos? Seeing pictures of you riding through the fields in the middle of nowhere had me worried. Wouldn't want a fellow ADV'er to end up in pieces all over some field in Laos
You not wrong LethPhaos about the UXO in Laos, I didn't give it much thought as I was originally on a trail, when the trail stopped I was so engrossed in what I was doing it never even crossed my mind........but yes perhaps a bit more caution.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ThirdUncle View Post
Top RR, sir. Hope you'll permit a reminiscence...

Exactly 22 years ago today, I was in Lao, for the second time in a year. The first was a week after the Berlin Wall had come down in '89, when Vientiane was still crawling with CIA and KGB, there were no cars or even motorcycles to speak of. Everyone had pushbikes or hoofed it, and there were a few Soviet and one or two Japanese transport trucks around. I had been travelling for two years (S Pac, NZ, OZ, Indo, Mal, Thai) and was a bit jaded. But all of that melted away when I crossed the Mekong in a little bum boat to the Lao immig. checkpoint. The only guy on earth who could get you a Lao visa owned the Mut Mee Resort on Nong Kai.

My first trip I hitchhiked Vientiane to Luang Prabang, stayed at the Hotel Phousi, ate rat, cat, dog, bird, pangolin, christ knows what else along the way. It was all very tasty -- though the split dog-skull soup I'd call an acquired taste.

Second trip I hitched all the way to Xam Neua, via Ponsavan. Still have a .50 cal bullet on my desk that I found out at the Plain of Jars. Then the road NE to Xam Neua -- with those 6-man caves carved into the cliffs by Pathet Lao to avoid the US air attacks as they marched south. The scenery was so out there -- that karst, the 4,000 ft vertical walls of Swiss cheese over jungle. The Xam Neua police chief joined me and a Yank anthropologist on assignment whom I was travelling with -- told me I was the first tourist to make it there since the French had left. Not sure how true that might've been, but it wasn't too hard to believe at the time.

Lao was so extreme every minute and to every sense... getting super drunk with 7 Russian filmmakers, having a Viet trucker in Vientiane try to sell me uranium he said he had in a briefcase downstairs in my hotel, discovering by accident the crazy-potent sticky weed avail in the morning mkt for a buck an oz, getting shot at by anti-communist rebels near Muang Kasi, hearing rumours of MIAs, drinking Beer Lao every night, eating sticky rice with aged fermented fish paste (that looked, smelled and tasted like fresh dogshit) while getting drunk on lau lao whisky at 6am with truckers who'd picked me up, seeing a wrecked US fighter in a village a few hours south of XN, a guy in Kasi trying to sell me his 12 yr old daughter...

Sorry, lost in memories. Always thought it would be great to do the place up on a 125 dirtbike, much as you are, but in those days, too many bombees, etc. to go offroad safely.

Loved The Ravens, Air America, and Backfire. Met an ex-Raven in Changi Sailing Club in S'pore once. He told me much stuff the books don't.

Ok, enough stealing of thunder here. Back to you...
Hey ThirdUncle, great to here other accounts of what Laos was like back in the day, I wish I could have seen it for myself and make the comparisons, it has changed a lot since my last visit so the changes since you were last here are massif. Do you have any photos from your trip, please post them I would love to see them.

Thanks for taking the time to tell us about it and i look forward to hearing more and perhaps a few photos...

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Originally Posted by gavo View Post
Good report thanks. I think I'll have to go back and see some of the south
Hey Gavo, the south is beautiful I don't know why so many people don't include in their trips.....


I just got back from another 6 day trip with 4 guys from Singapore on monster trail bikes, BMW Gs's. I need a few days to recover from that so report in few days....thanks for all the kind comments gents and I wish you all a Happy New year.
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Old 01-03-2013, 12:10 AM   #50
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The Singapore Four

On Christmas Eve I set of for Laos again, I was planning to meet a friend and his 3 riding buddies who were coming up from Singapore to ride in Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos, they had asked me a while back did I think it could be done, my reply was "I'm not sure but it sure would be an Adventure just trying", well they are all here now and the trip is on.

Meet The guys..... a first as far as I Know



Yempaul BMW GS1200



Umar BMW GS1200 Adventurer



Arris Yamaha Tenere 1200



Mahdi Truimph Explorer 1200



Your taking what down the trails!


I'm still on the LIfan.



And 6000k's later she is running well and gave a great account for it's self against the cream of Adventure bikes

The plan was to Join the HCMT west of Thakek near the Mu Gui pass and head south as far as we could in the given time which had been cut short. I'm not going to right the full RR on this one I think that should go to the boys, I will just give you a taster of it and let the boys tell tell you about the suffering involved....

We left on the 26th December and after the easy start we soon got into trouble on the rocky descents.





Beautiful trails



The pain started early.





It was not all pain, we had some fun at the local schools.













Then it got really hard, bikes in the river, sunk boats and a lot of sweat and laughter.









Then it got Dark, we ended up in guest house about 9.30 pm, the jungle is a scary place at night and navigation is even harder.









We rested the next day and did some sight seeing.









The Museum in Dong















Shot up Wat Ban Xepon





Bomb Craters.





And the mother..



Friendly locals.



A great day was had, the next day there was only 2 of us and we would take on a section of trail that is very difficult.

Good morning.











Would make it down this infamous part of the trail?













There is a whole lot more to this story and I cant wait for Umar to getting banging those keys

Thanks for inviting me along guys it was a pleasure...
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Old 01-03-2013, 01:10 PM   #51
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Excellent

Fantastic report mate!!, great pictures and stories. I am sure you enjoyed it a lot. Cheers
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Old 01-03-2013, 02:59 PM   #52
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Great report!! That runway next to Vang Vieng was a Lima site. The picture of that check point into Vietnam brought back memories. I was on a Minsk with a Vietnam plate, and crossed there into Vietnam from Laos a few years ago. Beautiful area on both sides of the border. I admire the pluck of those guys taking giant tour bikes down jungle trails. Bet there was more than a few falls..... :-)
I have a Qingqi 200 which is virtually the same bike as yours. Currently has 36,000 kilometers on it. Made possible by careful riding and synthetic oil.
As I am sure you are finding out, Chinese metallurgy still has a ways to advance.
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Old 01-03-2013, 06:59 PM   #53
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Funtastic story, poor peoples but I dont understand war and bombing on this wonderful peoples and countries! So much dies and dies today because idiots war and mines field. Peace on the world, we have just one life, is not better to all driving and explore this beauty world, its present of the God for us...I scare, maybe some people dont deserves this gift.... Realy life is adv and enjoy, joy divide with all people around world....good energu, not evil.
PS: some chinese bikes are very nice, Lifan is right choise for this trip, no big maxi enduro...
My plan is to go in Thailand, buy litlle enduro and go around Laos, Vietnam and so Thailand. Have e nice trip.

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Old 01-04-2013, 06:50 AM   #54
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Fantastic report mate!!, great pictures and stories. I am sure you enjoyed it a lot. Cheers

Hey Sandino thanks

I loves every minute of it and can't wait to get back.......

Quote:
Originally Posted by beemer boy View Post
Great report!! That runway next to Vang Vieng was a Lima site. The picture of that check point into Vietnam brought back memories. I was on a Minsk with a Vietnam plate, and crossed there into Vietnam from Laos a few years ago. Beautiful area on both sides of the border. I admire the pluck of those guys taking giant tour bikes down jungle trails. Bet there was more than a few falls..... :-)
I have a Qingqi 200 which is virtually the same bike as yours. Currently has 36,000 kilometers on it. Made possible by careful riding and synthetic oil.
As I am sure you are finding out, Chinese metallurgy still has a ways to advance.
Hi Beemer boy

Great views from that runway inVV and also the border into Vietnam

I agree that the boys have plenty of pluck and worked very hard for each other, it was great to be part of such an effort and they have no objection to long days with very little rest...... Many falls



Quote:
Originally Posted by Sciii View Post
Funtastic story, poor peoples but I dont understand war and bombing on this wonderful peoples and countries! So much dies and dies today because idiots war and mines field. Peace on the world, we have just one life, is not better to all driving and explore this beauty world, its present of the God for us...I scare, maybe some people dont deserves this gift.... Realy life is adv and enjoy, joy divide with all people around world....good energu, not evil.
PS: some chinese bikes are very nice, Lifan is right choise for this trip, no big maxi enduro...
My plan is to go in Thailand, buy litlle enduro and go around Laos, Vietnam and so Thailand. Have e nice trip.
Thanks Sciii I'm glad your enjoying the ride....

The poor people's of Laos have had a rough deal over the years and still paying with their lives just to earn a crust, the war in Laos was hard to understand and still is but it remains a fact that UXO is all over the place just waiting to blow somebody up, not just in Laos.

Life is an ADV


Let me know when your about in Asia......
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Old 01-05-2013, 06:59 AM   #55
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whoops

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Such a beautiful place!!
Thanks so much for sharing, and I will be following along!


Ride safe

Brad
Sorry Rhino missed you comment..many thanks

Sure is a beautiful place....great riding to...



Glad your along
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Old 01-12-2013, 06:51 AM   #56
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More from the four

The write up from Umar is brilliant (in italics) it was great to ride with people who share the same Passion for the HCMT as it's a fantastic piece of war time History that so few visit or even know about, and yes the Jungle is claiming it back. A lot of the war scrap on the trail is gone some of the trails have been graded and will be lost forever as new roads are being made and signs for tourists go up I will add a few photos a some words as we go along.



The picture of Umar below was taken 100 meters after the end of the trail in a Cafe in Ta Oi. Words cannot describe how hard we battled that day....1-2-3 push was used a lot that day. There where head in hands moments, how much farther is it moments and when will it end, all the same emotions I had when I first took it on.




This is basically the Northern section we rode on day one down From the Mu Gui pass to Dong.



Talkingproud.us


The Ho Chi Minh trail. The stuff of legends. Veteran American soldiers still talk about this unimaginable maze that they were tasked to bomb during the Vietnam War. Some of their stories became international best sellers. In all their stories, they describe the the Ho Chi Minh trail as a perfectly engineered route that enable soldiers to move quickly and silently under the canopy of the dense jungle. These networks of paths have a life of its own, ever growing and expanding, faster than any Americans can map them out and destroy them. 6000km of backwater paths through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.



Trucks on the trail talkingproud.us


Four decades later, the war has ended and these trails have grown silent, but it was never once forgotten. The surroundings have recovered with time but bombs continue to lay hidden and have over time become part of the jungle. American and Russian tanks and planes lay scattered, down but not defeated, waiting eagerly to relive their missions. Bridges have been destroyed and reclaimed by the rivers, only part of their structure remains, a testament to the chaos at that time.



Great cover from the canopy


We came across the Ho Chi Minh trail by chance, while researching routes in Laos. Google search gave us Luang Prabang, Vientiene, elephant rides, Vang Viang, river cruises, buegette, pubs, massages and after another 30 sites of the same stuff, the Ho Chin Trail name pops up. There was no exact route or location, just an image of the map and the American bombing mission in southern Laos. The more we researched. The more intrigued we became....there is something special along those trails, one not seen or felt by many coming into Laos. We decided to take our bikes into Laos and journey through those hushed trails and come back to tell the tale.



Bombed out bridge and a new diversion quickly built




Before we even started, there were 2 worrying issues. First, there was little information on the exact location of these trails. Not the Internet, not anywhere! So we plotted according to the stories online, the pictures that we could gather and our imagination of what it could possibly be (as we later found out after the ride, our plotted route was so off the actual trail that it's embarrassing). The second worry was that no known bikes past the 400cc range has ever been recorded attempting to use this legendary trail. Those that has made it though on smaller bikes says that its a suicide mission. The bikes that we are on will never make it out in one piece. It will drown in the river, chocked in the trails by its own weight, our fancy rims will break unable to handle the stress of riding on the huge boulders and dry river beds, suspensions will fail and our bike parts will contribute to the existing war scraps. The trails have claimed many who thought that they were up for it, and we will not be the first nor will we be it's last. The message is clear; we were just fancy bike owners who bought the marketing sales pitch a little too well.





It must have been selective hearing and reading at its best (or worst) because all we heard was, Ho Chin Minh Trail....legend.....awesome....bikes....adventure. .. Spirit...bombs... Christmas...New Year...adventure....campfire marshmallows?

On the 26th of December 2012, four bikes reached southern Laos (Thakek) after making the journey 3000-4000km north from Singapore. These bikes 1200cc each, Yamaha S10, BMW GS, BMW GSA and Triumph Explorer have done their fair share of distance riding but not against legends such the HCMT. These bikes were shinny, farkled, fancy even, the pride of the fleet of adventure bikes (A KTM 990 was unable to come due to work commitments). As we reached Thakek, not one of us thought twice about going up against this legend..we were absolutely determined to take it on and survive to tell the tale... And so, the story between man and his machine against the perfectly engineered trails used in the Vietnam War begins....





Welcome to Laos boys, it was great seeing you rock up.

We took a gamble to enter via Frienship Bridge III of Nakhon Phanom - Thakek crossing after being denied at Muen Nguen. Long story there. The officials gave the go ahead but had a change of heart. Staying away from Huay Kon in the meantime till the situations is clearer.

At FBIII was a different story, they turned us away politely and suggested we load our bikes on a pick up. In the meantime, he called up his boss to seek clearance for us. With a stroke of luck, we were given the go ahead but we need to move quickly. All done in 10 minutes.





Fast forward to day one..all hell was breaking loose...we were questioning our sanity of being there in the first place.....There was absolutely no way we could have bashed through hundreds of kilometres of trails with our imaginary route. At this juncture, i would like to introduce the fifth rider who we are ever thankful for joining us. A little humble Lifan (China made motorcycle 200cc - rider named Chris). Chris and his Lifan remind me of Disney movies, the king’s soldiers in the dark forest on a noble quest guided by magical wisps and nymphs. We were the dumb soldiers; Chris was that magical wisps...guiding us along the relentless paths.. Ever so nimble, he is always in front of us, showing us the trail and helping us when needed..(Plus there's something about the way when he says doesn’t worry that makes it a bit comforting for us... Lols... What he actually meant was there were just 12 more rivers to cross with chest deep waters!)


There only little rivers.....

The battle between man and his machine with the legendary trails over the following 4days was epic. The first for these kinds of bikes in South East Asia. When trails proved too technical for the bikes, all 5 huffed and puffed to push and provide leverage and support. When rivers proved too mighty to cross, we combined our strength (literally) and use it to link the the bikes across. When darkness falls and the last remaining lights in the sky disappear, we relied on each other’s tail lights and feed on each other’s perseverance to get out of the trails. When we got separated and lost in the trails, not one man blamed the other; instead we ride harder and searched further. When one man fall, four will come to his aid; one to pick him, another to pick his morale and two others to muscle the bike up. We shall leave no man or bike behind, there will be no casualties on the HCMT. We may take all day and night but we will get out together.





This was a very difficult ride at night as the group kept getting split up and it was essential we all stayed together, the radios that the boys had carried along would serve us well. "Singapore Singapore" was the call sign and when the radio crackled back it felt great....we are still together..We also broke some new trails that night which in the day light would have been great, but at night we had no time to enjoy the discovery.




As I write this tale of ours, our bikes and us have survived the HCMT in one piece. Even though we covered the major routes, we barely scratched the surface of the 6000km long network of trails. The HCMT did not let us go easily. We left the trail with bruises on our arms and duct tapes and cable ties on our bikes. Each battle scar, a worthy story of their own. Even though over time, our bodies will heal and the bikes will be replaced, we want to let it be known that 4 beasts and a China made bike called Lifan (they say it won’t make it past the showroom) have survived the HCMT despite all the naysayers.





It is never about the bike make or model, it has always been the Rider that makes the story. For those brief intense moments, we called the Ho Chi Minh trail our own and this was our story.

Rider verdict:
Lifan - not a single fall or damage - full marks 10/10





GSA - made the mistake of hitting the trails with full 33l tank. Damaged panniers. Nearly sunk the boat during river crossing.




GS - Rider had super long legs. Can waddle out of sticky situations easily. Bottomed out forks. Hates soft sand trails



S10- Nearly became part of the river bank. Sank the boat completely. Rider was a survivor. Suggested camping out when it was dark and we were still in the trails with some 30km to go.. We got no tent and he got no sleeping bags



Triumph Explorer- Battle harden rider let down by his panniers. It did a huge full slow motion flip some 5 meters away when he bottomed out in a huge rut. He also claim he had the least no of falls among the beasts in the trails...


Battle damage and flying panniers with beautiful LED's at night, looked like a space ship.


Epic moment 1 - when we saw the ford that we were crossing was flooded waist deep. That means we either take the boat across or heave the almost 300kg bikes across. Wait where did Chris go... Oh he's already on the other side....



Epic moment 2 - When the S10 was firmly on the boat and we were about to leave the river bank and the boat starts taking in water.... The boatman frantically asked us to reverse the S10... We thought he was kidding... When we realised he wasn't and we were finding the reverse gear on the S10, the boat sank completely (hull touching the river bed 2 meters from the river bank). The S10 exhaust was barely above water. From there, we had to manhandle the 300kg machine out of the water and than get it back onto the dry bank.



Sunk! I was on the other bank laughing my head off 123 heave.....magical moment.


Epic moment 3 - The boatman smacks his head and bans all our bikes on his boat.



To heavy


Epic moment 4 - When the boatman strips his pants down.


No trousers.


And the relief on everyone’s face when all bikes got to the other side.



Made it



The deepest and longest (about 40m) river that I have ever rode my bike across. Looking easy and good when suddenly the water resistance overcame my bike (should have opened more) and I dropped my bike to the left. Chris nearly dropped his camera as he helped me lift the bike up. For the next 15 mins it would not start and we were going SHITE!!!!!...... word cannot describe our joy when the engine stuttered back to life with river water coming out of the exhaust… phew.. too close a call….



Check out the bow wave..

The bike just stopped dead an toppled over right in-front of me, we got it picked up in seconds but it would not start, we could not push it out we were stuck...plan b...she fired up and we got her up the slope which was no easy task.

What a ride guys.



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Old 01-12-2013, 03:24 PM   #57
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Good stuff guys, the boatman doesn't look real happy in the group photo, maybe he was clad it was over and you were going away
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Old 01-13-2013, 09:17 PM   #58
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Good stuff guys, the boatman doesn't look real happy in the group photo, maybe he was clad it was over and you were going away
Thanks Gavo..

He was ok about it all, but he hurt his arm when the boat sunk but he still helped us across with the bikes. we must have crossed that ford a dozen times at least...we paid 100,000 kip and his face lit up...

Happy days



All the locals watched just waiting for it to go wrong...

And it did from time to time..

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Old 02-11-2013, 08:04 AM   #59
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Hi there Steve.,
I'll know who to contact if I plan to ride Laos ...
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Old 02-13-2013, 09:01 PM   #60
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back on the road

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Hi there Steve.,
I'll know who to contact if I plan to ride Laos ...
Thanks Mat, your welcome anytime...

I'm back in Laos after a month of holidaying with my family in Thailand, currently up North in luang prabang doing some voluntary work at a school for the not so well of kids. This weekend I'm heading for the bush again as I have some info on an old pow camp/cave I wanto check out, the locals tell me it goes 20k, s into the valley.....better take plenty of batteries.

I will bring this report up to speed when I get back, I have covered another 2000k, s since february 1st and the lifan is still holding out....more soon..
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