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Old 03-04-2014, 12:10 AM   #1
TonyBKK OP
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Epic Awesomness! Cruising the Mekong and Riding Laos with the GT-Riders!


After last year's unforgettable cruise and ride I've been looking forward to Round 2 for a long time!

The day has finally arrived, bags are packed, bike serviced, let's head north to Chiang Mai to join the rest of the group!


Gave myself plenty of extra time to navigate my way around the "Shut Down Bangkok" anti-government protesters and reached the main Bangkok Hualomphong Station without incident. Always get interesting looks when walking my bike into the station


Leave your bike by the "Scales" booth, then walk in a buy a ticket.

2nd class air con sleeper to Chiang Mai just 881 Baht:


Once you've got your ticket then you go to the Scales booth to pay for the bike. About 900 Baht for the ticket and 1200 Baht for the bike. Cheap as chips!

Had some time to kill so chilled out at the coffee shop on the second floor and enjoyed the people watching-


Backpackers who carry more than they weigh always crack me up


Had dinner at the station, stashed a few beers in my hydration pack and boarded the train for Chiang Mai expecting to crash out early, but discovered I was sharing a cabin with some gregarious young Germans who were packing tunes and were in the mood to party; ended up having a grand old time on the ride up to Chiang Mai
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Old 03-04-2014, 12:14 AM   #2
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Can't imagine, quite an adventure in that part of the country to be sure.

Efficient lightweight bike.
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Old 03-04-2014, 12:52 AM   #3
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Chiang Mai, Thailand!

Much to my shock and amazement the train actually arrived in Chiang Mai ON TIME!! This is simply unheard of and I guess maybe all of the derailments in recent months have prompted the State Railway of Thailand (SRT) to get their act together? We'll see how long that lasts!

I rolled over to my friend Dave's house who would also be going on the Lao cruise then hit up Sangchai Honda for a new rear tire for the KLX which I put on at Dave's house since the Honda dealer won't touch a Kwacka Great shop with huge tire selection and all sorts of tools, parts and goodies!

Thread: Where to get off road tires in Chiang Mai?





Hooked up with Grant, aka Grubman who was in town to collect his Versys from the Kwacka dealer and we headed out to Ian's X-Centre for lunch- http://www.chiangmai-xcentre.com/

After lunch we ran around town shopping for bike accessories- I got some new goggles and a some other bits before we headed to the big Kwacka dealership to collect Grant's Versys.

Have a dutch friend who is thinking of buying a Z250 and when I saw this nicely tarted up one in Holland Orange at the dealership I immediately thought of him-


We got Grubman's Versys loaded up in his truck, then I bid him farewell and headed back to Dave's to chill for a bit before we headed out to meet up with some of the other fellows who would be headed with us to Laos the next day.


Pre-cruise GT-Rider meetup at the Kafe in Chiang Mai:


Dave squared


Bloody hell I was tired after the previous night's train ride from Bangkok and a full day of running around. Once we switched from beer to whiskey it was game over for me!!!
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Old 03-04-2014, 03:14 AM   #4
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Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong with a crash along the way!

Friday February 21st and it's time for us to ride some ~300km to Chiang Khong where we'll ride across the new Friendship Bridge to Huay Xai, Laos!


Rendezvous at the PTT station just outside of Chiang Mai on the 118-


Six of us are riding from Chiang Mai and we'll meet two more in Chiang Khong. In this group we've got 3 Kawasaki Versys, 2 Kawasaki KLX and 1 BMW F800GS.

The 118 is notorious for it's slippery spots, especially in the rain, but today was cool and sunny, yet as we rode north I saw both Robert and Richard slip and slide on their Versys and my KLX on off-road knobblies seemed to be sliding more than usual, so we all took it easy and were going at a real modest pace when much to my shock and dismay our fearless leader David, who was some ~20-30 yards in front of me, not going fast or leaning hard, suddenly his bike spit out from under him and slid down the road and into the ditch. Surprised the hell out of me, and I must say I was amazed and relieved to see you stand right up after rolling and sliding that far down the pavement!!

Hope David won't mind me borrowing this picture:

Unhurt and still smiling- David is a tough dude!

Here's David's thread on the crash with a lot more pictures: Ooops done it yet again - another spill

ATGATT did it's job and David escaped without any serious injury.

Interestingly, as we were picking up the pieces of his bike in that corner we came across busted up fairings off several other bikes as well. Seems this corner has claimed many.

Here's the spot to be wary of:

Just to the east of the 118 in the picture, a downhill righthand corner, just after you cross a bridge over the Ma Lae River and two curves before you reach the Mae Chedi Sub-District Checkpoint.

Can you see how shiny the road is, and what appears to be a wet spot in the middle of the lane?


This surface was so slippery that I could take a run at it and skate along for several feet. The wet bits were like ice! Nuts!

Another view from a little further up the hill:


Quick thinking on the part of Robert saw a rescue truck dispatched from Chiang Mai which would carry David and his busted up bike with us to Chiang Khong. He could still continue on the cruise to Luang Prabang and on the Pak Lay without a bike. The riding part in Laos was really optional

Interesting to note that those wet patches in my picture dried up while we were waiting. I'm guessing it was dew on top of oily pavement that made the road so darn slippery. Once the water evaporates the road is still slick, but not nearly as treacherous as when we rode through in the early morning.

I knew it would be an hour or two before the truck would reach us and it was getting hot as the sun climbed higher into the sky so I jumped on my bike to do a little exploring. Went down to the Mae Chedi Sub-District Checkpoint to see if they had any drinks for sale; they didn't. Then headed back over the bridge and spotted a small dirt track that headed north into the mountains. What the heck- might as well check it out! It was a cool little track the followed the Ma Lae River and I was rewarded with a lovely little temple at the end:






Not a soul around, a really nice spot, but I needed to get back to the rest of the group before the pickup arrived. Back down the track, rejoined our merry band, and shortly thereafter the rescue truck arrived, we got the Versys loaded and tied down, a smile and a thumbs up from David, and we continued on our way to Chiang Khong!
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Old 03-04-2014, 07:13 AM   #5
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Crossing the Friendship Bridge from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos!

After our unplanned stop on the 118 we needed to whack it to Chiang Khong in time to get across the Friendship Bridge before it closes (6PM I think) and also get our bikes loaded onto the boat for our cruise the next morning. I'm not terribly fond of going fast on the KLX. Above 100 it really sucks gas and above 120 it wanders and floats all over the road on account of the off road knobblies which are not even street legal. But anyway, we still managed to reach Chiang Khong in decent time where we met up at lovely Ms. Chantana's coffee shop to collect all of our paperwork. I didn't get a picture of her this year so re-post one from last year-


She offers a great service where you send her copies of your passport, visa and bike registration ahead of time and she get's 90% of the paperwork completed before you get there. Huge time saver, especially with customs as it usually takes a long time to process the temporary export forms on the Thai side and equally time consuming on the Lao side. Thanks to Na's help all we had to do was stamp out of Thailand and do Visa On Arrival on the Lao side, quick and easy!


The facilities on both sides of the river are big and impressive and very quiet.


Arriving at the new Friendship bridge that connects Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos:


I guess technically bikes aren't really allowed on this bridge, no idea why, but Na was able to arrange permission for us to ride across, but we had to have an escort vehicle; turned out that was perfect as David, now bikeless, needed a lift across and the police were happy to oblige


I didn't get any pictures riding across, but Brian did. I hope he won't mind me sharing a couple of his pictures here:

Brian Ennion. All Rights Reserved.


Brian Ennion. All Rights Reserved.

Welcome to Laos!!

Brian Ennion. All Rights Reserved.

Who should I happen to run into on the Lao side? Non other than an old friend from Phuket and a well known character in the Thai and Malaysian biking scene- Goran, who, along with his wife and an American fellow were sweet talking their way over the bridge and into Laos


Once we got our Lao visas we went straight to the ferry landing which is on the northern side of Huay Xai. Stupid farang that I am, first roundabout we came to I started to go around it clockwise, much to the surprise of a local dude on a scooter- ooops!!

Big wai and a smile and he smiled back- I stayed on the RIGHT side of the road from that point on!!

Arriving at the ferry landing, ready to load the bikes!


The dirtbikes went on first and are pretty easy as they only weigh around 140Kg and have plenty of clearance to get over the door sill and on to the boat. The Versys weigh just over 200Kg and were a bit more work, but we got them all on with no dramas




Here's our boat for tomorrow's cruise down the mighty Mekong to the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang-




Some of the fellas got a wee bit lost and didn't turn up until just before sunset- no worries, the rest of us were enjoying some refreshments while awaiting their arrival




Diggin Robert's nicely modded Versys with R1 rear shock and Ninja 636 forks!




Bikes all loaded and tucked in for the night!!


Just then a Thai fellow turned up with a massively overloaded Versys and we helped him get it into a small boat that would ferry him to Chiang Khong as he was denied permission to ride across the bridge-


Beer Lao sunset happy hour on the Mekong! Life is good!!!
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Old 03-04-2014, 09:32 PM   #6
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Huay Xai, Laos!

After settling in to the Houy Xai Riverside Hotel we wandered over to the nearby Houyxai Kaew Restaurant for a most excellent meal!


Happy to see that Goran, his missus and Steve had successfully managed to get into Laos too!

Cheers from Houay Xai, Laos! Those lights on the other side of the Mekong are in Chiang Khong, Thailand!
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Old 03-04-2014, 10:02 PM   #7
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Cruising the Mighty Mekong from Houay Xai to Luang Prabang, Laos!

We woke up at an obscenely early hour the next morning to begin our Mekong cruise to Luang Prabang!

Here's the .gpx file should anyone want to play with this route on Google Earth or Basecamp: http://www.asianconnection71.com/201...4.59%20Day.gpx

Chilly on the Mekong this early in the morning!


They had plenty of instant coffee on board, but I say to hell with that! Beer Lao- Breakfast of Champions!


Dave is smart and carries a Jetboil and some decent quality coffee everywhere he goes-


Sunrise on the Mekong! Magical!








Not too much further we ran into thick fog!

The fog was so thick in fact that we had to pull over and wait for it to clear.


The Mekong is a tricky river to navigate and the skipper needs to be able to read the water to avoid the sharp rocks that lurk just under the surface.

Dave messing with the boatboy


Fortunately the fog lifted and we were able to press on! Near Pak Beng they are building a bridge which will make travel from Nan, Thailand a lot more efficient-


Lunch is served! Why so serious guys?


That's better Dave!


Always impressed at the quality of the food they dish up on these boats. Amazed they can crank out such decent fare considering how primitive the "galley" is.

Dave, you're such a lightweight!!


Views on the river-


I didn't take so many pictures as we had in our company a master photographer, Jurgen Chopard, who always takes exceptional photographs.

You can see some of Jurgen's work here: http://www.chopard.org/
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Old 03-05-2014, 04:52 PM   #8
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The Friendship Bridge looks, and sounds to be, less friendly than I would have expected.

Dig the pictures from the boat.

=Doug
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Old 03-05-2014, 09:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dougrender View Post
The Friendship Bridge looks, and sounds to be, less friendly than I would have expected.

Dig the pictures from the boat.

=Doug
Haha, yeah, there's always been a bit of drama with regards to motorcycles and the "Friendship" bridges connecting Thailand and Laos. There are some officials who just don't seem to like bikes and try to ban them from using the bridges. Or, in this case, just demand a wad of cash for the "privilege" of riding across....
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Old 03-05-2014, 09:39 PM   #10
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Cruising the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos!

Our skipper saw us safely to Luang Prabang, but not without a wee bit of drama...


This boat was powered by an old 8 cylinder diesel engine out of a Hino truck and I noticed as the day wore on that it was getting louder and the vibrations on the boat got to the point where our beer bottles would slowly wander off the tables if you didn't keep an eye on them...

Back in the "engine room" Richard is assisting the first mate with a busted water pump. Seems these boats use river water for cooling and that the water pump on this boat got clogged which let the engine to overheat... No gauges up in the "cockpit" so the skipper probably didn't notice the problem until he started to lose power. Well, at least the engine didn't seize, but after fixing the water pump with some interesting jungle mechanics it did seem like it wasn't firing on all 8 cylinders anymore... Fortunately we were able to continue along without further incident all the way to Luang Prabang.

More sights from the mighty Mekong!


Love these big barges with their huge 2 and sometimes 3 story houses perched on the back. Would love to tour one of these some time and see how many people live in that big house!





You know Luang Prabang is just around the corner when you spot the Pak Ou cave-


Unloaded the bikes without dropping any in the river and made our way to the Oudumsuk Guesthouse on a picturesque alley in old town Luang Prabang-

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Old 03-06-2014, 03:47 AM   #11
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I'm in
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:53 AM   #12
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Visiting the Kouang Si Waterfall near Luang Prabang, Laos!

Good morning from Luang Prabang, Laos!!

It was going to be a hot day and I was keen to re-visit the Kouang Xi Waterfall that is about 30km south of the city.


I've seen it spelled a myriad of ways- Kuang Si or Kouang Si, Kwang Xi; it doesn't matter how you spell it, it's a magical place!


The road is in great shape and it's a fun ride over hills, through valleys, across one lane wooden bridges and through a lot of small villages.

2000 Kip to park the bike and another 20,000 Kip to get into the park, which is also home to a bear rescue center which you pass on the short hike to the falls-


The bears were mostly sleeping but I understand they wake up and perform tricks at their feeding time which is around noon.


Gorgeous turquoise pools and shockingly cold- I am assuming these falls are spring fed as they flow year round.


Big Dave being a wuss! C'mon dude, if the French girl can jump in, so can you!!! One the count of three!!!


The cold water feels great!!


Looks like something out of a Monet painting, doesn't it?


Ok, maybe not!




We shared the pool with some lovely European girls


Chillaxin!




Love it here!


Eventually we hiked on up to the main falls-




There is a trail that takes you to the top of the falls-


Beware, it's a tough climb and a slip could be disastrous!


Noi, a lovely Laotion on holiday from Vientiane and sporting a sharp little dress blazed up in her fancy little red city shoes that matched her purse while Dave and I huffed and puffed to get to the top


Didn't help we were hauling a fair bit of gear


C'mon Dave! You can do it!


Made it to the top! Well worth the effort!!


They put up a fence at the top of the falls which is a smart idea because the rocks are slippery and it wouldn't take much to accidentally go over the edge!


And it's a long way down!


Pretty awesome view from up here!


From the top there is a trail that leads to a nearby village-

No way I'm going to walk 3km but I do want to see if there's a way to get here on my dirtbike

The hike down was perhaps even tougher than the hike up, but we made it and rewarded ourselves with some cold Beer Laos from the coffee shop at an idyllic spot-


These pools go on and on and on and the place was surprisingly uncrowded for a weekend.


Bit further down we spotted a crazy French chick who fancied herself a monkey


One thing I really like about the Kwang Xi Waterfall is that it seems to attract as many Laotians as it does foreign tourists-


We were all a bit hungry after all the hiking around and hit one of the restaurants that's at the entrance to the park. Typical Laotian fare- grilled chicken, sticky rice and papaya salad aka Somtum. All good though the Somtum was a bit bland, so our new friend Noy kicked the cook out of the kitchen and made us another Somtum


Lovely lovely woman, we really hit it off!




Adorable little girl covered in ice cream-


Noy's Somtum was anything but bland!!


In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to call it nuclear! Just look at Dave's face!!! (And he loves to eat spicy food!)


You can almost see the smoke coming out his ears!!
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Old 03-06-2014, 09:54 PM   #13
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Laugh Sunset in Luang Prabang, Laos!

Dave and I got back to Luang Prabang in time to join the rest of the fellows for sunset beers on the mighty Mekong-


Life is good!




Couldn't ask for a nicer bunch of travel companions; I've remained loyal to GT-Rider forum on account of the quality of the people.


Such a romantic spot; Oddvar and Dave were feeling the love!


Cheers from Luang Prabang, Laos!


I guess this would pretty well sum up the theme for tonight

Dave didn't believe me the following morning when I teased him about visiting the night market in a wheel chair, but pictures don't lie!


Ordered a quite decent pizza and had to eat it all by myself


Ran across Brian who was comfortably ensconced at the Wine Bar and obviously feeling no pain. He posted some pretty funny nonsensical stuff on facebook in the wee hours, reminding us all once again that mixing social media and alcohol is usually not such a good idea!
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Old 03-06-2014, 09:55 PM   #14
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Exploring some trails west of Luang Prabang, Laos!

Woke up with a bit of a headache the next morning, but a good cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant at JOMA Bakery sorted me out!


Seemed most everyone else was sleeping in today, but I wanted to get out and RIDE!!


Waiting for the ferry that would take me across the Mekong to explore some trails west of Luang Prabang- Here it comes!


There's no pavement on the west side of the Mekong- awesome trails straight off the ferry!


Here's a map of today's ride:

And a .gpx track for any who might want to explore this area: http://www.asianconnection71.com/201...9.08%20Day.gpx

On Google Earth it looks like there are some trails that might get you to the Pak Ou cave that's on the Mekong north of Luang Prabang, but as with last year, I couldn't find a way through... What look like trails on Google Earth are more often than not little footpaths that are pretty much impassable by bike, especially when riding solo...

Seemed I might be able to get there via the trail that heads northwest out of Ban Houy Mad-


But getting across the small stream that runs past the town wasn't so easy... The drop off this board is higher than it looks in the picture. If I dropped my bike here I'd have a heck of a time getting it out...


Fantastic trails, but a lot of work!


As an aside, can anyone tell me what a "Free Case Village" is? See these signs a lot in Laos but no clue what they mean...


Another trail where I turned around because I wasn't confident I could get up the opposite bank-


Leaving the tiny village of Ban Houay Maad-


Turned around and tried a different way around, but came up against a barb wire fence and an unfriendly looking sign...




Darn... once again can't find a way through to Pak Ou... I'll try again soon!

It was here I discovered this amazing caterpillar trying to crawl into my ear


Caterpillar or alien? Take me to your leader!




Wonder what this guy will turn into? There were tons of butterflies in the cool shady spots-


A bit hazy but still some amazing views!
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Old 03-06-2014, 10:37 PM   #15
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I continued the loop and soon found myself heading south. Just past the riverside town of Pak Long the road heads inland but I spotted a small logging trail and followed that back to the Mekong-


This was a lot of fun, some tiny little villages and a whole lot of wilderness. Seems there's a ferry that will take you across here and drops you near the road to the Kouang Xi Waterfall on the other side of the Mekong-




A bit further south I again rode out to the shore of the river- nice sandy beach and no one around, stopped here for a picnic lunch and a bit of a siesta under some shady trees a bit further up the bank-


A bit further south and I decided I'd better start heading back as we were to load the bikes onto the boat at 5 this evening for the next day's cruise to Pak Lay. I headed inland on a fantastic trail that followed a beautiful river-


Lots of rapids and whitewater but hard to get a clear view-


Other than passing through the occasional tiny village I had these trails all to myself


Some fantastic views when the trail would climb over some of the hills and follow the ridgelines-


Finally back onto the "main" road, which was still rough as guts and had a lot of water crossings-


Got back into Luang Prabang with just enough time to get out of my gear, repack, and then ride down to the ferry dock were we loaded our bikes onto the boat for the cruise to Pak Lay-


This is a much nicer boat- it's the same one we used last year, and due to a scheduling conflict they hadn't been able to take us on the first leg from Houay Xai, but I was happy we'd be cruising with them to Pak Lay


There goes our boat and our bikes! See you tomorrow!




Sunset beers with the boys once again! Are those barber shop chairs??!?


Another gorgeous Mekong sunset- never get tired of these!!




Tomorrow we cruise to Pak Lay!
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