Epic Awesomness! Cruising the Mekong and Riding Laos with the GT-Riders!

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by TonyBKK, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
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    After last year's unforgettable cruise and ride I've been looking forward to Round 2 for a long time! [​IMG]

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

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    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:
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    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! [​IMG]

    Had some time to kill so chilled out at the coffee shop on the second floor and enjoyed the people watching-
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    Backpackers who carry more than they weigh always crack me up [​IMG]
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    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 [​IMG]
    #1
  2. Unstable Rider

    Unstable Rider Moto Fotografist

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,710
    Location:
    Minn.
    Can't imagine, quite an adventure in that part of the country to be sure.

    Efficient lightweight bike.
    #2
  3. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Much to my shock and amazement the train actually arrived in Chiang Mai ON TIME!! [​IMG] 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! [​IMG]

    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 [​IMG] 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- [​IMG] 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-
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    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.
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    Pre-cruise GT-Rider meetup at the Kafe in Chiang Mai:
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    Dave squared [​IMG]
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    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!!! [​IMG]
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    #3
  4. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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! [​IMG]
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    Rendezvous at the PTT station just outside of Chiang Mai on the 118-
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    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!! [​IMG]

    Hope David won't mind me borrowing this picture:
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    Unhurt and still smiling- David is a tough dude! [​IMG]

    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:
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    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?
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    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! [​IMG]

    Another view from a little further up the hill:
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    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 [​IMG]

    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:
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    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! [​IMG]
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    #4
  5. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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-
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    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! [​IMG]
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    The facilities on both sides of the river are big and impressive and very quiet.
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    Arriving at the new Friendship bridge that connects Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos:
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    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 [​IMG]
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    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:
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    © Brian Ennion. All Rights Reserved.

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    © Brian Ennion. All Rights Reserved.

    Welcome to Laos!! [​IMG]
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    © 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
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    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!! [​IMG]

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

    Arriving at the ferry landing, ready to load the bikes!
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    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 [​IMG]
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    Here's our boat for tomorrow's cruise down the mighty Mekong to the World Heritage City of Luang Prabang-
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    Some of the fellas got a wee bit lost [​IMG] and didn't turn up until just before sunset- no worries, the rest of us were enjoying some refreshments while awaiting their arrival [​IMG]
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    Diggin Robert's nicely modded Versys with R1 rear shock and Ninja 636 forks! [​IMG]
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    Bikes all loaded and tucked in for the night!!
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    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-
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    Beer Lao sunset happy hour on the Mekong! Life is good!!! [​IMG]
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    #5
  6. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    After settling in to the Houy Xai Riverside Hotel we wandered over to the nearby Houyxai Kaew Restaurant for a most excellent meal!
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    Happy to see that Goran, his missus and Steve had successfully managed to get into Laos too!
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    Cheers from Houay Xai, Laos! Those lights on the other side of the Mekong are in Chiang Khong, Thailand!
    #6
  7. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    We woke up at an obscenely early hour the next morning to begin our Mekong cruise to Luang Prabang!
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    Here's the .gpx file should anyone want to play with this route on Google Earth or Basecamp: http://www.asianconnection71.com/2014-02-22 06.54.59 Day.gpx

    Chilly on the Mekong this early in the morning!
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    They had plenty of instant coffee on board, but I say to hell with that! Beer Lao- Breakfast of Champions! [​IMG]
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    Dave is smart and carries a Jetboil and some decent quality coffee everywhere he goes-
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    Sunrise on the Mekong! Magical!
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    Not too much further we ran into thick fog!
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    The fog was so thick in fact that we had to pull over and wait for it to clear.

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    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 [​IMG]
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    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-
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    Lunch is served! Why so serious guys? [​IMG]
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    That's better Dave! [​IMG]
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    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!! [​IMG]
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    Views on the river-
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    I didn't take so many pictures as we had in our company a master photographer, Jurgen Chopard, who always takes exceptional photographs.
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    You can see some of Jurgen's work here: http://www.chopard.org/
    #7
  8. dougrender

    dougrender Bike Polo is not a Crime

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2004
    Oddometer:
    1,130
    Location:
    Boulder, Colorado
    The Friendship Bridge looks, and sounds to be, less friendly than I would have expected.

    Dig the pictures from the boat.

    =Doug
    #8
  9. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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.... :wink:
    #9
  10. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Our skipper saw us safely to Luang Prabang, but not without a wee bit of drama...
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    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...
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    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!
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    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!
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    You know Luang Prabang is just around the corner when you spot the Pak Ou cave-
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    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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    #10
  11. gavo

    gavo Slacker

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Oddometer:
    1,892
    Location:
    Gympie QLD
    I'm in :clap
    #11
  12. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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.
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    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!
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    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-
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    The bears were mostly sleeping but I understand they wake up and perform tricks at their feeding time which is around noon.
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    Gorgeous turquoise pools and shockingly cold- I am assuming these falls are spring fed as they flow year round.
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    Big Dave being a wuss! C'mon dude, if the French girl can jump in, so can you!!! [​IMG] One the count of three!!!
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    The cold water feels great!!
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    Looks like something out of a Monet painting, doesn't it?
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    Ok, maybe not! [​IMG]
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    We shared the pool with some lovely European girls [​IMG]
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    Chillaxin!
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    Love it here!
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    Eventually we hiked on up to the main falls-
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    There is a trail that takes you to the top of the falls-
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    Beware, it's a tough climb and a slip could be disastrous!
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    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 [​IMG]
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    Didn't help we were hauling a fair bit of gear [​IMG]
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    C'mon Dave! You can do it!
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    Made it to the top! Well worth the effort!!
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    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!
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    And it's a long way down! [​IMG]
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    Pretty awesome view from up here!
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    From the top there is a trail that leads to a nearby village-
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    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 [​IMG]

    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-
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    These pools go on and on and on and the place was surprisingly uncrowded for a weekend.
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    Bit further down we spotted a crazy French chick who fancied herself a monkey [​IMG]
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    One thing I really like about the Kwang Xi Waterfall is that it seems to attract as many Laotians as it does foreign tourists-
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    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 [​IMG]
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    Lovely lovely woman, we really hit it off!
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    Adorable little girl covered in ice cream-
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    Noy's Somtum was anything but bland!! [​IMG]
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    In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to call it nuclear! [​IMG] Just look at Dave's face!!! (And he loves to eat spicy food!)
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    You can almost see the smoke coming out his ears!! [​IMG]
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    #12
  13. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Dave and I got back to Luang Prabang in time to join the rest of the fellows for sunset beers on the mighty Mekong-
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    Life is good!
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    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. [​IMG]
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    Such a romantic spot; Oddvar and Dave were feeling the love! [​IMG]
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    Cheers from Luang Prabang, Laos! [​IMG]
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    I guess this would pretty well sum up the theme for tonight [​IMG]
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    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! [​IMG]
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    Ordered a quite decent pizza and had to eat it all by myself [​IMG]
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    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! [​IMG]
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    #13
  14. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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!
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    Seemed most everyone else was sleeping in today, but I wanted to get out and RIDE!! [​IMG]
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    Waiting for the ferry that would take me across the Mekong to explore some trails west of Luang Prabang- Here it comes!
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    There's no pavement on the west side of the Mekong- awesome trails straight off the ferry!
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    Here's a map of today's ride:
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    And a .gpx track for any who might want to explore this area: http://www.asianconnection71.com/2014-02-24 10.09.08 Day.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-
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    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...
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    Fantastic trails, but a lot of work!
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    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...
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    Another trail where I turned around because I wasn't confident I could get up the opposite bank-
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    Leaving the tiny village of Ban Houay Maad-
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    Turned around and tried a different way around, but came up against a barb wire fence and an unfriendly looking sign...
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    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 [​IMG]
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    Caterpillar or alien? Take me to your leader!
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    Wonder what this guy will turn into? There were tons of butterflies in the cool shady spots-
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    A bit hazy but still some amazing views!
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    #14
  15. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    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-
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    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-
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    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-
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    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-
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    Lots of rapids and whitewater but hard to get a clear view-
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    Other than passing through the occasional tiny village I had these trails all to myself [​IMG]
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    Some fantastic views when the trail would climb over some of the hills and follow the ridgelines-
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    Finally back onto the "main" road, which was still rough as guts and had a lot of water crossings-
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    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-
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    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 [​IMG]
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    There goes our boat and our bikes! See you tomorrow!
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    Sunset beers with the boys once again! Are those barber shop chairs??!?
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    Another gorgeous Mekong sunset- never get tired of these!!
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    Tomorrow we cruise to Pak Lay! [​IMG]
    #15
  16. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    All aboard for the GT-Rider Mekong cruise from Luang Prabang to Pak Lay, Laos!
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    Bikes safely stowed! Not my pic, I think it's David's or Jurgen's and hope they won't mind me sharing it here. © to the photographer!
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    Oh wait, hold on, wrong boat! The pic above is from the cruise from Houay Xai on the first boat. Anyway, still worth sharing I think! [​IMG]

    The Beer Lao was cold and plentiful! A new sticker for my KLX! [​IMG]
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    Thick fog shortly after our departure forced an unplanned stop-
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    Was nice actually, we could get off the boat and wander around while waiting for the fog to clear. I didn't realize it, but we were walking distance from a nearby village and Jurgen and Dave and a couple other guys wandered over there and apparently made a big impression on the school kids. Jurgen has some fantastic pictures that I look forward to seeing on a big screen!

    Fog cleared we're back on our way!
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    The skipper was training a relative to navigate the river- I believe he owns more than one boat, so obviously needs people he can trust to pilot the other ones.
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    Just love how they "bless" the wheel!
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    You have to remember, these boats have no radar, GPS, depth finder, etc. The navigation is all by sight and memory!

    Was nice to see lovely Khammy again, the skippers feisty daughter [​IMG]
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    And she brought along a couple friends as well [​IMG]
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    Not only can they drink, one of them crafted this cool little spider from the foil on the bottle- impressive innit?? [​IMG]
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    Beer Lao foil spider [​IMG]
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    Gawd Khammy sure is into the "selfie" thing! [​IMG]
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    Can't get too frisky tho, cuz "Big Momma" has always got an eye on you!! [​IMG]
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    What a lunch though! Once again, simply amazed at how they can cook up such a spread in their primitive little galley in the back of the boat!
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    Fantastic food and way more than we could eat!
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    After lunch I think Dave wanted to take a nap... Sweet dreams Dave!
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    But I guess Richard wasn't going to let that happen. Started off innocently enough with a banana in Dave's ear and quickly escalated! [​IMG]
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    Laos' first MMA brawl on a boat featuring "Nanu Nanu" Dave and "Frankenfoot" Richard! I about peed myself from laughing so hard! [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]
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    Khammy's selfies never stop!! [​IMG]
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    I can't remember what bridge this is... I think it connects Xayaboury to Muang Nan? Looks pretty new-
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    Certainly the best seat in the house is right on the nose of the boat where you have the wind in your face and can really take in the sights and sounds of the mighty Mekong!
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    #16
  17. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Sailing past the controversial 1,285 megawatt Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River-
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    The scale of this dam is huge!
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    There is a lot of controversy surrounding this dam. More than 2000 villagers have been forced off their land and have received almost nothing in compensation. But a bigger concern is the effect this dam will have on the Mekong ecosystem.
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    From Wikepedia:

    According to a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report, the Xayaburi dam would drive the already critically endangered Mekong Giant Catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) to extinction.<sup>[22]</sup> Because the Mekong is a unique and particularly complex ecosystem that hosts the most productive inland fisheries in the world, the stakes are high for the construction of such a dam. According to a study conducted by WWF and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and coordinated by the WorldFish Center, there are 229 fish species whose spawning and migratory patterns would be affected by a mainstream dam. This change in fish biodiversity and abundance would greatly affect the tens of millions of people in the Greater Mekong Subregion who depend on the river for their food and livelihood. According to Phnom-Penh based WorldFish Center, this damage to fisheries "cannot be mitigated by fish passes and reservoirs".<sup>[23]</sup>
    A Strategic Environmental Assessment commissioned by the Mekong River Commission (MRC) recommends a 10-year deferral of all Mekong mainstream dams in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and calls for further studies.<sup>[13]</sup> According to a MRC spokeswoman construction of the Xayaburi dam "will result in irreversible environmental impacts".<sup>[23]</sup> The MRC warns that if Xayaburi and subsequent schemes went ahead, it would "fundamentally undermine the abundance, productivity and diversity of the Mekong fish resources".<sup>[24]</sup>
    Milton Osborne, Visiting Fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy who has written widely on the Mekong, warns: "The future scenario is of the Mekong ceasing to be a bounteous source of fish and guarantor of agricultural richness, with the great river below China becoming little more than a series of unproductive lakes."<sup>[25]</sup>
    None of the mitigation measures for fish and sediment passage included in the dam's current design have been tested at this scale or in this environment. “Nowhere in the tropics has a successful fish passage been built for a dam the size of Xayaburi,” said Dr. Eric Baran of the World Fish Centre in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. “It is unreasonable to assume that the proposed fish passage options will be efficient when they are neither based on successful experience in a similar context nor on a study of the local species.”
    Fish are a staple of the diet in Laos and Cambodia, with around 80 per cent of the Cambodian population's annual protein intake coming from fish caught in the Mekong River system, with no alternative source to replace them. Dams would also restrict the flow of water over agricultural areas linked to the river.<sup>[25]</sup>


    I guess this is what "progress" looks like... :/
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    We had to hold position for a while as they were laying a cable across the river with this rig-
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    I feel fortunate to have been able to cruise on the Mekong before the completion of this dam. Once it's complete it's going to have a huge impact on the river and the Laotian way of life...
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    #17
  18. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Once past the rather disturbing Xayaboury dam site the mighty Mekong returned to her natural beauty-
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    She's got many faces- sometimes wide and calm like this stretch, in other places, narrow, fast flowing and dangerous.
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    Stunning limestone cliffs near Muangtiap-
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    On the right side of the river we passed the tiny village of Muangtiap where there's rumored to be a ferry- more on that soon!
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    Robert had an impressive collection of tunes on his phone but couldn't get them to play, so the fellas had to put up with my music instead!!! [​IMG] [​IMG]
    <iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/eBShN8qT4lk?list=FLX62fwFYJNo5U-Flu2V-kGQ" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" width="560"></iframe>

    Thanks for not throwing me overboard fellas! [​IMG] :lol3

    Gold panners living on the beach-
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    This little kid was a hoot! His babysitter wasn't bad either [​IMG]
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    We kept the beers flowing and the tunes pumping all the way to Pak Lay- awesome was the word of the day!!
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    Arrival Pak Lay!
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    One last selfie with the lovely Khammy! Hope to see you again soon! [​IMG]
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    One for the road! [​IMG]
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    The group got a bit split up wandering around Pak Lay looking for a guesthouse that I guess doesn't exist? [​IMG]

    I gave up the hunt and stopped at the Saiyadeth Guesthouse right on the river with Dave and Robert while the rest of the group went up the hill to the Nana Guesthouse.

    Saiyadeth guest house in Pak Lai, Laos! Not nearly as deadly as it sounds! [​IMG]
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    Great location directly across the street from a fantastic Lao restaurant on the shore of the mighty Mekong River.

    Awesome restaurant right across the street with deck seating right on the river. The Lao dudes at the table next to us pulled out a big ornate bong and started doing huge hits right in the restaurant! Gotta love Laos baby!! :clap

    Saiyadeth Guesthouse, Pak Lai, Laos: 50,000 kip/night for big clean rooms with hot water and fan. 80,000 kip/night for aircon room.
    #18
  19. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    Pak Lay marks the end of our Mekong cruise and from here the guys on the big bikes will ride down to and cross back into Thailand at Loei, while Brian, Oddvar and myself on dirtbikes will try to sniff out a trail across the mountains to Muang Fuang.

    Our dear leader and the man who made this adventure possible has to return to Thailand by bus as his bike got busted up on day one. I rolled over to the bus station to say thanks and goodbye! A lovely Laotian lass snapped this pic; bike or no bike David sure knows how to chat up the ladies! [​IMG]
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    Then off to meet the other fellows and off we go! Just north of Pak Lay is a pretty cool suspension bridge:
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    We stayed off the highway as much as possible and rode dirt trials that follow the mighty Mekong-
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    Fantastic views along the way!
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    The steeper the hill the deeper the bull dust!
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    Our destination this morning is the riverside village of Muangtiap, also called Ban Phaliep, where there is rumored to be a ferry that can get us across the Mekong. Reached Muangtiap and what looks like a boat landing, but no sign of the ferry...
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    Gorgeous spot tho! Our gps track overlayed onto Google earth:
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    Maybe that cow can tell us where the ferry's at? [​IMG]
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    My first time riding with Oddvar, and certainly not my last- great guy in every respect! [​IMG]
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    Hmmm, are these little boats the "ferry"?
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    Back up the hill we ask the locals which way to the ferry and they indicate it's several km north of town. Cool! While we're here we grab lunch and some bevies and take in the vibe of rural Laotian village life-
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    Our cook is still in her pajamas I think? [​IMG]
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    Her sister was smoking hot but really camera shy. Lunch is served!
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    Then we follow the villager's instructions and sure enough, there's a tiny little sign pointing to a single track that appears to end at a farm, but push through the farm and there's a steep little trail that leads down to the bank of the river:
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    On the west shore of the Mekong, you can see the trail we're trying to get to on the other side:
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    The "ferry" is really nothing more than an oversized canoe with a long tail motor on the back.
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    A final pic of my KLX, in case I never see her again!
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    #19
  20. TonyBKK

    TonyBKK Secret Soi Rider

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Oddometer:
    845
    Location:
    The Big Mango, Bangkok, Thailand
    I must confess this crossing freaked me out! [​IMG] Grandpa's wooden longtail boat looked almost as old as him, and watching the other boat slowly work its way across the Mekong from the opposite bank we could see how swift the current was. Unloaded these boats only sit a few inches above the water.

    The two boatmen looked at the bikes and talked amongst themselves for a while before lashing the two boats together and motioning for us to put my bike on. They didn't seem to care if I left it standing up, but in the interest of lowering the center of gravity I laid mine down, at which point the bike started pissing fuel as I'd lost the filler cap vent the night before during our dash around Pak Lay with my gear balanced on top of my tank... So, I had to sit there with my finger on the fuel cap for the entire crossing... [​IMG]

    I thought we'd make three trips, one for each bike, but with mine loaded they then motioned to Oddvar to bring his bike aboard too [​IMG]

    Brian's pic:
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    © Brian Ennion, All Rights Reserved.

    Man o man I'm thinking to myself, if a boat gets swamped or tips I am going to sink straight to the bottom of the Mekong wearing all my gear... I wonder to myself if I can hold my breath long enough to get rid of my boots. Probably I might manage to float / tread water for a while if I don't have those weighing me down... [​IMG]

    And we're off! Another pic from Brian, this one with his new camera:
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    © Brian Ennion, All Rights Reserved.

    We start off slow and it's going well, then gramps decides to whack open his throttle and we get a bit sideways and water starts pouring into the boat [​IMG] "Here we go" I'm thinking to myself and I'm looking at grandpa wondering if he realizes we're taking on water and he won't get paid if he kills us...

    He backs off on the throttle and starts bailing water out of the boat with his free hand. A couple minutes later, we reach the opposite shore and I breathe a BIG sigh of relief!!! Getting the bikes off the boats wasn't easy- the landing was quite steep, but we managed it without dropping either bike into the river! A bunch of kids came to watch the crazy farang [​IMG]
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    Then I had to get back in the boat to go get Brian. Much better with no bikes and I even had a paddle! [​IMG]
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    Mekong river crossing selfie [​IMG]
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    There's Brian!
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    With only one bike to load it goes a lot easier and this time across we don't take on any water. Approaching the east bank:
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    Hallelujah! We survived! [​IMG]
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    Discover that at the top of the trail to the ferry landing there is a big new dirt road that takes us all the way to the main road at Ban Khi. I love these steel frame wooden bridges-
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    It was very hot. We stopped in Ban Khi for some drinks, then rode north on towards the small village of Ban Na Di. Here's our track for this day, with the .gpx file attached below:
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    http://www.asianconnection71.com/2014-02-26 09.29.11 Day.gpx

    Some nice water crossing along the way-
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    Dodgy bridge (better to just ride through the water I think!)
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    Here comes Brian!
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    This is the trail that we were going to try to find that would take us over the mountains to Muang Fuang:
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    Big respect to Brian for plotting this out. Here's another angle:
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    If you play on Google earth it LOOKS like there's a trail that goes all the way through. Of course, the problem with Google earth, as we were to discover, is that the images are often out of date, sometimes by years, so conditions on the ground may not match what you see on Google Earth.

    Rex had apparently tried to ride through here from the other side once, but encountered gates and conditions that made him turn around. Fuark, the experienced enduro rider who rents dirt bikes out of Vientiane told Brian it couldn't be done and that he'd had to rescue a guy who went in there by himself and got hopelessly stuck, abandoned his bike and hiked out!

    Wow, sounds like FUN! Brian and Oddvar were also keen to give it a shot! We approached this with a "can do" attitude and all agreed regardless of success or failure it would be good fun to try and get through.

    It was getting late so we stocked up on food and as much beer as we could carry in Ban Na Di, then hit the beginning of the trail. Right away it's water crossing after water crossing and in many places the creek is the trail- brilliant stuff! No pics as we were running out of daylight and needed to find a place to camp. We spotted a farmer's shack just off the river and strung up our hammocks there, bathed in the river, built a fire and cooked up some dinner- Mama Noodles and canned sardines washed down with Beer Lao! 5-star it was not, but we all went to bed with full stomachs!

    Good stuff, eh Brian? [​IMG]
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    Oddvar and Brian eating sardines by the fire in the Lao jungle [​IMG]
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    Good night!! [​IMG]
    #20