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Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Steve canyon, Nov 4, 2012.
Great ride report. I'm glad the Lifan is holding together for you.
Hey Shovelmike thanks I'm happy your enjoying it...
She's doing a great job the roads over in Laos are far from perfect unlike their countryside which is stunning. She's great on Gas getting about 250k's out of 9 liters, the suspension is not much good and it lacks power but it's getting the job done it's has been everywhere the Honda took me last year and some and when I fall of it's so easy to pick up as well as not sinking to much in the soft stuff.
I know it's made from cheaper parts but it's giving me a whole lot of fun for very little money, I got some crash bars made and some extra racks put on the back as the rear Tyre tried to eat my giant loop which I had overloaded, all made and fitted for 600bhat keeping it cheap
Long live the Lifan....
I have a similar bike here in the US, a 2007 Lifan 200 GY5 dual sport. Still running good as new with over 35,000 miles on it. The rear suspension can be helped by putting zirk fittings on the parts that pivot and keeping them well greased.
ThanksHM I will check it out, the linkage for the shock squeaks so I will have it to bits after the next trip and grease it up well.
Thursday 6th December. Villabouri to Sainamhai Resort 282k's
Today would be another big day I was heading up towards the Nape pass via a small resort so it meant a bit of back tracking but I have time so what the hell. I set the GPS to get me up to route 12 and would make the rest of the plan from there. After yesterday's trip I was up for an easier day but the route had different plans for me, once again the drift captured it all.
It's a 6.30am start and within 20 minutes I'm back on the trails in remote places which I had not seen before but all saved on my GPS. Already I can see that the day is not going to be easy as the first 2 river crossings were difficult and deep, slippery stones,broken logs and mud. Passed through some really old villages and often had to double backup to find the right trail as they seemed to be many new ones, a good test of my resolve and I was enjoying a different challenge today.
After a while I arrive at the massive opening as the trail stops, it's a dried paddy field with the Normal borders around them and the trail has stopped but I can see other tracks so I have a little scout about but there is nothing going in my direction so I just follow where the track should have been, straight across the fields as far as the eye can see.
Time for a quick stop to hydrate then it,s full steam ahead as my notions of an easy day have gone and I'm starting to enjoy this rather hard one, I have to back track a few times, move logs negotiate ditches all in the blistering heat. The Paddy fields prove hard as the small walls are to high and the bike keeps getting beached.
I have to say this today would be one of my favorite rides ever, after a couple of hrs I come out onto a road and I,m back on track again.
The road is dusty but fast, no traffic and eventually I arrive at route 12 stop for some lunch about 20k's from route 8B which took me past Nam Theun power station and up an amazing twisty climb to about 700 meters then it flattened out, after the climb the road became graded and fast lots of building work and people around, lots of money.
As I press on the land opens up into what I can only describe as as a sea with trees as far as the eye can see, was this a result of the power station flooding the area? I have no idea but what I saw was amazing and it went on for miles and miles, it's a protected area and I had the place to myself, 70k's an hr with a plume of dust following me, this is another must ride with some great little places to stay and great views.
It's beautiful up here!
More wet Forrest.
Brilliant trails and no traffic at all.
The last 20k's was back into the jungle which is also being fixed up road wise a great track and I stop to talk to the work guys who spoke great English and was excited to meet the little farang and find out were I came from.
Moving the dirt.
Heading back into the bush.
The trail went back into the bush and after a bit there was a break in the bush and I realize there is a valley the size of London the other side of the trees, another wow moment and this ride keep getting better and better.
The Children in this house have a View to die for.
Lucky people waking up to that everyday.
I exit the 8B and head West on route 8 this is were I have to back track toward the limestone Forrest, the sun is going down at this point and I want to make it to the view point before it sets so I'm in a hurry, I stop along the way to get some other shots but I'm chasing the sun.
This shot remind me of ET for some reason.
I don't think I will make it, but gods loves a trier
This is the spot I was chasing. Only just made it.
I make just before it sets then I head for the resort where I have a meeting about some school uniforms I'm supplying. The resort is beautiful and I have a wonderful evening with the owner and his family and a few beer Laos and a large steak cooked by his daughter who is a Chef in training, she going to be good!.... then it's of to bed to ready myself for an early start up to the Nape pass. I have to say that to date has been the fun ride I have ever undertaken in Laos and would do it again anytime.
Friday 7th December Sainamhai Resort to The Nape pass and onto Vientiane 478k's
Morning arrives and I'm up early say my good byes and head of, today would be a long day 476 k's and my broken skin on my backside and hands is giving me Hell, my right index finger is badly swollen but I have to press on, I took a detour but got stopped because of a drainage ditch which was being made so I had to turn back but this is what it looked like....
I'm coming back to finish this ride.
I will return to that story when I complete it. Back to the route to VTE. And this is how the morning had started.
Amazing view, looks like somebody painted those mountains.
As I rode up to the pass it was raining and bloody cold, no turning back so when I reached the top I took a couple of snaps and headed back down and dried out and warmed up.
Now I will set the GPS for Vientiane switch my brain of and endure a long ride with only views for company, back passed the limestone Forrest again up to route 13.
I arrive at Vientiane about 7 that evening and find a hotel in town, clean up and eat as it had been a long day, I would leave for Thailand in the morning and was back home about 2pm looking the worst for wear, my mission had been a success apart from one thing which I will return to soon.
This ride as a blast, I saw many new things and experienced some wonderful moments that I can carry forever, the Lifan has paid for itself. The bike did not miss a beat and got through all the hard terrain without falling apart, think I'll give her a service when we get back and a night in the Kitchen as way of a thank you.
I'm back of up to Chaing Mai with my Mum until the 20th then I'm heading back for another 6 day blast to see things on the ever growing list.
Love the Lifan.
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
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...
Good report thanks. I think I'll have to go back and see some of the south
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.
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...
Hey Gavo, the south is beautiful I don't know why so many people don't include in their trips.....:eek1
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.
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.
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
And the mother..
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.
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...
Fantastic report mate!!, great pictures and stories. I am sure you enjoyed it a lot. Cheers
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.
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.
Hey Sandino thanks
I loves every minute of it and can't wait to get back.......
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
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......
Sorry Rhino missed you comment..many thanks
Sure is a beautiful place....great riding to...
Glad your along
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.
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.
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.
Epic moment 4 - When the boatman strips his pants down.
And the relief on everyone’s face when all bikes got to the other side.
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.
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
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...
All the locals watched just waiting for it to go wrong...
And it did from time to time..
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..