Exploring AsiaAugust, 2018
Our goal was to tour the three countries with no time restrictions except for Visa requirements.
Many told use that this time of the year wasn’t a good idea due to the heavy rains, but my attitude was that if we didn’t do it now, then when.
Touring Thailand, Cambodia and Laos with my Wife on one bike.
Day one, 26July2018 ChiangMai/Lampang/Uttaradit.
First day with a start time of 10:30 this morning.
Helmet was a little uncomfortable around the ears and my new boots where tight.
First real stop was at the 200km mark, we had stopped for pineapple along the way so we called that breakfast, now at a service station refilling up both the bike and ourselves. Relaxing with a coffee break at Cafe Amazon after some chicken and rice, which was pretty average.
Uttaradit is where we are staying the night, only a couple of weeks back we passed through this town but on a first class overnight train as we headed to Bangkok to buy some good quality riding gear for Eunhwa. As it turned out, there were just too many copies up here in Chiang mai
Great day on the bike, spent a few hours at Huai Krathing Reservoir relaxing on a raft and eating good food.
Fantastic riding with so much greenery about and lucky for us, no rain.
Found a great place to stay in Loei at only 240baht which had no air con, wasn’t needed, as the fan was good enough. Again for the second night in a row, we were disappointed with the chosen Chinese restaurant, over charged again but this time the food was actually really nice.
Followed the Mekong river most of the day and explored a couple of temples along the way, easy going couple of hours at Chiang khan, terrible breakfast and they lost the order for Eunhwa, so we looked for a coffee shop to relax watching the cat being mischievous.
Made it to George’s place where we ended up staying for three nights, a bit of fishing, no much there, eating out and seeing the sights.
George’s Place fishing- Udon Thani
Chinese town- Udon Thani
Coffee- Udon Thani
-31July Tuesday- Udon Thani/Nakhophanom
Most of the morning we followed the Mekong river, but hardly saw it and the ride along the motor way was boring, come three o’clock things starting to get a little more exciting with the roads becoming narrow and farm life on the road edges.
Thailand, Laos and Cambodia Borders. The military had blocked the road 2-3 kilometres from the place. Stopped and rested and talked with the army guy that was asleep in his hammock.
Stayed the night in Sao Thong Chai, next morning at 6am, we rode to the national park entrance, fee was 400Baht for me being a foreigner and Eunhwa was 40baht, they thought she was Thai.
We tried to view Preah Vihear Temple from the Thai side, but unfortunately it was covered in cloud cover so we didn’t see anything, so maybe in a couple of weeks when are are on the other side (Cambodia) we will actually be there in person
7August patraya/Hat Lek (Cambodia boarder)
Spent three nights in Pattaya and coaught up with friends, should have stayed only two but needed that extra day to fit new tires and to find some chain oil, chain was looking to very shiny and making the wrong noise.
Horrible leaving Pattaya, got on the wrong highway that bikes weren’t allowed but found an exit point to avoid the 5,000 baht fine. Then zig zaged our way to finally head to the main road to take us to Hat Lek (Cambodia Boarder)
Stopped a couple of times, coffee as usual and lunch.
The last 15 minutes of our trip we got dumped on with rain so we pulled over and waited it out, just up the road was a small water fall where we stretched our legs and walked to, once the rain became a drizzle.
Hat Lek (thai/Cambodia boarder) O-Saom
Was planned for a 7 o’clock boarder crossing, but at 6am, the rain was coming down really hard, but come 8 o’clock it cleared up and we made our move after visiting Amazon Cafe for the last time.
Made it into Cambodia and it only took 3 hours.
Thai boarder was no problem, but Cambodia was so corrupt. Let’s start with customs, first they said we couldn’t enter as we needed a permits to bring the bike into Cambodia. After some discussion and joking around, a “fee” of 500 baht would fix things, I’d expected this and I’m thinking, no matter how long I argue for, I’d have to pay some thing, so I finally got it down to 300baht
Next was another customs window, 20 baht this time. Now the visa, should have been 25usd but it was 35dollars, I guess because it’s low season and not many tourist come through and we had to make up the difference. Eunhwa didn’t have a passport photo so that was an extra 5 dollars, all up 75 dollars.
I handed over 70 and with a smile, I said “is this OK”
I knew I’d get ripped off as soon as i entered the immigration well oiled money extracting centre, but we made it and before we start our next adventure, it’s time for lunch.
While in immigration, they told us that many people in cars were sleeping on the roads as road conditions were too poor to travel, be better luck for us being on a bike we hope.
Dropped the bike
In total is was going to be a 91km ride to O-Saom, road was good, concrete most of the way passing a few Chinese built dams, things started to get rough, red dirt road with a few potholes, then diversions due to land slids. But what came next really slowed things down, the mud track was almost impassable, dropped the bike a couple of times, got bogged and sections where had to get off and walk.
Things were tough, if there was a bus that Eunhwa could jump on, she would have gone in a flash.
Best approach I found was to follow one of the locales on their scooter as i guess they knew which path is best.
Finally got into town at 6:30, 5.5 hours to do just under 100kms. Very small town, mud streets and no restaurant to feed us.
Hopefully tomorrow will be fine, I enjoyed today but once is enough for now.
9August O-Saom/ Battambang
No rain during the night which is good news, started on the road at about 8am with overcast sky’s and we followed the contour of the lake for the first couple of hours. Parts of the way we achieved speeds of 30-40kmph but then the impossible sections for any vehicle except for bikes and scooters appeared.
In sections, the way was tougher than yesterday, many times Eunhwa had to walk as i made my way along the snake trail of sticky mud. Getting stuck was the norm with mud piling-up all over the bike. I was surprised how hard the going was, a number of times I just had to stop and rest up for a while with my heart beating flat-out and generally feeling over heated.
Passing a truck coming the opposite way that was stuck was good news as i figured that if they made it so far along the road, conditions must be getting better.
Two nights in Siem Reap, a good day spent in Angkor Wat which was really amasing, wasn’t busy due to the low season, but still there were plenty of tourests about and I’d hate to be there in high season.
The day before, we explored the area seeing the odd temple that we could see without a paid pass then an evening meal in town at a really nice resturant.
12th August Angkor Wat to Sra Aem (Prasat Preah Vihear)
Left Angkor Wat and passed thorough Beoung Mealea temples but didn’t stay there, but instead we visited Koh Ker temple. White elephant tomb.
Had to pull over and wait the rain out for 20 minutes but other than that it was a great ride today passing through local villagers on mud roads and eating corn along the way.
Prasat Preah Vihear
Found a hotel for 8 dollars, fan only as no air-con was needed.
Tomorrow we visit Prasat Preah Vihear temple, it was only 2 weeks ago we viewed this temple from the Thai side, however it was under clouds cover.
13Auguest- Prasat Preah Vihear town to Krong Stung Treng
(then only 60kms to the Laos boarder)
Great day, no rain and pleasant morning at the temple, clouds, fog came and went. The place was still amazing even for my second visit. Couldn’t see the Thai side very well due to the low clouds, but the army guys pointed out the Thai road which was only about 500m from us.
Detoured a bit and visited one of two waterfalls, road was impassable for the first so we turned about and viewed the second.
No waterfall, just very rough rapids due to the excess water, was great to see. The plan is to view much more of the Mekong river when we enter Laos tomorrow.
Can see a lot of flooding with many houses under water, I imagine we will see much more of this as we head north.
Long day on the bike, about 350kms
14th August Stung Treng (Cambodia) to Pakse (Laos)
Cambodia immigration passport control both told me to go to window 4 for exporting my bike, no one there, I returned and he insisted I try again. I went to an other office and he just waved me on. I returned saying that everything was ok, and after giving some “stamp” fee of 2dollars each passport, I couldn’t get on my bike fast enough just in case there was another fee I had to pay. Final exit was a boom gate, parked bike up and Eunhwa walked over, all he asked was that if the bike was ok. Thumbs up and here we come Laos
Dropped the bike
Riding towards the Laos immigration office, very low speed on the bike, front wheel gave way and crash we went down on the road . Very slippery black moss on the road but thankfully nothing hurt except my pride. The panniers on the bike protected Eunhwa’s leg where otherwise there may have been an injury.
Laos boarder was going to take more time, very little traffic coming through, visia fee was 30 dollars each and one dollar processing fee, well that’s what I thought. In fact as Eunhwa pointed out, the one dollar was a fee when outside day time hours. So silly me, I handed over 2 dollars more than I should have.
Documentation for the bike was 5 dollars, real cost was 25,000 kip (3dollars)
Then the “stamp” fee for the passport, 2 dollars for each passport.
They asked for a passport photo, just like Cambodia when we first entered, I had mine but Eunhwa didn’t, lucky no extra fee and he processed it anyway.
Overall, it was a good outcome and we pass through without to much problems.
Khon Phapheng Falls
Laos thousand island waterfall
Visited the waterfall just up the road, 5 dollars each, but if we paid and extra 2 dollars, we get the VIP treatment.
Which involves bus to the falls, 200 metres, WiFi and free use of the toilets.
We went standard and used the toilets for free anyway and the walk did us good. Funny, advertising VIP and you get to use the toilets.
Arrived into Pakse, last 30 minutes the sky opened up on us, stopped at Amazon CAFE but unlike Cambodia, they wouldn’t accept USD dollars. So at 2 in the afternoon, empty stomachs, we did the last 10 minutes into town and found a place to stay, 8 dollars.
15th August Pakse to Savannakhet
Accommodation was terrible, worst room so far, Bed sheets felt that they hadn’t been washed, next to a busy road and motorbike racers where keeping us awake and then the inconsiderate tourists getting drunk just outside our room window then smashing their beer bottles and making a mess.
Left while it was drizzling and things didn’t get much better for the next few hours.
Visited Tad Yuang Waterfull, raining harder as we climbed in elevation with the intentions of heading to do the circular route of waterfalls and tea plantations.
Tad Yuang Waterfull, overflowing and mist everywhere, but still we walked on in the rain to get closer. I loved it, got really wet, but it was worth it, very different from my last visit a couple of years back with Brian where the water was lower and sun was out.
Had to modify our plans, mist, clouds were to much cutting the visibility down to a very unsafe limit. After visiting the waterfull, we headed back down off the mountain and followed the Mekong river north.( however, we didn’t see the river)
By midday, we were back on the open road heading north, we were warned about the live stock that wander on the roads, but that was Cambodia, however, it’s Laos where we have encountered the most. Just today, it was buffilos, cows, goats, chickens, ducks, dogs and even a couple of turkeys.
16th August Savannakhet to Thalang lake.
Great day with no rain,
Arrive into Thskhek and rode along the Mekong river for a while viewing Thailand where only three weeks back we were on the other side. Then spent the next three hours at Amazon Cafe resting and playing with our phones.
Booked tickets from Chiang Mai to Bangkok only to find out I had already done this back in May when I organised flights to Korea. Panic set in but lucky for me, Thai airways didn’t take payment as their system saw that I was already on that flight . Eunhwa says I have dementia.
wooden cabin for the night
We didn’t make it to our plan destination but instead we saw a nice home-stay next to a lake, (Phosy Thalang Guesthouse). The wooden cabins must be up there on our top places to stay so far, fantastic rooms with new bathroom fittings and bed covers and all this for 9 dollars a night.
Nice relaxing on the porch with a beer, snacks and a good woman for company.
18th August Vang Vieng city
Stayed two nights at a Korean hotel at Eunhwa’s request, cost more than what I wanted to pay but it has a really nice breakfast.
Rode out to one of the blue Lugoons 3, entry fee was 10,000kip but before even leaving the town we had to pay 10,000kip to cross the bridge.
Late start of 1pm only because we felt lazy, cloud cover came and we got rained on, thankfully not much but the road was passed as a little rough as we passed through washed out portions of the road were I was a little nervous at times.
Great lagoon, but too many people, we relaxed and went for the 500m walk to the non existing cave that only gave us a few leaches.
Heading back home, stalled the bike due to a crappy gear changing, but then I couldn’t get the bike started again. No life at all, this has happen in the passed, but that was when I dropped the bike and probable upset the flow of fuel. Took a while to get life back into the bike, i have no idea why but I’m hoping that its just a one off and it could have been rubbish in the fuel.
20th August Vang Vieng city to Phonsavan
Long day on the bike, mountain roads were very hilly and windy. Great views along the way and very rewarding. Stopped and took some drone footage, at one site I flew the drone just over two km to film a waterfull, I’m looking forward to see how the footage turned out when I get home.
Stopped for some pineapple along the road, it was almost free where we had two each.
Heavy rain for half an hour and we were held up for a couple of times while loaders were clearing the slips away.
Plenty of accommodation here in Phonsavan, visited a few to get the best deal and conditions, finally settled on a fan room, high ceilings and away from the karaoke bars that were obviously going to be a problem latter in the night, even with the assurance from the guesthouse owner that they will finish soon, we just didn’t beleive him.
Cost for the go on, 60,000kip (about 9usd)
21 August Plain of Jars, Phonsavan to Luang Prabang.
Lunch at Phou Khoun
Spent an hour at the Plain of Jars, well worth it even for a second visit. Arrived there early, no tourists except for us. Learnt something new, the jars were used as burial, remains we discover dated back to the iron age 500BC to 500AC.
Stopping for lunch at noon, but not before stopping at the pineapple seller again to enjoy fresh fruit which has been missing from my diet, due to laziness.
So far 3 hours to cover 150km, sore shoulders from the constant cornering, braking , passing through washouts and general Mountain climbing up and down.
Hazards on the road
Passed four truck and two motor bike accidents, but I must admit that the driver’s were better here in Laos than what I experienced in Cambodia. In Cambodia, the on-coming traffic would over-take regardless if there were cars or bikes coming and would expect you to pull right over to the shoulder of the road. Cambodia is definitely not a place where you hold your ground and play chicken thinking that you have the right.
Held up a few times from land landslides which worked out good as we passed many Chinese trucks sitting there waiting to pass as we made our way to the front.
The prenece of Chinese were everywhere, concrete plants, dams, and restaurants. I later realised that maybe it was because of the Chinese construction of the railway that’s covering Asia. Then later I saw footings for the above ground railway line.
Couple of zero days here to rest up and enjoy not touching the bike for a while. Found a nice place to stay, low season discount to 15 USD per night with breakfast, and we took advantage of the free Pickup and drop off to the city centre.
Visited the UXO Visitor’s centre, very moving seeing the damage the war does to people’s lives years after it all ended. Laos, the most heavily bombed country (perceptual) in the world leaving unexploded ordinates littered about for the poor farmers and children to fall victim to the deadly coaster booms,
Luang Prabang to Luang Namtha
Long tiring day on the bike, a lot of hill climbing and passing many land slides that were getting cleared.
Rain came down hard, but wasn’t unable to pullover for about 10 minutes. When we did, I was drenched all the way through, but still I put on the weather gear, if anything, to keep the wind out and the cold at bay.
Sore shoulders again from the windy roads, and Luang Namtha was a welcome relief after 315kms.
Visited three guesthouse and finally settled on a room with fan only as aircon isn’t needed for this time of the year.
Overcharged in the markets
Dinner and beers at the markets , had a choise of roast chicken or duck, duck was really nice. Couple of beers, the man at the stall was going to overcharge me but I grabbed my money back and walked over to the next stall.
Again I was getting overcharged for fried bananas, so i only purchased two but only to discover later that it’s what the going rate was.
Later I went back to buy more, 5 left there waiting for me, therefore 5,000 kip(60cents). I asked about the other fried “thing” it was fried bread in batter, no thanks. But in the mean time, another customer brought the last five banna fritters. I guess it deserves me right in thinking I was getting ripped off.
25August Luang Namtha to Vieng Mai
Started out this morning not really knowing where we were going to stay the night. Maybe at the border of thailand, therefore a short day of touring 185km, or Chiang Rai in Thailand.
We crossed the boarder
Laos cost us 25,000kip in “fees” 3 dollars but Thailand it was so easy and no fees.
Stopped halfway over the friend-ship bridge, below us was the Mekong river with its thick dark brown water, and on each side were the border crossings with farmlands. Probabley the best looking crossing we have done so far, no local traffic like the other crossings transferring goods like durian fruit, and import and export goods.
Where to stay for the night
What do we do now?, after coffee at Amazon Cafe, it was 18:00 and being on the Thai side, we decided to push on and sleep in our own beds in Chiang mai
That’s an extra 285kms (total 470km)
Crazy, riding at night
Driving at night was one of my rules of not to. It’s just too dangerous, poor street lights, if any, animals, drunks and general crazy drivers know that the police are off duty.
On the main road to Chiang Mai, road was washed out last week and it was closed, fortunately its now open with segments of gravel.
Difficult to see at times, so going was at a slow pace, over the diversions where I pulled over to allow the speed demons in their mini vans past. Some drivers were good, but a few let you know that I shouldn’t be on the road slowing them down and get real close with their full beam lights blinding my mirrors.
Stopped a few times to stretch our legs, it’s definitely different travelling at night, poor viability but temples along the way were lit up and can be seen for a distance.
Home at last, 9:30, and what a relief. First thing was to put our stinky clothes in the washing machine
Costs of touring in Baht
Eating Out 12,007