Laos…. reminds me of Myanmar
Another border crossing and another lot of confusion… The Thai side was pretty straight forward until we were charged 500 Baht to be escorted over the bridge which had no traffic on it. Coming into Laos we processed our Visas ($30USD for 28 days on Australian passport) then trying to get the bike in they asked for our Carnets (Laos is not a member of the FIA) this caused some confusion for us but we just handed them over and they stamped us through. All in all it was pretty painless to cross apart from the bridge toll. Once through we stopped for a coffee and cold drink to decide where we would head to. Initial feeling in Laos was we were back in Myanmar as the people were so friendly smiling and waving as you drive through the towns.
The Laos border crossing
As we arrived in Luang Namtha and the usual hunting around for a place to stay we found a lovely guesthouse with a few backpackers around with whom we sat around chatting with and listening to their adventures for a couple of days. It just re-assures me I am travelling the best way possible to see countries, no buses, trains, etc time schedules. The town is mainly for trekkers as there is a lot of mountains nearby that the backpackers visit via organised tours. We stayed here 2 nights.
The ride to Luang Prabang was uneventful as I had heard there was some issues for other travelers. After settling into a nice room just up from the river for 3 nights I set about looking at the bike again and organising parts in UK. I also took the time to re-use my high-speed Hard Drive and rebuilt the laptop I had purchased in Thailand to speed it up. This has improved the speed 100 fold and now I feel I can use it better :). I stumbled across a bar that was recommended by a Dutch couple that was run by a Hungarian women and all the cocktails were made up from people travelling. She is an artist and decorated the place with her art. Great place to find and relax.
The next destination was Phonsavan for the night to visit the Field of Jars still not sure what this is all about. There was war trenches, bomb craters and just the lumps of concrete.
The plan was to then visit a so called abandoned airstrip which wasn’t so abandoned. We also had be advised by the locals not to travel along this route as there was a potential for rebels and they were armed. After discussing the plans it was either back to Phonsavan or I found another town called Pakxan which was due South and would get us to Veintiane and KTM to see if they had parts. As we headed along the road following the sat nav all of a sudden it turned into roadworks and mud for what seemed like 100km. We rode into the night to get to the town and as the bike wasn’t charging I was running out of headlights and they were becoming intermittent. We made the town and stopped to find a hotel and that was the end of he the battery. We tried to bump start but only got 50mtrs down the road and it stopped again. Luckily there was a hotel right near where it stopped so we pushed it back to the hotel and spent the night. Next morning I used the BMW (how embarrassing) to charge the battery enough to get me to Veintiane.
The ride to Veintiane was along highways and not very exciting. We arrived in town and found the KTM store which is new and doesn’t even have a workshop. So no chance for parts. Back to online and arranging parts in UK as Rupert was back there for a week in London and we would meet him again later in Laos. We stayed in a very nice hotel and spent 4 nights here doing laundry and catching up on some rest. I wasn’t riding about too much as the bike was only just holding it’s charge. I did find a mechanic that had some regulators and tried them all but nothing worked, then testing all the stator and regulator again discovered it was the stator that had a short.
So as to see the most of Vietnam Vang Vieng was next on the route. Stayed just out of town over the river (which they charge for as only way to get across). It was so peaceful with such and amazing view from the balcony spent 3 nights there. met Emma and Josh a lovely couple from Scotland that were travelling South East Asia and spent some time chatting with them and hearing their stories and vice versa.
Headed back to Veintiane the following day to make sure Margot, who we met at the guesthouse, was OK as we had seen her off that morning in an ambulance, she had fallen climbing and slammed the rocks with her back an tailbone. On the way we saw a guy who had come off on the roadworks. He was OK so we headed off and just around the corner I came off on the same stuff. They spray a diesel/tar mixture over the roadbase and that then gets pulled onto the old road and makes it an Ice-rink. We got the bike up no damage to me or it. Spent the night in town and caught up with Emma and Josh again for Pizza.
Set off for Thak Hek the next morning towards where we would met up with Rupert again. We stayed in a guesthouse that seems all the backpackers go to as they hire scooters and travel a 3-5 day loop then back for a night and onward travel. I spent the following day checking bike over (wheel and headstock bearings) and some general maintenance. I also dropped the front forks about 20mm and re-packed all my panniers and bags to move the weight as far forward as possible.
We arrived in Savannakhet the next day when I received a message from Emma that Josh was in hospital in the same town as he hadn’t got over his stomach problems and needed to stay in over night. So after settling into a lovely guesthouse I took Emma up some food and spent a few hours chatting and then arranged for her to have a room in same guesthouse so as to catch up on some needed sleep.
The next morning by the time we had breakfast Josh and Emma walked in he had been released 🙂
Rupert arrived that afternoon with the parts I had arranged …. only problem was they were for a 640 not a 690. Nothing I can do here will have to get parts sent to Hanoi and fix the bike there.
As Rupert was back with us to do Vietnam we road along the beach road which was mostly track and then rain. We arrived in Thalang just on dark and settled into another storm for the night. We spent an extra night here as the border was drive-able from here.
FINALLY we headed for the border at Nam Pham only issue was rain was still coming down and the road wasn’t in the best shape. I had another moment on the wet spray tar and managed to stay upright this time. This border crossing is up in the mountains and was quite damp all the way up. We passed through immigration and had the bike carnets stamped out and we are off to Vietnam!!!!!