A new country to enter – LAOS, exploring the northern part

When we arrived early morning at the ferry to go over to Laos the paperwork was done in 5 minutes and the customs officer told us the boat will leave at 9am. So we went to get the ticket… and we got told: The ferry boat will not go unless there are coming at least two more cars or we could take one of the longboats! Hmmm, as we were early we decided to wait for a while and hoping of cars trucks or whatever to join us instead trying to get the heavy bike backwards on the little wooden longboat. Lucky us! Suddenly a group of motorbikes arrived (an organized group going for off-road tracks to Laos with their support jeep). Now they were willing to go over with the big ferry, hurray!
Arriving in Laos we got the insurance for the bike for one month but unfortunately at the customs they wanted to see a paper from the Thai officials which the Thais kept of course when we left the country. After a longer discussion we decided to pay 100 THB and using the Carnet and not spending the whole day discussing a paper we would never get back from the Thai officials… The visa was done in a minute, paying an extra fee of one Dollar pp because it was Sunday and finally we were allowed to enter Laos!
First direction is north and the first impressions: an unexpected big “highway” was going direction Luang Nam Tha. When we passed the villages you could not see street kitchens or supermarkets anymore like in Thailand. Further we went the villages became more and more simple with rarely shops to get something to drink. When we had a stop next to a village the people came slowly to watch us, standing next to us with their kids – we and as well them did not know really what to do or what to say; they accepted us to have a break and we accepted not getting to close. In Luang Nam Tha we stayed two days practicing our first words in Lao, we had small trips around to Muang Sing next to the Chinese border and were visiting waterfalls and having chats around with the Lao people. The evenings we spend on the night market getting into the food over here – you do not get the same range of food like in Thailand, simpler but never the less good.
Our next destination was Phongsali; the highest city in Laos (1430 m) and we decided to take the small roads over the mountains. With the early morning mist in the hills we started a lovely curvy asphalt road going up the hills. When the sun came out it was time for us to leave the road direction north on a gravel road for the next 190 km. The beginning was a bit rough; clay road with big stones in it but very soon it went better and we enjoyed the ride through the mountains with small villages growing Tabaco and vegetables and all the kids along shouting “sabaidee!!!” and waving towards us. We had several rivers to cross and after a while the unsealed road became very wide: they started to build a big street here. On the next kilometers we had to stop and to wait several times because they were just working on the “street” with their bulldozers and it was not always easy for us to go through the fresh earth with big stones but therefor we had nice chats with the guys around. Unfortunately again one of our panel holders broke because of all the vibrations and we fixed it on the go with stripes. When we reached Boun Tai we stopped in a place which was looking like a garage. It took a while until it was clear what we need but then everybody was helping to fix it as fast as possible and everybody was excited to see such a BIG motorbike and started to observe it from every angle. (Honestly, it looks quite funny sometimes when the guys are standing next to the bike and measuring themselves – not even tall as the bike ;)
The panel holder was welded and off we went again hoping the road is becoming better now as it is supposed the main connection to Phongsali… but of course not! Good test for the job the guys just did at the bike and really tiring for us… After another 30 km we finally reached Bon Yo and an asphalt road! Happy and rewarded with a beautiful small road full of turns and incredible views we were heading to Phongsali into the sunset.
In Phongsali we met a group of people from all over the world and spending the evening eating and drinking LaoLao (Locally distilled RiceWine) together. Due to the geographical situation you have beautiful views up here, you can feel the influence of China in many ways and not that many tourists are around. From here our direction will be south.
We spend one night in Oudom Xai, a city which is more or less in Chinese hands. Unfortunately I was facing problems with the stomach for the first time and only happy to have a proper room to relax. Next day we went to a small lovely village at the Nam Ou River within rocky mountains: Nong Khiew. The best place for having a longer break and to recover from travelling, taff roads and grumbling stomachs. We found a fantastic little guesthouse a bit further from the riverside run by a lovely family who “adopted” us immediately. For the next three days our home was a nice clean little bamboo in a quite yard of Mr. Lin`s Family who does speak French, they have the best Guest House at this place. His son Tin and his wife Mone do speak well English. We went fishing in little river together with Tin. The technique for fishing is to walk up the river throwing a net with a chain out and towing it out again. For dinner we had of course grilled fish and fish soup. When we went to take gasoline we met two bikers on their trip around the world; Roland from Switzerland and Ingo from Germany. We convinced them easily to stay a night in this nice village and had a nice evening together with them. Hopefully we will see them again in south Thailand – they are doing the loop Lao-Cambodia the other way around.
The last evening we were invited to a ceremony to say good bye to Gaeto from Switzerland who spend a lot of time with the family. It was a very special experience and very touching as we got praised the same time with food and many ropes on our arms to be protected in the future. Of course Mama Ling did not forget out Motorbike to praise with ropes and food as well! It was hard to leave but nevertheless we had to continue slowly.
We took the road 1c via Vieng Thong to Phonsavan which was really breathtaking and a dream of a road for the motorbike – windy, up and down the mountains, passing little villages we were driving most of the time on a level of 1000m up to 1680m.

2 thoughts on “A new country to enter – LAOS, exploring the northern part”

  1. Hi K & S

    (I did try emailing this direct to the blog email, but it was returned, so forgive this email-like blog comment….)

    I hope you are well and having fun…I hear you bumped into Ingo…small/big world.

    I wondered if you could help…the background is that I want to go to NZ as you know, but the rates I have been quoted (cheapest) is about $2000 from Singapore, which seems a huge amount to me. It occurred to me that you had gone from Auckland to Bangkok, and it may have been this sort of figure. Or it may have been a lot less? If it was less by some measure it may be worth me investigating taking the bike back to Bangkok and shipping to Auckland from there, in which case would you recommend the agent you used and if so, can I have the details.

    Thanks for your thoughts in advance and look forward to catching up in due course.

    All the best



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