The Laos Motorcycle Adventure – The Start Of Something Big
We didn’t really expect to purchase motorcycles. To start with, we didn’t even really know how to ride them! But despite this minor obstacle we went ahead bought two cheap Honda Wins. It was to be the start of our Laos motorcycle adventure that will hopefully take us all around South East Asia. We started off in Northern Laos and here is where we rode to and some information about our Laos motorcycle adventure.
Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw – 140km
Moderate traffic leads you the way out of Luang Prabang. This drive boasts somewhat-appealing views but lacks anything that would make your jaw drop. The road stays straight for quite a while, with farmland greeting you on either side. When you reach the town of Ka Deun you veer east and here the scenery picks up. You are offered glimpses of the Nam Ou River and the villages become more pleasant and quaint. Enjoyable, and a good start-up ride to get you ready for the rest of the loop.
Road Conditions: Good, but a little busy to start with.
Weather: Sunny until the last 45 minutes and a storm came through with heavy rain
What we saw: Lots of chickens
Corners: A few
Rest stops: 5 times – there were lots of photos taken.
Bridges Crossed: 2
Hours riding: 4 Hours
– Luang Prabang,
– Nong Khiaw
– Many manual pumps at villages or selling on the road side in bottles.
Nong Khiaw to Vieng Thong – 168km (Plus 40km In The Wrong Direction)
This passage started out with locals pointing us in the wrong direction by 20km, until we met a lovely Austrian couple who directed us back the right way. Still it was a beautiful journey. Once we started in the right direction south east, the road was in good condition
Riding past large limestone cliffs and forested mountains, the route steadily gains in elevation, eventually going through numerous mountain passes. Pleasant, rustic villages line the road every 10km or so, most no more than a few bamboo houses and the odd concrete building. Friendly locals wave and smile from the roadside. You are offered majestic views down valleys and over peaks on both sides of the road as it winds its way between high-points. Once you reach the town of Vieng Kham, the road becomes less hilly but maintains its curves. Here you can pick up your speed. You start to wind your way over small rivers and past small farmland terraces. The stunning scenery never gives up and at times you are completely engulfed by the lush flora. For a few sections you ride alongside some sheer cliffs. Eventually you start a final descent towards to town of Vieng Thong, passing over the river once more to find yourself in town for the night.
Road Conditions: Good. A few potholes
Weather: Sunny, Humid, Wet, Overcast
What we saw: Lots of cows, buffalo, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs and gorgeous villages with very friendly people. A lot of animals running out in front of Lesh.
Corners: A lot, too many to count. Thank goodness we weren’t on a bus.
Rest stops: 6 (Our backsides were sore)
Bridges Crossed: 5
Hours riding: 6 hours (8 including the wrong turn and the chat with the Austrian couple)
– Nong Khiaw,
– Viang Kham,
– Vieng Thong
Vieng Thong to Phonsavan – 208km
Exiting the town of Vieng Thong, we had two options: the scenic (long) route or the short (dusty) route. Of course, we opted for the scenic route. As soon as you left the town you began a long, steady climb on a very narrow winding road. For most of the first 20km the road was only really wide enough for one vehicle. Made for interesting moments when trucks came down the other direction! The gorgeous views began almost instantly and remained with us again for the entire trip. Approaching the village of Phoulao 60km away at the top of a mountain ridge, we veered to the right and immediately began descending towards the next town of Sop Lao. More climbing to come, but at least the road is wider. Before too long the scenery changes into what can only be described as jungle. Denser, lusher and greener than what we had encountered so far, the high altitude road weaves and bends its way around cliffs and mountainsides. At points we were completely surrounded by vegetation.
Reaching the larger town of Muang Kham, the terrain flattens out and is dominated by farmland with peaks forming the backdrop. Heading towards Phonsavan the road actually straightens out and you can really gain some speed. Little elevation gain and beautiful landscapes.
Road Conditions: Fair. Road was very narrow in some sections.
Weather: Sunny, overcast, cooler temperatures, light rain
What we saw: Lots of cows, buffalo, chickens, pigs, goats, dogs and gorgeous villages with very friendly people, even inviting us in for some Lao whiskey. A lot of animals running out in front of Lesh again.
Corners: A lot at the beginning with the thin road winding up and down valleys
Rest stops: 6 times, our bottoms were sore again. Lunch at Muang Kham
Bridges Crossed: 16
Hours riding: 6 hours
– Vieng Thong (on the road out to Phoulao),
– Muang Kham
– More at little villages with manual pumps
Phonsavan to Vang Vieng – 240km
The road out of Phonsavan is relatively straight, compared to the previous few days riding. Good surface means you can really pick your speed up. Rolling green hills is reminiscent of Europe, except for the typical Asian giveaways such as buffalo roaming the streets and bamboo buildings. Some amazing chicanes adds to the fun. The road remains wide, but starts to rise in elevation and the curves become sharper. The best riding we have had so far! High-speed (for our 110cc bikes) and nice banked curves alongside gorgeous scenery. Reaching the town of Phou Khoung, you veer left towards Vientiane and begin to descend through changing terrain. Large limestone cliffs jut out into the sky as you wind your way to the valley floor. At the bottom the road straightens out and you drive though some more flat farmlands and small villages. Approaching Vang Vieng the imposing limestone is all around you and provides great views.
Road Conditions: Very good between Phonsavan to Phoukhoun. After the turn off a few pot holes. Roads were wide and in good condition.
Weather: Overcast, cooler temperatures, light rain on the last 10km
What we saw: The typical buffaloes and cows, a few pigs and nice farmland outside of Phonsavan. No wildlife once we got into the mountains.
Corners: Many fun corners
Bridges Crossed: 21
Rest stops: A lot. This was another scenic ride, Lots of photos. Lunch at Phoukhoun.
Hours riding: 8 hours
– Phonsavan (4 on the main street)
– Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng to Vientiane – 160km
This was a pretty straight forward ride, literally straight. The scenery remained beautiful just outside of Vang Vieng before becoming a little more mundane. The ride into the city slowly built up traffic and the farmlands were replaced with more and more dwellings built closer together until the land was completely consumed by structures. Unfortunately this road is necessary should you want to visit the capital.
Road Conditions: Very good. This is a main road. There were a few pot holes and little construction.
Weather: Sunny and hot
What we saw: Not much. Lots of vehicles going up to Luang Prabang
Corners: Pretty straight road, maybe a few corners.
Bridges Crossed: 32
Rest stops: Not much at all.
Hours riding: 4 hours
– Vang Vieng
– Phon Hong