Laos Motorcycle Adventure – The South

The Laos Motorcycle Adventure.
The Laos motorcycle adventure.

The Laos Motorcycle Adventure – The Second Half

Having taught ourselves how to ride in the mountainous North, it was now time to explore the Southern half of the country. The roads were straighter, the scenery flatter and we found ourselves truly on the tourist trail. Luckily with the freedom of owning the bikes we could explore the small villages along the way and also tackle two famous motorcycling loops – the one out of Thakhek and the Bolaven Plateau. Moving towards Vietnam we found ourselves spending longer than expected on the road due to the relaxed vibe in towns such as Savannakhet and the backpackers haven of Don Det. The excitement continued on our Laos motorcycle adventure!

Vientiane to Thakhek – 340km

The road was in very good condition right through to Thakhek. Leaving the city was busy but that is to be expected. As soon as you reach Road 13 heading east (south), it quietens down. Very flat and straight with farmlands until you arrive in Pakkabing. From here you are offered views of the Mekong River and at times right over to Thailand. Limestone cliffs begin to rise from the ground and the foliage becomes denser. About 100km from Thakhek trucks start to come at you from the opposing direction. Mixed with speeding cars and buses overtaking from all sides you need to remain vigilant. Views are pleasant. The major attraction in Thakhek is the motorcycle loop and the caves close to town.

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 trucks and buses. This is a highway after all.
Corners: Pretty straight road, maybe a few corners now and then.
Bridges Crossed: 31
Rest stops: A few. Our bottoms were getting sore. We stopped off at a few little mini marts to recharge and Paksan for Lunch.
Hours riding: 8 hours
Fuel Stations:
– Vientiane
– Paksan
– Pakkading
– Nam Thone
– Thakhek

If you wanted to break this journey up here are some towns below that had guesthouses or hotels:

Nam Thone

Slight Change Of Scenery In The South. Laos Motorcycle Adventure
Slight change of scenery in the South

Thakhek to Savannakhet – 150km

More rural scenery on this short stretch leaves little to be excited about. But straight roads in good condition allows for fast riding. The markets at Ban Phon-Gnia Noy just outside of Thakhek made for an interesting stop-off to purchase some very delicious (and cheap) bananas.

Road Conditions: Very good. This is a main road with a few pot holes
Weather: Rainy day. Trying to avoid the storms coming
What we saw: Not much. Lots of trucks and buses. This is a highway after all.
Corners: Pretty straight road, maybe a few corners now and then.
Bridges Crossed: 11
Rest stops: A few times. To avoid the rain and we stopped off at a random little village for Lunch.
Hours riding: 4 hours, lots of stop and start
Fuel Stations:
– Thakhek
– Savannakhet
– There are a few random stops with a fuel station

Straight Roads. Laos Motorcycle Adventure
Straight roads.

Savannakhet to Pakse – 240km

A few fleeting moments of picturesque views, but for the most part the terrain remains the same. A couple of bridges crossing rivers adds a little excitement, but you mainly put your head down and make good time arriving in Pakse.

Road Conditions: Very good. This is a main road. There were a few pot holes and little construction.
Weather: Overcast and continuous light rain
What we saw: Not much. Lots of trucks and buses. This is a highway after all.
Corners: Pretty straight road, a few corners now and then.
Bridges Crossed: 16
Rest stops: Not many at all. Wasn’t nice weather so we wanted to get to Pakse
Hours riding: 5.5 hours
Fuel Stations:
– Savannkhet
– Lakhonpheng
– Nongkoung
– Every 20 km there was a fuel station
– Pakse

Laos Motorcycles-18 Laos Motorcycle Adventure
Some of the roads were

Pakse to Si Phan Don (4000 Islands) And Back – 140km Each Way

Leaving Pakse is quite busy and has a lot of roadworks going on. As soon as you start heading south this changes and the road is more-or-less straight the whole way to Si Phan Don (4000 Islands). To go to Don Det, which is the main backpacker island, turn off at the town of Nakasang. The most exciting part of the ride is riding your bike onto the small boat to transfer it to the island.

Road Conditions: Good. This is a main road.
Weather: Sunny on the way there, and rained lightly
What we saw: Not much. Lots of trucks and buses. Few animals. This is a highway after all.
Corners: Pretty straight road, maybe a few corners now and then.
Bridges Crossed: 2 either way
Rest stops: Just straight on through both times, one mechanic stop to fix a flat front tyre.
Hours riding: 3.5 hours either way.
Fuel Stations:
– Pakse
– Almost every 20km or so the whole way towards the Cambodian border.

What The Road Can Be Like If You Take A Wrong Turn On The Way To The 4000 Islands. Laos Motorcycle Adventure
What the road can be like if you take a wrong turn on the way to the 4000 Islands.

Pakse to Attapeu – 220km

Once you reach the town of Paksong, the ride into the Bolaven Plateau is stunning. Beautiful minority villages and pleasant farmland greet you on both sides of the road. There are many waterfalls you can stop off at and swim which makes for a great rest stop.

There are two different options for riding to Attapeu From Paksong you can turn left towards Thatheng and ride around the Bolaven Plateau, adding some kilometres to the journey. The other alternative is to ride straight through to the town of ******* through what is reportedly the most beautiful section of the Bolaven Plateau Loop. Unfortunately this road is under heavy construction and is not recommended for beginner riders or during the wet season. Due to the heavy rain we were experiencing, we took the longer route.

Road Conditions: Good. This is a main road.
Weather: Constant rain the whole way, did stop 30 km out of Attapeu. But there way construction most of that so it was muddy
What we saw: On the Bolaven Plateau the ride is beautiful. Outside of that there is not much to see unfortunately.
Corners: Pretty straight road, maybe a few corners now and then.
Bridges Crossed: 6
Rest stops: We stopped for coffee just outside of Pakse as our bodies were cold and numb.Then straight on through to Attapeu.
Hours riding: 7 hours, This was an all day mission
Fuel Stations:
– Pakse
– Paksong
– Senong
– Attapeu
– This is a major road so there are gas stations in random little spots

Pakse To Attapeu. Laos Motorcycle Adventure
Pakse to Attapeu

Attapeu to Vietnam Border – 110km

For 50km the ride is pretty mundane, with only the imposing mountains in the foreground hinting at what is to come. Soon enough you start to rise up into the mountains and we were reminded of the lush landscape of Northern Laos. Steep, windy roads and some of the greenest flora we have ever seen. We were lucky and had dense cloud coverage which added to the mysticism of the ride. Watch out for blind corners with large buses and trucks cutting corners at high speed. 

Be aware that there is very little traffic on this road besides large trucks and locals and the villages are few and far between, lacking in most amenities. Make sure your bike is in good working order and carry a tool kit and some spare parts if you don’t already. You do not want to break down in this section.

Road Conditions: So-so. Some sections were good then others had massive pot holes, sometimes on the corners.
Weather: Overcast, with little rain now and then
What we saw: Just beautiful landscape, up through mountains. Big Trucks coming at full steam from the opposite direction.
Corners: This one was very widely and no where safe to stop. Be careful
Bridges Crossed: 11
Rest stops: We wanted to get to the border so straight on through.
Hours riding: 4 hours
Fuel Stations:
– Attapeu
– A couple more along the way but they are few and far between.

Heading To Vietnam. Laos Motorcycle Adventure
Heading to Vietnam
57Km To Vietnam! Laos Motorcycle Adventure
57km to Vietnam!
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Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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7 thoughts on “Laos Motorcycle Adventure – The South”

  1. hi there! amazing blog. Really useful.
    Only i am wondering do you still remember which boarder did you crossed in vietnam? you are talking about 50km, but I can not figure out which boarder that must be.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Hey! Really like your posts helped me a lot on my motorbike travel. I was wondering if you had any Troubles at crossing the border at Bo Y ? Nela

    • Hi Nela, we had no issues at all crossing the border back in 2014. We had our Vietnam visa already and the right papers for our motorbikes. The border never asked for our motorbike papers but at the same time were a little shocked to see foreigners. I think it is more common now and we are not too sure it things have changes. Do check out our border crossing post as maybe someone has commented that they have done it recently. All the best

  3. Hi , great blog guys found it really useful so far whilst I’ve been in Thailand .

    I’m heading to loas on the slow boat a few days a didn’t realise it would be ok to own a bike in loas

    Could you give me any advice on best places to buy and the cost associated ? Also what did you do with the bike after load , I’ve been told it one of the places difficult to get your bike. Over the boarder?

    • Hey Matt, check out some of the other posts on our site. We go into great detail about buying motorbikes and crossing borders. Ride safe mate 🙂

  4. Great trip folks! Brilliant that you did not intentionally go there to buy bikes and trot around that way! Looks like you are having so much fun and the experiences are amazing!

    • Lucky for us we have no schedule, places to be or deadlines so we can jump on board any exciting opportunity that pops up. Definitely having a lot of fun. Thanks so much for reading, Jane.

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