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A journey full of misfortunes in Laos
By Pierre

After some fears during my last days in Vietnam, I got lost in the south of Laos, alone with my motorcycle. The perfect situation to discover a new country, using the teachings of my previous steps.

2



Let me go out!

A scooter accident delayed me. Today is the expiry date of my Vietnamese visa and I am still in Dong Ha, 100 km from the local border of La Lay. I chose this border to go to Salavan. Four hours later, this border guards forced me back: it is reserved for local people, contrary to what I had been reading on the internet.

3



Let me go out! - part 2

This is okay because I anticipated it by starting at 6am. 50 km later, I arrived in front of the international border Lao Bao. Never I would have imagined the answer of the border guard: "You can pass but not the bike".
A woman approached... hesitating and indicating the sum of 50$ as the price to pay for passing my motorcycle. (She wanted to buy it in fact.) Feeling the shitty atmosphere full of cheaters, I forced the passage to get my exit visa. The border guards started to chase me and escort me to the barrier. However I got their attention now.
The guards didn't speak a word of English, but my Google translator made wonderful work that day. "The Lao province in which I want to enter does not accept foreign vehicles. I should go to Cha Lo, 300 kms further north."
This was the last day of my visa, and without the motivation of driving the 300 kms in 5 hours, I was blocked. An angled idea came in my mind: "Can I have my Lao visa and pass at La Lay's border?" The guard, facing this situation that exceeded his science, went seeking advice to its counterparts across the border.
15 endless minutes later, he was back telling me that "I can pass."... instant of joy... "but nothing is sure, I will have to explain the situation there". Super, I was done with these stubborn Viets. It was already a success!
Indeed nothing was sure. Upon my arrival, Lao guards started by telling me: "You can pass, but not the bike!" And after 5 minutes of explanation (in English, yes!), the bike was allowed to pass and I got the stamps and entry visa.
A guard checks that everything was in good standing and I went far, far away from this hell. 10 minutes later, a mad biker was honking permanently. In the mirror, I distinguished the clothes of a border guard... that controlled me once again, before letting me go. Finally!

4



Lost on the battle field

This adventure allowed me to make a 350km detour to the Bolavens plateau. On the hills bordering the only asphalt road, I saw the blue silhouette of the trees. Very simple huts were built on stilts which are along the road. On their front, remains of shells or military gear are displayed.

Why?

5



Laos history in Ben Dong museum

The kingdom of Lan Xang appeared in 1353. It was annexed by the Siam until. the incorporation of Laos in the French Indochina. In 1953, Laos got its independence but will always follow the influence of North Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh trail the Viets established east of Laos, was bombed without respite by Americans wishing to cut all resources of Vietnam.
The failure of the war of Vietnam was followed by the famous domino effect: Laos joined Cambodia and Vietnam following the Communist model. But while the system of its neighbors evolves quickly to capitalism, Laos due to its isolation, sees its development stagnating for years.

6



Ladies bath in the river

On my motorcycle way very dented and lost in the middle of nowhere, I arrived in front of a river with a height around 50 cm of water. On the other side, I got a surprise: these ladies were 'naturally' doing their toilet. Confused and especially embarrassed, my glance flew desperately seeking a path or a bridge to join the other bank, without finding it.
The locals forded on their motorbikes; I need to cross! And while women dressed them again and return to their village, I walked through the river with my bags and then I asked a local to pass the scooter.

7



Relaxing times in the village

Life in villages is peaceful. Each family has lands, a garden, a chicken coop, a pigsty and the richest has buffaloes. Generally, in addition to their own agriculture, they provide a service for the community to earn money (hotel, restaurant, shops, gas station,...) And when the day is complete, they enjoy life!
On the road to Muang Nong, I saw a village and a plot of clay. I stopped and people did some signs to me meaning I should join a team. I showed them how we play football in France in front of this crowd of amazed youngsters. It continued with a concert of my best pieces of guitar in front of fifty people.

8



Learning Lao language

Laos is in late in economics. Few national industries and services manage to develop themselves. This is the case of the film industry. So the Lao people watch Thai movies and listen Thai music, because the languages are close enough.

Sabaidee!
A group of young ladies around a table and it was the opportunity for me to learn the bases of the Lao. My ticket to meet locals was thus in the pocket! I found also a small road cutting the country, and rallying Salavan, ready to meet the locals unaccustomed to tourists.

9



Salavan market

Laos suffered from many famines during the wars of Indochina and the transition period that followed. Its inhabitants have learned to live with everything that is eatable in the nature. Yes all! Nowadays the menu still is the same!

I was walking through the city of Salavan looking where to rest a bit. I discovered its market with meat of the most disconcerting animals: dogs, lizards, rats, catfish... and roots and other seeds growing in the nature: everything Lao people need for cooking. My poor stomach got sick just by watching!

10



Lots of astonishment at Champasak

I finished the Bolavens plateau with a group of French. We wanted some snacks, we went to Champasak on the other bank of the river.
The only way to cross here: the wooden ferry not very reassuring but able to carry our 4 motorcycles and 2 tractors of the locals!

Anecdote: in Laos, you are not quite sure that the cook actually puts the food that the menu displays. As soon as your order is made, the cooked runs to the market to buy fresh food to satisfy your hunger - if there is still the ingredients. Guess who did not find tuna for our sandwiches... Patience is essential in Laos.
The meal turned therefore to a tasting of Lak Lop, specialty from Cambodia and Lao, that is composed of sliced beef fried in a gravy and served with rice.

11



The caprices of Mister Weather

In Laos, rainy season is really dreadful: the Mekong river overflows intensely, can reach 8 meters above its usual level and it floods suddenly whole territories.

I was travelling in June and I got showers on each roads there. However between torrential rains, I enjoyed the multitude of natural waterfalls of country' s, which waters were swollen by the monsoon.

12



Tad Lo

Here is one of the waterfalls which facade is the wider, wherein the elephants take their bath at the end of afternoon. Try not to miss it - not like me.

13



Tad Katamtok

It is difficult to distinguish the location of this waterfall and go closer, we had to down an abrupt and sliding path. The brave ones which succeeded it, were rewarded with a shower full of vapor waters that escaped from the waterfall. But also they had a good time in this little paradise of Dame Nature.

14



Kong Lor Cave

No cascade here, but a underground river. Kong Lor is one of the longest caves in the world. We explored it on a motor boat during the 7.5 km that composes its length. We sometimes passed below some rock cavities of 100m high. Huge!

15



Road network

Lao roads are redone almost annually, because of landslides during the rainy season. Only the major axes are asphalted and the medium axes try vainly to resist years after years.

The axes that lead natural resources of the country are directly asphalted by the Chinese. They excavate the natural resources (minerals and precious metals) of their neighbors in exchange of the construction of hydroelectric dams.

With its low population compared to its Asian neighbors, the ambition of Laos is to become the power plant of Asia, exporting their energy to all their neighbors for a valuable price!

After the big village of Muang Nong, the broken road becomes an irregular dirt road. I had the right to a 30 minutes break in front of that crane, reopening a passage obstructed by a landslide the eve.

16



So lonely in the shit

Indeed my scooter is heavy. Several times I should have scrambled by caution to clear a way. Sometimes I got stuck in the mud. How great it was to rely on locals to help me to extract my bike from the mud.

17



The Bolavens plateau

The Bolavens plateau attracts thousands of tourists every year, riding a motorcycle from Pakse and going to admire the majestic waterfalls ("Tad" in Lao) and meet the local tribes.

After a long crossing of countries in the middle of nowhere, I finally joined the Bolavens plateau in Tad Lo. Arrived at the famous and generous Mama Pap, I found some company to join for the visit of the loop.

18



The Thakhek loop

300 km further north of Pakse, a second loop awaits bikers. Unlike the Bolavens plateau, this loop is not yet fully asphalted. A new challenge that was ideal for me, accompanied once again of Tess (from the Bolavens) and a group of Irish.
Another surprise before leaving... I found in front of my guesthouse Pierre and Carole, Matt and Angélique, Flora and Nanou. The 6 French lived their Beijing Express hitchhiking day between Pakse and Thakhek. An inspiration for me!

19



The day started wrong...

Where are the keys of my motorcycle? No way to find them! While I am making them rebuild, my group left and there I was going alone to visit the caves, climb the rocks or follow the bed of rivers.
Late afternoon, I arrived at the Sabaidee Guesthouse... 5 minutes after my group! Just in time!

In South East Asia, there are many garages on every road or in each village to repair your small concerns on the bike. However, making a new key lasts 45 minutes without claiming papers of the vehicle: I find it a little fishy.

20



Enduro

Our group got bigger and we could now rely on the experience of Stéphane, this French exiled who knew the 5 kms of muddy roads ahead. Precious when we were about to struggle during a real enduro under the rain.
Four-wheels vehicles start very fast, beating their slip: a very impressive show to observe if we were not concerned about our own motorbikes, unstable on this red slippery ground, which stayed inside our wheels, weighting even more on our motorcycles.
I finished well with my heavy scooter, which underwent a fall totally controlled to check the way in the beginning and at the end when I had no force in the arms. Nothing was broken and I am able to say proudly : "I did it!"

21



Farewell, dear scooter

After playing the apprentice nurse with Stéphane and discussing a long time on the excess of this world, I went to the capital Vientiane after 300 kms under located showers. There my main goal was to sale my scooter.

Mission accomplished in four hours. I had not even the time to print ads, the group Facebook "Sell and Buy in Vientiane" is more effective!

22



Ô Laos: keep surprising me!

Landscapes always green, vegetation very abundant, good roads or muddy paths, waterfalls, caves or other natural wonders, Laos has a beautiful nature to contemplate.
But what I will keep in memory is this flow of crazy episodes that I experienced!
The videos, here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-CUk3xAtkr6yLbzCI1ASYaWspzDOS9nS

1


A journey full of misfortunes in Laos
By Pierre

After some fears during my last days in Vietnam, I got lost in the south of Laos, alone with my motorcycle. The perfect situation to discover a new country, using the teachings of my previous steps.



Let me go out!

A scooter accident delayed me. Today is the expiry date of my Vietnamese visa and I am still in Dong Ha, 100 km from the local border of La Lay. I chose this border to go to Salavan. Four hours later, this border guards forced me back: it is reserved for local people, contrary to what I had been reading on the internet.



Let me go out! - part 2

This is okay because I anticipated it by starting at 6am. 50 km later, I arrived in front of the international border Lao Bao. Never I would have imagined the answer of the border guard: "You can pass but not the bike".
A woman approached... hesitating and indicating the sum of 50$ as the price to pay for passing my motorcycle. (She wanted to buy it in fact.) Feeling the shitty atmosphere full of cheaters, I forced the passage to get my exit visa. The border guards started to chase me and escort me to the barrier. However I got their attention now.
The guards didn't speak a word of English, but my Google translator made wonderful work that day. "The Lao province in which I want to enter does not accept foreign vehicles. I should go to Cha Lo, 300 kms further north."
This was the last day of my visa, and without the motivation of driving the 300 kms in 5 hours, I was blocked. An angled idea came in my mind: "Can I have my Lao visa and pass at La Lay's border?" The guard, facing this situation that exceeded his science, went seeking advice to its counterparts across the border.
15 endless minutes later, he was back telling me that "I can pass."... instant of joy... "but nothing is sure, I will have to explain the situation there". Super, I was done with these stubborn Viets. It was already a success!
Indeed nothing was sure. Upon my arrival, Lao guards started by telling me: "You can pass, but not the bike!" And after 5 minutes of explanation (in English, yes!), the bike was allowed to pass and I got the stamps and entry visa.
A guard checks that everything was in good standing and I went far, far away from this hell. 10 minutes later, a mad biker was honking permanently. In the mirror, I distinguished the clothes of a border guard... that controlled me once again, before letting me go. Finally!



Lost on the battle field

This adventure allowed me to make a 350km detour to the Bolavens plateau. On the hills bordering the only asphalt road, I saw the blue silhouette of the trees. Very simple huts were built on stilts which are along the road. On their front, remains of shells or military gear are displayed.

Why?



Laos history in Ben Dong museum

The kingdom of Lan Xang appeared in 1353. It was annexed by the Siam until. the incorporation of Laos in the French Indochina. In 1953, Laos got its independence but will always follow the influence of North Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh trail the Viets established east of Laos, was bombed without respite by Americans wishing to cut all resources of Vietnam.
The failure of the war of Vietnam was followed by the famous domino effect: Laos joined Cambodia and Vietnam following the Communist model. But while the system of its neighbors evolves quickly to capitalism, Laos due to its isolation, sees its development stagnating for years.



Ladies bath in the river

On my motorcycle way very dented and lost in the middle of nowhere, I arrived in front of a river with a height around 50 cm of water. On the other side, I got a surprise: these ladies were 'naturally' doing their toilet. Confused and especially embarrassed, my glance flew desperately seeking a path or a bridge to join the other bank, without finding it.
The locals forded on their motorbikes; I need to cross! And while women dressed them again and return to their village, I walked through the river with my bags and then I asked a local to pass the scooter.



Relaxing times in the village

Life in villages is peaceful. Each family has lands, a garden, a chicken coop, a pigsty and the richest has buffaloes. Generally, in addition to their own agriculture, they provide a service for the community to earn money (hotel, restaurant, shops, gas station,...) And when the day is complete, they enjoy life!
On the road to Muang Nong, I saw a village and a plot of clay. I stopped and people did some signs to me meaning I should join a team. I showed them how we play football in France in front of this crowd of amazed youngsters. It continued with a concert of my best pieces of guitar in front of fifty people.



Learning Lao language

Laos is in late in economics. Few national industries and services manage to develop themselves. This is the case of the film industry. So the Lao people watch Thai movies and listen Thai music, because the languages are close enough.

Sabaidee!
A group of young ladies around a table and it was the opportunity for me to learn the bases of the Lao. My ticket to meet locals was thus in the pocket! I found also a small road cutting the country, and rallying Salavan, ready to meet the locals unaccustomed to tourists.



Salavan market

Laos suffered from many famines during the wars of Indochina and the transition period that followed. Its inhabitants have learned to live with everything that is eatable in the nature. Yes all! Nowadays the menu still is the same!

I was walking through the city of Salavan looking where to rest a bit. I discovered its market with meat of the most disconcerting animals: dogs, lizards, rats, catfish... and roots and other seeds growing in the nature: everything Lao people need for cooking. My poor stomach got sick just by watching!



Lots of astonishment at Champasak

I finished the Bolavens plateau with a group of French. We wanted some snacks, we went to Champasak on the other bank of the river.
The only way to cross here: the wooden ferry not very reassuring but able to carry our 4 motorcycles and 2 tractors of the locals!

Anecdote: in Laos, you are not quite sure that the cook actually puts the food that the menu displays. As soon as your order is made, the cooked runs to the market to buy fresh food to satisfy your hunger - if there is still the ingredients. Guess who did not find tuna for our sandwiches... Patience is essential in Laos.
The meal turned therefore to a tasting of Lak Lop, specialty from Cambodia and Lao, that is composed of sliced beef fried in a gravy and served with rice.



The caprices of Mister Weather

In Laos, rainy season is really dreadful: the Mekong river overflows intensely, can reach 8 meters above its usual level and it floods suddenly whole territories.

I was travelling in June and I got showers on each roads there. However between torrential rains, I enjoyed the multitude of natural waterfalls of country' s, which waters were swollen by the monsoon.



Tad Lo

Here is one of the waterfalls which facade is the wider, wherein the elephants take their bath at the end of afternoon. Try not to miss it - not like me.



Tad Katamtok

It is difficult to distinguish the location of this waterfall and go closer, we had to down an abrupt and sliding path. The brave ones which succeeded it, were rewarded with a shower full of vapor waters that escaped from the waterfall. But also they had a good time in this little paradise of Dame Nature.



Kong Lor Cave

No cascade here, but a underground river. Kong Lor is one of the longest caves in the world. We explored it on a motor boat during the 7.5 km that composes its length. We sometimes passed below some rock cavities of 100m high. Huge!



Road network

Lao roads are redone almost annually, because of landslides during the rainy season. Only the major axes are asphalted and the medium axes try vainly to resist years after years.

The axes that lead natural resources of the country are directly asphalted by the Chinese. They excavate the natural resources (minerals and precious metals) of their neighbors in exchange of the construction of hydroelectric dams.

With its low population compared to its Asian neighbors, the ambition of Laos is to become the power plant of Asia, exporting their energy to all their neighbors for a valuable price!

After the big village of Muang Nong, the broken road becomes an irregular dirt road. I had the right to a 30 minutes break in front of that crane, reopening a passage obstructed by a landslide the eve.



So lonely in the shit

Indeed my scooter is heavy. Several times I should have scrambled by caution to clear a way. Sometimes I got stuck in the mud. How great it was to rely on locals to help me to extract my bike from the mud.



The Bolavens plateau

The Bolavens plateau attracts thousands of tourists every year, riding a motorcycle from Pakse and going to admire the majestic waterfalls ("Tad" in Lao) and meet the local tribes.

After a long crossing of countries in the middle of nowhere, I finally joined the Bolavens plateau in Tad Lo. Arrived at the famous and generous Mama Pap, I found some company to join for the visit of the loop.



The Thakhek loop

300 km further north of Pakse, a second loop awaits bikers. Unlike the Bolavens plateau, this loop is not yet fully asphalted. A new challenge that was ideal for me, accompanied once again of Tess (from the Bolavens) and a group of Irish.
Another surprise before leaving... I found in front of my guesthouse Pierre and Carole, Matt and Angélique, Flora and Nanou. The 6 French lived their Beijing Express hitchhiking day between Pakse and Thakhek. An inspiration for me!



The day started wrong...

Where are the keys of my motorcycle? No way to find them! While I am making them rebuild, my group left and there I was going alone to visit the caves, climb the rocks or follow the bed of rivers.
Late afternoon, I arrived at the Sabaidee Guesthouse... 5 minutes after my group! Just in time!

In South East Asia, there are many garages on every road or in each village to repair your small concerns on the bike. However, making a new key lasts 45 minutes without claiming papers of the vehicle: I find it a little fishy.



Enduro

Our group got bigger and we could now rely on the experience of Stéphane, this French exiled who knew the 5 kms of muddy roads ahead. Precious when we were about to struggle during a real enduro under the rain.
Four-wheels vehicles start very fast, beating their slip: a very impressive show to observe if we were not concerned about our own motorbikes, unstable on this red slippery ground, which stayed inside our wheels, weighting even more on our motorcycles.
I finished well with my heavy scooter, which underwent a fall totally controlled to check the way in the beginning and at the end when I had no force in the arms. Nothing was broken and I am able to say proudly : "I did it!"



Farewell, dear scooter

After playing the apprentice nurse with Stéphane and discussing a long time on the excess of this world, I went to the capital Vientiane after 300 kms under located showers. There my main goal was to sale my scooter.

Mission accomplished in four hours. I had not even the time to print ads, the group Facebook "Sell and Buy in Vientiane" is more effective!



Ô Laos: keep surprising me!

Landscapes always green, vegetation very abundant, good roads or muddy paths, waterfalls, caves or other natural wonders, Laos has a beautiful nature to contemplate.
But what I will keep in memory is this flow of crazy episodes that I experienced!
The videos, here:
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-CUk3xAtkr6yLbzCI1ASYaWspzDOS9nS

.