I have a bit of experience riding honda stepthrough motorbikes (honda dreams), and I consider myself alright at getting around on them. I have about 6 days to spare, and I was thinking of doing a 'there and back' trip from Luang Prabang to Sam Neua.
I was wondering if anyone has done this? What the road conditions are like? And some good places to stop along the way?
Let me know if I'm being too ambitious!
Thanks for your help!
#1 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6
my experience in the area is on a bus loop: LP - Phonsovan - and then returned via the northern route to Nong Kiaw. The southern road was fairly open and good tarmac, as you head north you reach a lot of hairy turns and go through some dense forest on the way back, so play it safe up there (i'm sure you don't need to be told that). There were plenty of motorbike groups doing just that circuit, so if you're an experienced rider I don't think you'll have problems.
I liked my stop in Nong Kiaw, the bridge over the river is scenic - and Phonsovan has some intertwining history. Also, a little town down Highway 6 where it intersects with 1C, heading down the mountain into the river valley (Nam Neun), a nice little city-square-busstop, follow the river upstream and you'll come to some villages where everyone is very welcoming.
wanderingcat posted this in another thread (Nong Kiaw to Phonsovan):
guesthouses along the way:
- Vieng Kham
- Vieng Thong
- Sam Neua & Vieng Xai (if you detour that way)
- **Nam Neua (junction of Vieng Kham-Sam Neua & Sam Neua-Phonsavan roads)
- Muang Kham
thanks for your reply!
I want to do the northern route and see how far I get... If I have time I will come back on the southern route, but I don't know how far I will get before I will have to turn back.
How were the roads on the northern route?
Nam Neua sounds interesting. I will definitely make that a stop.
#3 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6
And I'll definitely stop at Nong Kiaw too. It sounds pretty amazing
#4 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6
the roads were bumpier in the north than the south, and on some very curving mountain slopes - the buses take the corners wide, so keep alert.
you can make it to Nong Kiaw by the afternoon from LP (leaving early) and the roads are part of the flat Mekong Valley, not too hilly until the tail end of the journey - for some reason not on the map, but its on the intersection of 1C and the Nam Ou river (below Mung Ngoi). Spend an evening there enjoying the bridge.
It took something like 12 hours for the bus to make it from Nong Kiaw to the intersection of 1C and Highway 6, which is on a hilltop, no reason to stop there - either head down to Nam Neua or keep to the highroad and you'll eventually get to Sam Neua. However, you'll probably want to stop in Vieng Thong depending on your endurance. But, with an early start you could probably get to Nam Neua before the end of day 2.
The question then is if you go north to Sam Neau (never been, hear it's nice) - or start south to Phonsovan on Day 3 (easy enough to get there in a few hours). Then you'd have time to explore the Plain of Jars and take the Southern Loop back. You can probably fit in going to Sam Neau and doing Phonsovan so long as you get early starts each day.
think caseyprich is referring to #2 in this thread:
you can view the travelog (someone else's, not mine) entries that i've linked to the various places along the way, for an idea of what's there & guesthouse options. just added a link to info on Sam Neua & Vieng Xai to that thread (#4) too.
from LPB to Nong Khiaw: ~3.5h by very good (by Lao standards) road. but the better the road, the more the minibuses plying this route tend to speed, & the concept of 'lanes' doesn't really exist in Lao-style driving ;)
Perfect! Thanks guys, great answers.
#7 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6
Allow me to add.
When is this ride due? Just a thought, you are not going in during the rainy season are you? Some stretches up north can be treacherous when during the rainny season. And scooter tyres have smaller diameter, have to be more careful on it. But.. if taken at a slower pace, I think you will pass.
Just do it, man.
I'll be leaving Luang Prabang in about 4 or 5 days, and I think that's still the dry season?
By the way, if anyone is keen to join me drop me a post on here, even for some of the leg it would be good to have a partner in crime. Safety in numbers and all that jazz.
#9 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6
I am now back in Luang Prabang , here is an update for anyone that plans on doing this sort of thing in the future.
It turns out motorbike rental is very expensive here in Luang Prabang because 'technically' it is illegal for foreigners to rent them. So most places around town rent for $20 US per day (for a manual scooter), which is around the same price for a dirt bike in Vientiane I think? I managed to find a place just across the road from the southern bus station in Luang Prabang that would rent a manual scooter for $15 US a day. I negotiated them down to $13 US or 110,000 kip per day for 6 days. There aren't any dirt bike rental places in Luang Prabang. So I guess the best way to do it if you wanted to spend a bit of time on a bike would be to hire one in Vientiane and then make your own way up. Also if you do end up going for a scooter make sure you get a japanese bike (not a chinese one).
I headed east from Luang Prabang via Pak Mong, spent the first night in Nong Kiaw which is a nice setting and has a few tourists that come up on boats, the next day I legged it and stayed in Nam Noen - just south of the intersection of the two highways, which was also a nice town and I was the only tourist. Then I headed north, decided not to stop in Sam Neua as it was a bit of a dusty nothing frontier town and carried on through to Vieng Xai, which had lots of awesome limestone scenery and plenty of history about the revolution (its the town where it all started). From there I headed back to Luang Prabang, I considered going over the southern route (through Phonsovan and the plain of jars), but I guessed that it would be a main road, and I really enjoyed the route I took on the way out - winding roads through jungle, rice paddies, and lots of villages that barely ever see foreigners. The village kids were scared of me, I was called the 'bearded ghost' and I made a few of them cry mainly just by looking at them.
So when I got to the intersection I decided just to go back the way I came, the only difference was that I stayed in Vieng Tong instead of Nam Noen on the way back. On most of the days the riding was only around 3 to 4 hours - which was good because I could ride during the morning when it was cool and once I arrived I still had the afternoon to walk around and do stuff. There were at least two guest houses in the towns that I stayed in, so accommodation wasn't a problem. I had a flat tyre at one stage, which was near a mechanic so that wasn't much of a problem. Before I left I went to the Phousy market in Luang Prabang and bought a pump, tyre levers, and a puncture repair kit - just in case I ever had to do it myself.
#10 ivo_2424 has been a member since 3/4/2010. Posts: 6