4. CHIANGMAI TO LUANG PRABANG 07/04/15

4. CHIANGMAI TO LUANG PRABANG 07/04/15

2015-04-07T16:33:10+00:00April 7th, 2015|Lee & Paul Update|

So now we are four!! Pete and Paul are back from Bangkok and the ride continues.

Time for a Chang tower!

Time for a Chang tower!

All the bikes are serviced, tyres sorted, boys hair cut, parcels posted, and housework done! We’ve repacked our luggage to make it work better on the road – this kind of trip involves a different kind of “pack” to our around Oz adventures – one bag to come off the bike for accommodation is much better than fiddling around finding everything at the end of the day! And we’ve developed a pattern of checking in, washing clothes, doing our computer/planning work each night – before the first beer! So what do you do when all the men are away and you’ve got four days to kill on your own? A Thai Cooking Class for a full day was definitely an unforgettable experience!

Loved every part of this!

Loved every part of this!

We began with a tour of the local markets and then their own herb farm. I had chosen the class by menu selection and over the day made Pad Thai, Spring Rolls, Red Chicken Curry (making the paste from scratch), Tom Saeb (sour soup), Stir-fry with Noodles, Papaya Salad and finished it all off with a variation on Fried Bananas! It was all superb – so fresh with lots of subtle flavours.

Our accommodation in Chiangmai

Our accommodation in Chiangmai

We were all very much ready to leave the city and get “on” the road again. We made an early start and once we cleared the city and were on rural roads the fun began! It was just like being on one of our rides out of Brisbane with Paul leading us onto awesome country roads – except today Mark was setting the pace. The locals in a tiny village were super friendly and interested in us and saying hello.

It's all about the people!

It’s all about the people!

The landscape is intensive farming with occasional rubber tree plantations – not a skerrick of palm oil anywhere! We basically did the “Nan loop” which is a famous motorcycle road in this part of the woods – amazing twisties going up and down and quite steep in parts with great views of the countryside. We have all definitely broken in our new tyres! This is our first day with four riders and it’s working out well – it’s Hot as Hayley’s again – up to 40 degrees but the haze is not quite as thick. The people are slightly more Chinese-looking near the Laos border. We stay in a funny little “resort” and Mark’s accommodation costs are halved now with Pete on board. A walk up round town and we discover a great local restaurant where 3 mains and four large beers are $24AUD! There was live music and it was just a lovely atmosphere. We discovered the local abattoir on the way home where one cow was being carved up in front of the cow that was waiting next in line!! Most city dwellers who think meat comes on a tray with glad wrap would be having kittens by now! Left early to catch the best riding time of the day. Awesome roads again, good surface, not much traffic. Just after Chiang Rai we headed up a back road which took us very high with very steep gradients to a great village.

Village above Mae Sai

Village above Mae Sai

The pollution is so thick in places now – such a shame! Its hard to see how it will ever change – they have signs talking about stopping the burning for clean air but how they would police that – who would know! We could see Laos from the top and then coming down we think we crossed the border several times. Came down right into Mae Sai where the bridge to Myanmar is – very busy and congested. Stuck close to the Ruak River and stopped at the Golden Triangle for lunch and a photo moment.

Myanmar, Laos and Thailand

Myanmar, Laos and Thailand

The Mighty Mekong

The Mighty Mekong

Lots of great sweepers following the Mekong River further down to the Friendship Bridge where we crossed to Laos from Chiang Khong. The immigration buildings were grandiose and quite deserted at 3.30p.m. We had the usual rigmarole of giving in copies of passport, licence and registration. It was 200BHT to release the bikes and 100BHT to stamp our passports. Then we paid 500BHT to have an escort across the bridge (for gods sake!) and 200BHT to lift the barrier which they then asked us to drive around!! The approach to the bridge swings you over to the right side of the ride and then that’s it – you are driving on the right! And we will be until we return to Oz unless we go to England. Rode on beside the river to find a guesthouse – quite different surroundings already – barren and harsher – dusty. Very evident we are third world now. More fires on the side of the road and it seems the smoke is thicker!! Guesthouse is lovely, right beside the Mekong. Had a great dinner a few doors along – not quite as cheap as Thailand. Slept really well with nice linen, pillow and air!

When things start getting wierd!

When things start getting wierd!

Day off the bikes – nice! Walked along our street on the edge of the river – discovering a Socialist/Communist economy – same signs – same restaurants – same guesthouses! Not much enterprise! Very dusty, signs of dilapidation typical of this economy. BikesnBeers discovered the local brew and it’s a winner…

Just the ticket - Beer Lao!

Just the ticket – Beer Lao!

Left fairly early next day and quickly went on to a dirt road which became quite jagged with large sharp rocks which followed a river. We went through some interesting villages and stopped at one for breakfast. A lovely couple cooked us breakfast in their house and the whole family enjoyed my instant print camera – always a winner! As we were leaving town I set off on the left side of the road and collided with a scooter with two young boys on it – they kept going so I did! Stopped up the road where Paul was and discovered my indicator was hanging by the wire! After a gaffer tape repair we all headed off and as the road started to seriously climb it became more and more of an off-road surface – lots of deep ruts, loose powder and incredible gradients up and down. At the top of each humongous hill was a village – very basic structures with bamboo woven walls. It was Saturday so the kids were playing everywhere and each village we would get whole groups waving at us and shouting hello – I always got extra special looks and waves because I am a woman on a large bike!! I could have stopped at every village to take photos of just the kids – they are always such a drawcard. The villagers don’t seem to have much in the way of gardens up there – it was in fact quite barren so we couldn’t decide what they ate. Lots of chickens, roosters, pigs, goats, dogs and people on the roadsides.

Hill country

Hill country

In between the villagers there were glimpses of the terrain which was very steep and hard to determine what they actually grew. Lots and lots of ground fires producing huge amounts of smoke to add to the already choked atmosphere – the haze in Laos is now a real problem. This is very remote country. We finally started a big descent (would have hated to have been coming up that way!!) which had lots of loose powder and heaps of ruts. Considering Paul and I are on the SMT’s they handled well considering the conditions. I was quite proud of myself all round as it was serious off-roading for me.

Dusty work in the Laos outback

Dusty work in the Laos outback

Got stuck in one of the ruts on an uphill gradient and got myself out of it! Coming down was quite treacherous and first gear all the way but we made it! Had lunch at the next town and headed along the Mekong to the car ferry at Pak Beng. The road from there to Hongsa was quite amazing – all sealed this time and a beautiful bike road – amazing sweepers and huge ascents and descents – all the while in a very dense haze. Arrived at quite a new Chinese Hotel and while parking the bikes I clipped Pete’s panniers with mine and immediately came off – making a nice slice on my arm on a sharp concrete drain! What a day…! The ride to Luang Prubang was mountain after mountain, corners and villages and so many sights – and we were very tired bunnies crawling into town.

The Famous Four

The Famous Four

After a day off the bikes for repairs, maintenance and a look around town (including the famous Night Market) we headed north for the Chinese border. The road started well and deteriorated to the worst road ever – roadworks that just went on and on and conditions that were quite unbelievable. We negotiated our way around earthmoving vehicles, men making rock and concrete gutters and trucks coming at us for more than 150kms. Finally, we arrived in a northern city and then the road turned into heaven – the best road in Laos with great twisties, perfect surface – you just had to be wary of all the Chinese trucks coming at us! The Chinese are up to something here…getting power and minerals we reckon. We arrived in Boten – the border town and even though we’d been warned – it was an eerie feeling. They used to run a casino here and the Chinese could come and go as they pleased but apparently they were holding people hostage who hadn’t paid their debts and eventually in 2011 the casino was closed down and basically it’s a really big ghost town! To say we are excited to enter China is an understatement! It’s been a long haul to get this far and we will cross in the morning and meet our guide. The story continues…

Tip of the Day

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KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE!

It was a very steep descent to the ferry on a concrete road covered in loose powder (like the whole of Laos) and then it was a bumpy, deep sand run on to the ferry – I decided to not look down – just look straight at the last spot on the boat which was mine, let the bike do the work – and head for it! It’s probably my most trying moment ever but I kept my eye on the prize and went. Some boatmen had stepped forward to help and they quickly scarpered when they realised I wasn’t stopping for anyone! I think my heart was still pounding when we reached the other side!!

20 Comments

  1. Keith and Carolyn April 11, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Wow what a read, Lee. You should be writing a book after this trip. What a great adventure. You could even make a good TV doco. Lee you are just amazing with what you are doing. Go girl. Keep smiling.
    Much love xxx

    • admin April 12, 2015 at 1:46 am

      Thanks Cuzzies! Keep on trucking…love hearing from you xxx

  2. PvG April 9, 2015 at 5:08 am

    Crazy doing all that stuff before having a beer!

    • admin April 12, 2015 at 1:47 am

      I reckon Pete! Loving China… xxx

  3. Wendy and Paul April 8, 2015 at 2:48 am

    Fabulous Lee. Great descriptions and wonderful photos. Really is engaging and inspiring. Your comments on the haze in Laos made us realize we were glad we didn’t go back there in the hope of better air when found the haze in Chiang Mai so bad.
    Looking forward to reading more.

    • admin April 12, 2015 at 1:41 am

      Hi Wendy and Paul, Luang Prubang is worth a visit – maybe after the wet when they say the sky clears!!!

  4. Raewyn April 8, 2015 at 1:54 am

    All that riding on Callaghan’s Rd is paying off!! Enjoy China.

    • admin April 12, 2015 at 1:41 am

      You bet Rae! Loving China…

  5. Maryanne April 8, 2015 at 12:58 am

    Yeah Lee!! Gutsy woman! I’m really enjoying reading about your daily adventures, so thanks for putting in the time and effort. Have a bloomin great time – all of you! xo

    • admin April 12, 2015 at 1:43 am

      Thanks Maryanne! Hope things are good in your camp…

  6. Beverley April 7, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    You go girl!

  7. Hilda Pye April 7, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Hi guys
    The reading is great – sounds like the adventure is very real now. Take care and keep the posts coming xo Hilda

  8. Paulette April 7, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    You guys sure are having the time of your lives…..and we are all coming along with you through your blog Lee. I’m really enjoying reading about all your adventures and how lucky we are to live in Australia! That cooking day sure was right up your alley Lee…..the smile on your face said it all. Stay safe and remember stay right xx

    • admin April 11, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      Thanks my friend! We are lucky to live in Australia…miss you xxx

  9. Sonya Blight April 7, 2015 at 10:04 pm

    Hi Lee and Paul – loving your blogs – Lee you are quite the writer!!
    You’ve got skills Lee negotiating all those roads, on that big bike – I know exactly the conditions you are talking about. Be safe and looking forward to hearing the next update – your trip always comes up in conversation whenever I am with the Zwoerners. Take care. Xxx

    • admin April 11, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      Thanks Son, hope things are good in your camp…loving China – where did you guys live?

  10. Annie April 7, 2015 at 9:09 pm

    G’day Lee, Paul, Mark & Pete! So exciting reading about the Famous Four adventures to date. I’m eager to hear the next instalment. What a fantastic read Lee, you’re a legend with the “pen”! Looking forward to tasting your Thai cooking when you get home, yum!
    Stay safe, have fun and enjoy the beer!
    Love Annie
    PS: Miss you ❤️

    • admin April 11, 2015 at 2:41 pm

      Hi Ann, we’ll have to have a Thai night when we return!! Loving China…miss you too xx

  11. Aunty April 7, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    Great read Lee! Sounds so exciting and you describe it all so well! The cooking class sounds great. Love you xxx

    • admin April 11, 2015 at 2:39 pm

      Love you too Auntie xx

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