Friday, October 12, 2012

Laos Solo Ride Day 3: Boten - Luang Prabang


Heyya..
Since there was nothing much I can do at Boten town, I left the Boten town at 9.00 o’clock in the morning.. I refilled the fuel tank at Boten and opened the Loas Road Map and analyzed the route and geographical terrain which I was gonna face..
Geographically, Boten town is located in the hilly mountains of North of Laos.. Going downhill to a small village called Bomphieng on Route 13N, the road was smooth and the weather was sunncy with cold breeze.. it reminds me of Cameron Highlands of Pahang.. The village connects National Highway 13 (to Luang Prabang) and National Highway 3 (to Luang Namtha and Huay Xai)..
I had a good ride of non-stop twisting downhill.. Until I past the Bomphieng village, National Highway 13N turned into a Nightmare!
With only 220 km to Luang Prabang, it took me almost 7 hours to reach Luang Prabang..
Why?
Because the route is a hell of a route!!!

Despite of it’s hilly with beautiful sceneries, the road was the worst road I’ve ever used.. There were so many potholes, slippery sandy road, gravel and unfinished road works…
On top of that, it was extremely dusty.. it was tough to ride on National Highway 13N as there were lots of huge SUVs coming from China, in groups.. these SUVs would occupy the whole road, which made it hard to overtake all of the 10 cars in a group.. When riding behind of them, it was hard to see and navigate the road as it was dusty.. I could not even see the front vehicle..



The only chance to overtake them is along a straight road.. but it is hard to find a straight road in Laos as they are twisty, winding  and have sharp corners..

The road works in Loas have not been finished since years.. only during the straights, the road is properly tarmac.. At corners, they are only gravels, sandy and potholes..





The real scenario of Laos’s road works is:
Tarmac Straight Road à Gravel Straight Path with potholes à Gravel Corners àGravel Straight Path à Tarmac Straight Road
Only during the straights, for about 100 meters, I had the opportunity to speed and pushed the bike hard..
I had to be aware of the gravel path as there were many potholes and had to find a proper riding line, path marked by trucks..
Riding for 7 hours needs lots of energy, stamina and patience..
If not, I could easily harm the rims, puncture the tires, stress the suspensions and consume the brake pads too soon..


Also, riding while standing up is a must.. Why? Initially, when we sit on the saddle / bike seat, the center of gravity for the bike is mainly focused on its engine and our weight on the seat.. Therefore, when you stand on the pegs, you’re generally putting the body weight on the footpegs and this gives the bike’s center gravity lower, between the footpegs and the engine..

Also, when riding for hours on rough road surface, it makes my back and neck to be stiffed and ached as the shocks were absorbed through my bum and spine.. Hence by standing on the footpegs, the shocks would be absorbs by my ankles and knees..

Few kilometers reaching Oudomsay (Oudomxai), I stopped at a small village to have a brunch.. they served a lovely beef noodles with rich broth..
From Oudomxai, the sceneries were breathtaking, riding through mountains of Northern Laos.. but the road surface made it challenging..  I was told by the locals that riding between the hills from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng will be more challenging as the limestone hills are very steep and there are lots of them..

Oudomxai is a small town where it does trading between North of Laos and Vietnam, with an intersection to Dien Bien Phu, Vietnam on Route 2E..

From Oudomxai, I continued riding to Luang Prabang for further 150 km.. Honestly, the road condition got worse as more big lorries and busses would damage the gravel, unpaved road..





After passing a village, called Pak Mong and Xiang Da, finally the road gets better with tarmac.. This is the time I could enjoy the sceneries.. I stopped couple of times to snap photos..
The highlight of the ride between Boten and Luang Prabang was at Hatkho, where I was crossing a bridge with gravel and the view of mountains and a river.. Absolutely beautiful!

Finally about 40 km later, I’ve reached Luang Prabang heritage town.. the time was almost 3.00 in the evening..
When I arrived, the first thing I did was to find a hotel.. There are lots of hotels in Luang Prabang especially located along Mekong River.. but it was hard to find a room as most of them were already taken and booked.. Most of the hotels use US Dollar currency in Luang Prabang..

As I was looking for a hotel room, I met a nice lady from Holland who guided me to a hotel where she was staying.. The hotel had few rooms left but there were no aircond and had to share bathroom.. Well, being a Nomad, I didn’t mind at all.. I only needed a clean room to sleep and rest…
Unlike a group of Malaysian bikers who went in previous years, they had to sleep in a village house as they fucked up in their riding schedule plan.. Hahaa..





As usual when I arrived at my destination.. Took shower, changed to a pair of shorts and flip flops.. and headed to restaurants and café to grab meals.. then snapped photos and went to Luang Prabang night market.. 
Met couple of girls travelling from Portugal and joined dinner with them along the Mekong River..



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