Go beyond borders on this motorcycle tour in Laos and Vietnam! This is a tour for those who enjoy the new. Laos is one of those places that has only recently been recognised as a must do. Well, it’s a must do now! Laos is rapidly developing and changing every day. This is the time to visit the quiet country where traditional village life is still there but is slowly giving way to life in the city.
You will be staying at various accommodations at different hotels. At the end of each day, you will be staying in clean and comfortable shared room accommodation. Hotels will vary in standard but all will offer a comfortable bed, a warm shower, and an opportunity for a cold drink and time to discuss the day's adventure.
This is a tour for those who enjoy the new. Laos is one of those places that has only recently been recognized as a must do. Laos is rapidly developing and changes every day. Now is the time to visit this quiet country where traditional village life is still there but is slowly giving way to life in the city. The country is still cloaked in the serenity of its Buddhist background, even with the remnants of recent history evident in cafe and restaurant decor, legacies of the infamous secret war. %These hardy people have found a less than traditional use for unexploded (but now totally safe) bombs left after the war that America never had. Fences, lamp stands, surrounds scrap metal, all souvenirs of a time recently past. The mighty Mekong River flows through the country acting as the main artery, essential for fishing, farming, hydro-electricity, the Mekong also nestles some of its famous towns and cities.
You will also be visiting some of the beautiful countrysides crossing from and returning to the northern regions of Vietnam, places that make this a special part of this beautiful country.
LBMT will pick you up from the airport and take you to your pre-tour accommodation. There will be some time for sightseeing, so, if you can, make time to wander around the town and begin to get a feeling for this part of the world. A welcome dinner is supplied in the evening, along with a comprehensive briefing of the journey. LBMT will also provide a map of the intended journey. This is also a great time to meet the other riders.
You will ride out of this northern town and head west, straight towards the border of Laos. This is your “get acquainted” time with the bike that will be your closest companion for the next nine days. Take a bit of time to learn what the XR150 will do for you and you will see that it is not a toy but a bike that is ideal for the tour ahead and capable of taking you wherever you want to go. You will arrive at the hotel where you will finish the first day with a cold drink and then swap some stories over dinner.
You will ride through the rural countryside that is so typical of this part of Vietnam. If time permits, a quick trip to Quan Son Lake may be an option. This is a lake with nearly 100 sandstone islands rising up from the surface, giving it the local name of “Ha Long inland”.
After breakfast, it is time to experience firsthand, a land border crossing. Manners are an important part of Laos's culture and so it is important to remain respectful and courteous at all times. You will travel west via some well maintained main roads that take you to the plains in the middle of Laos.
First though, you will pass the region of Vuong Xai that was home for the Pathet Lao, from where they lived and planned their revolution from deep inside the caves that are part of the limestone karst landscape. These caves are now open for tourist visits. Time to relax in the quiet town of Xam Neua and reflect on this new country you are now traveling through.
Today you move into an area that was the site of intense military activity during the French colonial period, American conflict, their secret war, and also the internal Lao Revolution. Then, you are near the area where the CIA’s Air America had airbases in support of the Royal Lao Army and their activities against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army.
Ahead lies one of the most remote provinces of Laos. Xam Neua is the gateway to Laos and is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in all of Laos. Sitting in a small valley, it is surrounded by the mountains and the rice fields and is known and famous for the local fabrics, which are sought after all over Laos.
You continue the route in a general westerly route along this mid-north part of Laos, mountains to the left and mountains to the right. This is a relatively remote part of Laos and tourists are normally seen through the bus window as they move on their journey to or from Vietnam. The small villages along the way still reveal culture as it was years ago and friendly locals are curious as to why these foreign tourists are visiting their homelands.
The roads are pleasant and generally in good condition as you move along the valleys and peaks towards tonight’s stay at Nong Khiaw. First though, you will pass the megalithic Stone Gardens, where slabs of rock are stood up on their ends. The origin and purpose of these arrangements remain unknown as do the people that first created them.
While this area has not been developed as much as down the south of Laos, the impact of logging over the more recent times has had an impact on what was once primary jungle landscape. Nong Khiaw is on the banks of the Nam Ou and views from the bridge offer good photo opportunities. Above all though, Nong Khiaw is a place to relax and just watch the rest of the world go about its day-to-day business.
South of the bridge are caves where locals hid out during the clandestine U.S. bombing raids of the sixties and early seventies. A little further out is the Than Mok Waterfall, worth thinking about, but maybe stretching it to get there and back and then lose the calmness of this locale in the rush.
Today you will keep heading further west nearing the border with Thailand and then south towards the Mekong River. Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Luang Prabang has a rich and varied heritage. You will arrive early, leaving plenty of time to wind down and wander around this small town, but remember to not rush since you have another day to enjoy what this town has to offer.
Today is a day where you can enjoy much of what this town has to offer. Maybe get up early and take the journey down the Mekong to Ban Chan (the pottery village) and also up to Pak Ou Caves, the Buddha cave. There are also
opportunities to hire a bicycle and cruise around town or venture further afield to the waterfalls, Kuang Si Falls and Tat Sae Waterfalls.
In the town, there are the Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum and many wats, Wat Xieng Thong being the better known amongst them. Maybe a more relaxing day wandering around the center of town looking at the French colonial architecture and enjoying the variety of international and local foods available at the myriad of cafes and restaurants.
Perhaps a bit of exercise climbing Mount Phou Si, the steep hill inside the town, and then looking out over the panorama of the city and rivers below the 150 meters top.
Now it’s time to head east again, back towards Vietnam. Phonsavan has historically been an important crossroad to China in the north, Vietnam in the east, and Thailand in the south. Situated on a plain, it has been the site of major conflict in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With the unenviable record of being the most bombed section of the most bombed country in the history of the world, this region typifies the resilience of the Lao people.
Surrounded by hundreds of thousands (or maybe even millions) of unexploded bomblets, courtesy of the US nearly 50 years ago, people carry on daily life as usual. You will see the remnants of the unexploded ordinance as fences, restaurant decoration, house stilts, animal troughs, and water carriers. It is time to relax and have a drink in one of the cafes and watch the daily life of this town go by over a front fence.
Today you will head further east, closer and closer to the destination in Vietnam. As you leave Phonsavan, you will pass the mysterious Plain of Stone Jars, relics that date back to the earliest times in this part of the world. As you wander through the field, you will see these stone-age jars, carved out of a single rock just sitting silently on the crests of the small mounds.
These jars survived the bombing raids during the Secret War, a reminder of which is seen in the craters dotting the area as well as the memorial in the cave where several hundred villagers were killed during one of the sorties. It is now considered that these jars were burial jars for the people that inhabited this region TWO thousand to over 10 thousand years ago.
There are at least three of these fields with unknown numbers of jars in other areas but the others have some hidden dangers, a legacy of American involvement in this part of the world 50 years ago. This is a day for border crossing again where all the formalities of leaving Laos and re-entering Vietnam, this time on your way home. You will cross the same beautiful rural landscapes that you left a little further north when you crossed into Laos a week ago, verdant green rice fields that fill the landscape from foreground to distance.
Day 9: Muong Xen to Vinh (225 kilometers / 140 miles)
Today is the last day of this special tour, from here it is a ride back due east. Heading towards the coast, you will approach Vinh, the biggest city in Northcentral Vietnam. Located on the Lam River, Vinh is a main hub for transport between the north and south. While originally the site of significant historic features, a combination of fighting between French colonial powers and Viet Minh resistance forces in the 1950s, followed by American bombing a decade or so later, little of the original city remains.
Reconstruction borrowed ideas from Soviet allies, wide streets with concrete buildings. However, there are still a number of natural sites and museums that those who stay a bit longer might consider visiting. Only 10 kilometers away, is the birthplace of Ho Chi Minh. Now it is time to say goodbye to your fellow travelers and your newest friend, the XR150. It’s also time to think about when to come back to this wonderful country and where to go next.
The motorcycle tour will take place in the north Vietnam and some parts of Laos. The country is still cloaked in the serenity of its Buddhist background, even with the remnants of recent history evident in cafe and restaurant decor, legacies of the infamous Secret War. These hardy people have found a less than traditional use for unexploded (but now totally safe) bombs left after the war that America never had.
Fences, lamp stands, surrounds, and scrap metal are all souvenirs of a time recently past. The mighty Mekong River flows through the country acting as a main artery essential for fishing, farming, and hydro-electricity. The Mekong also nestles some of its famous towns and cities. You will also be visiting some of the beautiful countryside crossing from and returning to the northern regions of Vietnam which are places that make this a special part of this beautiful country.
Lucky Bastard Motorcycle Tours provides a fully inclusive welcome dinner upon your arrival at your designated tour departure location. Daily breakfast and lunch for the whole tour is provided.
All towns will have their own unique aspects whether it is a cultural show performed by one of the many minority peoples, night markets, scenic sunrises, or a game of billiards and pool at the local hall. Take time to enjoy any or all of these and you will begin to experience Vietnam as the locals do.
Please book your flight to arrive at Phu Vinh Airport (PHU). You will have to get a domestic flight from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) or Noi Bai International Airport (HAN). Transfer from and to the airport is included. Lucky Bastard Motorcycle Tours will pick you up from the airport.