View Full Version : Postcard from Laos

Pages : [1] 2

The Bigfella
09-12-2012, 07:28 PM
I'm in Houang Xai, on the eastern bank of the Mekong. That's in the Golden Triangle, up near the Myanmar border too. Here's the late afternoon view of the Mekong River from my hotel room...


I lashed out and grabbed an upmarket, aircon room with a view... $18, including breakfast.

Here's a closer view of my departure point from Thailand... Chang Khong


I was in the Customs building... first building to the right of the arch... about 20' above the river, getting my paperwork for the bike processed and I commented to the Customs guy "Mekong high"... "Yes, high".... "Does it get much higher?".... he pointed up to the water mark on the wall - up near the ceiling.

I crossed the Mekong 3 times yesterday afternoon... thanks to a dopey Laos soldier - who wanted a copy of the papers from the Thai side... which they never get.

By ferry, with the trucks heading to China


Despite the bow wave, we were making about 2 knots against the current... which must be 10 knots or so


... and twice by longboat, to get a copy of that damn piece of paper



The Bigfella
09-12-2012, 07:41 PM
This guy is earning a few Kip (its about 7,500 Kip to the dollar)... washing trucks as they cross. His job will change soon... there's a bridge just about finished.


I like this shot... it shows just how much non-boating Asian folks like the water (not).


Its a big river, but the most impressive thing is its speed. Amazing volume of water headed generally East


Plenty of willy-stiffeners on sale here


I bumped into a group of Malaysian riders, headed home from a trip to Shangri La. I couldn't ride a bike here with boxes like that.... it would mean sitting in the diesel fumes rather than blasting past... one side or the other.


The security staff at the hotel locked the bike up for me... in the foyer, of course.


Meanwhile... its pushing 8am... its been raining for 2 hours, but the sun is shining now. I'm not starting today's ride in the damn rain. Its a full-on dirt ride today, with some bike-on-the-boat travel involved.... and it may be some time before I see internet access again.

Play nice there

Andrew Craig-Bennett
09-12-2012, 07:47 PM
Good luck and have fun!

09-12-2012, 07:48 PM
Have fun Ian.

09-12-2012, 08:27 PM
Even though I don't comment much, I've followed and enjoyed the pictures / narratives.

Stay safe and keep them coming.


John of Phoenix
09-12-2012, 08:42 PM
Fascinating. Any luck buying that Mig? :)

09-12-2012, 09:25 PM
Looks like fun. Thanks for keeping us updated.


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 09:22 AM
Thanks folks... haven't got to the Migs yet... but I scored an AK47 today... it was pointing at me when I pulled up.

I'm amazed that I managed to get here (Luang Prabang) without binning the bike. This video is pretty representative of 7+ hours in the saddle today. Wet from before I got on the bike, Its about 120 km from Hongsa to Luang Prabang via Route 4B. Its a dirt 4WD road known to be often impassable in the wet. Its the road we couldn't get through on 3 weeks ago on the big bikes. I'm damn glad we didn't get up that hill then. I've got some video of the really gnarly stuff, I think... but its in long segments that just aren't possible to upload here. The truck wheel ruts get rain in them and end up 2'+ deep.... and I have to say, it really helped having long legs today.


I did Houay Xai to Hongsa yesterday, including having to backtrack down some singletrack that no longer goes through... and 50km with no clutch... but more of that later.

Here's that AK47.


and a couple from yesterday


Here's the KTM doing 65 kmh down the Mekong River...


I'll be back later if I can get the rest of these photos uploaded....

The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 09:48 AM
Another one from yesterday... funnily enough on the brief 30-40 km of bitumen that I encountered.


Came flying around a corner today and nearly bisected the bum of another one... tried for a photo over the shoulder, but only got the head in frame. Saw elephant footprints on the trail today... and other "sign"

Mr Garmin says there's a track here


I called it quits here. This is a flash photo... it was a tad dark. I had to drag the back wheel around to get out and let most of the air out to get traction... AND get off an push...


Fair call to turn around? I still had 750 metres to make the road. Wasn't happening


Another flash photo... I stopped to clear some logs and even then couldn't get going up here. It was STEEP and very slippery


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 09:55 AM
Oops... didn't paste that last one


I think I may have got a little bit of water here along with the fuel... or maybe picked it up in a river crossing. When I hit the bitumen, I got stuck into it a bit... and it coughed and died....


Kids playing "shop"


A bloke in his "shed" building a wooden boat... with a machete



John of Phoenix
09-14-2012, 10:20 AM
I am forever amazed at the tenacity of those people.

Great photos Ian, thanks for sharing them.

The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:37 AM
My pleasure. Incidentally, the rickety bridge I rode over 3 weeks ago is gone... washed away in a flood last night.

John of Phoenix
09-14-2012, 11:13 AM
My pleasure. Incidentally, the rickety bridge I rode over 3 weeks ago is gone... washed away in a flood last night.Not to worry, it'll be rebuilt in no time. :)

The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:23 PM
That one won't be.... the new high level concrete bridge is now open. Then again, a lot of locals seem to prefer the old style.

Here's the wooden boat I went 20km down and across the Mekong on... at 65kph


Powered by a 16 valve Toyota, running on LPG.

This is one of the reasons I switched bikes... 112kg dry (maybe 130 wet) vs 185 dry (220 ish wet)...


That and the mud wrestling difference. This "new" bike pulls like a tractor. It sure amazed me yesterday.... at times going up hills where I thought I was dead meat, I just slipped the clutch a tad, gave it a bellyfull - and bingo - away we went. I had the air out of the tyres... right out. Just a blip on the end of the guage. I had to push a few times, but that's life on a track that's supposedly "impassable" this time of year.

Speaking of which, I met these three chaps from Bangkok an hour and a half short of getting to Luang Prabang yesterday. It'd taken them 3 hours to get there. They asked about the road. It was 2:45pm. I told them I'd been hard at it for 5 1/2 hours... and "you aren't going to make it before dark.... find a village and wave some money around". I looked at how lightly they were packed and asked "You do have a pump, don't you?" No. I gave them a road report "Its rough, steep and very slippery... ruts to 750mm deep.... very slow, very hard going, but you have bikes that can make it"


I left them debating what to do. Based on what they'd ridden so far, so slowly... I hope they turned around. The rough stretch didn't have any locals there to help. They were looking at the mud dripping off my bike and shaking their heads.

But.... I digress... back to the river. Here's one of those speedboats at full tilt. Passengers all with crash helmets.


I gather there's the odd "safety issue" with them.

Speaking of which... cast an OH&S eye over this scene. Truck with a rock behind the wheel, all bare feet... interesting "ladder", guys in bare feet rolling full drums down hill over lumpy ground... with them as the backstop of course... and so on.


Here it is from the water


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:24 PM
and from the shop/restaurant up on the bank. I nearly went A over T climbing the bank to the restaurant.


The tribal women with the beehive hats (Hmong, I think, but may be wrong) were in the restaurant.

I'm not up on my Laos language, but I know how to get a feed and a drink. Two waters (nam) an orange juice, a bowl of chicken noodles and I'm out 23,000 Kip ($3). Knock the OJ out of that and it'd have been a cheap lunch.

These are the workers taking their lunch break



That restaurant is also a shop and a home... there's the bedroom. There's no front wall


That "impassable" ride yesterday was a whole different kettle of fish to the first day.


The bike is at 90 degrees to the track in that shot... and not because I intended it to be.... but that's the easy stuff.

The fun stuff was the 750mm deep ruts on the steep hills. 4wd truck ruts that the rain just cuts deeper. I don't know how I got through with my lower limbs still attached. No photos... can't stop, can't take a hand off the bars. I nearly binned it turning the video off on a "good" section. Lots of good old two-wheeled slip sliding away.

My boots gave up the ghost. That's a problem. Gaffer tape is the only answer... when they dry out. I've tried to find size 48 boots. Ha ha....


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:27 PM
I did an hour without seeing a soul at one stage... and then came across the camp with the guys who had the AK47


I'd say that one dates back to the war. The stock was badly eroded. It could give someone an interesting surprise one day

Out in the middle of nowhere... no schools up here


That's a bear claw if I'm not mistaken...


I'd been offered one for "2" earlier, at the Hongsa market... a hell of a lot cheaper than I was offered one up on the China border 3 weeks ago. Presumably that was 200,000 Kip... about $25.


How many do you want?


Still plenty of animism up here (did I get it right this time... some around here know how to spell it)


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:33 PM
Some more photos from the Hongsa market... more bushmeat here yesterday compared to when I was there 3 weeks back

Someone found a Bitten's nest...


... still alive, but not for long. Unlike these...


or these... couple of dead Giant Squirrels here... had one dash across the road in front of me yesterday


Bit hard to see... but there were lots of frogs, all shapes sizes and colours for sale, mostly in plastic bags


The fish ranged from these


... up to big buggers that must've been 4' long before they got chopped into sections for sale

Duncan Gibbs
09-14-2012, 10:43 PM
Thanks for the updates mate! Stay safe there, and good luck with the foot leather situation.

The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:44 PM
How about some people piccies?

Up in the hills


The view from where they live


Two more from back in Hongsa... at the market



Another kid up in the hills...


Bras don't feature much around here...


Don't suppose Scot'd give me a nip pass, so I better be careful eh? I posted a photo the other day that I had to delete in a hurry... I didn't notice a certain connecting item between a couple on a small item in the background. I've also got a fabulous photo of a kid sitting at a shop counter (up on the Chinese border)... with a range of dildos spread out in front of him.

The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 10:50 PM
Did I post this one? Can't remember.... gotta get plenty of dirt bike photos in... (and thanks Dunc)


I haven't seen this before. All the kids had a pet up there in the hills. Some just carried a cricket, but this one was special


How's the view?


Gotta be careful looking though... sometimes its hundreds of feet straight down at the edge... and there's no guard rails. One "moment" is enough to train you...

Too wet for them to be working.... this is where the AK47 came out


I might upload the video of me crossing here and wheelying out the other side.... right past a sinkhole in the road


The Bigfella
09-14-2012, 11:29 PM
Here we are... short water crossing video. Going past the sinkhole on one wheel got my attention.


Lew Barrett
09-14-2012, 11:29 PM

The Bigfella
09-15-2012, 08:06 AM
Thanks Lew.

Remember that restaurant recommendation I gave you?

L'Elephant in Luang Prabang, Laos.

I'm back here tonight... table for 1.

Took the set menu tonight... 3 courses for 240,000 Kip... Onion soup, which I just demolished (brilliant), Duck Breast.. with some sauce I can't remember, but it sounded good, and fruit tartin to finish. A Belgian Leffe Blonde (30,000) and a half bottle Chateau de la Vieille Tour 2009 (180,000).... I am on the bike, after all... So, what's that? 450,000 Kip... $60 bucks Oz... a tad more for you.

I could have gone silly with the red... the wine list topped out at 12,500,000... US$1,562.50 for a 2002 Chateau Lafite Rothschild P... Its 20 years since someone was so kind as to shout me one of those... so I can't comment on that vintage....

btw... I've never had better duck.

If'n you don't try this restaurant... I'm not talking to you again...

The amazing thing is the shattering contrast between the many dozens of families (kids included) I saw out in the jungle yesterday, scrounging plants to eat. We truly don't appreciate how lucky we've been.

09-15-2012, 11:20 AM
Great photos, thanks.

What I want to know is, what kind of range do you get on that KTM? That gas tank looks small.

The Bigfella
09-15-2012, 11:32 AM
I wish I knew... I think it holds 13 litres. I've been told to start looking for fuel at 180 km and that the range is 230 km. Damn thing needs a new washer on the cap... it leaks if I'm riding when its near full. I got 23km per litre on the open road... so that'd be near 300. Off road would cut it back to the 230.

I could have bought fuel at a village yesterday.... I watched the guy where I bought water decant some from an old 5 litre oil container into 1 litre bottles. I've bought it like that plenty of times already... I've got about 135 km out of the tankful at the moment and I think its near reserve... but LOTS of yesterday was first and second gear. I may need to refuel on the trail between here and Phonsovan (Plain of Jars)... I'm going the back way.

The Bigfella
09-15-2012, 11:34 AM
Bit weird to say this about riding in a rather raw place like this, but the last three days have been my "test and tune" ride on the bike. I didn't even get a new tyre fitted to the rear before I ran out of visa in Thailand.

Lew Barrett
09-15-2012, 12:19 PM
Thanks Lew.

Remember that restaurant recommendation I gave you?

L'Elephant in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Will do, Ian. I will be buying tickets this week while we are still 90 days out. A benefit of the French Indochina era is, I will guess, the creation through melding and adaptation of a vibrant hybrid food culture? Vietnamese cuisine is superb in France, as I will guess French food is well done in the former colonies of "Indochine."

Spectacular travelogues, mate. I can barely push the Caponorde backwards up a driveway. I can well understand why you abandoned the twin for the single. You will become the Helge Pederson of Australia at this rate....or surpass him!

The Bigfella
09-16-2012, 07:23 PM
Don't you hate it when some idiot walks into the frame at just the wrong moment?


We'll have no similar comments about this shot... The lovely ladies are from Chile


Lot of water going through here at present


Some idiot slipped on the "trail" going back down from the top of the waterfall and dropped his bag... which contained his passport, registration and numberplate, SPOT transponder, phone, GPS... etc.


Bit of a landslide happened just after this. The bag got retrieved about 50' down the "hill"side.


The Bigfella
09-16-2012, 07:29 PM
Another one from back up at the top. It was rather slippery, so people were being a bit careful. Its about 100' to the next step down.


Down a bit further




Watch out for the bears though. Yeah... they are behind a fence.


Who needs freeboard?


The Bigfella
09-16-2012, 07:35 PM
How many snakes can you get in one bottle of booze?


There's a lot of this beautiful timber around here. They are 12" flooring boards


It isn't every day you find 100' boats on the back streets


Love the turnbuckles


I just missed the last race, but I think I counted 53 people in one of the boats



The Bigfella
09-16-2012, 08:08 PM
A few more from the river. A victory lap


... I'm the Boss lap


Overloading? Never



.... and she's not making pocket money... she's earning her family's income. I watched her pick one bottle up and drink the dregs.


I'm running a bit later than planned this morning due to the rain... but its time to rattle the dags.... once I nail the rest of brekky. A quick check of the bike... tyre pressures, fill the clutch, oil the chain, check the oil... throw the bags on and its off to Phonsovan. I'm going to try my luck sometime in the next few days to get into the old CIA airbase.

09-16-2012, 08:36 PM
Cool thread! some of those boats look almost exactly like the Thai ones I saw on the klongs.

The Bigfella
09-17-2012, 09:00 PM
Interesting ride yesterday

A few bamboo bridges to cross


Wanna buy some white powder?


The guys there would have given me some, but, no thanks...

No AK47s here... its all home made.... using iron balls and gunpowder from old munitions


Had my sphincter tightened ....


That's a 200' drop on the left, its wet, slippery and less than a metre wide. Yeah... my heartrate was up too.

Nice scenery.... not a sign of human occupation here...


Bit muddy in places though


The Bigfella
09-17-2012, 09:32 PM
"Found" some jars on the way in... a long way from the tourist spot ones...


It was a bit naughty wandering around there.... no UXO clearance signs, but I reckon they've been well picked over by locals looking for scrap munitions now.


You'd want some spare filters with you if your bike had fuel injection...


It was a fair way out of the village for these ladies, collecting their clean drinking water for the day


This is as close to a titty shot as I'll post.... She was sitting on the stool, buck naked, combing her hair.... and no, I didn't take any titty photos of the ladies hanging them out while they bathed...


.... and yes, I'm on the Ho Chi Minh Trail now. This particular area, around Phonsavan is the most heavily bombed place on the planet.

I'm not so sure about the medical services here though. Came across this on the side of the trail... nice dentist's kit... a few good sets of pliers... even had anaesthetics.. no single use needle though and certainly no sterilisation.


Extractions only... the spitoon was the ground... and it weren't pretty.

The Bigfella
09-17-2012, 09:44 PM
That muddy bike photo came from this little puddle. It drowned the bike for a brief moment... my guess was an electrical short that dried out pretty quickly.


Scared quite a few locals on the way through...


The older kids were often OK


but some just dropped their bundles and dived into the jungle


I'd have loved a shot of those two kids... poverty personified, but it wasn't to be.

I was going to say something about lift and separate... but that'd be crass


Nice cafe decor... I got into Phonsavan about 6pm... just in time for lunch


Doing 9 hours on just a bacon and egg bagel was a bit taxing.

The Bigfella
09-18-2012, 09:47 PM
Apparently, I shouldn't have taken this photo...


I was supposed to stay outside the fence


Something about mines.... I reckon its safe enough, the tank had been picked clean of every removeable item

Nice cascading waterfall nearby. No tourists due to road and water crossing... which got my feet wet... so all footwear is now soaked, only trousers ripped apart too... (that damn fence). Oops.


Damn near trod on a snake on the way down to get this shot. Dunno who got the bigger shock.


Stalled it on some big rocks in here


Not much cleared... just the very close areas around tourist spots


The Bigfella
09-18-2012, 09:47 PM
Slippery in the wet - the local high school is those stable-like buildings on the hill


Jar lid


Lots of Jars (coffins).


Bomb damage...


Bloody great bomb crater


Nature striking back


Lew Barrett
09-18-2012, 11:23 PM
You knwo what this thread has convinced me of? Skip Laos and go directly to Chile.

The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 01:27 AM
I'm loving Laos, Lew. Its brilliant.

btw... went past that tank again today and second time past, there was a guide there with a couple of Malaysian women. Had a chat to him and he says its safe to go in.

Got pulled up by the Army today "no photos.... no photos"... OK.... so can I go in? "No, no...."

The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 02:14 AM
Yep... no photos.




09-19-2012, 02:30 AM
Sukhoi no?

BTW Laos should be re-named the Kissinger theme park; and he be abandonded (whilst blindfolded) in an unreclaimed UXO site

The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 02:34 AM
I'm amazed that Phillip hasn't been in here and asked me to post the rest of the 41 or so photos I've got of those titanium barrelled flintlocks.

However... be that as it may, here's some that may interest those who like foundries. I didn't realise how close I was to the war scrap village yesterday... so I went back today. More damn slitherers. Ran over one while avoiding cattle, nearly hit another on the way back, and think I may have hit one while watching it. Sheesh.

Should I mention again that riding into a village like this one on a bike means that the women at the water point don't realise there's farang about... more titties. No photos for here though.... Got a big smile afterwards from the woman who looked up and spotted me... I just waved.

So... this village, Ban Naphia, which is 26km from Phonsavan, not 40, like the internet says... is where some folks started melting down aluminium war scrap - downed planes, choppers, drop tanks, etc.. and producing spoons. There's also bottle openers, bangles, chopsticks and the like. I saw three or four places doing it and stopped at one. First up though, some farang have helped extend the industry and theres a building with a goup of women weaving in it....


I bought one of their scarves, not cheap (relative term) at $12.... but good to support them. I bought about the same in war scrap castings... chopsticks, etc.

Here's some new moulds, air drying at the foundry.


The foundry. That's some wing spars going in at the right. I have my suspicions that there might be some virgin material going in... but I didn't any evidence of it at all... and I did look.




The track out of the village to the next one was only cleared 2 years back... 6 bombs removed from it. That's 6 bombs everyone's been walking or riding over for 40+ years...


... and the cleared width is two metres wide. Gawd there's a huge amount of sh!t still in the ground.

09-19-2012, 02:46 AM
Thanks for the photos Ian.


The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 04:06 AM
Sukhoi no?

BTW Laos should be re-named the Kissinger theme park; and he be abandonded (whilst blindfolded) in an unreclaimed UXO site


Mig 21 Fishbeds and an AN-26.

Interesting to note, we know more than Wiki on this one. Wiki says their condition is "unknown".

It ain't good.

09-19-2012, 05:16 AM
My boots gave up the ghost. That's a problem. Gaffer tape is the only answer... when they dry out. I've tried to find size 48 EEEEEEEEEEEEE boots. Ha ha....

http://i240.photobucket.com/albums/ff112/igatenby/Beer%20Lao/022-2.jpgHave you gone native yet?

The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 07:10 AM
Have you gone native yet?

A few rounds of insulation tape each morning. Doesn't last long though...

My shoes are on their way out too... I could feel the serrations on the footpegs through the soles... and they've been losing bits of foam for months..... and yesterday, I ripped my only non-cordura trousers. Hopefully the staff are sewing them up tonight.

My shirts all have tears in them and the buttons fly undone if the breeze changes

Yeah.... starting to look pretty native.

09-19-2012, 07:19 AM
I googled up bombing in Laos and it's a terrifying volume of bombs, a lot dropped simply because the planes didn't want to return loaded.

The Bigfella
09-19-2012, 07:33 AM
The interesting thing is the failure rate. I cannot understand how suppliers actually got paid for product that only "worked", ie exploded, 67% of the time. There's estimated to be 80 million unexploded bombies still in Laos. Reading the Mines Advisory Group's material today, its pleasing to see that their current funding is coming from the US, UKAid and the European Union.... and the public.

Lew Barrett
09-20-2012, 06:37 AM
We are pigs to foul the nest like this.

Can't you get some boots in somehow? I shudder to think of riding with no gear.

I am buying tickets in the next two weeks or so; waiting to hear from my friends in Thailand about exact timing. Our plans are less ambitious than yours, but thanks for breaking the trail!

The Bigfella
09-20-2012, 09:14 AM
The problem with getting boots in is not knowing how long they'll take to get somewhere... and I'm notorious for needing to try on heaps of pairs. I'm looking at the same issue with the rear tyre... its not going to make it.... and where I'm headed sees less than 1% of Laos tourists. Chances of a decent freight service???? I think maybe I should head to Vientianne and see what I can do.

btw Lew... you should have noticed I was getting sick when I totally missed what you meant by the Chile comment.

I did duck out tonight, to watch a screening of the documentary "The Most Secret Place on Earth"... about the CIA's involvement here from 1960 through into the 1970's. Funnily enough, the aftermath of that means that I can't do the route I mapped out earlier today. I was headed down to look at the CIA's "secret" airstrip at Long Chien. There's still "troubles" down that way and about 50 soldiers were killed in July. I've been talking with a guy, the son of the guy I was pointed to (but he died 3 years ago).... and his uncle, a general who was killed in a military plane crash in '98, along with dozens of other generals, used to run the air base here. Too late to organise a visit this trip... but I now know what needs to be done to get in there... I can see myself coming back here, maybe.

So... its back to Plan A, with some questions over what its going to be like riding bare-feet with a bald tyre.

Lew Barrett
09-20-2012, 11:55 AM
So... its back to Plan A, with some questions over what its going to be like riding bare-feet with a bald tyre.

I shudder at the thought. It's hard enough with the right gear.

I went to an impromptu motorcycle gathering last night; about five hundred bikes of every type. I will make another thread down here for that and not steal from this one. Thought of you doing the real deal there, while we were posing here.

Remarkable journey you are on. Thanks again so much for sharing it in such detail with us; very appreciated.

The Bigfella
09-21-2012, 08:31 AM
Thanks Lew.

I've had a couple of slow days with a damn head cold. Didn't get out and about until 3pm today... but I bought a couple more rolls of insulation tape for the boots. Can't get any duct tape here unfortunately. Its insulation tape or sticky tape.

I took in the documentary on the Ravens this evening. An amazing story. Reminded me of Chuck. The late owner of the hotel I'm at, the Maly, was in both that and the documentary I saw last night "The Most Secret Place on Earth". Both are about the secret CIA air base at Long Tieng (aka Long Chen, Long Chieng or even Long Cheng). I'd been hoping to get there... even plotted a route.... but the war is still being fought there. Seriously.

The town I'm in at present, Phonsavan, was the centre of the most recent known attacks, with Hmong insurgents (the CIA enlisted and armed the Hmong back in the 60's) rumoured to have killed 50 Laos Peoples Army troops here in July and there was an 8pm curfew for a while. Its currently a 2am curfew.

So... Long Tieng is out. Hopefully I can take another excursion tomorrow though, before heading south.

Back to the Ravens... the guys flying the forward air control for the bombing raids. It seems quite a few were involved in the tour that the documentary was made around, up to Brigadier General rank. The late owner of the hotel Sousath, was a Colonel in the communist army here and was their tour guide. This is from his library


I went up to the two war memorials today. This is the Lao / Vietnamese one


and this the Laos one


The Laos one gives the impression that they ran out of money or interest


there's four of those walls, but only one is partially filled with the names of the war dead. Strange. Both stupas are reputed to have the bones of thousands of fallen soldiers in them

On an entirely different front, this is a Chinese silver ingot, sold streetside for $400 US to local craftsmen.



Most jewellery here is claimed to be 92.5% silver. Beyond me to know the truth.... I'm just hoping the chain I posted home makes it there.

The Bigfella
09-21-2012, 09:22 AM
... and in a strange twist after I posted that, I wandered across the road to check out the pub that's been making a bit of noise every night... and got invited to join a table of young Hmong guys, one of whom is turning 21. Yep... there's troubles here with the Hmong and the government.

Mike Field
09-21-2012, 09:41 AM
... you should have noticed I was getting sick when I totally missed what you meant by the Chile comment.

Easy fellas; I married one of those seņoritas once and I'm still paying for it....

Other than that, a great thread Ian. Please keep posting when you can.

09-21-2012, 12:12 PM
... and in a strange twist after I posted that, I wandered across the road to check out the pub that's been making a bit of noise every night... and got invited to join a table of young Hmong guys, one of whom is turning 21. Yep... there's troubles here with the Hmong and the government.

I am ready for 'big fella small gals' photo session. |:)

The Bigfella
09-21-2012, 08:09 PM
I am ready for 'big fella small gals' photo session. |:)

Two of the guys at the table last night spoke English. I asked one of them why the guy had no girls at his party. "If we take the girls out, the parents want us to keep them... forever" There's a cost involved too... US$500.

I'm far enough over my lurgy (the aches have subsided) that I'm going for a ride today.. out to what is known as the Crater Village. Lots of reminders out there of what a B52 does. I imagine I'll be wanting to see my (current) favourite masseuse when I get back. I'll see if she's up for a photo for you Syed. She's tiny.

Phil Y
09-22-2012, 01:34 AM
Surely you can buy a pair of safety thongs?

The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 02:19 AM
Surely you can buy a pair of safety thongs?

No room to carry them.....

Damn near got shot today.... there was a 4x4 pulled up on the wrong side of the road, driver's door open. At the last second, I saw the driver and the rifle barrel. He was shooting in the direction I was travelling. I locked up and slithered to a halt beside the ute just as he fired. Great hunter. He shot a Kingfisher.... all of about 4" long. Photos later.... blackout here. Took a ride through a hillside covered in bomb craters too.

09-22-2012, 07:40 AM
No room to carry them.....

Put on all the time.;)

The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 08:15 AM
Gentlemen, I'll not descend to those levels... and just for that Syed... no piccies of my masseuse. Actually, I'm not sure she'd have agreed to one anyhow... she's taken a significant risk coming to my hotel... as she's done 5 times this week. Sex between a foreigner and a Lao person is illegal... and a woman entering your hotel room is likely to lead to repercussions if they're after you. No sex occurred, of course... I'm Brit.. ahhh... I'm a married man.

Instead... here's a quick video of a ride through a paddock that was bombed at least 37 years ago... probably more like 45.


There were more craters, of course... but I didn't repeat any here.

I'm not going to policise this... both sides did the same thing here... both sides violated the 1962 Geneva accord.... and so on. Sh!t happened. What I'd like to see happen is an acceleration of the cleanup. This area still almost certainly contains unexploded bombs.

The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 08:39 AM
I'll have another video soon... its uploading... a quick ride through a remote Laos village... a couple of creek crossings.

Meanwhile, the morning started with a warning....


That's 50 metres or less from my hotel. Didn't hear it, and the couple of people I asked about it said that it was OK, but I'm not so sure... there was a full scale investigation going on... painting vehicle localtions, etc. Gotta keep your eyes open.

I mentioned nearly getting shot... here's where I slithered to a halt, just as he fired. It I hadn't braked, I'd have been in the line of fire. Whether he'd have still fired???????????


And the reward for this hero hunter... a still flapping Kingfisher.


Betya that boosted his ego

Speaking of keeping your eyes open... I saw a few of these today. Hit that at night, you'd stop in a hurry


I offered this old lady a lift, but she was nearly home.


I picked up an old guy the other day... he was in the middle of nowhere, carrying some petrol in water bottles. We had a bit of a fight over who got to use the only footpegs on the bike... but he got the message. He was really thankful. It never hurts to be nice.... but I can't bring myself to offer girls a lift here. Don't wanna end up a couple of stones lighter.

Plenty of craters out that way. This is the most heavily bombed province in the most heavily bombed country in the world. Just to be correct about that... Cambodia had a few thousand tons more bombs dropped on it... but on a per capita basis, Laos wins by a country mile.

The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 08:46 AM
How the hell did that silver bar get in there? Can't edit at present... here's the bridge


While I'm back at it... here's some paintings, done at the time of the bombings that appear in the doco "The Ravens"



A still of one of the bridges in the upcoming video


More craters



The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 08:47 AM
and another old dear, who insisted on whipping off her hat for the photo... and yes, I ask.


The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 09:32 AM
Here's the Laos village ride through, with a creek crossing and a bridge. About 25km north of Phonsavan. The bridge has a rise and fall of about 5' which doesn't show very well in the video... bit it certainly garners your attention as you ride it


You always wonder how much heavier you are than anything else that's been across.

09-22-2012, 10:49 AM
Thank you Ian, for wonderful pictures and reportage.

John of Phoenix
09-22-2012, 11:38 AM
Thank you Ian, for wonderful pictures and reportage.Indeed. A joy to be included.

During your ride through the bomb craters I kept thinking, "He did say, 'This area still almost certainly contains unexploded bombs.' " Be careful.

The Bigfella
09-22-2012, 06:48 PM
thanks guys.

Its hard to find a place that hasn't got unexploded ordnance around here John. 0.3% of the contaminated areas have been cleared so far. Your government and mine are both contributing, which is good.... but it'd be nice if they'd put in a bit more.


Lew Barrett
09-22-2012, 10:28 PM
The drawings are disturbing. Thanks as always for thinking of us.

09-23-2012, 01:44 AM
The drawings are disturbing. Thanks as always for thinking of us.

Ditto, much appreciated

09-23-2012, 01:44 AM

Paddy field in the foreground?

Old Dryfoot
09-23-2012, 01:59 AM
Ditto, much appreciated

+1 Love seeing the photos and reading about your adventures.

The Bigfella
09-23-2012, 03:58 AM
Thanks folks. Don't think I'll even try to upload photos from here (Mok)... its very remote and I'm on a thin 2G connection. No electricity until dark. My 4pm lunch is 2 packets of stale noodles and a warm can of beer. Tastes brilliant. Saw more hunters today. Should have some good photos. Brilliant scenery here, as usual in Laos.... and saw the usual two snakes... 2 four footers today, one of which wanted to take a look at me. I hit one of yesterday's pair of three footers... clipped his tail. I narrowly missed the other one.

The Bigfella
09-23-2012, 04:00 AM
Sorry Syed. Yes, paddy fields. The holes in the middle are old bomb craters.

The Bigfella
09-23-2012, 05:22 AM
A couple of photos from today.

This old dear was blocking a full lane width on the road. The log she was carrying was over 8' long.... and she has to be at least in her 70's


Can't see her hands here, but I'd pick her as 90ish, maybe more.


Another old bugger, out there doing it. He was a long way up the mountain


Speaking of mountains, this one was steep and slippery


But "home" tonight provided shelter just in time....


Lew Barrett
09-23-2012, 11:24 AM
Not to hijack, but since we're in Laos.......

I saw this video "in the box" after watching your ride through the village. Isn't this just gorgeous? Ian, have you seen any organized cultural events in Laos? This is just remarkable, but I'm not sure if it's purely Laotian or just a beautiful thing in it's own right. My impression is that it is what's the word......multi-cultural? But I assume it is Laotian at it's core. By the way, the You Tube videos on the country can be quite interesting, and many are linked through from yours. Ain't You Tube swell?


09-23-2012, 12:04 PM
I must say I find the pictures fascinating and depressing. It looks like a very exotic country, but at the same time it is a showcase for the effects of terror bombing, deforestation of erosion-prone terrain, and the wholesale slaughter of wildlife. The last item is particularly sad when you consider how many native species are listed as critically endangered.

The Bigfella
09-23-2012, 03:13 PM
I haven't seen any organised cultural activities Lew. At present it looks like I'll avoid Vientianne, and I imagine that's where most of those are. Pakse may have some, but after a quick look at wiki, I doubt it. I'll still have the bike here, based at Siem Reap, on current planning, so .... next time.

George... yes, I agree.

I came through a deforrested area yesterday. One area it was very noticeable... a hilltop in the middle of nowhere was cleared and had a large group of logs that had been left there. Perhaps an illegal logger got busted? I'll try and remember to load the photo some time. On the upside, there's large areas of protected forest.... I think I go through some later today - and there's also vast tracts with no roads into them.

The Bigfella
09-23-2012, 03:19 PM
Seeing DanS's thread on Paulownia just reminded me.... I've seen an incredible number of teak trees on this trip, including in the northwestern parts of Laos.... mostly in Thailand though. Lots and lots of teak plantations.

The Bigfella
09-24-2012, 08:07 AM
Riding today was a bit tight for the first hour... saw plenty of people on foot, but only one bike in that hour. I scared the crap out of some poor woman... late 20's to early 30's. She was heading down the road to a creek that I was crossing... I went to wave and she just bolted.... flat out running away. Sheesh, I know I'm a tad ugly, but really luv. Same thing later on with a boy of about 10. Instant run away response. Not long afterwards, I got stopped at a military checkpoint.... rope across the road. No real worries with them... smile, be friendly, wait for the boss to come down and check me out... and off I went.

I got stopped again about 65km short of Lak Xao. No rope... just waved down. About 8 soldiers and cops at this one. Had to get the Passport out here and a cop wrote about half a page in his exercise book. Got photos at both places. Departed from both places "appropriately" too. ie... smoked her up. Being a bit careful about that. The rear tyre ain't good.

I think I mentioned that I had to cut my "good" boot off yesterday when the zipper sh!t itself. So the morning ritual now involves taping one boot on and taping the sole onto the other one. I wish I could get some more gaffer tape. I've got a small bit left, but I'm not using it just for a day's ride. At least I can get insulation tape.

Meanwhile, I think I just dodged a bullet. I wandered around town looking for somewhere to add some depth to the miserable dinner I got at my hotel. Fried beef. Yep... some strips of fried beef and a bit of bottled tomato sauce (ketchup). Yet again, that was lunch and dinner. Nope... needed some greens and a bit more. Borderline fainted yesterday and today. Might be more to that... time will tell.... but food's the go. So, I've found a restaurant, got some Tom yam squid ordered and my conscience got the better of me. I'd walked past a young couple with a baby, sitting in the dirt outside the market to get here... its dark and 8pm.... so I went back to get them and feed/lodge them. Phew, gone. Its got to be a tough life for people like that though. Who knows how far they've travelled to get to the market.

Its no great deal for me to cough for a room... 60,000 kip is $8. For them, that's more than the average week's income for a Laotian..... especially so out here.

More photos some other time....

09-24-2012, 09:19 AM
Consider that they might prefer the cash...

The Bigfella
09-24-2012, 09:23 AM
That's always an issue. I've always preferred to offer food rather than cash. I'm not a fan of encouraging begging.

Incidentally, I did a walk through of the market earlier. A LOT of bush tucker on offer. There were baskets of what looked to me like dried rats, but one of the women pointed to a giant squirrel... which, of course, is also a rodent. Lots of birds, frogs, crickets, grubs, etc. I have photos... but lack bandwidth.

The Bigfella
09-24-2012, 08:45 PM
I went through the market here yesterday and there was a pretty fair smattering of wildlife on sale. Lots of forest birds, squirrels (the cooked ones look like rats... being a rodent helps in that regard, I guess), grubs and crickets, etc. I'm heading into more wilderness areas over the next few days and just found this describing the mammal conservation priorities for the area

Phu Xang He contains many species of globally threatened large mammals including
elephants, cattle, big cats and bears, all of which require large area of undisturbed
habitat for their survival. The sheer size of PXH and its relatively pristine state means
that it is of major national and regional importance in supporting these species.
The presence of five species of higher primates in PXH is of significant importance. The
three with the highest conservation priority, Francois’s Langur (

), Douc Langur (Pygathrix nemaeus) and the Black Gibbon (Hylobates


), are all common throughout the NBCA. The other two species are macaques.

Populations of Tiger (
Panthera tigris), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Clouded Leopard

Neofelis nebulosa) and Large spotted Civet (Viverra megaspila) are present in the

Elephants (
Elephas maximus) are commonly observed and populations are currently
estimated to number between 40 and 50 individuals.

Pygmy Loris (
Nycticebus pygmaeus) and the lesser Slow Loris (N. coucang) are
common throughout the NBCA.
PXH contains 7 species of globally threatened or near threatened bird species, most

notably the Bar Bellied Pitta (
Pitta ellioti). The Phu Hinho-Katok hills at the eastern
extremity of the NBCA are particularly important in terms of bird species richness.

Phil Y
09-24-2012, 09:40 PM
That's always an issue. I've always preferred to offer food rather than cash. I'm not a fan of encouraging begging.

Incidentally, I did a walk through of the market earlier. A LOT of bush tucker on offer. There were baskets of what looked to me like dried rats, but one of the women pointed to a giant squirrel... which, of course, is also a rodent. Lots of birds, frogs, crickets, grubs, etc. I have photos... but lack bandwidth.

We have a fairly serious and ongoing problem when we harvest our sugar here (PNG) Kids get in and try to catch little rodents as the rodents try to escape the harvester. (Big tractor with lots of fast moving sharp bits.)

wharf rat
09-24-2012, 10:08 PM
A couple of photos from today.

This old dear was blocking a full lane width on the road. The log she was carrying was over 8' long.... and she has to be at least in her 70's


By western standards she may not be a "hottie" but you certainly got to admire a woman who can pack a 8 foot log out of the mountains. She can probably out work 99% of us here on the forum. For most of us to move that log that far we'd need a chainsaw, a come-along, a peavy and a pickup truck. And a bottle of aspirin.

Can't see her hands here, but I'd pick her as 90ish, maybe more.


On the other hand this girl was beautiful--and still is.

Thanks Ian. We are fortunate indeed for being allowed to travel with you.

The Bigfella
09-25-2012, 12:49 AM
There ain't much travel happening just at the moment. I thought I had a front flat.... but it was a totally collapsed wheel bearing. These are supposed to be new and for the first time on this trip... I haven't got spare wheel bearings with me. I'm at a small village called Nian, near Nakai.... on the banks of the Nam Theun 2 Reservoir. I've been adopted by half a dozen kids here. May be here for some days. Some Aussie friends travelling on BMWs fitted with old KTM front forks and wheel may be able to help... they're in Cambodia. Another option is to throw it on top of a bus and head to Paxxe, where I will be able to get them. This could be a 4 day exercise....

09-25-2012, 12:52 AM
I believe the last two ladies may be no older than 60.

Lew Barrett
09-25-2012, 01:02 AM
For the record regarding my off topic Lao dance video. Turns out hand dancing is a Chinese art, and the troupe (and music) are Chinese. I guess it's a real mix in northern Laos.

The Bigfella
09-25-2012, 01:29 AM
I believe the last two ladies may be no older than 60.

You're out by at least 25 years with the last one... maybe 35 even.

Phil Y
09-25-2012, 01:50 AM
Bugger about the wheel bearings-musta been badly fitted by the PO? (or some guy who knows scooters backwards) Still, all part of the adventure.

The Bigfella
09-25-2012, 02:56 AM
They look "a bit" old to me.

I did buy the bike from a banker after all... and he's Californian to boot. I guess I should have been a bit more buyer-aware. Actually, he's a good guy. Also, I've spent several hours looking over the shoulder of the guy who maitains the bike... Herman the German, and he's a damn fine mechanic. Just one of those things.

I've hammered the speedo sensor doing this... the wheel really did get a wobble up. Hopefully it'll still work... I need it for fuel range calculations.

I knew I should, and would have, bought some bearings to bring along, had it not been for visa imperatives.. If I'd done a visa extension though, I'd have run it down first.... and I'd still be in Chiang Mai.

Meanwhile, in a small world twist, it seems that a friend of mine, Henning J.... - known to some of the Aussie forumites (he organises the Alpine Rally... but I've known him for 35 years).... was in Phonsavan when I was there. Damn pity we missed each other.

The Bigfella
09-26-2012, 06:01 PM
Well, after two nights in Nakai, a dusty market town, I'm trying to travel again.... further away from my bike, unfortunately. I've sourced bearings - bought 4, so that I've got a spare set - but I haven't been able to get them here. The bike shop guy in Vientiane missed getting them on the bus the first day, then there was no bus yesterday evening (no customers, so no bus)... so he's put them on a bus to Thakhet.... about 100km away from me in Nakai

That sounds easy... but asking aoout getting to Thakhet produced stories of a bus that leaves at 5:30am, or 6am or 7am. Well, 5:30's out. All that was here at 5:30 was me, the ever-present street cows, some dogs and the earliest of the market setups. One lady held up 8 fingers when I just asked her. Only time will tell.

Trudging here in the dark and rain was fun. Scored the odd cowpat of course.... until a bike headlight came the other way. A waved banknote stopped him, and after sorting through the 15 cent notes until I hit a $1.50 note did the trick and I got a lift the rest of the way. Yeah... the smallest item of currency here is the 1000 Kip note.... 15c. The largest note I've seen in 50,000 Kip. When I was in the bank branch yesterday, an old woman walked in with a bag and unloaded 163,950,000 Kip onto the table. About $22,000. That's a lot of banknotes btw.... and given the GDP here is around $1,130 per capita.... a hell of a lot of money.

The local cops grabbed me my first night in town "you drink Lao whisky with us". Phew. They tried to drink me under the table and failed.... but I was a tad seedy yesterday. I avoided them last night.

Ughh... 8:00am has been confirmed. Oh well.... time to find coffee....

The Bigfella
09-29-2012, 08:01 PM
Bump.... sorry no photos... bandwidth constrained... and I ran out of internet credit yesterday. Quite surprised to actually get some here in Vilabouri, a sleepy little town on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Fabulous day yesterday... some real high points, which may come through in some photos later.

Attended a boat race festival in the morning, then headed down to some of the less-touched HCM Trail areas.

A huge variety of riding conditions... truck ruts 3' deep, slippery mud, narrow, rocky, and in parts great track. Plenty of rivers and creeks. The first wide river nearly claimed me and my gear. It was the fastest flowing water I've ever ridden through and was taking me sideways - I got to within a few metres of going over the weir. I've got that one on video, but there's a rude word very audible at one stage when the bike stalled. The next big one was a boat trip... a guy at each end paddling, I had to ride down a bank and onto a 20' x 3' punt... the balance the bike while they paddled across a 100m wide river... again with a decent flow. We were shipping water over the bow until we got it all balanced... left about an inch of freeboard at each end. The bigger bike would have needed two punts and a lot of work to get across.

Only one snake yesterday.... big black thing, very fast. Took up half the track as it went across in front of me. Must've been near 8' long. The day before it was a Banded Krait, about 6' and the day before, I nearly trod on a Red-necked Keelback of about 3'.

Got some great people shots (I think... haven't blown them up yet) of folks in some very remote villages. Later.

MAG - the Mines Advisory Group - have about 10 teams operating in Laos. I came across the team that is all women yesterday. I'm a bit cynical about this sort of sexism, but if it grabs the publicity for this issue, as it does, then well and good. They were on their lunch break, and none spoke English, but I was a bit naughty and wandered in and took some photos. Later.

OK, that's it. I've finished my pork intestines soup... time to find the trail again.

09-29-2012, 09:49 PM
Some of my past workmates were doing work around there a few years back. The pay was good but they didn't think it was sufficient for the WOTIF factor.

The Bigfella
09-30-2012, 12:17 AM
Yeah, I just did the back way from Vilabouri to Phin. Crossed the "Bomb Line" whatever that is on the way. I saw a local guy, with his son watching on, digging something out of a pathway beside the trail. Had to be UXO... certainly wasn't anything food related. I didn't stop. I think I'll duk over to Ban Dong and take a look at the couple of wrecked American tanks that are there. Left over from the failed 1971 ARVN push to cut the HCM Trail. Just a bit west of Khe San. Now there's a name.

The Bigfella
09-30-2012, 08:01 PM
Well, here I am in Phin. 10 days until my Laos visa evaporates, but more importantly, maybe two days until my remaining cash evaporates. The internet sorta says there should be an ATM in Phin, where I spent the night, but I haven't found it yet. I should be in Pakse in 3 days.... where there are definitely ATMs, and I do, of course have a small stash of USD and some Baht. I'll count it all up later and be a bit careful.

I'm being profligate with my internet though. I've got about 300 photos I want to upload, but I've just had a go at getting a few done. Some got through... very, very slowly.

I mentioned attending the boat races. Here's the first boat coming through in the first race. This is on the Nam Theun 2 Reservoir... a somewhat controversial hydro power operation that's been running for 2 years now. It flooded a lot of territory. I believe (was told) it produces 150 MW of power, some of which brings in foreign exchange (Vietnam, China and Thailand are all chasing electricity from Laos).


More photos of that later. Watching the crowd there was fascinating.

I mentioned having pig's intestine soup for breakfast. I didn't pick it as such until I picked up the first bit of "meat". I chose it because it arrived at the serving table when I was there, steaming hot (a good thing)... and it was the only dish not covered in flies. Gawd, talk about fatty.


Here's the SA-2 missile that I stopped at. Its missing the initial stage rocket booster (photo of one of them later) and it'd obviously been shot down.


.... as had this American chopper....


I did some more looking around yesterday, branched off to go into a village up a dead-end track, that sort of thing. Photos later, but here's one village I stopped in. I was interested in the women cracking the corn for the animals in these big timber pestles. Check out the cheroots they are smoking. Banana leaf wrapping by the look of ito idea what the substance is. Just about everyone in this village came over to take a look at the Falang who'd stopped.... except the semi-naked woman sitting in the doorway of her hut. She just sat there, unconcerned and watched.


Here's the leader, if I'm not mistaken, of the women's Mines Advisory Group team that I stopped at along the track


The team was well-equipped and was funded by the US State Department. It'd be nice to see another few hundred similar teams at work. So far, 40 years on, 0.3% of the worst affected areas have been cleared. This team had, so far, pulled 20 unexploded bombies out of this area.

If I remember correctly, I've got a pretty rough section to get through in one of the National Forest Protected Areas today. From what Karlee told me, you are supposed to have a permit to get through these, but I've got through others so far, although I have been stopped. Justin, who sold me the bike tells me that there's a bit of rough stuff here.

The Bigfella
09-30-2012, 08:12 PM
These boats are known as "Bomb Boats"... not technically correct, as they are made from aircraft drop tanks. I saw dozens of them (more photos later)...

Lots, like this one are half a tank with water excluders added fore and aft and some seats. Simple, effective and long lasting... 40 years so far.


There's plenty of much larger ones, constructed from panels and flattened tanks.


Since I'm discussing boats. Here's me waiting my turn for the punt across a river.


Yeah, he's got an AK47 slung over his shoulder... I saw dozens of them that day (day before yesterday)... mostly AK 47's with a smattering of the older SKS's.


We were pretty marginal on the boat... we shipped a lot of water over the bow before we got the balance right. I was a tad nervous, having seen one of the race boats go belly up earlier that day.... and I was remembering that I hadn't waterproof-packed the computer and camera when we were mid-stream.

Made it. 20,000 Kip (a bit under $3).


The loggers had carved the road up a bit too. This section was damn slippery... and my rear tyre ain't too flash


The Bigfella
09-30-2012, 08:20 PM
Another slippery section from yesterday. Pick a path... and yeah, it'll end up with you in the slop... any path.


Pick a bomb... any bomb. How many would you like? I reckon the US Air Force ought to come over here, get some details and whack in a warranty claim on all these duds. Money back from the manufacturer please. What's a million tons of unexploded bombs worth?


This last one for now is a section of the original Ho Chi Minh Trail that has been sort-of preserved. It's fenced... except the locals have removed lots of sections of fencing so they have better access to their houses. Its also getting degraded by the vegetation, as it isn't receiving traffic. A bit of defoliant might be a good thing... This section was originally constructed by the French, but was heavily used by the North Vietnamese.


.... and on that note, I hope to find a better breakfast than yesterday, I'd love to find some money.... and then its time to head south.

09-30-2012, 09:19 PM
Great story, love the sound of your bike.

The Bigfella
10-01-2012, 05:59 AM
Thanks Lee. Both the bikes - the 525/570 and the 950 have a nice note. Neither has the standard exhaust btw.

Damn tough day today. I got stuck twice to the extent that I needed outside assistance.

The first one worked out well... some locals going the other way got stuck at the same spot. I helped them, they helped me. The next one, there was a soldier and a young guy there. They stripped off, we unloaded the bags off the bike and eventually, the three of us, all pushing, got the bike through - but we had to dig one rock out. I had to sit down to recover and break into my emergency water. They offered me some water out of an oil drum... but I passed on that. They also offered me some roasted egret or heron, but, sorry... I'm not eating forest birds on principle. I damn near wilted though... it was 2:30 pm and I hadn't had breakfast... still haven't, unless you count the Beer Lao that the lovely lady here went and got me.... or the two "orange juices" I found in a remote village... pity that they didn't have water too.

I'd love to hit the shower (not sure the hot water is working though)..... but I haven't got the energy. Seven hours in the saddle sounds easy to say, but I reckon that might qualify as one of the toughest days yet over the last 14 months. Brilliant riding though, highly technical for 45 km of it. Mostly first gear, down mud slides, up clay banks, up and down over big rocks. A trials bike would have been perfect. Very energy sapping.

I lost the route on the GPS three times.... got miles away from where the track is supposed to be... because once the track gets too bad, they just make another one. Its all being sanitised though. I met a team building "bridges" over some of the crossings. In a few years, the Ho Chi Minh Trail will be hard to find. I should have some nice photos of a couple of the big bridges that were bombed during the war and some video of the hard riding. The big bridges have never been replaced. Now its a little ferry.... a couple of punts with a planked area on top. That route... about 140 km, took the guy I bought the bike off 4 hours when he did it. It took me 7... and I wasn't taking it easy anywhere. Different time of year, different conditions. The monsoon will tend to slow you down. I'll see if I can find a photo later...

I was getting somewhat worried about money when I hit Saravan. First ATM wouldn't give me money... and it should have, and that's two ATMs in a row now. Found another that wouldn't accept either of my cards. Went back to the first one, tried both cards and the machine died. Found the third and last one in town, same brand as the one I killed.... and it told me I had a zero balance... take your card. Luckily it gave me the million I'd asked for... and another million.... and another. I'd not have got a cleansing ale tonight (and its only a bit over a buck for a big bottle) if I hadn't scored more cash.

I'm inclined to call a "lay day" tomorrow. I am trying to get to Pakse to meet some Aussie friends that I met in Malaysia... but I don't think it'd be wise to do another big day on top of today..... and if this rain would stop... I might go find a proper breakfast. It is 6pm, after all

10-01-2012, 06:23 AM
Ok, time for a day or three of rest.

Lew Barrett
10-01-2012, 09:45 AM
Remarkable journey and story. Hope you get well, feel stronger.

The Bigfella
10-01-2012, 03:37 PM
Thanks Lew. I'm feeling better after some food and a bit of sleep, thanks. I must admit, I was pretty tired and dehydrated at the end of yesterday's run.

Here's some photos from yesterday. Pretty much straight away after leaving Phin, I was in the Dong Phou Vieng National Protected Area... a lovely forested area of 1,970 sq km. It contains 31 ethnic minority villages. I would have thought logging would be prohibited, but maybe the locals are exempt. I wish I'd been able to get the camera fired up quicker here, but I came around a corner and met this squadron of guys on scooters, about 8 of them, all loaded up with big timber blocks. I only caught the last two.... and of course, this bloke is on my side of the road.


I saw the first of three snakes for the day along that stretch. All three managed to get out of my way. Very pretty critters, not sure what any of them were though.

Here's the remains of the Tad Hai Bridge over the Xe Bang Heing River. It was designed by Souphanouvong, who became the first President of Lao PDR in 1975. Built in 1942, it was destroyed by American bombing in 1967.


There was a rickety couple of planks with a bamboo handrail to get me up to the top of the end pier for that shot.

Here's another bombed bridge further on, taken from the "ferry". This one only cost me 10,000 kip because I got on with a local on his scooter and just paid the same as him. The first one charged me 20,000 (a bit under $3).


I just had enought room to do a 15 point turn to turn the bike around for disembarkation..... down a plank, of course.

Same place, might be a better view of the bridge


There's a lot of pretty rugged "houses" along the Trail. This was by no means the worst of them. Some were at quite an angle and a lot had virtually no walls.


Towards the end of the day, after the rough section, which lasted 45 km... first and second gear all the way - and bear in mind, this thing is low geared, I can run 6th gear from about 45 kph..... there were plenty of wooden bridges - many dozens of them. I wouldn't call any of them as being good.... and some were less than flash


The Bigfella
10-01-2012, 03:53 PM
Speaking of the rough stuff. This was the first one that stopped me. Had half a dozen locals come along on a "tractor".... one of those Chinese single cylinder diesel farm implements with a couple of big wheels and a trailer... I'd have had to unload and try and drag the bike up out of that clay. It was solid enough to hold the bike upright... but too soft to get traction.


Lovely stuff, eh?


Plenty of humidity to make things interesting when you try and push and drag. I'd tried to drag the bike back, but got nowhere.

Here's the young guy at the next one coming down to help


I'm not sure if he was a soldier too, but his mate was. Here's his camp where I rested up for about 10 minutes after that little bit of exercise


He was happy to share the bird, and I probably should have eaten.

I've seen a lot of soldier's camps like that. Sometimes one soldier... wandering around with a slung AK47, sometimes three or four, lounging around. I've seen them out cutting bamboo.... presumably to build more of these shelters.

Two young kids came along while I was there... about 9 and 12 at a guess. Both smoking cigarettes. I've got a photo of the young one puffing away.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 08:28 AM
I took a "lay day" in Salavan and worked on the bike. Changed the oil, tightened the chain, cleaned the air filter, and so on. Couldn't get the right sort of oil, of course, but Honda's SAE 40 will have to do in the meantime. Then Huey sent it down. I had to walk down the flooded street to get dinner. Not what you want the night before you head down a clay road.

The morning (yesterday) brought its own problems. The restaurant had "got" me again. For the first time ever, I was on Imodium for two days in a row... and I broke out the Gastrolyte and loaded up on some water... hoping to avoid the dehydration issues suffered a couple of days earlier on the run to Salavan. Yeah, right. As it turned out, I wouldn't need to pee again for 22 hours.... despite stopping whenever I saw a "shop" in a village. None had water, but I grabbed any orange juice I could and even a few Red Bulls.... trying to make my 2 litres of water go the distance - which it did.

I saw my first snake of the day pretty much as I was leaving town. Cute thing... followed not too long later by one of those ugly greased lightning speedy 8'ers. I don't like that particular snake... reminds me of the 8' King Brown that came at me up behind Taree about 20 years ago. Didn't see any more after that... and for the first time in recent memory... I didn't see a single snake today. Too muddy I guess.

Heading out of Salavan, there's a nice cable suspension bridge. Gets a bit of a sway up, but not too bad.


The next river didn't have a bridge... but two girls with a "catamaran" were on their way over....


Its all very civilised. You ride up a plank onto the platform and away you go. This one cost me $1.30, as did the next. The last one of the day was 65 cents.... despite being the longest ride.

Power is the usual little single cylinder rat-tail engine


Where there were bridges, the standard was pretty ratty


... and the guy had to bail plenty of water out of this ferry before we set off


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 08:56 AM
About a half hour out, I was doing it tough. I'd had a lot of mud, had to do some pushing and had done a lot of sliding. First village, I stopped. No water.... but I did get handed this. No... not Beer Lao... but it came from that bottle. Yep, the local hooch... and this is more than a regulation shot. I did the honorable thing, downed it in one shot and handed the glass to the next guy whilst praising the brew. They were happy with that. I passed on the next shot... with sign language about drunken riding.


I bought all their orange juice - had two for me and handed the rest around the kids. Had a Red Bull too.


By the time I'd drunk mine, I'd handed out a dozen drinks to the kids. Didn't cost much btw.

Nice friendly kids here


That changed a bit as the day went on... lots would run away as I came up the road, but if I stopped and "spoke" to an adult, they'd come back

I didn't much like this little crossing. That plank there was needed... the trick was to get to it and hit it straight. Not easy. There used to be a bridge here....


One more river crossing after that... a particularly nasty one with a whole heap of submerged logs... put there to make it shallower. Worried me a bit... looked like a damn good way to break an ankle. I must've been on the verge of drowning the bike because I went around the end, but still ended up having to climb submerged logs and expended a bit of energy. I came into a minority village after that.... and they all hid from me. I went what looked the logical way and came to a gate... and I was heading at right angles to what the GPS route was telling me.... so I went back, into the village and yelled out. I roused a brave soul and I asked directions... got pointed down the only other road. It was 90 degrees off track too and damn nasty. I had to push out of a couple of buffalo wallows, etc... and turned around again. I found the correct route... tightly locked up. There was no opening this.


It was back to the village and some brave old lady ventured out... followed by about 30 others of all ages. I can't remember the ethnic group offhand, but its the mob that arrange their huts in a large circle all facing each other.... interesting arrangement, but it makes it hard for the casual visitor to find their way out. Anyhow, she and a few young guys pointed me back to the first track I'd taken.... and that was the end of my GPS route for about 30km. I was dead reckoning until I hit the Sekong River. Not to worry... I got there.

Met these lads on a narrow section of track. Harelip. No attempt made at corrective surgery, of course.


I've seen far too much of this stuff over here. Cripples walking on their hands... women walking around with huge mouth and throat cancers (from chewing betelnut... with garden lime), and so on. I've been asked for drugs numerous times too... medical drugs.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 09:11 AM
Here's another one... just down the road. A bloke with a golfball sized ulcer on his back... asking for pills. I told him to go to Salavan.


I had to laugh when I came across this sign. "Have a Good Trip"... I'd just been sliding sideways up their roads for several hours... trying to stay out of the truck ruts. I didn't get into top gear... 45 kph (under 30 mph) until I was 4 hours into the day.... and I was bleeding energy fast.


At that stage I was averaging 10mph.

Met my first hunter and asked him what he had. Giant squirrel....


Another ethnic minority village and the women were cracking corn an entirely different way. They were pounding it with a treadle here. In the shade under their houses.


I found another village with a "shop" and stopped for more liquids. I loved this lady's bong.... damn near as big as her. Tobacco only... they grow their own


She was a wee slip of a thing... quite friendly though


... and yeah... I'm starting to look ragged.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 09:28 AM
So, here's the evil weed... tobacco, drying beside the road.


While the kids watch my every move


This girl wandered over... she looked like a teenager and I was told she was 17... and then 22. I dunno. Baby on the boob, bong in hand....


There was plenty of that with this particular ethnic group. Schools out, let's build bridges and blow a bong...


And, the family that bongs together, stays together...


Same family... the girls at least were doing something productive


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 09:36 AM
Each village had some sort of NGO-supplied notice board. This one had a couple of MAG posters on unexploded bombs, another by UNICEF and a the good old Aussie government had also posted a sign. Good on yer lads.


Some enterprising souls had built a toll bridge here. I was a cheapskate and rode through


... and these guys got a free duckpond courtesy of the US Air Force


I eventually got to Sekong and fueled up, because it was 80km still to go to Attapeu. Nope... not the way I came here... I came down the dirt road.... 180km.... but that's what I came here to do.


Last ferry crossing of the day... but far from the last water crossing


You have to take it easy with these.... even the concrete causeways can have holes in them, and reinforcing rod sticking up.


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 09:47 AM
Plenty more bridges


A few nicely graded sections


... but they were exceedingly rare. This was the normal standard. If you wanted to stop... just lean the bike on the side of a rut


I felt a bit guilty not stopping to help these guys... but there were three of them and they didn't ask and it was getting late. They didn't have much of a clue either.


I dashed through a cloud of blue tyre smoke, past the screaming engine.

This was an unusual hut design. From one of the bong villages. Reminded me of the Maori in NZ


.... and this proved I was getting tired. I was riding the centre section... and I bloody well fell off into the rut. Bang. Didn't drop it... but sheesh.


Doesn't look possible eh... but I was getting knackered... and it's been a twisting climb up onto that bit... and then I rode straight into the ditch.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 09:55 AM
All this looks easy, but pick the wrong line and you end up stuck. It gets damn hard on the hips and legs too


Nice scenery. Plenty of forest, some farming


Lots and lots of chewed up road


This bit is deceptive. Its a 6' drop down into the section the trucks have dug down here. You notice that sort of thing....


One thing I try to do is follow the lead of the locals. I was doubting it here. It was a nicely graded section and the locals had climbed 60' or so up a ridge beside the road.... then the road turned to a morass of truck ruts. Another win for the locals. I'm about 40' above the road here.


And they even build little bridges off the road


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:22 AM
I was up in the clouds and it was getting dark fast and I didn't know how far I had to go. This cleared area had been an airstrip, but it was cratered too


I stopped at some huts after a creek crossing and spoke to the guys. One spoke a bit of English... not much, but he said Attapeu was another hour. I set off in the dark and the GPS routed me down a bit of single track which opened out onto a slightly wider track. It was the hypoteneuse of a triangle... shortest distance... but it took me to a gate...


Sort of place that makes you look over your shoulder in tiger territory.

A bit further on I came to a creek crossing with some logs... basically, a "don't do it" message... and at that stage, I turned and went back to the hut. I'd started the day feeling unwell, and I'd done a tough 8 hours for about 150 km. Slow, hard going.


I got back to the huts, parked the bike under their awning and made the sleep sign and the food sign... and got invited straight in. Justin had suggested waving 100,000 kip around .... and I did that, but they refused it. I gave it to the woman of the house that I slept in the next morning... and the guys saw that and nodded. I think she'd been a bit apprehensive when her husband told her they had a Farang guest.

I ate with the guys.


Better food than a lot of the restaurants. Boiled eggs, duck, pork, vegies, rice. No booze. There were a three Lao guys, including what I took to be the guy who owned the farm, a 66 year old ex Pathet Lao soldier (officer) / teacher who was establishing a coffee plantation here. There were 4 Vietnamse guys too. The other Lao guys, including the married guy with his wife and young daughter, lived across the road in a nice new hut made from the local pine. I think I got the single guy's "bed"... a bamboo mat, pillow and quilt. I was rather glad I'd packed my sleeping bag, as it got cool... and I used the quilt to soften the floor a tad.

Oh yeah.... I scored the mossie net too... which was needed given the holey canvas wall


Mine host brought out his photo album... showing him standing to the right of the President...


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:34 AM
Not as primitive as some villages... but not too flash either.


The privvy was a bucket... so its got some development work needed.

Kitchen to the right, another hut on the other side of the creek


Not many mod cons in the kitchen


Plenty of coffee bushes still to plant


I taped the trusty old boots on again and was on the road well before 7am. Two coffees in the belly and nothing else.


I'd gone 22 hours without a pee... which might give some sort of clue as to how dehydrated one can get here. I need to think about how to carry more water. I haven't broken out the Pur microfilter yet, but I've gone close.

Here's the turnoff to the right that the GPS sent me down last night. Set to shortest distance still. I ignored it a few times today...


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:42 AM
... and just a bit further up, for some reason, I rode into this bog... which again sapped more energy getting the bike out. It'd bucketed down for hours overnight and the track was super greasy.


Its this sort of thing that shows why you can't trust any of the puddles. This damn buffalo had been wallowing in a puddle on the road. They can dig them deep. You'll be riding along, go through a little puddle and ooops...


So... what's under there?


I still tended to follow the locals. There's not been any UXO clearances along this remote stuff of course, but this time of year, you either go around some bits... or get bogged


Funny I should have stopped and taken a photo here... because I made the wrong choice and it took me 20 minutes to rectify it. I took the local's track to the left.


About 20 metres further up, the local's track climbed back onto the road. With the rain overnight, I couldn't make it up... and I tried to backtrack, but finally dropped it here.


I had the tyres at about 10 psi... but at this stage I let them down a lot further and eventually plugged my way over the top... and pumped up again.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:51 AM
The road got a lot better after that, but it was still super greasy and needed to be treated with care. Sudden slippery bits get your attention. This sign here was becoming common though... Development road construction. Its why I'm up here now. These blokes are bulldozing the Ho Chi Minh Trail.


Came across this bloke on his way to the market. The most pitiful sight and sounds.


If I'm not mistaken, this 6 x 6 truck... the local buses up here... is a Russian beast.


I took on some fuel when I saw how far I had to go....


... and did some descending


Oops... made another group of kids and a woman run away.... but stopped and showed them that I'm not the boogeyman


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:59 AM
While I think of it, that truck was doing maybe 6-8mph up that road. It'd been sliding around in places too. There was another not far behind it, same speed, but belching diesel smoke.

Stopped at another Russian SAM... one that never got fired. Towed all the way here behind a tank from up north.


This one's got the solid fuel rocket booster attached.


Nice fence... made from cluster bomb casings


I'm guessing here, but it'd have to be an artillery shell, wouldn't it? Damn heavy



Lots of logging going on around here too


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 11:04 AM
So, after 12 hours across two days, I made it 250km to Attapeu. A town which is the regional capital of one of the less visited parts of Laos (gets about 1% of the tourists)... and who's name means literally "Buffalo Sh!t". An average speed of 12mph. Ughh.

Still, the Attapeu Palace at 210,000 kip isn't bad value. That's $27 I think...


The marble floor in my room's a bit muddy though... at least its got a decent sink for washing socks in....


Looks like I'm off to Pakse tomorrow. Some deep rivers on the way though.

10-04-2012, 12:35 PM
Nice stuff Ian. You probably lost twenty pounds of mud in the shower by the looks of those socks. Thanks again for posting this for us armchair adventurers. Jim...

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 08:27 PM
Here's the first of two video clips I'll upload from the day before yesterday.

This one was early in the day... chasing through the single track trying to get around impossible bogs... and trying to find where the GPS was saying the Ho Chi Minh Trail should be. It took 30km to find it again


The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 08:44 PM
Yeah Jim... the hotel's nice embossed luxury towels still ended up muddy brown though. I'm still debating whether to inflict myself on them for another day. The body battery could use a bit more of a recharge... and its been raining again.... and looks like it is now out where I have to head (the back way to Pakse)

Here's that second video (it may still be processing for a minute or two)


Lew Barrett
10-04-2012, 09:41 PM
Incredible journey, Ian. I look forward to seeing this account every day.

That is one impressive machine but I don't know how you deal with all the energy expenditure. You are writing really, really well for us, and the photo log is just out of this world excellent.

A few dumb road rider questions. How do you deal with the chain and sprockets? It must be a daily effort to keep them from squaring off and getting sharp, and how can they stay lubricated day after day? Hell of a bike there, new found respect for the KTMs.

But mainly, it's the human body that seems indomitable. Thanks so much again, and hats off to you.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 10:25 PM
Incredible journey, Ian. I look forward to seeing this account every day.

That is one impressive machine but I don't know how you deal with all the energy expenditure. You are writing really, really well for us, and the photo log is just out of this world excellent.

A few dumb road rider questions. How do you deal with the chain and sprockets? It must be a daily effort to keep them from squaring off and getting sharp, and how can they stay lubricated day after day? Hell of a bike there, new found respect for the KTMs.

But mainly, it's the human body that seems indomitable. Thanks so much again, and hats off to you.

Its a funny world Lew.... just as you were writing that, I decided to not ride today.

Yes... there's a fair amount of energy expenditure and I decided to have a recharge day today.... partly influenced by looking at the puddles out in the carpark. The next leg is 220km "unpaved" mostly with a lot of river crossings. Rain means higher rivers of course... one is listed as "deep" and another as "deep and muddy". I'd rather tackle that with a fuller body battery. That, plus I'd like to see why my front brake has gone away somewhat. I'm thinking glazed on mud, so I'll pull the pads and give them a scrub on a bit of concrete.

Yes... I'm very impressed with the bike. It will tractor away, just above idle speed in the mud... and then lift the wheel in a screaming blast if you ask it to.... and I'm not asking it to at present, because there isn't much meat left on that tyre. I need a new one now and will see about getting one shipped to Pakse. I'd like to source some parts to carry - rear wheel bearings, more brake pads and some filter oil too. If it gets out of shape, its light enough to reef it back into line - something you just can't do on the big monsters.

I've had some "this is going to be interesting" moments with the riding.... but it takes them in its stride. Some real thumps into big holes. The steering damper is brilliant there. I've had to get off and push a fair bit too - mainly due to the tyre I think. That pushing really hurts in this humidity.

I'm carrying a can of chain lube. Its a once a day thing... at best. Today will be the end of it and I haven't been able to find any along the way. The sprockets on the bike are top end gear... hardened teeth. The chain is the only x-ring chain I could get in Chiang Mai - an EK, which cost me $63. I've only had to adjust it twice so far. Chains and sprockets have come a long way in recent decades. Its only a 520 chain too, but its dealing with north of 60hp. This bike is nowhere near standard btw. Here's the list of mods that Justin had done to it... as it stood when I bought it

2005525 EXC:

*20 hours on new 570 big bore 12.5:1 piston and cylinder and rebuilt DJH head with +1mm KW valves
*100 hours on rebuilt and balanced crank w/Annular bearings
*all bearings and gaskets and final drive output shaft replaced
* TT stator and lightened flywheel
*SX exhaust


*Sprung and valved for Justin by KTM suspension shootout winner - I've re-sprung it to (almost) suit me.
* SKF seals.
* 17 degree Topar triple clamps


Clarke tank - gives me a range of 220 km
Fan kit
HT oil cooler - increases oil capacity from 1.2 litres to 1.8 litres.... a very good thing.
Coolant Recovery Tank
Hi flow water pump
TT kickstand
Scotts SS oil filters
Cycra handguards
KTM hardparts Skid plate - I've banged that real hard too.
P3 header protection
Scotts steering stabilizer
Baja Designs Squadron LED lighting - illegal on the road (ha ha in Asia) but brilliant in the jungle at night

Most of the photos are coming off the cheap camera btw. Having drowned one DSLR already and a couple of scares with dodgy river crossings where I wasn't running in secured wet bags status, I now run pretty much watertight with the gear.... so its normally just the small camera hanging on a cord off my armour. I've had some interesting slides.... one-handed riding, taking photos and trying to not fall off. It certainly improves one's coordination.

10-04-2012, 10:43 PM
Ian, how big is the fuel tank, do you prefilter the gas or is there another filter to take care of that? Is water that hard to come by or is there a reason you're not using the water filter more often? Thanks much for the time posting all this.

Ps, noticed the LED headlights, why those and not conventional focused beam halogen lights?

10-04-2012, 11:35 PM
Looks like I'm off to Pakse tomorrow. Some deep rivers on the way though.

I got to this and thought "he's fekin' kidding, surely!!!! Take a day or two off after that last episode and let your boots dry out at least......."

so was relieved to read your later post..........remember: roses......smell, stop to.....once in a while.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 11:39 PM
Ian, how big is the fuel tank, do you prefilter the gas or is there another filter to take care of that? Is water that hard to come by or is there a reason you're not using the water filter more often? Thanks much for the time posting all this.

Ps, noticed the LED headlights, why those and not conventional focused beam halogen lights?

Lee, bottled water is readily available in the towns and until the last couple of runs, has been everywhere else too. A lot of these vilages don't expect to see anyone who'd buy water during the rainy season... some of the places I've been are listed on the maps, as crappy as they are, as "impassable in wet season". I guess I just need to re-pack and have the filter more accessible. I'm also carrying a Steripen, but most of the water I'm seeing is really muddy after all the rain - not suitable for the Steripen. I'm not really set up with the right sort of drinking bottles either btw. Hasn't been an issue until now. I'll come back next time with slightly different gear. Besides.... if I was going to use it, I'd have to read the damn instructions....

The fuel tank on the bike is 13 litres... and no - no filtering gear (I'm carrying far too much crap as it is). I have a fuel filter between the tank and the carby. I'm carrying a spare. Sometimes when you fuel up out of old scotch or water bottles at roadside stalls, they might have a funnel with a bit of cloth over it. Not often though.

The fuel at this stop, where IIRC there was bottled water, the only one in the last 3 days of riding... near the end of yesterday's ride.... was 20,000 kip per amost full scotch bottle. I gave the woman 50,000 kip ($7) and that got me two scotch bottles and a bit more in the jug. No filtering. This fuel comes in on the back of those Russian Zil 6 wheel drive trucks.


The reason Justin went to the LEDs is electricity consumption. This bike has a bigger alternator stator to give it a bit more 'leccy because of the fan fitted to one of the radiators, but its still marginal. He did have a HID setup on it, but I can't repeat on here what he thought of it. The battery is tiny... 7 amp hours.

These bikes are thinly disguised racing bikes that snuck into places with easily removed gear to get them registered. The engine designation for this series of bikes, btw is RFS... Racing Four Stroke. They are a high maintenance machine. Oil changes every 10 hours offroad. New rings every couple of hundred hours at the outside. The piston is very short... about an inch long ... just enough for the rings and a tiny bit of skirt.

The Bigfella
10-04-2012, 11:53 PM
I got to this and thought "he's fekin' kidding, surely!!!! Take a day or two off after that last episode and let your boots dry out at least......."

so was relieved to read your later post..........remember: roses......smell, stop to.....once in a while.

Don't mention my boots... ever again please. As attached to them as I've become.... they won't be making the journey home with me. I'm going to set off for the shops now in a further futile attempt to find some tape that might hold them together.

Yeah... the Pakse thing was to catch up with some friends, but they are going to be there for a few days.

... and another don't. Don't tell my wife, but I think I'll come back and do a slower run back up the trail... staying in the villages. Won't be for a while yet. I probably need to do some work for a while so I don't forget how its done.

10-05-2012, 12:00 AM
Looks like you need new boots. Have they got your size?

The Bigfella
10-05-2012, 12:07 AM
Um. No. Nowhere close in anything

The Bigfella
10-05-2012, 12:09 AM
.... and if you want a real laugh, I'm off downstairs to the bike with my bottle of Johnson's Baby Oil to fill up the clutch master cylinder. The slave cylinder has a leak.... and the options for fluid are limited over here.

10-05-2012, 12:11 AM
Looks like you need new boots. Have they got your size?

!!!!! (maaaaaaate....he said don't mention the boots!!!)

having said that, I wonder if you could find a pair of gumboots that you could cut up and tape over them, obviously wouldn't get some big enough to go right over them but anything covering the splits might be a bit more durable than tape alone.

Lew Barrett
10-05-2012, 01:27 AM
Lee, all the new bikes are moving to LED lighting. Allows them to reduce alternator size and weight, or provide power for additional accessories and still give superior illumination. Pretty standard fare in the better machinery these days.

The Bigfella
10-05-2012, 04:24 AM
The issue with the LED light on my bike... a US$300+ item IIRC, and then it needs a dimmer at another $70.... is that it has an unfocused beam.... no cutoff for low beam so that it doesn't dazzle oncoming drivers. For what it is, a bright, low energy light aimed at offroad use, its excellent.

Greg... re the boots... nah, they are very wide and I also need to be able to push and use the brake lever. I've finally found a store with some gaffer tape. Hopefully that will last more than 5 minutes at a time.

The Bigfella
10-05-2012, 04:32 AM
Oh... and Greg... the roses smell very nice thank you. I'm feeling 100% better after a two hour massage by Moan (her name means "pillow" in English.... so she tells me... and no... I did not explore that line). Its a weird massage place... a big room with six x 3" foam matresses on the floor and some rails so the women don't fall off as they walk spines. Moan was a tad large to walk my spine.... I was pleased to see they change the pillowslips after each client. Its a mixed sex venue. Mainly women customers yesterday... mainly men today. Nice happy place.

I just had a lovely plate of fried squid and vegies, overlooking the Sekong River. Its even muddier than the Yarra River, if that's possible. Sitting there waiting, I fiddled with the GPS and discovered that I apparently rode straight past an abandoned Chinese T58 tank yesterday... although knowing this mob, they've probably moved it now. I was somewhat peeved that they'd moved the abandoned American tanks and taken them to put on concrete plinths at a museum. Some things are best left raw.

The Bigfella
10-06-2012, 08:47 AM
Methinks I'm a tad stuck at present. I found the bike's water depth limit... and then some. It took on a bellyful and I've got water in the oil... which is no great worry, as I'm carrying enough spare.

The flat battery brought the day's proceedings to an early end. I'm 5km up the track from the bike.... with the battery. Hopefully I can get some charge into it tomorrow. I'll be heading back the other way... I've waded through a lot of deep water and clinging mud between the bike and this village.

I had a rather nice rodent soup for dinner... with some forest birds thrown in too. What was that about not eating forest birds?

The boots gave up the ghost today too.... and that's a problem.

The Bigfella
10-07-2012, 09:19 AM
Here's a bit of yesterday's water. I finally made it back to "civilisation"


10-07-2012, 08:46 PM
Methinks I'm a tad stuck at present. I found the bike's water depth limit... and then some. It took on a bellyful and I've got water in the oil... which is no great worry, as I'm carrying enough spare.

The flat battery brought the day's proceedings to an early end. I'm 5km up the track from the bike.... with the battery. Hopefully I can get some charge into it tomorrow. I'll be heading back the other way... I've waded through a lot of deep water and clinging mud between the bike and this village.

I had a rather nice rodent soup for dinner... with some forest birds thrown in too. What was that about not eating forest birds?

The boots gave up the ghost today too.... and that's a problem.

Are you anywhere that you can get some express posted to you?

The Bigfella
10-08-2012, 10:35 AM
If only Greg.

I'm never sure where I'm going to be, when... and how long they'd take to get here.

I walked 5km in these....


.... and I think my stamina was being called into doubt


Nothing like a bit of Giant Squirrel to pick things up again though...


With a bit of rat, to round out the rodent offering


or do you prefer bird?


Boots are fixed now


10-08-2012, 01:09 PM
Ian,You may get the shoes made to order.


The Bigfella
10-09-2012, 02:06 AM
Ian,You may get the shoes made to order.


I haven't seen a bootmaker anywhere Syed. The closest thing I've seen is Chinese canvas type hiking boots... no ankle protection or shin protection... and nothing within a bulls roar of my size. I took a tree root across the shin a few days back... enough to do damage without protection, so I'll keep applying tape....

Here's some photos from yesterday. The day started with another totally collapsed wheel bearing.


Luckily they had that size in town. I've got a spare set coming down from Vientiane now, along with brake pads, filter oil, some synthetic oil (5 litres... a change now, a litre to use and a change for the next drowning.... a new crappy knobby and tube and hopefully a new front sprocket. I had a horrible noise happening yesterday which seems to be the front sprocket. $300 plus the sprocket... if they can find one.

I headed up the tar towards Pakse, with the thought in mind of doing the "impassable in wet" track that branched off and headed to Paksong and then Pakse if it looked OK. I found that and slip slided my way along it for a while. I found a dam construction site along the way


No tall, but very wide

started to get a bit suspicious when the only visible tracks were bikes....


I was having serious doubts when a bad graunching noise... metal on metal started.

There was a fabulous waterfall, visible by riding up onto the bank beside the road. It was a couple of hundred feet high at a guess... and absolutely thundering


It wasn't the safest perch up there though. These aren't rain ruts... its the start of a landslip. It will go in the next big rain. I'd already found out why the trucks had stopped... landslides that had to be ridden over.


There's no getting a truck or 4WD over that... certainly not without some winching as just this little bit of it is about 15' up, very steep and slippery, with a very nasty surprise off the edge if you make a mistake... you'd have a long time to consider your departure from the planet on the way down.

10-09-2012, 02:15 AM
I was having serious doubts when a bad graunching noise... metal on metal started.


The Bigfella
10-09-2012, 02:23 AM
Oops. Missed the photo with the viewing platform for the waterfall


I had to dig a few trenches... about 12" deep by the time I'd chugged through


I got through the bad landslips and came back into an area with people

I headed into one of the little villages off the road to try and sort out what was going on with the graunching


The lads gave me a hand and a bit of sump oil on the chain quietened it down



I headed to Pakse, in a massive rain dump for 50km or so.... and met up with two Aussies, Clarissa and Neil. They are on airhead BMWs - highly modified. A 1000cc and a 650cc.


10-09-2012, 02:48 AM
Amazing stuff as usual Ian , that bike of your's is going to be seriously USED by the end of your ride !

I can see a bit of extra frame bracing on those BeeMs .

The Bigfella
10-11-2012, 11:42 PM
Peter, there's extra gussets and additional chromemoly tubing on them. The exhaust strikes me as a weak point - its a very low exit and if you stalled in foot deep water, you'd be taking it in through the exhaust. The forks are from an LC4 KTM (the 620-690 series). Lots of other mods. They are "built" by a guy up at Ballina. I'd rather one than a GS... but I'm happy here on the KTM. I wouldn't take one down the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the wet. In the dry yes.

Meanwhile, I've just been dodging flying bullets.

I think someone's dead.

I was riding over to the market when I passed an obvious "ruckus" at a tyre service. I pulled up for a stickybeak at how the local cops handle things. There was a plainclothes cop there with a handgun and I heard several gunshots from inside the building and then bottles came flying out, smashing on the road. When I came back past an hour later, it was all over. I asked the plainclothes cop how it ended and he gave the thumbs down sign.

I went to the market to get a new rucksack to replace the one that had a minor, losing, altercation with the rear wheel the other day. I guess I better start safety roping again. The only damage was to the rucksack and an oil container... but it could have been nasty if the oil had got onto the tyre in the rain


I like this photo Neil took the other night when I shouted him and Clarissa at the Panorama restaurant atop the 5 or 6 storey high Paske Hotel


Yesterday evening's farewell feast for Neil and Clarissa, who I may see again in Chiang Mai, was our best effort at a wine and cheese evening here. We got the only bottle of olives we could find, the only cheese (sliced cheddar from the US... think Big Mac cheese), some nuts, Pringles and a bottle of plonk from France.


The Bigfella numberplate was a bit of an afterthought.... and in the cold hard light of day, I may be better off not running it

Lew Barrett
10-12-2012, 01:01 AM

This looks like the tailings from a bout of the hungries, the kind of consumption that happened when I was in college after the bong had been passed.

The Bigfella
10-12-2012, 05:00 AM
There was some discussion of herbs.

The Bigfella
10-13-2012, 07:49 PM
I'm sitting in the guesthouse restaurant... wooden poles, floorboards with 1" gaps, tin roof, no walls - which also doubles as the accom for the family of 5 that run the place. I'm 25' above the Mekong and 15' from the water's edge. Its grey. overcast but bright and the air is hazy... like smoke.

My waitress is, oh, maybe 7 years old and well polished at the art.

The Mekong here at Champasak is wide - I checked on the GPS and its over 2km wide - and still fast flowing. I just had the pleasure of a race boat going past for a training run. I saw it being repaired yesterday... all the seams had been filled with epoxy and they were scraping it down as I rode past it on the bank.


They had 33 paddlers in it today.. chanting as they went hard at it. I love these boats.

They were doing some chainsaw slabbing for boatbuilding there too. The boat was being repaired at the spot the bike ferry lands.

I shared a small ferry with a Corsican guy and his Balinese girlfriend.


30,000 baht per bike. $4. The guy had tried for 50,000 and I offered 5,000. So... 30,000 it was.

There's a lot of water out there - all headed that last 100 metres down to sea level.


I'd said goodbye to Neil and Clarissa a day before I left Pakse. They headed to Vientiane or thereabouts. They are sticking to the main roads, as Clarissa is new to riding. I'll probably see them again in Chiang Mai... before they head back to KL and fly their bikes to Europe.


I came across the river (yet again) to visit the ancient Pre-Khmer ruins of Wat Phu.


There's a lot of similarities to the temples at Siem Reap.

The Bigfella
10-13-2012, 08:05 PM
I've got plenty more photos of the temple, but I've been told that my data SIM card may work in Cambodia... so I'll preserve a bit of capacity and see. I've got to get across the border first. Once again, the bike may make that "interesting". The accepted wisdom is to stamp the passport, get on the bike, ride and don't look back.

While doing that post above, the cruise boat that plies the Southern Mekong waters just went past. Maybe 80-100' long, two storey thing. I'll post a photo some time.

I've compiled a route that will take me down some small trails alongside the river. Time will tell whether its doable. It entails a few river crossings.

The bike has a flat front tyre, but I'm not in the mood to fix it. I pumped it and rode yesterday... will do the same again until I see a bike shop or it starts going down too fast. I've got 3 spare front and 2 spare rear tubes (21" fronts will also work in the 18" rear... but not vice versa. I've done it before, when I had a blowout north of Broken Hill)

So... a couple more photos from Wat Phu (aka Vat Phou and probably half a dozen other spellings, like everywhere over here)



Yeah - I climbed the damn thing wearing cordura/leather trousers - and my taped up boots.


OK... that's it. Time to pack and see how far those Chinese rear wheel bearings get. They aren't too flash... at about 250km on them.

10-13-2012, 09:26 PM
Terrific stuff Ian, I find those temples and their history fascinating.

10-14-2012, 01:42 AM

Amazing !

10-14-2012, 02:26 AM
An excellent narrative Ian. I reckun upla bin gon nativ eh?

The Bigfella
10-14-2012, 06:55 AM
Ban Pindong did remind me of a certain culinary style, purri.

I escaped from Laos today. Back in Cambodia (spent a bit over a week here a couple of years back). The friendly nature of the Cambodians hasn't changed. I love it.

I'll admit to being less than friendly in my last Laotian encounter... just a few km from the border. I went in to see the cascades, which are the largest in SE Asia... where the kilometre wide Mekong drops 15 metres. Its a lot of water. I arced up when faced with a sign that said Entry, locals 5,000 kip... foreigners 30,000 kip. I ended up throwing 5,000 at the guy's feet and riding in (he wouldn't take it out of my hand). They had a go at me at the falls too and we had a "discussion" about racism... although, I guess if they charge Cambodians as foreigners, maybe it isn't racism. Nothing pisses me off more than this sort of tripe. Its illegal in Thailand.

Anyhow... the day was long and good - I rode alongside the Mekong from Pakse to near the border. Did stick bridges, cable bridges, including one with a BIG sway, three small ferries and so on. Single track to no track in parts. Bumpy, muddy and every variety in between. Stopped at a temple fund raiser and just escaped after two Lao Lao shots that would have melted a breathalyser.

I'm reliant on wifi tonight... and my hotel doesn't have it. Its a religious holiday here, so can't get my USB stick activated.

I'll finish up the photos .... later.

Huge difference Laos to here btw. Flat here. Different nature to the people, different look too, in large part.

The Bigfella
10-14-2012, 08:34 AM
The Mekong



The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 05:32 AM
I'm in Kratie, Cambodia.... so I guess I better start another thread or re-name this one. The locals pronounce that Kraachae btw. I'm sitting on the balcony, appropriately enough at the Balcony Guesthouse... enjoying a magnificent sunset over the mighty Mekong.

It was "one of those days" this morning. Bought a fellow Aussie breakfast... and I'd bought her dinner last night too. Her scamming got up my nose a bit and I refused her request for a loan. The government have cut her unemployment benefits and her tour of Asia is turning ugly. Stupid woman (40yo). Thinks the world owes her a living.

Heh! Another patient transfer bike just went past. Three people on it, two adults and a kid. One of them on a drip bottle being carried on a stick. Second one I've seen today. Definitely cheaper than an ambulance.

So, I wheeled the bike out of the lobby this morning, pumped up the half flat tyre and decided that I'd replace the tube during a lay day in Kratie - before or after a Mekong cruise to see the dolphins. They appear to be making a comeback after the Khmer Rouge almost wiped them out... killing them and rendering them for their oil.

37km out, my front tube decided that it didn't want to hold air any more. I'd done 200+ on it yesterday, with only one pump up. It decided to do it on a 95kph corner... which was "interesting" to say the least. I wheeled in beside a house with "shop" out front and set to on it... with too much help from the locals. This is the second time I've had a local help me and the replacement tube has ended up pinched... which almost pitched me off again 15km down the road. They also did some other damage... and I had to keep stopping them. They were bashing away with a hammer, trying to get the axle in, but the disk was wedged outside the caliper... ughh.

Anyhow... I made it here, got a room and I'm smelling the roses. I bought 10 beers for the "helpers" and a soft drink for the kid who actually did help... and one of the women packed me off with a couple of banana leaf rolls of sticky rice stuffed with banana. It was lunch in the end. Lovely. Photos of all that lot another time.

Let's finish off Laos. Better not say that too loudly... there might be another Kissinger out there.

I know I mentioned this boat, but can't recall if I posted it. Its a racing boat.


They were filling the seams with epoxy here

and yesterday morning, they were out for a blast


Yep. 33 of them.... plus the coaches in another boat


Not a lot of freeboard there when they all dig in

One of the kids in the guesthouse restaurant yesterday. It turned out there were five of them plus the parents... all sleeping on a long bamboo mat on the restaurant floor. This one, the eldest, was my waitress. All kids work here.


.... and one more of the guys training... heading back upstream


The local tourist boat for the southern Mekong in Laos came past. The smoky looking humidity haze is apparent.


The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 05:42 AM
Speaking of smoke. There's plenty of rice being harvested now. They don't compost the rubbish.... they burn it


I had the odd interesting moment, trying to follow the Mekong south. This one took me through some paddocks and up some thorny single track


Lots of small bridges during the day... of varying quality. One of the cable suspension bridges was a shocker. I hit it at a reasonable pace and it did its best to pitch me off. The others were rock steady. The worst of the bridges had very thin planks and one gap of about 12" where three planks were missing.



Stick bridges are fun



10-15-2012, 05:46 AM
What a trip, thx for the pics and story. There must be a body of literature about the Mekong

The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 05:48 AM
I may as well finish off the bridge photos



They got better


There were three moving bridges too. This one was a rope pull


This one, back across the Mekong onto one of the islands was only 10,000 kip. Driven by a kid.



Hard to see it there, but the wheel was made of reinforcement rod and the steering column was a tree trunk

10-15-2012, 06:04 AM
Speaking of smoke. There's plenty of rice being harvested now. They don't compost the rubbish.... they burn it


Very strange indeed ! Cheap chemical fertiliser has some perverse spinoffs .

10-15-2012, 06:06 AM
I'd have been looking very carefully underneath a few of those bridges before taking a bike over .

The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 06:44 AM
I'd have been looking very carefully underneath a few of those bridges before taking a bike over .

Hell no. If you start doing that, you'd end up turning back.... You stop (sometimes)... look at it and then let rip. Don't do it too slow. Some of those, I'd not have gone over on the Super Enduro without carrying the luggage over first though.

10-15-2012, 07:17 AM
I drove across a wire suspension bridge in PNG once, then I had to go back across to get home. The thing dipped down at 30 degrees as you drove on then the hill in front kept getting steeper as you drove towards the other side. I came off fast and UP !

The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 07:30 AM
I came across this truck along the way... having a bit of trouble


... and the temple building fundraiser. Sometime in the future, my name will be on the wall. They write the donations up. I didn't twig to why they asked my name at first.


Its hard to convince the kids to get onto the bike... but once you do, they are a hero with the other kids. The 27 is there as a quasi Aussie flag. Its well known anywhere with tv


Another charcoal producer. They load it with wood, seal it off and burn the wood in a low oxygen environment to produce charcoal


The track got dodgy at times


and disappeared. I got directed around a washout by the locals, lost the GPS route, but eventually got sorted out

This was pretty typical. Service time. Dump the oil and fill it up again. Pity about the ground.


10-15-2012, 07:39 AM
Hell no. If you start doing that, you'd end up turning back.... You stop (sometimes)... look at it and then let rip. Don't do it too slow. Some of those, I'd not have gone over on the Super Enduro without carrying the luggage over first though.

Sounds like you might be keeping a few local bridge repairers well employed as you're traveling through......

The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 07:39 AM
It was Sunday and there were four distinct groups.... those working the rice paddies, those lounging around under their houses, the temple fundraisers and these.... community groups out repairing the roads at the end of the wet season.


I stopped for fluid intake and got mobbed, as usual. Cost me about 3 times as much, as I bought all the kids a small orange juice.


This is a kid going for his bath in the Mekong.


Its a big river by this point


I was watching this guy as I crossed the river. I saw him haul a lot of net, but didn't see any fish. There's no doubt they are there... the markets are full of some decent sized fish


Another crossing, to get off the (big) island. That's my ferry on the left.


The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 07:50 AM
Greg.... mate.... I tread lightly.... and never look back

That ferry wasn't exactly symetrical


Once off the island, it was a bitumen run for the border. I had to stop and take a snap of these little tackers, who were having fun in a buffalo wallow


This was the Mekong doing the big drop at the Khone Kha Pheng falls.


The falls are 1km wide... but its hard to see more than a bit at a time


Its sure thundering down....


.... and here we are at the exit point from Laos. Had to pay the cop to stamp my passport. $2.60. Not sure that's an official tax btw. If it isn't, its a breach of an Oz law...


The Bigfella
10-15-2012, 07:59 AM
Border control was at an old shack, but like most border crossings I've seen, big dollars are being spent on making things look flash....


All the Laos cops were in watching a kick boxing tournament on tv. One of them finally wandered out and opened the barrier. I loved the multi-use approach for the satellite dish


The Cambodian side was problematic, for reasons I'd rather not go into. I got directed to customs first... and I'd intended to ignore their existence. Luckily they were playing cards and I got waved over to the visa mob... and made it through unscathed. It could have been very, very ugly.

Cambodian roads and drivers are "interesting"



I made it through to whatever the name of the town was that I stayed at last night.... and ran into the fellow Aussie from hell


I'm coming back to Laos. I want to have a more leisurely ride up the HCM Trail before they destroy it. More village stays.

The Bigfella
10-16-2012, 01:06 AM
Since I'm going to have a lazy afternoon.... I'll stick with this thread.

I better update folks on Cambodia. The King is dead. Yesterday I believe. I didn't quite pick up on it at the market earlier on when a woman took my banknote (they use both their own currency and the US$ here)... she pointed to the King's image, made the sleeping sign (I use it often... two hands under the head) and pointed to the ground. Yeah, OK, so its an old banknote. Nope. Flags are half mast now.

I just hope I'm out of Thailand when it happens there. Could be anarchy there.

So, I've stayed on in Kratie, been out in a nice wooden boat and seen the dolphins and I've put (another) set of bearings in the rear wheel of the KTM. I'd scored one Japanese Koyo and one unbranded, presumably Chinese, bearing in Attapeu. The unbranded one was stuffed at 200km... but I've run it for 500. I've kept the Koyo as my now only spare. I'm not overly happy that the ones that have gone in are Chinese. I've lost one of my spare fronts too.... so its fingers crossed from here. The roads aren't good, so they cop a real pounding, but it seems the monsoon is over.... I haven't had rain since I got to Pakse, and it was raining every day (or night) up until then.

The spots for the dolphins are where the river is a bit quieter. There's a broadwater about 15km north of Kratie and that's the local spot... across the other side of the Mekong around some flooded islands. The boats are all pretty much the same and its a regulated enterprise. I pulled into the carpark and a cop came over and told me, nicely, to go buy a ticket AusAid have a sign up, so presumably Oz had some input into saving the dolphins.

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered thousands and rendered them down for oil. Its lucky they survived. Wiki says there are between 78 and 91 of the freshwater population of the Irrawaddy Dolphin, all in a 190km stretch of the Mekong in Cambodia and Laos.... and they are regarded as critically endangered.

Here's "my" boat. Just me. Its $7 a head for 3 or more... or $9 if you are by yourself. I was impressed by my boat skipper's attitude and unobtrusiveness with the dolphins. He killed the engine early and sculled us around... and even in the quieter areas, there's a fair flow to the river.


Some locals fishing with rods near the dolphins


They are hard buggers to photograph. They are slow swimmers, stay down a long time.... sometimes many minutes and don't show much of themselves mostly. You have to be quick when you hear them blow.


There were at least three in the area, maybe more. They are slate grey on top and a much lighter colour underneath


They rarely show the tail fluke... only when doing a deep dive (up o 12 minutes)


There's two in this shot too...


The Bigfella
10-16-2012, 01:11 AM
Here's another one. Very blunt head, no beak


and a view of another boat


The planks were all chainsaw hewn

10-16-2012, 05:12 AM
Thanks Ian, the dolphin shots are great , I like that yellow boat too. Half your luck !

10-16-2012, 07:53 AM
A bit of a warning Ian: I've just been watching quite a wonderful episode of "Poh's kitchen lends a hand", about the: "
Cambodian Children's Fund in Phnom Penh's notorious garbage dump Steung Meanchey. CCF - created by Australian Scott Neeson".

She finished up the episode saying that she'd heard somewhere that "You will fall in love with Cambodia.......but it will break your heart"

....and it seemed quite true for her at least.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
10-16-2012, 08:14 AM
That was the ex-King. His son is now King. The Monarchy is semi-elective.

I must try to find Bob Couttie's description of the Cambodian constitution - basically, it is a Leninist dictatorship combined with parliamentary democracy and a semi-elective monarchy. Or, to put it another way, its a consititutional monarchy with universal suffrage as long as you don't argue with Hun Sen.

The Bigfella
10-16-2012, 11:40 AM
Yes, I picked up on that a bit today Andrew.... I've been on the piss out of town a bit with the guy who runs the guesthouse here and half a dozen of his mates. We took a slab and 5kg of ice... and some local snacks. Added to that was a whole heap more snacks... everything from garlic cloves (I bet I reek), dried deer (it stank but tasted good), fried catfish and so on. Then it was off to the Karaoke.

Cambodia stole my heart a couple of years ago...... and yeah, it can break it too. Not so sure about this town though....

I might have to check that dump out... after seeing the one at Mae Sot in Thailand.

Andrew... is Bob back here yet? If so I'll head to the beach, if not... to PP to try to get some spare parts.

Andrew Craig-Bennett
10-16-2012, 01:49 PM
Ian - Bob still grounded in Manila waiting for the British Consulate in HK to send him his new passport - they debited the card for it on the 11th so it ought not to be too much longer... so I guess its sunny PP for the spares...

The Bigfella
10-19-2012, 01:03 AM
Well, spares would be nice... but the KTM shop here is still setting up... and they didn't want to place a spares order for me. Such is life. I'll source them cheaper through my normal sources I think and bring them back with me.

The ride here was "interesting", as usual. I did a ferry crossing of the Mekong, just south of Kratie, and followed the river for about 3 hours on local roads of varying quality. I bottomed out the rear suspension numerous times, as I was hammering it a bit. That's 14" of suspension travel IIRC.... maybe only 13". Part of the issue is I'm down to no glasses again. I've still got the ones I bought 5 weeks ago, but the mud and slush, etc has them so scratched now that I see better without them. Hammering along the track, one occasionally misses seeing a deep hole in time.... ker bloody thump. Ouch. I'm thinking I may need a rear shock rebuild sometime soon.

Some photos from the last few days. Gecko lizards are common in SE Asia... sometimes making a nuisance of themselves in your room at night. This bloke was unusual. About 12" long. Eating crickets in the bar at my guesthouse in Kratie.


and here's something you don't see every day. A better mousetrap. Maybe. He's smearing contact cement all over this... and presumably he adds some sort of tempter to it


That was out at Preak's mates place... where we sat in the kitchen, took in the view... the kitchen has two open walls.... and chewed the fat


Speaking of which... deer jerky


Dried shrimp


.... and a bit of pork on its way to market


I saw another trailer behind a bike yesterday and I was trying to decide whether it had 3 cows in it or 4. 3 I think.

The Bigfella
10-19-2012, 01:53 AM
Riding south from Stung Treng further north in Cambodia, the landscape had that raped rainforest look to it.


If this next photo isn't shaky, it should be.


There's not a lot of air in that tyre and I'd just wrestled it around a 95 kph corner. It sure as hell wasn't a smooth line around the corner. I really did go close to dropping it... at speed. Silly prick. I don't know how it stayed on the rim. No trouble breaking the bead to change it.

Worked up a sweat none the less


But the locals wanted to help. Here's a tube being pinched...


Terrorising the local kids


Thank you beers for the lads


The Bigfella
10-19-2012, 02:20 AM
One of the women came out with these two rolls of sticky rice. They were terrific. One had a cooked banana core... red in colour, the other some sort of bean mix.


All packed in banana leaf wrapping.

Here I am... 15 km up the road, doing it all again.


Hit the brake to slow down for the town and nearly pitched it again on a flat front

They do love their weird statues in Asia. I think this one is a pigeon crapping on the world


Two different styles of net fishing on the Mekong. This first one was a boat just out from my guesthouse in Kratie


Small boat, small net.

And, a bigger setup from the river yesterday, between Kratie and Phnom Penh


The track was reasonable in places yesterday... but none of the wet season damage had been repaired, so it was holed, rutted and bumpy


The Bigfella
10-19-2012, 02:30 AM
I saw a fair few of these in one area. I'm presuming they are for storing cattle fodder or for drying things. Its mud daubed woven bamboo. Open at the bottom


It really is like stepping back 100 years in time


A bit more modern here... one of the utlilitarian farm trucks... with its chugging diesel and lots of school kids on pushbikes on their way home


I've seen dozens of these shelters erected on roads this last week. All for the religious ceremonies going on here


My water bottle punctured, so I stopped to drink it. A couple of kids came up looking for money I think, but I just said G'day. Then Mum turned up and grabbed my arm. She wouldn't let go. Kept holding one finger up... presumably asking for a dollar. Quite persistent. Not a tourist area, so I dunno.


Quite a lot of traffic in places... then this. Hardly anyone. My map here's crap, so I was just asking people at intersections which way it was to Phnom Penh by this stage. I ended up near half way to Siem Reap, I see now, looking at a better map.


The Bigfella
10-19-2012, 02:36 AM
At one t intersection, I got told both ways to PP. I asked a few more people and took the most popular answer. That's when I went towards Siem Reap for a while. Not an issue.

I went through a few rubber plantations


More later. Computers having trouble

10-19-2012, 03:47 AM
I'm not sure what it is, but I find something rather pleasant about rubber plantations.

The Bigfella
10-20-2012, 06:42 PM
Yeah, I think rubber is close to a lot of guy's hearts.

I ended up doing about 5 1/2 hours in the saddle on the way to PP from Kratie. About 3 hours on local roads and then I plugged PP into the GPS and headed where told to by Mr Garmin.... down the main roads, which are pretty sad affairs. LOTS of potholes and the traffic is crazy in the way that is Asia. Drivers who overtake around corners or pull out to overtake while you are going past them, drivers and riders who simply pull onto the roads.... kids, animals, leftover stuff all over the road and so on.

I had a couple of bikes pull out of nowhere onto the road in front of me from the other side. I'm hurtling along at 95 kph and suddenly two bikes are coming across at right angles. I ended up going through the 6' gap between them... with half my speed knocked off. I could have gone into the dirt instead, but sheesh. A Lexus did the same thing to me at a petrol station... just pulled out, so I gave him the finger. I got the feeling he was chasing me... lights on, etc (daytime lights are illegal here)... and I thought I heard a siren, so I got into it and left him well behind. Another driver just pulled out to overtake while I was overtaking him... and I had my thumb on the horn... so I gave his mirror a bash. It was quite funny really... his female passenger threw her knees up and her arms up over her head. Sorry luv... didn't mean to scare you... its him that needs to know he's got a mirror for a reason.

Most times when an oncoming vehicle... car, truck, bus... is on my side of the road now, I lift my boot up and out... so that its at mirror height. A lot of them pull back a few inches which gives a bit more room... but the odd few will swerve at you. I really do prefer the back roads. The sights are interesting though


I reckon Ive seen these vans with at least 40 people in and on them. About 10 hanging out the back, 6-8 on top and the rest crowded inside. I'll try and get a better photo. There's heaps of them out there... I've even seen a passenger in the front steering... with about 6 or so crammed in the front, and the driver texting while someone else steers. Normally the driver just texts and steers

The Mekong floodplain was quite extensive coming into PP. There were dozens of motorbikes beside the road with poles that had dead birds for sale hanging from them. Damned if I know what they are. Beak is a bit duck-like but the feet aren't webbed.



It felt a bit funny when my GPS delivered me to a street that I recognised from a couple of years ago. I pulled up at the same cafe where I'd watched a world cup soccer game with my tuktuk driver.... but gave up on them when my noodles hadn't arrived after 40 minutes. The tea and coffee was good though. The staff moved my bike....


I'd parked in front of the next cafe. Bit naughty that, it would seem.

I'm actually enjoying Phnom Penh this time. I didn't two years ago. I saw young kids offering it for sale then. Haven't seen that this time. I've seen more adults doing it though. There's quite a bar scene here now. I've got a hotel well away from that - down towards the S-21 Toul Sieng Genocide Museum. Haven't revisited it yet. Might do. Might not.

My hotel, the Starwood, is a good 3-4 star guesthouse . 1st floor room (a bonus) $15. No girls in the foyer... a good, relaxing place. Bike security seems OK... they park it in behind other bikes and there's staff there 24 hours a day. Nice local noodles just around the corner for brekkie (2 coffees and noodles with meatballs is $3.50). Two massage places... one's a club affair, with Lexii and Range Rovers... I had to go there last night as the other place was flat out. Cost me $7 for a sauna and one hour massage. The other place was $8 for 2 hours the other day. No sleaze at either (sign at the club says "No drugs, no arms, no sex trafficking"

The town's still a bit of a hassle with the extended funeral for the King. I got through 6 out of 8 police barricades I encountered the other day. I ran one of the outer ones yesterday and ignored the police whistles.... and got through them all after that. S

pent yesterday afternoon at Paddy's Rice Sports Bar and watched the rugby. I went to the Russian Market in the morning. There's some brilliant shopping there. Some of the best I've seen. I bought some Mont Blanc pens as bag stuffers for Christmas.... and 4 more wheel bearings (at $6.50 for the lot, I'm not sure they'll ever go in the bike unless absolutely needed).

The Bigfella
10-25-2012, 09:32 PM
Its a funny feeling. After 15 months, 10 of them on the road, I've finally reached the end point of this trip.

Sort of.

I made it to Siem Reap yesterday afternoon. Two dusty days on the road from Phomh Penh to here.... not in a straight line, of course. I stopped at Kampong Thom so that I could take a morning stroll through the three Sambor Prei Kuk compounds. These are the start of it all in relation to the monuments that would eventually include Angkor Wat. Sambor Prei Kuk is pre-Angkorian, started in 609 and lucky to survive. The US Air Force dropped 200 bombs on it in 1971-72, destroying a lot of the temples. What's left is still amazing. Photos later.

I took some back roads from there and eventually rejoined the main highway for the last 100km or so. Lots of water out there on the plains... most people in it one way or the other... with fishing nets, scoops or whatever... chasing protein.

I've caught up with my mate, who's flat out with work at the moment, but we had dinner and I'll get out to see his family this evening. He's still got his old tuk tuk from when I met him a couple of years ago, but its his new van that's bringing home the money. There's 10,000 drivers in this town now... mostly in tuk tuks.

Saw an interesting side of things when we went out for dinner last night. Four of us to a "local" restaurant as he called it. When the bill came... four dishes, two buckets of beer (12 small bottles)... it was 180,000 kip.... $45. I commented that it was a bit much... he asked for it, looked at it, said something slightly heated to the waitress, who took it away. I asked what he said... "writing not clear". The bill came back... 80,000 kip. $20. The difference was "local prices". If anyone is coming here... and its well worth seeing... and wants a guide who will look after them, let me know.

I said I'd "sort of" reached the end of the trip. I'm going to potter around here for a few days, store the bike (petrol out, new oil, bit of oil in the cylinder, up on blocks) and then somehow get back to Chiang Mai. I've got a couple more rides to do up there... including finishing the Mai Hong Son loop... with its 1864 corners... and I've got to figure out how to get the big bike home. There's some bureaucracy involved and in the end it may be easier to fly it out. Many guys in the past can't even get shipping agents to return a phone call. Time will tell.

OK... time to book a ticket, then maybe upload some photos.

The Bigfella
10-25-2012, 10:11 PM
Latest route map. Last two days is dark grey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.


Phil Y
10-25-2012, 11:27 PM
Incredible journey Ian, bloody well done mate.

10-26-2012, 12:09 AM
Thanks for sharing this with us all Ian, it's been a great experience to watch from the sidelines!!!

The Bigfella
10-26-2012, 02:39 AM
Still a bit to come yet guys. I'm finding the wifi as thin as the beer at the moment... otherwise I'd post some photos. Here's some tasters from yesterday.

How's this


That was on the main highway... and I saw a couple of them like that. Its a Cambodian semi-trailer.

Then, there's this. If its sunny, you need a hat. Just grab a branch from the nearest tree.


That most certainly wasn't on the highway. Well off it in fact. It was back to kids looking up, seeing me and fleeing into the paddy fields. Sometimes, not always.

When I came back to the highway, I found this...


The load, including people, extended a couple of metres out the back of the van. There were 4 motorbikes out there... a couple with people sitting on them. More on the roof. Maybe 30 or more people in a 12 seater van.

One of the temples I mentioned


This damage inside one isn't from the USAF... its been raided for the gold under the floor... the stonework destoyed by a bomb


That's the female representative part of the show. The male part, umm, plugs in above

I'll post the full setup at some stage.

It was good to catch up with Jeat. He's a guy with the right attitude.... and he's as crappy a subject for a photo as me...


Andrew Craig-Bennett
10-26-2012, 05:49 AM
Good stuff.

The Bigfella
10-27-2012, 07:23 AM
Thanks Andrew. I think I'm ready for a holiday. My Cambodian friend just rang and I suggested a quiet night... and he agreed. Speaking of him... here's Jeat and Chin Chin

She's 8 weeks old.


and is giving him a bit of a hard time at night.

Here's the whole crew. I'm not sure whether to say this is in the kitchen or the garage... because its both


Jeat's settled down to married life since I was here June two years ago... during his last throes as a single man. Mei Mei was on the way and he wasn't too keen on settling down, but he's well there now. That's his original tuk tuk in the background. We went out last night in his van, one of the many Ssanyong vans around here now. He's keeping it and the tuk tuk busy.

Its not an easy life though... he moved here because Mei Mei was too active around the main road he lived on before. This place is one room... and he was insisting my bike go in there, with the four of them. Um, no mate... the bike will go outside thanks.. I'll buy a big chain and a drop cloth.

We went to a live music venue last night, one aimed at Cambodians, not tourists and were having a nice dinner, watching the singers when there was a scream and a crashing noise. A half dozen or so guys left and security put a human wall around a private room that was only about 5 metres from Jeat and I... and a cleaning team went to work. Turns out a cop smacked one of the hostesses in the mouth.... knocking a table flying in the process. Nice chap. Nothing came of it... and I doubt the cop(s) paid their bill.

Among all the singing, there was a middle aged woman come on... not dressed well, but when she started to sing.... her voice and songs were chillingly beautiful. We and many others tipped her.. the only singer to get money btw. She was a landmine victim.. no feet, on crutches.... singing to support her family. There's one new landmine victim every day in this country...


That's the clearance sign at the temple I visited today. They cleared 1.5 million square metres there, which isn't much, pulling over 400 mines and over 800 UXO items. There's an awful lot of mines and UXO in the wider area.

Nice temple. Beng Melea. It was built in the 14th century by the same king who built Angkor Wat. Its 63km from Siem Reap, so its less visited than most. Its sprawling... covering one square kilometre and quite heavily impacted by vegetation. Reminiscent of Ta Prohm (Tomb Raiders).




The Bigfella
10-28-2012, 01:36 AM
I'll sneak in some more photos while I'm holed up in a restaurant, waiting for the F1 to come on.

This is the jungle track I backed out of yesterday. Shoes and cotton trousers wasn't the gear to be riding in up 8' rock shelves... with 20km to go to the destination.


That, and the buggered sprocket on the bike convinced me to back down this trail.


The bike is still OK around town, but I'm taking it easy. I pulled up next to some traffic cops the other day. They weren't the slightest bit interested in checking out a bike with no rego plate.


This is the outside moat at Beng Melea (spelt at least 3 different ways in things I've seen)


I've seen heaps of old boats semi-submerged or abandoned as I've gone around.


Another typical warning sign. A branch on the road. In this case, go to the left... you die.... its a big, big hole.


The Bigfella
10-28-2012, 02:19 AM
I've uploaded some more from the Boang Melea temple. This was built in the 14th Century.


A Buddha or two among the rubble


I wasn't over enthused at walking on carvings.. there were obvious signs of wear... but it was an official guide who took me through. He was damn good too, pointing out some decent angles





The Bigfella
10-28-2012, 02:29 AM
Crocodile in the centre


Hey Hey, We're the Monkeys


I'm loading from the thumbnails, but I'm pretty sure this is the rhinocerous. There were also elephants, tortoises, etc


This one of a pair of the small libraries. Also two large ones


There's lots of Chinese tourists in town. Not lots of anyone out at this temple, but the Chinese made up the bulk. This guy was from Nanjing, where my daughter completed her TCM degree... spending 4 months there. She loved Nanjing.


The Bigfella
10-28-2012, 02:34 AM
Some of the blocks could use some re-aligning.


Some Roundup would help too.



.... and for something totally different... this lady was trying to earn a few cents selling waterlilly buds at a service station.


Andrew Craig-Bennett
10-28-2012, 03:32 AM
Lovely, thank you. Am thinking K and I should pay a visit some time...

The Bigfella
10-29-2012, 09:32 AM
Definitely worth it Andrew. Definitely.

I was out on Tonle Sap today - got a couple of hundred shots of various wooden boats and got to drive the tourist boat (did that last time I was here too)... I was quite surprised that they let me bring it up the channel... albeit with lots of piloting instructions. I'll see if I can upload some later.

Here's the road heading out of Siem Reap this morning. It gets a lot worse than this.


The Bigfella
10-29-2012, 11:18 AM
I'm way behind with the updates... but at least I've got most of the photos that I want uploaded. Here's a couple from today. I rode out to a small town east of Siem Reap, near Tonle Sap, the big lake that dominates a map of Cambodia.

This lake is 26 times more productive than the North Sea apparently... one of the most fertile fishing grounds on the planet. Those upstream will stuff it eventually. I read yesterday of another 3 dams being built in Laos... despite not having approvals. Big hydro stuff.

Here's a boat being repaired


... and it would seem someone has a sense of humour


On the water again...


This kid pushed off the side of out boat... about a 40'er, jumped up onto the fixed rat tail of the boat... with its exposed, spinning 14" prop.... and dived back in, while we were moving.


Local secondary school



The Bigfella
11-03-2012, 01:12 AM
Geez, I am behind, aren't I. Hell's bells, I'm in another country now.

I'm back in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The plan is to get the big bike shipping arranged, catch up with Lew's mate down the road a tad and ride the Mae Hong Son loop, with its 1864 curves. I've done part of it, so I'll take the dirt truck road and pick up the rest of the tar. That loop takes me to the long neck village. There's also a couple of festivals here toward the end of the month (27th) - one entailing thousands of lanterns being released on hot air balloons at night, the other involving Hmong downhill cart races - although they are both on the same day I think and a bit apart. I've got to fly out by the 30th. All that is as close to a plan as I've done the whole trip....

I'm taking it easy for a few days. No booze, bland food, little activity. Damn near killed myself the other day. Food allergy. It hit me on the flight out of Cambodia to Bangkok... and my emergency pack ended up in the luggage after stuffups with carry-on gear. Late stage 1 treatment meant I got into stage 2 and the dreaded steroids. I was on the wind down of those last night and got hit again with a renewed and more serious attack. Never had that before... but have had anaphylaxis from it 10 years back which was intensive care hospital stuff for a couple of days. I was already having contra-indications from the steroids that'd have sent me to the hospital in Oz, but I just threw some more in and made it through, so far, but its not over yet. One of the staff here got upgraded to nurse duty for a while... sitting there with 5 Epipens lined up after a quick training session. I must remember to tip her. It was damn nice of her to do it for me.

I'd have been flying to Oz right now if it wasn't for all that. There's been a bit of death and destruction going on. My Dad's eldest sister died the other day and I'd have gone to the funeral but for trying to stay breathing myself. I caught up with two other guys from Coffs Harbour last night (I was born and bred there for most of my younger years). Both here independently. Small world stuff. I used to race against one's father in Kittycats as a teenager (12' racing catamaran) and the other guy knew a mate of mine from many a year ago. Told me he was killed about 18 months back in a car crash. To make up the trio of death and destruction, the guy I bought the 525 off, Justin, went over the bars of his bike at speed the other day and has just got out of hospital, having had plates inserted into his arm.

Enough of the crap. Good stuff. The KTM 950 Super Enduro had sat gathering dust for 2 months. I drained a bit from each fuel tap... no water. Good. Cranked her up and she's running sweet. I haven't ridden her yet, but hopefully all the carby jets are clear.

So, medical emergencies aside, I'll see how I go getting some more Cambodia photos up. I've posted a few of these on other threads, but bear with me... I'll bring it all together here.

Siem Reap is a bustling town. Its got the high end places (Park Hyatt is opening in 2013 - but there's plenty of others)... right down to the $3 backpacker rooms. I went in for the lower midrange... $18 a night IIRC, including brekkie. There was a pool there, but my swimming trunks didn't make the cull for the smaller bike. Night entertainment ranges from dance restaurants, high end stuff, through local-oriented open air places, live music (mostly the hostesses singing a song and trying to get noticed) through to Pub Street... aimed at the lower end tourists. Here's the first of the Halloween parades



I can't see all of this thread on the bandwidth here, but I don't think I included this. Its Jeat with the van I helped him into a while back. He's using both it and his tuk tuk, depending on bookings. Being Cambodian, he loans it to his mate if he gets a booking... as his mate did with his car for Jeat.


There's plenty of these Ssangyong vans running around... most with Mercedes Benz badges somewhere on them. Siem Reap has 10,000 drivers now... most in tuk tuks and there's a lot who don't make much of a living. Jeat had work every day for the week I was there, so I'm calling that a good result.

There's a lot of poverty and destruction still in Cambodia. I spoke at length with a Danish shipping guy who has a charitable foundation and he's built a couple of schools there. He was a bit cynical about the situation, but with good cause. An example.. a guy who's name I've forgotten, introduced high yield rice to Vietnam... turned them from an importer of rice to and exporter fairly quickly. Came to Cambodia and gave up after 8 years. The Cambodians introduced the high yield rice, but only planted half as much... why do more work than necessary. Also, lots of stuff being done as concessions for other contracts - build us a school so we look good in our statistics as part of the deal we do with you on xxxx deal... but then it doesn't get used, that sort of thing. He and I shared our views on NGOs and the problems in the sector. Smart guy... (thinks like me). I'll make contact with him again later. We covered off the issue of girls coming into the garments sector and ending up on their backs in nearby whorehouses too. This whole family issue - arranged marriages, bride price stuff creates a lot of downstream issues.

There's lots of professional beggars around the place. Many landmine victims. There's still 30 a month being killed / maimed, down from 300 a month a while back. The UXO / landmine problem is longstanding... back to the American war, the Vietnamese ousting of Pol Pot, troubles with Thailand and so on. I had some good discussions with folks, including victims, about it.... but that's not for here so much as elsewhere.

Professional beggars



On a happier note, I met a girl that I'm 95% certain I know from 2+ years back


Back then, I'd just arrived at Angkor Wat and she came up... "Mister, Mister, you are losing your money" I had a $50 note falling out of my pocket. Her honesty was amazing. Most places, they'd have followed me and snaffled it as it fell. She's still there, working a water / hat / umbrella stand for her boss. I asked her how much to get her into her own stand, but it was a bit beyond me. Another time, mayb

11-03-2012, 03:29 AM
Cheezes Ian, that does sound like a bit of a harrowing experience with the allergic reaction!!! Just as well you knew what was going on and had the gear to deal with it, albeit a bit late!!

11-03-2012, 05:44 AM

I'm glad you survived the allergy Ian, that was a close call!

Thanks for the photo above, I think it's my favourite from all of your posts and there is stiff competition. It's very, very good !

The Bigfella
11-03-2012, 05:56 AM
Thanks guys.... haven't survived it yet btw... its ongoing and building again.... just above the throat. Always a nice feeling... not. I'll test out their medical system again if this keeps up.

I've got more on-water photos from there, I'll work on later....

The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 08:17 PM
Let's see if I can finish off the Cambodian photos, as I've got some nice ones from the northwest corner of Thailand that I'd like to add. I snuck out of Thailand on Monday, but couldn't get into Burma. We did get a look into the Shan state though.

So... here's me driving the tourist boat back up the channel from the flooded forest near Siem Reap. I'd wanted to see how Tonle Sap changed in the wet season


The controls on this boat were a lot more advanced than the one I drove a couple of years back. This one had a proper pedal box.


At a guess, this is some sort of tourist development under construction



The villagers here are in the water left right and centre.


The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 08:21 PM
Every house had several of this style of boat tied up to it




Most of the powered boats were inboards, rather than rat tails



The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 08:29 PM
Like I said.... in the water everywhere


Not much paint used


This one shows the construction


In the dry season, these houses are 20' and more above water level


I'm not sure what the story is with these little shacks. I was told by Ellie that up in northern Laos little huts like this are retreats for lovers. Here?


The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 08:34 PM
It was nice to see waterbirds in their natural environment... rather than in the cooking fire


I showed the secondary school in an earlier post. This is the primary school


Me driving again.... headed back up the channel to the boat depot


It was wall to wall boats up there


The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 09:04 PM
OK... this is getting difficult on the small 'puter... so forgive me if I come up with duplicates.







I'll leave it at that with Tonle Sap. There's more, of course... but working with thumbnails is a nightmare. I'll move on to the temples. I've met several guys in Chiang Mai who have been riding in Cambodia for years. They've put me on to some interesting areas to visit on my next trip. One guy started riding there when Pol Pot was still knocking over the locals. A ride that is now 3 - 4 hours used to take him several days.

A few things I want to see are the pyramid temple (only one in SE Asia I believe) and the elephant sculpture that's a difficult single-track ride to access... and then I want to have a shot at the smuggler's track through the Cardamoms. That one's best done with a riding partner so that there's someone on fire watch all night to keep the bitey things at bay.

The Bigfella
11-13-2012, 09:15 PM
Again... sorry if I've posted these before, but the technology is a struggle at times. I went to an internet cafe to try and get things done on a big screen and ended up losing 90 minutes worth of composition... so gave up.

The temples I posted earlier are outlying ones... a fair way from Siem Reap. Boeng Melea is a day trip. The ones below are cycling distance from Siem Reap if you are so inclined. I did it first time, two years ago in Jeat's tuktuk. This time I did it on my own, but met Jeat for lunch.

Let's kick off with the big one. Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world. Well worth a visit.




The carvings are incredible




11-14-2012, 12:48 AM
Stunning stuff!

The Bigfella
11-14-2012, 09:21 AM
Thanks... there's more to come.

The next week might be interesting, as I'm looking good for a charity ride back into Laos. I've been to Hongsa in Laos twice and this would be the third time. There's three villages there that we are looking to get aid to. Two of them are only reachable by boat. 800 people all up. Very poor people. Clothes and blankets, basic stuff. Looks like we've got about $8k so far... $10 a person, but that's a start.

Meanwhile... I've still got bikes (and me) to get home.... and after an "insufficient funds" message at the bank, I've been enjoying the vagaries of international transfers.....

11-14-2012, 10:48 AM
All I can say is wow.

Paul Pless
11-14-2012, 10:59 AM
All I can say is wow.I keep saying that to myself whenever I read this thread.

The Bigfella
11-14-2012, 11:14 AM
There's an open invite guys.... bit late in this trip now though....

I'll be back.... and no... no tour guide stuff, no fees, no nuthin' like that. Anyone wants to come along... organise yourself and a bike. Be prepared to sleep anywhere, eat anything, drink anything.

Just wait till we see the carved elephant. I've seen a photo.... just hoping I can get to it.

Really hoping I can get to Laos next week too. Tomorrow should be crunch day on that.

Lew Barrett
11-14-2012, 11:35 AM
Great reportage Ian. Let me know if you get to Richard or not. I owe him a call. Our trip was on again, off gain, now back on.

11-14-2012, 04:25 PM
I think it's more than just the pictures. It's the adventurous spirit of a middle aged guy getting on a dirt bike and exploring SE Asia. I think there is a little voice in most of us here saying, "damn, I would sure like to do that." :)

11-14-2012, 08:04 PM
So how are those little boats in post# 201 powered? I meant to ask before but I assumed the dragontail motors.

The Bigfella
11-14-2012, 08:32 PM
So how are those little boats in post# 201 powered? I meant to ask before but I assumed the dragontail motors.

The first boat in post 201 has a larger diesel in it. I didn't get a close look at any, but they appear to be an east-west setup... although it may just be the diesel tank on top of the engine.

The others have a small petrol engine - I saw a lot of 5hp Honda engines around, so probably that or a Chinese copy of it - and if you look at the second last photo, the one with the girl paddling, you can see the tube at the stern - minus the shaft and prop on that boat. See below:


The Bigfella
11-15-2012, 09:53 AM
OK, its confirmed now... I'm back into Laos next Thursday... which is a bit tight, given its only a week before I fly home.

I'm doing a Chan Chouy Noi charity ride with some friends. Rossi came around tonight and with Phil, we tied down some details. I'll be riding, as will Phil, but we are taking two utes loaded with blankets and kids clothing for three remote villages near Hongsa. The first is an hour and a half up a dirt road, the next two are accessible only by boat. We are taking blankets and kids clothing for the coming winter (and yes... it gets cold there).

These are working elephant camp villages with a total of 800 people... about 470 kids, somewhat off the beaten track, so with limited opportunities for revenue and very, very poor. We have Laos government support and with FIM (motorcycle racing's organising body) support, enough money for this trip (about $8k).
Everything about this trip is transparent... no sucking funds out for "expenses" etc... and all participants cover the costs. A lot of people here are getting a bad taste in their mouth with charities and charity events that are money making ventures or dependent on various conditions (think religion).
A key motivator of this trip is to give something back. The Lao people are incredibly welcoming and ask nothing in return.

11-15-2012, 10:10 AM
OK, its confirmed now... I'm back into Laos next Thursday... which is a bit tight, given its only a week before I fly home.

I'm doing a Chan Chouy Noi charity ride with some friends. Rossi came around tonight and with Phil, we tied down some details. I'll be riding, as will Phil, but we are taking two utes loaded with blankets and kids clothing for three remote villages near Hongsa. The first is an hour and a half up a dirt road, the next two are accessible only by boat. We are taking blankets and kids clothing for the coming winter (and yes... it gets cold there).

These are working elephant camp villages with a total of 800 people... about 470 kids, somewhat off the beaten track, so with limited opportunities for revenue and very, very poor. We have Laos government support and with FIM (motorcycle racing's organising body) support, enough money for this trip (about $8k).
Everything about this trip is transparent... no sucking funds out for "expenses" etc... and all participants cover the costs. A lot of people here are getting a bad taste in their mouth with charities and charity events that are money making ventures or dependent on various conditions (think religion).
A key motivator of this trip is to give something back. The Lao people are incredibly welcoming and ask nothing in return.
Good on y'all.

Do you know what is out drying in the last pic in post 201? Shrimp?

11-15-2012, 08:08 PM
Thanks Ian. Good luck in Laos. It is a good thing that you do.

The Bigfella
11-17-2012, 11:42 PM
Yes... the last photo in 201 is drying shrimp.

There was a fair bit of that going on. I've mentioned before I think that Tonle Sap is regarded as one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world... 26 times more productive than the North Sea (and no, I don't have a reference for that...). I really fear for the future of these people. Laos and China in particular are building dozens of dams on the Mekong - I've seen three under construction myself. The Tonle Sap River is just a piddling thing by comparison to the Mekong... which, when in flood during the monsoon, flushes into Lake Tonle Sap from the bottom end... normally the draining point... and pushing massive loads of nutrients in.

I love the Mekong. I'll be back on it next weekend in Laos.

However.... back to Siem Reap, Cambodia.

This sort of thing isn't unusual in Asia. Here it a 30+kmh free ride for a pushbike. Often its another motorbike


Note the flat roads.

After the trials, tribulations and mountains of Laos, I found Cambodia almost, well, boring. I had a hard time with that. I'd loved it two years ago and here I was finding it a slog. I'd hammered myself too and I think the slackening off of effort, combined with a gut buster session in Phnom Penh that sapped me further, I ended up slothing a bit in Siem Reap for a few days. The exact opposite of last time I was there. I was amazed at how different my two separate weeks in the same place were, separated by two years.

I eventually got my sh!t together and got out to the main temples, as evidenced by some photos above. I got there too late for the first day to get a ticket, but had a poke around anyhow. The next day, my last full day there... it rained. As it turned out, that increased my interest. I was covering the same temples that I'd spent three full days climbing over just two years before... but now it was totally different. Besides.... I wanted to take some dirt bike photos with the temples.

Some folks on bikes have been refused entrance, including some friends of mine recently and they've had to get stroppy to get in. I don't know why, but I have never encountered these situations. Must be my charming personality?

Back when these temples were in their heyday, I believe Angkor Wat was the largest city in the world... one million people - much larger than 15th century London and the like. Its amazing to come back so many hundreds of years after that civilisation collapsed and see the remnants



Ahh found one with a drowned rat in it, rather than a KTM


This one's inside one of the galleries at Angkor Wat


as is this


The Bigfella
11-17-2012, 11:52 PM
Angkor Wat would take a week alone to figure out how to photograph it properly. I pretty much raced through it this time and grabbed some happy snaps. I'd love to see Emily spend some time here with a camera....


That's the main part of a very large complex. IIRC its something like 65 or 67 metres tall. A damn lot of stone in there... and its really quite steep up the steps. There's no access up the original steps now... there's a proper set of wooden stairs (very steep still) around the other side. Letting tourists up here would result in a lot of fatalities (there have been some at other temples)


I get the impression that these damaged structures will eventually be restored. There were rumours of steep increases in ticket prices.... perhaps to fund it.




One more for my roof tiles series


The Bigfella
11-18-2012, 12:58 AM
I think I got a few of those photos in the wrong order.... and I really should stop taking photos of a bike with no rego plate in front of the wallopers.

Moving on to Ta Prohm, this is a Bayon style temple from the late 12th, early 13th century. Its a very moving place, with the massive trees covering parts of the temple.

Another from the roof tile series


To give the following pic some scale, I'd say the building is 25' high here... at a guess.




I could stand up in this doorway



11-18-2012, 01:19 AM
Some folks on bikes have been refused entrance, including some friends of mine recently and they've had to get stroppy to get in. I don't know why, but I have never encountered these situations. Must be my charming personality?

I was flicking through channels before going to bed the other night and saw a bunch of blokes in front of that Dove statue so watched for a few minutes. Turned out to be a group of blokes screaming through Cambodia filming for "Bloke TV" (or some name like that). They didn't seem like a bad bunch of guys but they also didn't seem to be showing much in the way of respect or genuine interest in where they were or the people. Seemed more like a "conquest" type of trip than an "exploration" type of trip, so I can understand perhaps some reluctance to allow some folks on bikes entrance. I can't imagine how getting stroppy would help anyone in the future who visits on a bike, great way to tar everyone with a shyte coated brush.

The Bigfella
11-18-2012, 01:21 AM
A bit of nostalgia. Here's a reunion dinner I had with a group of local lads I met two years ago.... when my tuktuk driver took me out to their village (yeah, the American lady is a ring-in). I think I mentioned it, maybe on another thread, the bill for dinner came in at 180,000 ($45).... got sent back and re-issued at $18. Local prices... which I took as quite an honour.


Same guys, June 2010



That bamboo hut is gone now, replaced with something more substantial. They've been productive.... two of the guys each have two daughters since then too.

Back to the temples.

It really was nice being able to ride wherever I wanted and pull up for a look.


Bike rentals disappeared from Siem Reap about 5 years ago (although dirt bike tours can be arranged for outer areas). Partly due to idiot tourist behaviour on bikes and partly as a make work scheme for tuktuk drivers.

Most tourists wouldn't get anywhere near this one. I only did because of the monks who called me over to that pond I posted earlier. We'd sat and talked for a while and then they offered prayers for my journey.


The Bigfella
11-18-2012, 01:37 AM
That pretty much "does" Cambodia.... unless you want more dirt bike photos



I found a bike shop and changed the oil for storage



Took it up to Jeat's and left it to chance. I reckon I've got maybe a 50% shot of seeing it again. Bike theft is a bit of an issue there.... and its outside (I think). I insisted he leave it outside... I didn't want it in his room with him, his wife and two <2yo daughters. I have a sneaking suspicion he'll have moved it inside.

Here it is in the kitchen/carport with his wife and mum


That done, I flew Siem Reap - Bangkok - Chiang Mai the next day.... nearly killing myself in the process when I checked my emergency meds into the baggage. Dumb bastard.

Next up... Northwest Thailand.
I spoke with Jeat a bit about his business and suggested he teach his wife English to help in future when the girls are at school. No go he said... she's from a very poor farming background... can't read or write, never attended school.

The Bigfella
11-19-2012, 07:42 PM
From another forum... this is something I'd really like to see when I go back to Cambodia. Its reachable from Siem Reap, but its apparently a very, very tough ride to get to... single track and rain runoff trails and the like. Carved from a solid rock just after 800AD.


11-19-2012, 07:53 PM
Keerist what a trip

The Bigfella
11-25-2012, 09:15 PM
Keerist what a trip

Its winding down (for now).... but there's a lot more to write up. I just did what was supposed to be a quick trip to the Hongsa region in Laos again to deliver a load of blankets, clothing and some medical supplies to three remote villages on a Chan Chouy Noi ride ("I give a little" - in Thai).

This was the brainchild of a guy by the name of Mark Rossi, a former motorcycle racer and tour operator over here. He's got a lot of enjoyment from riding through and staying in remote villages and he decided he'd do something to give a little back to some of the poorest people on the planet.... those in the remote villages. When he sent out a request for donations he pressed "send to all" in his inbox. To his surprise a major motorcycling organisation sent him a fair lump of cash. One of the goals of this trip was to grab a few photos to help build the donations base. A key element of his thinking is that ALL money donated gets where its needed. There's zero deductions for overheads, transport, etc. With their funds and donations from those on the trip, there were over 400 blankets, a dozen big bags of clothes, medical supplies etc which just landed in three remote villages - three ute loads full. The Hongsa government is involved btw... not financially, but they had a couple of people come with us to interpret and assist.

I haven't got time to write it up at present, but there were some pretty confronting things we came across. What kept a couple of us there was discovering a woman with a 30mm hole in the ball of her foot... walking and working in the fields with an open wound. We tried to take her to hospital then and there but her husband wasn't there. These people have a lot of superstitions and other factors are involved, so she wouldn't come with us. We went back the next day and got her to hospital - where she still is. She'd have ended up with gangrene .... and dead if we didn't get her out.... with zero chance of her going to hospital by herself (no money.... no money for shoes either)... I'll post some photos later.

Here's a teaser


Ted Hoppe
11-25-2012, 11:57 PM
What a trip Ian. When I passed through Laos and Cambodia last year I thought how I would do it like you are.
thanks so much for sharing this.

The Bigfella
12-07-2012, 11:38 PM
Thanks guys. I'm a fair way out of date here. Time to catch up eh? I've posted some stuff on other threads, but since I did go back into Laos, I guess I may as well continue here.

First up, the good news. Mon, the lady we took to hospital is out and home.


This was her undergoing "surgery" at the hospital, the day we took her in.


The nurses did it all... cleansing, cutting away the dead flesh on both sides of her foot and dressing the wound... all right there. I've got no doubt that in Australia, it'd have been an operating theatre job.

This was the trip we did back to the vilage to get her.


I wimped it after breathing an awful lot of bulldust the day before and went in the 4WD. The roads were mostly dry and extremely dusty. Funnily enough.... it rained on us on the trip to the hospital. Mon's daughter and male family member escort and out interpreter got somewhat wet...

Her daughter had tried for an inside seat... um.. sorry.... your mum got the last seat


Its probably best if I don't include close-ups of her injuries... I suppose I'll get blamed for upsetting someone for even posting this... but here goes


... and since I'm being my usual insensitive self... here's a topless photo of her climbing the stairs to her house after we got her brought back from working in the fields, so that we could get her to hospital. She'd just had a quick outdoors shower at one of the two water points in the village


The Bigfella
12-07-2012, 11:49 PM
She's a tiny slip of a thing


She ended up being hospitalised for 11 days. They tested her for leprosy as well as other infections, as she had no feeling in her legs. She was on IV antibiotics while in hospital and I'm glad they were able to get her well. She's gone home equipped with plenty of footware, clothing and meds. Monica, who runs the Jumbo Guesthouse in Hongsa will keep tabs on her.

A good result.

Here's the village, seen from the school


Its pretty remote... on the top left point of the purple Y here


I snuck into one of the 3 school classrooms. Its DIY airconditioned. Check out the desks and seats.


... anyhow... enough of there... I'll get to this village in the writeup eventually. So... back to Thailand for a while eh?

The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:05 AM
OK... forgive me if I hit repeat territory. I'm going to update this thread from my ride blog.. and I know I've included some of it in other threads (eg Birth Control)... but such is life, I'll put it here for those who are interested.

I flew back to Chiang Mai via Bangkok... and for the second time in 20 years, I just transited through the airport. Leaving Thailand... I did the same thing again.

Maybe I'll visit the city eventually....

It was back to my base in NW Thailand... and my first sight of the Super Enduro in just under two months. She cranked up pretty well, but spluttered a few times on her first ride. I'd run her dry, but not drained the dregs from the carbs, so I guess a bit of varnish went through. That first ride was a charity run to a school about 60km from Chiang Mai... up in the hills.

It was a quiet Sunday, so Phil and Som each rode their bikes, I doubled one of the staff... and one got left to cover coffees, etc. Som setting off on her Harley


and clowning around at our first stop. Breakfast at a bar where the rest of the riders assembled


along with a group of monks invited by the organisers


You wouldn't see this mix of shirts too often in Oz. Lots of different 1%ers involved



Our Norwegian friend and his wife on their Rocket III trike were up front, with us not far behind.

It was pretty orderly at the start, but we spread out a bit once we got into the twisties... KTMs (Phil was on one of his 990's and me on the SE) at the front... Harleys to the rear

The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:08 AM

Being a typical Thai event... there was a bit of stuffing around and speeches... and then we set off. Right up front was a police car, lights flashing, sirens on... the whole way. We did red light runs, blew through towns at speed and watched the cop force oncoming traffic off the road out of our way.

There were some interesting Japanese-based bikes



Lots of these things


About half the bikes on the run were Harleys,



The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:12 AM
That last one had some nice accessories


There was only one dirt bike...


But this is what the ride was all about....


These kids come from very remote areas and this is a boarding school

There were the hand out ice creams and clothing


But the real point of it all was to hand over some cash. There were 32 cash awards to deserving and high achieving kids to help keep them at school.


The kids strutted their stuff... dancing in their tribal costumes, playing in the band and so on... parents did the food, Chang provided free water and discount booze (seriously).... and of course, the skimpy Chang girls. Hmmm.

This lovely lady made a guest singing appearance with the band


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:14 AM
Phil, Som and the Riders Corner staff beat an early retreat to get the restaurant open... but were able to take in the dancing.


That be Phil with the camera

If I new my tribes, I'd tell you what they are... but I don't


It was just great, watching them perform with a big bike backdrop




The wider audience was loving it too


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:16 AM
This is the 5th such run for this school. There's a Futsal challenge between staff and bikies... won by the teachers


That's a concrete surface.... and guys going over on it...

Geez... I hope I don't look like a dirty old man posing with schoolgirls...


Anyhow, a fun time was had by all and the money got to where its needed...


The return ride was a lot slower without the police escort... but such is life.While we were fueling up. Local traffic cop....


.... and I suppose we can't have too many shots of a cute chick on a Harley, can we?


http://i240.photobucket.com/albums/ff112/igatenby/Northern%20Thailand/168-1.jpg __________________

The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 12:27 AM
... and here's a shot that Phil postedon RideAsia.net that's worth pinching....

A group of (mostly) refugees from the 70's, discussing bikes and rides and planning the ride into Laos


From my left, Greg Frazier who has ridden around the world 4 times and his wife Noor, Phil and Auke - who made the North Thailand Off Road Map (paper and GPS versions both available from Riders Corner - best damn pieces of GPS mapping I've used, that being it and the Midnight Mapper's Laos map, also available there) then in the bright blue shirt, Craig and then Leigh, both from my old home town... I used to race against Craig's dad in Kittycatsas a teenager... 12' cats that carry a spinnaker.... then Neil and Clarissa, who live a couple of suburbs from me. Craig and Leigh are about to ride Laos and Cambodia. Auke, Phil and I headed off to Laos the following morning.

However, before that, Neil and I did this ride. There's a town up near the Burma border in NW Thailand, Mae Hong Son, The Mae Hong Son loop ride is becoming rather well known, with its 1864 curves. We (Neil and I) decided to do it slightly differently, cutting out the Chiang Mai - Mae Sariang - Mae Hong Son bitumen section and going up the guts on the local truck and elephant tracks... ie, on the dirt. I'd already done the Mae Sariang to Chiang Mai section.

There was an event on:


The poster from the previous event gives an overview of the Loop


Our trip:"straight" through the centre from CM to MHS was around 220 kilometres and quite an interesting ride. Looking back at my Garmin log, which for some reason broke the trip into three parts for the day, we did the last 111 km, which some folks know as the elephant trail, at a moving average of 33 kph. We went through Ban Doi Rim Tam, Mae Sap Nua and then the Samoeng Wildlife Reserve. There was an "out" if it rained. We could have bailed at Yang Moen and gone north to Pai and got back onto the bitumen.

Neil, on his modified airhead BMW 1000. With his KTM forks and modified rear suspension, he's got 300mm travel at each end



This was my first ride with a pillion for a long time other than the first part of the bitumen-only charity ride and I was taking it easy.... however.... I was about to spoil a record of not binning it with a pillion on that had stood for decades. When we first got to the dirt, Neil let his tyres down, but I decided to leave it and see what it was like for a while in case we were just on a short stretch. Oops. I was taking it easy through a right hander and the front hit a rock in loose gravel and over she went. Funnily enough, I saved it. I reefed the bars - which wasn't kind to the muscles in my arms and shoulders ... and the Katoom came back up. Didn't save me from a shoulder thumping from my pillion. I stopped and let the tyres down.... but it wasn't over yet.

In the photo up above a bit, on top of Neil's top box, you can see my orange backpack. My pillion, Tum, who works in the restaurant where I was staying, had shown up for departure with a backpack of her own about twice that size... for what was going to be one night away (turned into 3). I made her go through it and leave most behind.

The road became a track


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:18 PM
The track got narrower and we climbed into the mountains


Quite pleasant riding, but not fast and with a fair way to travel

Given we had a BMW along for the ride, we had to stop to fix it (yeah, yeah.... I've got 4 of the damn things.... including an airhead).


Neil could smell burning oil. It was driveshaft oil leaking through a buggered boot, down onto the muffler.

He did the appropriate thing... tore his shirt into strips and wrapped the torn boot.


Hmmm... just noticed that. Is that a handbag hanging from my bike? My pillion had disappeared up the track in search of a public toilet or something like that. I think she found a corner in the track, which served the same purpose. Thinking back on that now... I'm wondering if that's what we crashed in? Neil got away before me and I heard his engine die and then get going again. We went around the corner and BOOF... straight down. No hope in hell of saving it.


There was this strange thumping on my right shoulder again while I was laying there under the bike. Hang on Ma'am... enough of that... here... out of the way please while I pick this up. Picking it up, even unloaded, convinced me I'd done the right thing going through Laos on a smaller bike. Its not so much that it can't be picked up, but when its a couple of hundred kilos that you are lifting, it doesn't need many lifts to leave you knackered... in the middle of nowhere.

It turned out that Neil went down twice.. and with my earlier save, I quit the dropsies after one. The track wasn't too bad, but slippery enough to have the paddles out in places


I watched Neil go up one hill and end up with the back wheel 18" in the air over one tree root... at which stage my pillion got to walk up that hill. It turned out that it would have been OK two up... maybe.

There were some small villages and signs of agriculture on the way, with lovely views of the mountains too


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:21 PM


Neil's mascot seemed to have got a dose of the runs


Might have been from the food this group of riders / drivers gave us earlier on. We pulled over for a "chat" and they gave us some sort of very bitter green nut thing, dipped into some sort of salt. Could've been betel nut and heroin for all we knew.... but they seemed nice and we had no ill effects from whatever it was we were eating.


As we got closer to Mae Hong Son, some of the steep sections were concreted. The concrete had broken up on the steepest stuff though.


I had a very close call on one of the concrete sections with a 4WD. He was fully on the wrong side of the road... which is wide enough (just) for a bike an a ute. I propped when I saw him... as did he... He swung left and stopped... fully blocking the track. I pulled up in a panic stop just 300mm from his back wheel. Neil saw my rear wheel skid mark and was able to stop too. There's no point getting angry... I waited for the guy to gather his wits and get out of the way.

The views continued in northern Thai fashion. ie fantastic


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:23 PM

The road opened out again and dried out.


Phil, from Riders Corner in Chiang Mai had said to not do it if it rained. Spot on advice. It was a bit slippery without rain. With it, that hard packed, rutted clay would have been "interesting"

Not much of a waterfall... but an appropriate spot for a wee break




The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:27 PM
We were getting close to Mae Hong Son, it was getting late, but the views just had to be soaked up


Both sides of the road had these views. We'd been riding the spine of the ridges for ages. We'd made a couple of wrong turns... not hard to pick up once we'd gone a few hundred metres up the wrong track.


The ride down from up there was interesting. I rolled down the mountain with the engine off. Silly boy. Two up and with no engine braking, the rear brake boiled (it'd already been boiled recently, so it didn't take much effort to re boil it... its now been changed). With zero rear brake, I took it easy.

The run into town was pleasant too. Lots of teak trees and nice forests.


We tried a few places looking for rooms and eventually found some about a kilometer from the music at the lake. I'm not quite sure I was a fan of my bathroom decor


Neil decided to check out the drivechain boot properly. Try this with a GS1200


Most of the lads in town for the music were on street bikes


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:30 PM
The music was good and the scenery was up to par too. One of the muso's has played with a number of famous bands, including the Rolling Stones. IIRC he was the guy in John Nash's Aussie Experience... playing the trombone.


The Long Neck Trio were playing too and were nice enough to pose for photos with me




If I'm not mistaken, they aren't as stretched as some I've seen. From what I've read, they don't stretch the neck so much as force the rings down into their chests a bit... or they used to

The crowd were getting into the spirit of things with ricepaper lanterns


Neil WAS told....


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:32 PM
Neil... they go this way mate


We'd met up with a couple of guys from Coffs Harbour, my old home town, at the music festival. Craig and Leigh joined us in the morning. They were out and about on rented CRF250 Hondas for a week, while they waited for a new gearbox output shaft for Craig's DRZ400, being prepped for a trip through Cambodia and Laos.

We headed back towards Pai and Chiang Mai, but turned left not far out of Mae Hong Son to head up to the Burma border for a look. I was hoping our Thai speaker could help get us across the border a Ban Rak Thai

Nice bitumen roads


There were some lovely sections with fabulous corners on the way up to the border too. There were a couple of snakes on the road and we passed one large one that had a group of guys standing around it. I was in the lead and only a few hundred metres ahead, but between me passing it and the guys behind, the bystanders had put a tin can over the snake's head. Hmmm

We stopped at the border town, which is a common stopping point and had a tea tasting session at the Lake.


They had an amazing range of teas and dried fruits. One we loved and all bought was a particular type of dried almond. Absolutely no idea what they'd done to it, but it was brilliant


Up at the border post, which is on a narrow lane out of town, there was no way the guy was letting us ride in. We should have tried the senior officer that I saw from a distance later, but such is life. The guy on the gate let me go in to no-mans-land for a wander around, but the bike wasn't allowed.

This is the viewpoint over the Burmese village on the other side


The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 03:35 PM
..... and this is Burma


This is the border control post on the Thai side


and here's some old codger wandering around in no-mans-land


We took some back roads back to the Mae Hong Son to Pai road and did some sightseeing along the way.... always mindful of the advisory signs



I was still having trouble with the rear brake, so the lads on the 250's would harry me on the downhills and then get the irrits when I'd blast away... 98hp to 22 will do that.

We pulled up for the night at Cave Lodge just near Lod Cave. Its a lovely area and the road in through the forest demanded and got a blast. Narrow and curvy but with good visibility and a fabulous surface. One of those really memorable roads.


12-08-2012, 03:58 PM
Riding on the correct side of the tarmac too!

The Bigfella
12-08-2012, 04:08 PM
Riding on the correct side of the tarmac too!

Well, almost... it didn't much matter on that road. There wasn't much traffic but there were a few cows on the road.

On this trip, Australia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand were all "correct" side of the road... ie ride on the left.

Cross into Laos and Cambodia and its over to the other side.... riding on the right. It creates the occasional problem at and near the crossings. Its Asia though, so you are always on the alert for oncoming traffic on your side of the road.

The Bigfella
12-09-2012, 07:08 PM
Well, the Bilge is as toxic a place as I've ever seen today. Time for some photos....

We were lucky when we got to Cave Lodge and managed to get enough rooms. Quite comfy and some interesting people staying there. The river is down there... about 50 metres.


Well... it was mostly comfy... I had a cold shower on arrival. She's a wood-fired boiler and I think they only fire her up in the morning. They had another boiler hooked up to a sauna as well. You had to pay the staff member who fired it up and kept stoking it with bamboo scraps if you wanted a sauna... about $3, IIRC. Smelt damn good, she threw lemongrass into the boiler...

Nice sink carved out of a log


This area is known for its coffin caves. Caves containing old carved teak coffins, up to about 7 metres long IIRC. The guys I was with weren't much interested and it'd have meant another day to explore. Another time.

I think this young Canadian lass was quite taken in by all the old bikies... but she did sit with the only young one there....


The plan had been to get Tum, our pillion, back to Chiang Mai for a slightly late start for work the next morning, but she rang in and got clearance to stay another day and join us on a caving/canoeing expedition.

It was interesting talking to the folks there about the area. About six years earlier, "they" ie the authorities had come through, shot a village headman and jailed/gaoled all the farmers growing dope. Fortunately, I'm a non-user.

Our canoes for the morning were inflatables. The water level in the river was a bit low and the rapids got up to Grade 2. With more water, they get to Grade 3. Guys were sent solo, the women went with the guides. Hey... we just do what we're told... We carried our canoes downhill and set off from the Lodge.


It proved impossible to get photos in the rough stuff... if I wanted to stay in the canoe


The Bigfella
12-09-2012, 07:11 PM


There was one causeway which everyone bar one guide negotiated safely


Wandering around in the caves was interesting too


Some folks couldn't approach the task seriously


The Bigfella
12-09-2012, 07:14 PM
There were a few big, fast spiders in there


and thousands of bats and swifts using it as a roost. Lots of bat sh!t




I took a bit of a tumble here. I climbed over that fence, thinking that was the way the others had gone and went into a very deep hole on the other side. I kept the DSLR out of the water by millimeters...


We wandered off through the jungle to another cave but I didn't do the scramble in. I'd run out of drinking water by this stage and was feeling it. This was along the way there .. a couple of monks live up in there in the jungle


The Bigfella
12-09-2012, 07:19 PM
We got back to the Lodge and headed for Pai... getting there and finding rooms just as a thunderstorm hit

Lots of northern Thai scenery to be seen on the way...



Delicious roads... but more trouble with my rear brake. You'd think that in this day and age that wouldn't be a problem eh? Helloooo Mr KTM..... Yeah, I know that boiled brake fluid needs to be replaced, but it does boil a bit too easily on this bike.





That photo with the yellow flowers raises an issue. When we got back, Som asked me how the Flower Festival was. One of the things that had motivated Tum to come on the ride was to see the Flower Festival... which is held about 130km south of Mae Hong Son. Oops. She never mentioned it to us... and we didn't know about it. I've since seen photos of it and it looks fabulous... a huge expanse of those flowers and lots of minority tribe folks in traditional costumes. Another time eh?

The Bigfella
12-09-2012, 07:21 PM
Speaking of traditional costumes.... there were a couple of kids at one lookout... looking for a few baht for a photo.



I must be getting soft in my old age, I handed over 20 baht and took their pics. I'm pretty sure that's the one and only time I've given anyone money for a photo.

12-09-2012, 07:48 PM
Brilliant. Thanks Ian, a great excuse for a tea break this morning!!

Lew Barrett
12-09-2012, 10:33 PM

Pikes Peak, full Termignoni, all the accessories. That has to be a very expensive and unusual thing in Thailand. The one in front is fully kitted as well.

12-09-2012, 11:26 PM
Great thread

The Bigfella
12-11-2012, 12:40 AM
Thanks Lee, Lew and Larks. I enjoy going back to the photos and writing it up. Gives me a second bite at the cherry. We bid farewell to Leigh and Craig in Pai, and Neil and I blasted back to Chiang Mai in the morning.

I was doing it tough back in Chiang Mai... here's proof....


Yep, I'm the damn taxi driver / shopping cart driver for the staff when they head off to the markets after closing up the restaurant... well, sometimes I am.... when they want to invite me along for noodles at a streetside cafe or something similar.

Mostly in Chiang Mai it was relaxing evenings at the Riders Corner bar, catching up with the crowd of riders coming through. Greg Frazier, for example. Greg's an American chap who has ridden around the world five times and authored many motorcycling books, including one linking motorcycles to Freudian psychology. Hmmm.


or checking out the bikes of guys coming through... this Screaming Eagle is owned by another Aussie living up the road a bit


He'd popped in to buy a bike Phil was selling.... and I was chasing around seeing if I could find a nice Vespa to bring home. Failed on that last count. They've taken on a bit of a cult following over in Thailand and I reckon I'd have to go further afield than Chiang Mai to make it worthwhile. I
'd secured the Norton and had a few other interesting leads to chase, but more on that later.

I was back in Chiang Mai to organise getting the Super Enduro home and to take in the festivities of Loy Krathong and another opportunity to ride into Laos. This from the Facebook page of the FIM Asia Laos Motorcycle/4WD Charity Adventure:

FIM Asia Laos Motorcycle/4WD adventure is a organisation for the purpose of proving underprivileged children and families in Northern Laos with basic necessities, mostly clothing

Our organisation called "Chan Chouy Noi" which translates to "I help a little" is based in Chiang Mai northern Thailand. Chan Chouy Noi is a make up of like minded motorcyclist and 4 wheel drivers who enjoy and appreciate the beauty and wonderful people of Laos. We have a driven need to give something back to the warm friendly families of Laos that make us so welcome on our adventures through their country.

We offer people the opportunity to give by donation, or join us on a annual motorcycling and 4 wheel drive adventure, to distribute clothing to needing villagers in remote rural areas of Northern Laos.

Chan Chouy Noi is 100% non profit and incurs no administration cost. All donations contribute 100% towards buying basic life essentials for needing Laotian people mostly second hand clothing. Distribution and transport cost are incurred by our members

Mark Rossi, from my old home town, Coffs Harbour, kicked this off last year and enough funding had been secured to make another run. The FIM in that title incidentally, is the International Motorcycling Federation... the motorcycling sports governing body. Its great to see them contributing here and contributing significantly. Mark kicked this charity off because Laos had given him so much. So many friendly and helpful people who never asked for anything in return... but were desperately poor. Mark has been part of running tours through Laos and loves the place. I think he'd move there permanently if it wasn't for the devestation that's about to be reaped on their rivers.

Som, who owns the Riders Corner Cafe in Chiang Mai, did a massive amount of the pre-work. We had enough cash in hand to buy 400 blankets (it gets cold in winter in the mountains of Laos) and hundreds of sets of second-hand kids clothes, along with some medical supplies. We had three ute loads (that'd be a truck in the USA). There were to be more bikes, but Phil stacked and hurt a wrist, Justin had also stacked and had three plates in his arm... and I ended up being the sole bike this year... on the Super Enduro. Nine of us made the trip though.

I had the misfortune of being the only guy there when 400 blankets turned up and had to be unloaded and carried inside. Sounds easy eh? Yeah, right. Meanwhile, the pool table got encumbered with the kids clothing... which had to be sorted into a dozen or so sacks so that we could handle distribution to the three remote villages we were targeting.

The ladies seemed to relish this.... and not just the staff. Friends who called in joined the production line for several days



Kitchen staff and waitresses... not always working hard