Houay Xai to Hong Sa – Following the Mekong

Houay Xai, Pak Tha, Doi Pha Tang, Phu Chi Duen, Phu Chi Fa – Hong Sa in the dark.

Friendship Bridge Chiang Khong – Houy Xai

Super friendly on the Thai side of the border.

YouTube:- Crossing the Friendship Bridge

The bridge is very quiet. Not many people at all.
Arrive the Lao side.. Take some refreshments while waiting for the paper work.

Bridge Crossing Update – Nov 2018:-

This is one of the most hassle free crossings you can make from Thailand to Laos. Ever since mid 2018. There have been reports of some people being charged 2,500 baht, others were crossing with no charge.

One of the members of the Laos Adventure Riding FB Group was asked to pay. He explained he was a solo rider and not on a tour and didn’t need to pay.

The Lao side let him cross with out paying the 2,500 Baht. This was only two or three weeks before I was to cross and a great heads up.

The day I crossed. Spoke as much Thai as I could. I was asked at least three times if I am crossing alone. Each time I replied alone and there was no mention of money.

In summary.

If you are crossing with 3 or definitely 4 people. Be prepared to get hit up for 2,500 baht. ( At least it isn’t as bad as Vientiane ) I know Thai groups also charged. A little less around 2,000 Baht. If crossing alone.. Push back and tell them. You are not in a tour or part of a group and no need to pay.

Riding The Mekong

This really is a ripper ride along the Mekong. If you are like me and love the mountains on the Thai / Lao border ridge line. Nothing better than riding around exploring looking back up to the mountain tops on your right while following the Mekong on your left.

After leaving Huoay Xai Border turn right and head to Phak Ta and cross on the ferry. ( Nice big car ferry this time round )

No Inmarsat or Sat C !!

If you turn right once across the river. It soon ends as the mountains drop down to Mekong level. Thailand is on the other side around the corner. Not accessible by vehicle and probably best not to get too close to the border. The track ends about 500 metres before the border.

Doi Pha Tang

There is a new path cut out that goes all the way to the top on the Lao side. There are two Lao army camps near the top. In general, the army are not very welcoming near the borders.

I stopped a safe distance away so as not to be detained for the day and still get a few pictures of Doi Pha Tang from below.

My Garmin GPS showing the location on the Lao side.
The Track on OSM was uploaded from a previous ride here a few years earlier

Doi Pha Tang, Thailand – Looking in to Laos.

You can see the army camp on the track below to the right. I stopped before here to take the earlier pictures. There is another camp below the ridge line out of camera sight.

The new cut track is washed out with a rut running up the middle that could swallow a car.
No access allowed past the two army camps on the way up.

Phu Chi Duen

Riding to the base of Phu Chi Duen.

Local kids out fishing some where near by.
The village at the base of Phu Chi Duen.
The look out from the Thai border ridge line is at the far back right.

Phu Chi Duen, Thailand – Looking in to Laos.

A steep dirt and twisty mountain trail to the top.
Ride report with video under the North Thailand section.
The village is at the base of the mountain.
Head back out the same way following the Mekong

Sweeping tracks all the way along.

Nice to cruise along with almost no other traffic.

Phu Chi Fa

My third time to the base of Phu Chi Fa. Lost count how many times to the top of Phu Chi Fa on the ridge line accessible from Thailand .

Today the weather is stunning. Clear Blue Skies. The best weather yet. Leaving late paid off unexpectedly. Usually the mountain is covered in cloud or fog. Especially in the early part of the day. The sun doesn’t usually burn off the cloud until after 1 pm.

There is a new bridge being built over the Mekong. The road is new and tarmac up to the bridge.

The turn off to Phu Chi Fa has moved 400 metres up the road. There is a petrol station on the other side of the road where the old turn off use to be. Not yet updated on Open Street Maps – GPS Map.

The valley below.
The mountain set back second from the right.
Phu Chi Fa just sticking out.
Just lovely in here
At the village below Phu Chi Fa

The village has improved. First time here the place looked so poor and sad. Now there are shops and even a Guest House being built.

Phu Chi Fa centre top
Phu Chi Fa taken with the Nikon / Zoom lens.

Phu Chi Fa, Thailand – Looking down in to Laos.

The valley and Lao village below.
Looking down in to the village.

YouTube:- Phu Chi Fa to the Base and above.

On the way in. Some kids thought it was the Paris to Dakar.
Went screaming past me. The race is on.
So funny watching them bounce around in the seat.
Looking back to see if they are beating me.

After leaving Phu Chi Fa – At the end of the track, turn right, the longer interesting dirt way out. Left will link you back up with the paved road.

YouTube:- The ride along the Mekong.

I left Chiang Khong much later than planned. Clearing the border, etc. was smooth. But a good two plus hours later than I should have been to do this ride and hope to get to Hong Sa in the day light; with all the stops and photos along the way.

It is too nice in here to rush and blast past everything.

After turning off from the Phu Chi Fa base track.. I managed to get a flat rear tyre. Already behind schedule. Find a place and pull up and change the tube. Head off again.

Reach Mueng Ngern in the dark. I could have pulled up here I guess. But that bar with band and cold Beer Lao over looking the Hong Sa power station was too tempting. So I push on in the dark.. I have the LED spot lights on the handlebars which lit up the road as far as the eye can see.

Then 30 km from Hong Sa. High up in the mountain, pitch dark. No other traffic. The bike just dies (Later find out there are issues with the API ECU)

After trying to get someone to stop. I start looking where I can sleep on the side of the road. Push the bike up two mountains, then roll down the other side in neutral.

Finally a local on a scooter stops and tries to help.. Fuel OK, everything looks good. So he tows me. Now this is a local on a beaten up Honda Wave and me on a KLX, plus my weight and gear on the bike, 220 kg ??

As he pulls me up the mountain. He is going all over the road trying to get momentum as I drag on him with my weight.

We make it to the top of the mountain. I let go of the tow rope that is wrapped through the handlebars and roll down as fast as I dare with no lights as now as the battery is dead. Coasting at 50 to 60 KPH in the dark down the twisty mountain road with only an almost full Moon to navigate.

We repeat the above again and again, 30 km to Hong Sa. He drops me at the Hotel. I give him plenty of Baht that put a smile on his face and he took what petrol he could get out of my bike, so he could get home. All the petrol stations close at night time. I was at the bar 10 pm.. Knackered and glad to be here.

The next morning

The next day. Call up Chris, Keng in Chiang Mai and talk with other friends. Trying to work out what happened. Keng knew straight away. Faulty API ECU, not the first time to happen!.

I make my way to Luang Prabang in the back of a pickup and Keng ships me a new ECU by plane that afternoon which arrived the same evening . Bike was running again ready for the next part of the adventure.

On with the journey after a rest day in Luang Prabang.