Northern Laos Loop – 1. Introduction

About the size of the Britain, yet only one-tenth of its population. Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), is a sparsely populated, land-locked country in South-East Asia, bordered by Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China.

Unlike its neighbors who boast world renown temples, beaches, cultural villages, minority tribes and mountains, Laos, with only two Unesco sites (Luang Prabang and Vat Phou) to its name, is largely forgotten. But undeservedly so. The mysterious Plain of Jars at Phonsavan, dramatic karst scenery at Tham Lot Kong Lo and 4000 islands at Si Phan Don are just a sample of Laos’ numerous attractions. And not to forget, the backpackers’ haven at Vang Vieng where travelers can laze around for days downing beer and watching movies or for the more energetic souls, take part in spelunking and tubing at this riverside town.

With terrain that’s largely mountainous, road travels in Laos are usually accompanied with glorious views and cool weather. And which better way to see the country than to rent a motorcycle and do it at your own pace? As fellow travelers advise me, the true meaning of Lao PDR is Lao – Please Don’t Rush.

Given my limited time available for Laos, I had decided on concentrate on Northern Laos. This would be my 4th motorcycle trip after previous rides in Vietnam and Cambodia. I tried looking for detailed Laos maps for my GPS receiver but couldn’t find any free ones. Nonetheless, I still brought my Garmin GPS receiver along as I like its direction, altitude, time, waypoint and route tracking features. Other specific gears in my pack were the Lonely Planet Laos guidebook, GT-rider Laos map, full-faced helmet and a good old compass.

The Northern Laos Loop trip report is divided into the following sections:

  1. Introduction (You are here)
  2. Route
  3. Motorcycle
  4. Journey Day 1 (Vientiane to Xayaboury)
  5. Journey Day 2 (Xayaboury to Luang Prabang)
  6. Journey Day 3 (Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw)
  7. Journey Day 4 (Nong Khiaw to Xam Neua)
  8. Journey Day 5 Part 1 (Xam Neua to Phonsavan)
  9. Journey Day 5 Part 2 (Xam Neua to Phonsavan)
  10. Journey Day 6 (Phonsavan to Vang Vieng)
  11. Journey Day 7-9 (Vang Vieng to Vientiane to Bangkok)
  12. Resources

Disclaimer: This trip was taken in February 2007. The information is provided ‘as is’ with no warranties and confers no rights. Please feel free to post a comment. 🙂

3 thoughts on “Northern Laos Loop – 1. Introduction

  1. hi
    first of all i have 2 say: great tips!
    looks like amaizing trips i whould try to do every one of them (thai, laos,
    helpt me a lot! thanks for that. in 8 dayes im flying to thailand for 2 month
    it seems that it is not the best seoson. do you know if it is possible to do this trips in this time of the year?
    i would be happy to get some tips about – from where to start. (monsoon…)
    ,Suggestions how to plen the path.
    i thoght to start from laos in mid april – i heard laos in may is very rainy and foggy
    if you have some more suggestions for bike trips in those countrys i whould be happy to get them
    Thanks in advance

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