The northern Laos loop takes us through a clockwise route from Vientiane to Xayaboury (also Sayabouli or Sainyabuli), followed by Luang Prabang, Nong Khiaw, Xam Neua (also Sam Neua), Phonsavan and Vang Vieng before bringing us back to Vientiane.
For this loop, it is best to plan at least ten days in order to ride at a reasonable pace and have adequate time for sightseeing. Depending on your interests, adding Hongsa (they have an elephant festival every year), Oudom Xai or Phongsali to the trip are possible. After all, this is the flexibility we enjoy by not taking a tour and having our own transport. Personally, I spent eight days for the 1700km loop. I had a pretty rushed trip and except for Vientiane, I did not spend more than a night at any other cities or towns. I wished I had spared more time for Phonsavan.
Map of northern Laos and route taken
Day 5 (Ratanakiri – Mondulkiri)
I had a restless sleep, waking up a couple of times in the middle of the night. The staffs at Rattanak Hotel had told me that it’s easy riding to Mondulkiri and they had done it many times. They offered to be my guide. I declined, not so much because of my desire to ride alone, but because I didn’t want to spend the extra money. Yes, I am that tight. 🙂
By 6am, I was packed and ready to move off. I had difficulty finding the pier at Lumphat. Luckily, helpful locals directed me to the right track. The pier is not located along the main housing stretch but is located further down Tonle Srepok river, towards the south eastern direction. To get there, keep left when you reach the junction at N13 30.269 E106 58.621 (right brings you to the main town). Continue following the road until you see a small grocery and fuel shop at N13 28.670 E107 00.493. The ferry is located just further down the descending road. I paid 5000R to the boatman. The GPS coordinates across the river is N13 27.927 E107 00.399.
Tonle Srepok river of Apocalypse Now fame. The Death Highway awaits across the river.