Chris' 1994  R100GS/PD ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650

Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

March 27, 2000

25,000 miles / 40,000kms into Laos

-- Story by Chris --

We just arrived in Vientiane, Laos.   It's dark, the roads are bumpy, its been a long day, but we've completed just over 25,000 miles / 40,000kms.

When we arrived (back) in Chiang Mai on March 16th, we thought we would do a quick service, get our Laos visas, run a few errands, and be gone by the 22nd.  Well, 10 days later we finally left.  Apparently, Chiang Mai has this affect on people.  Our mornings were spent taking care of the bikes or running errands, our afternoons cooling off in the pool, and our nights watching rugby our hanging out with friends (David, Lek, Jimmy, Bob, and An).

I did a service on both bikes -- changed fluids, tightened/straightened parts, replaced Erin's rear tyre (used), and gave the bikes a good "once over".  We will get proper tyres for both bikes again when we reach Bangkok or Malaysia.  Before we departed on this trip, I had taken a course at a local community college on Basic Motorcycle Maintenance.  Prior to this trip, whenever I had problems or needed service, I always took the bike(s) to the shop.  I told my mechanic (Phil @ Lindners) that I was nervous about my limited abilities.  He replied, "you will know so much when you get back".  I countered, "yeah, but how painful will the learning experience be?!?"

I've gotten pretty good at fixing flats, as we've gotten more in the past 3 months then the previous 3 years!  We used to only address problems when we got stuck, but since the riding conditions have become more demanding, we decided to be a bit more pro-active.  On the 1st and 15th of every month, we do a "mini-service" (I do my bike, Erin does hers) -- check the fluid levels, battery, tyres, brake pads, and attend to any other nagging issues.  Electrical problems still baffle me, and when they occur I email "others" for help.  But the bikes are still running well, and so that makes our job easier.

While in Chiang Mai we got to know David Unkovich really well, and became friends.  Sure, he's well known for his book, A Motorcycle Guide to the Golden Triangle, but he really is an unusual and terrific guy.  He constantly was checking on us, taking us to various shops, and inviting us out with his friends -- I think I'm still hung-over.  Among other things, David is also a cartographer.   He drew the B&B Thailand North map (a must for anyone traveling in the north) and is currently working on a map of Laos.  He knows every road and path in the area.

If you want to go riding in N. Thailand/Laos, David is an incredible wealth of information.  If you come on your own, he's happy to sit with you and offer suggestions (routes, accommodations, bike rentals).  If you want a guided tour, his fee is 2,500 baht/day (~$70) + his expenses (gas, food, and lodging), regardless of group size.  He recommends 4-6 people.  The trip can be all asphalt, light off-road, or full off-road (experienced riders).  Bike rentals are about $15/day, and you can eat/sleep for about $8 and up, depending on your budget.  If you have questions or need any information, email David: and/or see his website:

If this sounds like a big plug for David -- yup, it sure is.  But only because his information/service is worth it!

Anyway, Sunday the 26th greeted us with a hazy day.  We were up at 7:00am and out by 8:30 -- This was a challenge as the entire week before we were lazy and not waking up until at least 10:00am!  Our destination for the day was a short ride (3 hours) over to Sukhothai, and by lunchtime we were checked into our bungalow at a great little guesthouse.

Welcome to Sukhothai

Sukhothai was the first capital of Thailand and it lasted just over 100 years.  In 1379, the capital was moved to Ayuthaya, just north of Bangkok.  In 1782, the capital was again moved to its present location, Bangkok.  Sukhothai was renowned for it's remarkable achievements in art, law, literature, and its architecture.  Sukhothai is literally littered with ruins of wats (temples), monuments, and moats spread out over an area of several square kilometers.  It took us the better part of the afternoon just to see half of it.

Monday, March 27th, 9:00am:  Our destination was the Laos border and it's capital city of Vientiane, some 550kms away.  The bikes were packed, our bill was settled, we were in full battle gear, and finally started to wheel the bikes into the street.   The morning temperature was rapidly rising towards triple digits, we had a 7 hour ride ahead of us (not including food & petrol stops) and expected the border crossing to take several hours, so we wanted to get on the road.  Can you see it coming?  Yup, we discovered Erin had a flat tyre -- Ughhh!  Already sweating, I peeled off my helmet, gloves, and jacket, then we rolled the bike into a bit of shade.  

I am getting good at removing the wheel, so a few minutes later I was rolling the half-empty tyre down the road 250 yards to a puncture repair shop -- The great thing about India and SE Asia is the frequency of these little shops.  I brought along our tyre-irons and a spare tube, but I was willing to pay the guy the $1 to fix it for me.  Well, we spent over a half hour checking the tube for leaks (and tyre for sharp culprits) and found none.  My head was spinning in the heat, and eventually we gave up and put the other (patched) tube in -- No air leaked out.  Scratching my head in confusion, I rolled the wheel back and reinstalled it on the bike.  The women at the guesthouse insisted I drink some water, then hosed me down with a garden hose and cleaned the grease off my hands and face.

At 10:30am, we hit the road.  The ride was uneventful, as we were pushing to make the Thai crossing point of Nong Khai by dark.   For lunch we had Cup-O-Noodles while petrol attendants topped off the tanks.  In the end, we arrived at 5:30, having taken advantage of highway speeds (and leniency towards foreigners) where possible.

We pulled up to the Thai customs officer (under a shaded overhang), stripped off our gear, and pulled out our necessary documents.  To make a long story short, our visa expired on March 14th so we crossed into Myanmar and returned a few hours later for a new 30-day visa.  We left the bikes with the border officials and were told we didn't need to do any paperwork for the bikes.  OK, see where this is going?  Yup, our documents for the bikes had expired and we were in the penalty zone.  Either we were misinformed, or we hadn't spoken to the customs officials.  After a long discussion (and after realizing if we didn't pay we couldn't exit), we paid a fine of 1000 baht/bike ($27).  We don't believe this was a scam, we signed documents saying the bikes would leave by March 14th and they didn't -- I could argue until I was blue in the face, and Erin finally stopped me at a nice shade of purple.  Once new paperwork was created, our exit stamps were quick and efficient -- I think they really wanted to get rid of me (and dinner was getting cold).  The truth is, the whole process would have only taken about 15 minutes if only. . .

OK, now we were ready to cross the newly constructed Thai-Laos "Friendship Bridge" - Hah!!  By some bizarre twist of regulations, reportedly connected to the Laos Mafia, motorcycles are not allowed to be ridden across this 500 meter span, but can only cross in the back of a pickup.  The cost is 600 baht per trip (so try to fit 2 bikes on), but it was obvious we needed to make 2 trips at a total cost of 1000 baht ($27).  It was an interesting trip across the bridge, at night, in the back of an under-powered pickup, with my motorbike on top, crossing a river border.

Going UP:  No ramp, so we cheated and used a curb

The Lao officials were friendly and helpful in unloading the bikes.  Immigration was swift, and importing the bikes was easier with the carnet, although I had to explain how they should process it.  Since we already had our visas -- 30 days for 1,500 baht/person ($41), we breezed through immigration.  At customs, we were charged an entry fee and overtime fee (after 4:00pm) of 40 baht ($1).  By 7:00pm, we were exiting the border post, in the dark.   We normally don't ride at night, but Vientiane was only 15kms away.  About 100 meters away from the border post, we came to a "T" junction.  With no visible signage, we looked down at our GPS units and decided we needed to take a right.

Just prior to entering the dark roadway, Erin (thankfully) avoided a potential accident by questioning which side of the road we should ride on.  After nearly 4 months of riding on the left, and knowing we would do the same in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and NZ, I simply assumed it would be the same in Laos.  We waited a few minutes until a car drove across our path, in the middle of the road -- no help!  A bit later a motorbike pulled up next to us, waved, and drove off in the right lane.  So, we followed him, and it turned out to be the correct decision.  It took us about 20 minutes to reach the capital.  It was a scary ride over terrible roads that sometimes unexpectedly turned to dirt, while trying to avoid the throngs of stealth bicycles and pedestrians in the dark.  When we found the colonial style city center, we hunted for 45 minutes for a $8-10/night guesthouse that had secure parking for the bikes, and eventually gave up.

It was late, we were tired, and it had been a long day.  Last year, as going away gifts, some family members gave us Travelers Checks to be used for "a nice hotel with a good bed and shower".  We decided it was time to splurge and cash in.  At around 9:00pm we found a nice hotel with a HUGE ROOM and gorgeous bathroom for $30/night, but got them to reduce it to $20.  We each took a long relaxing shower, had a superb meal ($6) in the dining room, and planned to stay a few nights.

And so, after 25,000 miles/40,000kms, our journey has brought us to our 28th country.  We're still having fun and still going strong.  Financially, we're doing better than expected, but we've also lowered our living standards and curtailed a lot of old spending habits.

Previous Chapter | Next Chapter


TOP | About Us | Costs | FAQ | Journal Entries | Links | Motorcycles | Photo Gallery | Supporters | Guestbook | HOME

  Sure, send us an email E-mail Us

There are probably dozens of errors on this website (if not more).   
If you notice/have any problems, please send us an email: Webmaster

The goal is not the destination, it's the experiences along the way.