DAY 15 THE END
Here we are, at the end of the tour with loads of stories to tell to our friends and making them jealous for all what we have experienced! The last day has been somehow wet (in the dry season!) but we still had a blast, discovering some small rural backroads and having lunch in an idyllic place... The afternoon is quite relaxing, spent at our beautiful resort in Chiang Mai. The last dinner is kinda emotional, such a great group of friends is about to depart for going home to different destinations, but there is still time to enjoy a big night out, with live rock music and, obviously, a fish massage!
See you soon for the next adventure, it has been a great ride and a pleasure to meet you! And as Michael says "Ladies and Gentlemen, it has been a privilege playing with you"...
The end of the long trip across Thailand, Cambodia and Laos is coming to an end but we still have two amazing days ahead us! Today we keep riding trough the mountains northwest of Chiang Mai, with a break at the Elephant Camp and then at a romantic waterfall on the way to Pai. Ready for the 1000 curves road?
Myst in the valley... sunshine above us!
Pleased to meet you, most powerful Thai animal!
This could easily be the spot to shoot some fantasy movie...
And the tour guide Michael take the chance for a refreshing bath under the pressure of the waterfall...
Back in Thailand, we ride on the edge of Myanmar, first stopping by the famous Golden Triangle and then going up on the mountains on some of the steepest roads you can imagine! The hotel tonight is at 1400m, Ang Khan Natural Resort. In this area the government have been working hard to erase all the opium and other illegal cultivation. Now farmers have been taught how to replace their crops an around Ang Khan there is even a Royal Garden.
Yes, we like dirt!
On your left, ladies and gentlemen, you can see Myanmar!
Last border crossing of the trip, we are entering Thailand again! This time we will cross the border via ferry over the Mekong (yes the Mekong river is ubiquitous). We will be the last ones crossing this border with a boat, since tomorrow there is the opening ceremony of the new Friendship bridge. We missed it for one day! Even Her Majesty the Princess of Thailand is in town and we crossed the King on his Harley on the way to our hotel...
A visit to a hill tribe village...
And then ready to cross the Mekong! This time the custom clearance was pretty straightforward but we had nevertheless to wait a couple of hours for the ferry. From 11:30 to around 2pm is lunch break... and this means no ferry of course!
Today we will ride almost to the border with China on curvy roads that vary from very very bad conditions (read: potholes with some asphalt or gravel in between) to fantastic newly paved thanks to the Chinese support. We are now in one of the most remote area of Laos, where villages consist of simple bamboo huts and a single water basin on the side of the road functions as public shower...
DAY 9 and DAY 10
For those wishing to get up a bit earlier... balloon ride over the limestone landscape, what a treat!
The ride keeps getting better and better, all the way north towards the beautiful town of Luang Prabang, where the french colonial influence is reflected by its charming architecture.
Finally the rest day! Two night in Luang Prabang permits us to enjoy a late start and a short ride to Pak Ou cave, also known as the cave of the 1000 Buddhas.
Someone started to count them.. but after a few hundreds it is easy to get lost!
Back on the shore we are welcomed by a dozen of cheerful little girls, selling some small dolls as key holders... Not wanting to make some of them happy and some others sad, Jeff had the great idea to buy EVERY doll they had! The bargaining was pretty though... and in the hand we had a handful of dolls, thank you guys!
Luang Prabang at night is full of scenic corners, like the courtyard of our restaurant Coconut Garden.
DAY 7 and DAY 8
Waking up with the jungle on your doorstep is quite a good way to start your day. Vientiane, capital of Laos is awaiting us. A bit of city life after these remote areas will be a nice change, but not for too long, since we will ride small backroads on the next day, reaching the backpacker haven of Vang Vieng.
The temple of the last picnic of Buddha... and some interesting murales are showing us what can happen to our bodies in hell if we don't behave as good souls in life.
From Vientiane to Vang Vieng the road is very twisty, partly in good condition and partly, as usual here, with potholes. However, each stop brings us new emotions and something more to talk about when we will back home after this long trip.
Vang Vieng offers plenty of possibilities for more adventures, like the offroad loop that will delight our afternoon, including some close encounters with water buffalo mamas running towards us to rescue their veals from some noisy motorcyclists...
The prize for such an intense day is this sunset view over the rice fields and limestone mountains...
... which are enclosing a small jungle lagoon... anyone fancies a swim?
Last highlight of the day... crossing the river back to Vang Vieng over the tiny scooter bridge... No one fell off in the water, what an achievement!
Today we start to hit some mountain roads, finally! Our destination is the long cave of Kong Lor: 7km trough limestone mountains on a tiny longtail boat, what an experience!
Entering the cave, getting ready to embark into darkness...
They have just finished to put some lights to show the magnificence of these stalactites and stalagmites.
After the fascinating journey we end up on the other side of the mountain, where some bamboo huts will serve some refreshments.
Someone has found the right vehicle for this environment!
On the way back to our simple river lodge we discovered that electricity is missing! A sudden power cut left us in the dark. What a great opportunity to set up an unforgettable candle light dinner...
Good morning everyone! Breakfast on a riverside terrace... Check! Great weather... Check! Amazing group of riders... Check! It seems that we are ready to go!
Time to catch the ferry to the mainland... What? Really that one? No, not really... this is for scooters, but since we have "big bikes" we are allowed to board the car ferry, slightly more reliable and stable...
In fact I said "slightly", don't expect anything fancy or superspeed!
A bit of sand is not a challenge anymore, after all these potholes zigzag that we had the past days!
Sightseeing of the day: Wat Phou, a temple area from the same epoch of Angkor Wat, linked to it by an ancient road, now not existing anymore.
The way to nirvana is always very steep...
And someone else prefers to rest a bit instead of climbing countless steps.
Riding north, we follow the Mekong for a while, passing trough villages of bamboo huts without running water, and hundreds of people on the road. This stripe of sand and gravel is really the center of life for the whole village. Cruising trough this scenery is quite an experience, in their eyes we look probably like aliens!
In the afternoon we cross into Laos. This time the process is much smoother than at Poipet border and we also have time to enjoy the Mekong waterfalls just before embarking the ferry to Don Khong, one of the 4000 Islands where we will spend the night.
Early morning for us today! A very suggestive sunrise visit to Angkor Wat is awaiting us. At 5am we are ready to jump in our private minivan and a few moments later we are greeting the sun from one of the fantastic view points in the temple complex. Later on we continue our visit to Ta Prohm, better known as the Jungle Temple and used to shoot some scenes of the movie Tomb Rider.
After the awe inspiring visit it's time to start riding! Another great day is ahead us. Cambodian roads can be quite difficult, so we better move on! Tonight we will reach the small town of Kratie along the Mekong river.
Anyone wants some pork?
Whenever we stop dozens of cheerful children come to greet us. For many of them it's the first face to face contact with the "foreigner"...
The first big challenge: border crossing in Poipet, from Thailand to Cambodia. It's the third time that Edelweiss is doing this tour, and every time we come there, although we have all the requested documents, there is of course a new form missing, an original signature missing, some other copies of something... but that's part of the adventure, isn't? We just need lots of patience and with some experience and aids from our local support staff we will eventually get trough...
The long border procedure was well worth it: we are finally facing the mythical Angkor Wat at sunset...
The jet lag is slowly fading and the group is eager to start this Asian motorcycle tour! Today we will first visit the Triumph factory in Chonburi, just outside Bangkok, and then we will head east, towards the border with Cambodia. Our final call for the day is Aranyaprathet.
Arriving at the factory we feel like VIP guest: the very secure gate patrolled day and night by guards is already open for us, and a special parking area for our bikes is reserved in front of the main entrance. What? Do you reckon that these are not Triumph bikes? Oh well, then you are right... unfortunately things at Thai custom are very difficult at the moment and this year we were not able to import our Tigers, and since the factory is in a duty free area getting bike from here was not an option either. We had to rent some Kawasaki Versys for this tour. Not a bad bike at all, by the way. But no worries, for the next year we should have Tigers again!
Our model Karin posing for us in front of one (of the thousands) of Golden Buddhas...
First group picture! Everyone looks still so fresh on Day 1... let's see after 4.000km!
There are so many beautiful temples that is simply impossible to stop at everyone... but each coffee stop or picture stop has one close by...
Ladies and Gentlemen,
let the Oriental show begin once again! A fabulous group of riders from Canada, Germany, Austria, United States and Laos (but living in US) is about to start another incredible adventure across Thailand, Laos Cambodia. 18 days in South East Asia, what a blast! Tour guides Michael and Manuel will take good care of the group, together with our driver from Laos and with our three local guides and interpreters from Thailand (Moo), Cambodia (Bunny) and Lao (Phouvanh).
As soon as the upload speed of internet will permit it, we'll upload more photos...