Date: 26 Jan 2009- 4-Feb-2009
Rider: Dave Early (Silverhawk)
Bike: Suzuki DR650se
Ou Tay is a small village about 70km north of the Boung Nuea junction to Phongsali
No idea what this sign said, but it shows that this area is probably more Chinese than Lao.
It is surrounded by the usual rocky roads with some great scenery. After winding through the mountains twisty roads it is a relief to see it in the distance and then gradually descend onto a straight road into the village
On the way into town you see the Nam Ou River with dugout canoes and what I later learned was a myriad of electrical power generators.
In town the girls at the local fuel stop said I could get food and a place to stay down the road at the hotel, actually the Manyvang GH.
The girls asking me what I would like to eat pointed to the Barking Deer on the wall as a suggestion, but I passed.
On the main road I saw a guy (Armin) with a Honda Africa Twin. It turned out he and his friend were staying at the Manyvang after trying another GH the night before. His friend turned out to be “Steve” from Cambodia who I had ridden with some 5+ yrs ago. They both basically live in Cambodia, but Steve had just returned after doing some logistics work in Afghanistan for a few years.
It was Steve (R) who,5 years ago, found the Burmese border road north of Nor Lae that is now popular with Happy Feet’s tours. I was still riding rental bikes then.
We took a morning stroll around Ou Tay the next day and found it to be a friendly and interesting village.
Instead of what you would expect, it appears the first chore of importance was to get the Lao Kaew whiskey ( never sure how to spell that) stills going.
Many houses had there own little garden next to the house and elevated so the pigs, chickens, buffaloes, etc couldn’t get into them.
As we walked down by the river we say where the larger gardens were planted.
At the river we found the generators. We were told they a 1.5 kw generators and each household runs it’s own wire to the home. The guesthouse had a gasoline generator and ran it from 6PM until 10PM making just enough electricity for one light bulb per room. There were no electrical outlets.
If you are in the area, across from the guesthouse is a little strip of restaurants. The owner of the main one on the right, Chansone, is a Lao born NGO from Vientiane and has lived in this area for many years. He speaks five languages and is very familiar with the trails in the area, even pointing out one that led to the Chinese border with an unguarded frontier. Steve and Armin said they did this one.
I left for Phongsaly and had in the morning low hanging fog that obscured your vision and was a little cold until getting some altitude.
The road from Boun Neua up to Phongsali is smooth asphalt until maybe half way now. They were hit hard by last years tropical storms and were cut off for some time by huge mudslides. They are now resurfacing the road in spots but it is easy going and will be back to all asphalt soon.
I never saw much attraction to Phongsali except for the altitude, cold weather and the view from the road in the morning.
I stayed at the overpriced Poufa Hotel (150,000kip/650baht) which at one time was a French prison. It is in the process of having another make over and although the rooms are nice the grounds are not what they used to be.
I rode down the backside of the mountain from Phongsali to Hatsa. This is the boat landing for the Nam Ou. Some backpackers were heading out for a 5 day trek north and others were heading down to Muang Khoua.
I inquired about putting bikes on one of the boats, as others had asked me before if this was possible. After some debate they decided you could charter the whole boat, multiple bikes, for 850,000 kip/3,500baht. As nothing seemed sure, this is subject to change. It is probably a very scenic cruise but I am not sure if it is worth the effort as it really doesn’t save that much in the way of distance traveled. I suppose one could possibly negotiate a boat all the way to Nong Kiaw but it would be expensive and I am not sure if you could get the bike from boat landing to the road in Nong Kiaw, from what I remember.
Just up the road from the boat landing is a small road that leads to this French built bridge. They had to do something with their money I guess. On the other side of the bridge is a small dirty village and a small road/trail bypassing it. They said at the village you could take the road but you would have to turn and come back the same way. This one needs to be explored. I wonder if it goes to the same village as the 5 day trekkers are going by boat?
Because of the difficult roads in this area and he time it takes to get there, it is not often visited. There are many areas waiting to be explored here.