On the motorbike from Thailand to Laos and Cambodia and back to Thailand

Tempels in Thailand

Following is a Motorbike Trip Report as part of a riding from Thailand to Laos and Cambodia in 2012. For more motorbike trip reports see MOTORBIKE TRIP REPORTS. I made with a good friend a motorbike trip from Khon Kaen to south Laos (Pakse, Attapeu, Don Khong and Don Det) and Cambodia (Kratie, Kampong Cham, Phnom Penh, Battambang)  and Thailand (Ban Phe, Pattaya). It may look like a technical story about riding motorbikes, but it is not. It is actually more about traveling in Laos and Cambodia. We did ride on a Kawasaki Versys 650 and we did a total of about 2.800 km in 14 days. And we only had 2 flat tires! It was a great & safe trip, no accidents, no racing and a lot learned about riding. After riding in Cambodia & Laos I realise that the roads of Thailand are actually very good and that Thai actually drive & ride not so bad as I always thought.

Summery is that the south of Laos and big parts of Cambodia are very flat and riding on a touring-bike (on surfaced roads) is a bit boring. On our whole trip we did not see or had any accident, although my riding partner did park his bike once in the mud. And due to the lack of good GPS, road signs and maps we lost the main road once and awhile and we ended up on roads/tracks that I would not have chosen to ride with an Versys. As said riding with our tour-bikes on the main roads in relatively flat south-Laos and Cambodia it was a bit boring. But as there are actually not so many main roads, this means that there a lot of secondary roads that are actually big fun to ride with an off-road bike. So another lesson learned is that south-Laos and Cambodia are actually much better for off-road bikes!

From Khon Kaen to Attapeu (Laos) via Ubon Ratchathani (Thailand) and Pakse (Laos)

I did first ride from Khon Kaen to Ubon Ratchathani to meet the others and stay there for 2 nights to meet another French friend. We did stay at Sunnee Grand Hotel that had an promotion of 1100 thb for an comfortable room with all the comfort you need. In the evening we had a drink & dinner in one of the pubs along the Mon river. Ubon is a nice provincial town with good hotels & restaurants, although the reason for staying there is more the surrounding area as the town itself.

From Ubon we did first ride to Khong Chiam where the Mon river comes into the Mekong river. Khong Chiam has some hotels & guesthouses and along the Mekong are some "upscale" hotels. The area is beautiful and scenic. We had a drink in one of the many restaurants along the Mon river and we then continued to Chong Mek to cross the border to Laos.

Traveling in South Laos
Crossing the Mon River

The Thai side was very easy and straight forward at the new & modern border-post. Both as for immigration as for the customs department for checking-out our motorbikes. On the Lao side it was a bit more chaotic and  time-consuming. As we did not have an visa for Laos we first had to apply for an visa and then we did get the entry-stamps for Laos. After that we had to go to another desk for the customs to check-in our motorbikes. Just before the Lao Immigration office are some small shops that are selling the insurance for cars & motorbikes.

From Chong Mek it was straight to Pakse for an early lunch at the French "Sisouk" Restaurant (what is also an boutique hotel). We did stay at the modern "Champasak Grand Hotel" and had dinner at "Na Dao French Restaurant"(great food!). Pakse is a nice town with a few river-side pubs and restaurants near the new bridge. It seems that many people think that Pakse will be an part of the new gate-way to Vietnam and there is a lot of new development. Seeing the current state of the infrastructure I have my doubts about that. For information about Pakse, see Pakse Information

The New Bridge over the Mekong River

The next day we took a ride to the Bolaven Plateau and as we were there so early we decided to make a little loop via Sekong. The idea was to complete the loop that day via the road marked at point "J". On the map it was a good road and along the road were big signs "Pakxsong" and "Pakse" .... only the beginning was a bit in road construction. Well, actually the first 9 km took us 30 min to ride! And as we still had about 60 km to go we made a u-turn and decided to go to Attapeu instead.

On the wrong short-cut

On an off-road bike this road would have been fun, but on heavy Kawasaki Versys it ain't fun with all the sand, stones and put-holes. The all main road from Pakse to Attapeu was in very good condition.

From Attapeu to Don Khong

When we arrived in Attapeu I checked with an friend if we could take route 18 to route 13 as a short-cut. But before asking he said "Do not take the short-cut while on your touring bikes!" .... so that left us the next day with a big loop back to Pakse and then going south again. As the road was so smooth and easy to ride we accidentally did skip Champasak. So we just did ride on to the ferry to Don Khong. All roads from Pakse to the ferry of Don Khong were in very good condition. BTW .... just before the ferry-crossing to Don Khong they are building a bridge to Don Khong.

Crossing the Mekong River on the ferry to Don Khong

The mighty Mekong River in South Laos

The beach in the Mekong River in South Laos

Rapids at Don Khone
From Don Dhet to Kratie
As there is not much to do at Don Khong we stayed for 1 night  only (at "Pon's Arena Hotel") and the next morning we did make a tour over the island and did ride back to the ferry again to go to Don Dhet. It is only a short ride from the ferry of Don Khong to the ferry of Don Dhet. We did park our motorbikes at the secured parking where also just a big group of BMW-riders from Bangkok arrived for an afternoon at Don Dhet. The ferry to Don Dhet is a small wooden boat that brought us to the wrong place on the island so we had to take a motorbike with side-car to our hotel Little Eden.

On the ferry crossing the Mekong River

The next day we did reverse the all ferry story and we made our way to the border of Laos and Cambodia. On the Laos side all went very smooth but "Welcome to the bullshit of Cambadia". It started with a "Health Check" where we had to pay 2 us$ pp. Then at customs the officer asked if we thought it would be fair to pay 20 us$ pp. No way! So we settled for 20 us$ for the 2 of us. Then we had to get our Cambodian visa and were charged 25 us$ instead of 20 us$. By this time I was getting sick of the bullshit and I told the little f&*ers! 

Motorbike riding in Laos and Cambodia
Crossing the border from Laos to Cambodia

Motorbike riding in Laos and Cambodia
At the Lao Cambodian border

Motorbike riding in Laos and Cambodia
Lao Cambodian Border

Motorbike riding in Laos and Cambodia
Highways in Cambodia

Until Stung Treng it was an easy and good road without much traffic. And crossing the new bridge at Stung Treng was a beautiful sight (sorry forgot the stop for a photo). We stopped in town for a drink and then continued our way to Kratie. Although there was still not much traffic the road became put-holed at stretches of 100 meter and then a few km good road again. So that did put down the average speed.

Motorbike riding in Cambodia
Mekong River near Kratie in Cambodia

In Kratie we checked in at "Septhengmeaph Hotel" and explored the little town with a few western restaurants and some gueshouses & hotels. Kratie is a small town with a big market. Along Kratie is an big island in the Mekong River with a few resorts & hotels to experience the true Cambodian upcountry life. See Santepheap Hotel

From Kratie to Kampong Cham
The next day we continued to Kampong Cham and going that way you can choose to take the long way home (almost going to Vietnam) or take the scenic road along the Mekong river. We did choose the latter. Until Chhlong it was a nice and good up-country road, but then we made a direction mistake and followed the "road" straight along the Mekong River. Road? It became more a dusty sand-track with a lot of put-holes in it. 

After our first stop with the all family and kids saying "Hello" we discovered that the rear-tyre of my friends bike was flat. 
Good luck 1 = Someone told us we had a flat tyre while still there
Good luck 2 = I had an tyre-plug with me
Good luck 3 = There was a repair shop with air-presure

So we did ride on, into the wilderness of upcountry Cambodia and kids were along the road screaming "Hello", what makes you feel a VIP. That was all fine until there was an mud pool where you could go left or right around it. My friend did choose right and did forget his side-cases when passing a tree ... oops there we go! And his bike was standing in the mud.

Motorbike riding in Cambodia
Motorbike in the mud in Cambodia

Good luck 1 = Bike just parked in the mud, no person or bike injured
Good luck 2 = Many kids to pull the bike out of the sucking mud
Good luck 3 = High pressure washing nearby to get the mud off
So after a the bike was cleaned we continued our way to Kampong Cham!

Motorbike riding in Cambodia
Cambodian country side

And I am so happy there was a bridge from where I took this photo otherwise I am sure we would be taking the river at the centre of this photo. Actually during raining season we could have never done this road as at 2 points there was a bridge but no road to it so we did ride thru the dry river-bed.

And bloody hell what was I happy when I saw the first buildings of Kampong Cham, because I was tired and realised that I was starting to make riding mistakes taking soft sand, put-holes and single-track along the Mekong River. We checked in at "Mekong Hotel" and had dinner at "Mekong Crossing". Kampong Cham is a provincial town (bigger as Kratie I would say) with some modern (but still local) nightlife, a boulevard with restaurants and market in the evening and a bunch of hotels. See also Mekong Hotel

From Kampong Cham to Phnom Penh
We took the northern route 7 & 6 to Phnom Penh while it would have been better to take southern route 15, but well we did not know. According to my map we should cross the Tongle sap at Kaoh Chen but we accidentally followed the route straight along the Mekong and crossed the Tongle sap right in PP. Again the first part of the route was easy but then road-construction and traffic-jam started to build up and it took us about 5hrs to do the "only 120 km" to PP. And and exhausting 5hrs! We did stay at "Lux Riverside Hotel" where also a group of Honda Goldwing riders from Malaysia checked in. Our Versys's did look sooooo small! Phnom Penh is a hectic city and we did stay at near the touristic boulevard that actually has become a kind of tourist-gettho. After 3 days I was in the mood of shooting some the tuk-tuk drivers asking every 1min "You want Tuk-Tuk?" or worse "You want young girl?" and "You want ganja?". For the rest we enjoyed the good & cheap western food. But next time I will have to find me a better area to stay. See also Lux Riverside Hotel

From Phnom Penh to Battambang via Kampong Chhanng
After 3 days R&R in Phnom Penh we continued our trip to Kampong Chhanng. Although it was busy traffic leaving PP in the morning and there were a lot of nut-cases on the road we did arrive early in Kampong Chhanng and we made a boat-trip to explorer the Vietnamese ethics living on the floating village's. A wonderful trip that I had made a few years ago also and I still like it. It was hot and although we had an (small) umbrella 1hr on the small boat is a long time.

Motorbike riding in Cambodia
Village life on the Tongle Sap in Cambodia

Village life on the Tongle Sap in Cambodia

From Kampong Chhanng we continued our way over route 5 to Battambang where we check in at "Bambu Hotel" and took a dip in the swimming pool. Roads were good but busy. We did stay 2 days in Battambang. It is a small provincial town with a lot of colonial history. In town there seems to be the development of a kind of "tourist" street with a few restaurants and guesthouses. We had a drink at "Gecko", what is a pleasant place to eat & drink. We had dinner in the restaurant of our hotel that serves very good western style food.

From Battambang to Pattaya via Pailin and Ban Phe (Thailand)
We left Battambang early in the morning to Pailin and the border town. The roads are good and there is not much traffic. Near Pailin the scenery gets better again with some mountains and nice views. At the border we had some problems convincing people we came from Cambodia and wanted to enter Thailand and that we had already a visa for Thailand. I took a while and some chaotic moments but it all worked out OK. The roads in Thailand are much better again and there was not much traffic until Rayong. We made a first refreshment stop about 15 km after the border at "Chan Wana Mountain View Resort & Coffee shop" and then continued to Ban Phe for a lunch at a seafood restaurant overlooking the bay of Ban Phe.

After 3 days of R&R in Pattaya we did ride our last leg of 550 km from Pattaya to Khon Kaen via Kabinburi and Wang Nam Keauw (route 331, route 304 and route 2). All roads are good but the stretch from Pattaya until Kabinburi is always a bit busy, just as the stretch from Khorat to Khon Kaen. But with a few drink & eat stops for both the machine and the rider we arrived sound and well in Khon Kaen after 14 days of riding.

From Battambang to Ban Phe

From Ban Phe to Pattaya

One night in Bangkok and the world is your oyster

The journey of Traveling 2 Thailand did begin with One Night in Bangkok in 1985 and since 2009 it became a personal non-commercial travel blog as inspiration for traveling & motorbike riding in Thailand. Made just for the sheer love of traveling and sharing experience about traveling in South-East Asia. To travel beyond the beaten track & highlights. Enjoy!