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lundi 14 mars 2011

Top Rock Adventures Members’ Climbing in Chiang Mai and in South Lao, Thakek in Khamouan Province.PART 2

Top Rock Adventures Members’ Climbing in Chiang Mai and in South Lao, Thakek in Khamouan Province.


PART 2:
After spending lovely climbing days in Chiang Mai we have moved from Chiang Mai to Udorn Thani and further south to Nakon Phanon at the Lao border near Isaan province.
Nakon Phanon is a small Thai city located on the right side of the Mekong river bank.
Nothing to do or to see in Nakon Phanon but it is the place to cross the Mekong River and to get a fresh visa for Lao.
At that entrance point you are right in front of Thakek city a lovely old French colony place.
Once you will cross the Mekong and get on the left bank you will immediately enjoy and appreciate the kindtness of the Lao people.

Thakek is a very quite city, living along with the Mekong river flow… Romantic!
Thakek is also a starting point to organise your climbing trip in Lao.

Lao offers various areas for climbing.
Some are already known such as VangVieng and Luang Pabang. But it is also possible to climb around Thakek at 16km drive out from down town.
The area is opposite to Buddha Cave entrance on the road towards Mahaxai, and the 4000 islands Mekong delta near Cambodia border Road # 12.
Thakek climbing area is opened since one year and had been develop by 17 climbers coming from Germany.
The area is beautiful with an amazing cave at the end of the valley where a green transparent fresh water river is flowing trough!!! After climbing it is a nice to jump in it!
The climbing area is called “Pha Tam Kam” and is divided in 7 crags: Hilton, Elephan, Roof right side, Roof left side, Honeymoon, Schôffl block, Mathan.
The rock is a very soft limestone with stalactite crawling down from the wall.

We have to mentioned that even if the climbing is beautiful you must climb very carefully while you are pulling on a stalactite even a big one!!

Also, bolting has been done in a fancy way and sometimes you can easily be scared to fall!! Take care at the belay station while you are lowering your partners or top roping.
It is a new spot so anything can break until a bulk of climbers will visit it.
We recommend to bring along with you, a brush, a 17mm spanner key an some 10mm plates. Some extra slings will be helpful to reinforce the belay station. Long quick draws are very useful.

The climbs are quite short between 16m to 25m, grades from 3C to 8A (French grades).
Grades are not properly fixed while a very less number of climbers have been climbing over in this place. Still you can propose your grade estimation.
Some multi pitches routes are in 6B/6C. Usually the second pitch is not worth to be climbed in itself, while you can do both pitches in one. Do careful at the over tension of the rope due to illogical bolting.

We have done all climb from easy to hard with our friend Lothar Mauch and my wife Sandrine. A real pleasure!! Particularly to climb with our “Guru” Lothar, Chamonix’ Alpinism French Icon!!
The hardest routes above 7B are short and not really interesting. Mainly they present boulder problems.
Many easy routes between 6B to 6C are nice to climb!!

You can down load the guidebook at:
http://www.climbinglaos.com/index.php?guidebook

When you will be in Travel Lodge in Thakek you will collect update information’s on the area.
From Thakek Travel lodge and Mr.Hu you can rent a bike and drive to the Hinboun Valley. Their beautiful lime stone rock area will flash to your eyes!! Amazing green valley, with a beautiful river coming out from Tam Kong lor Cave. A network of 7 km river in underground.

Basically when you will reach the end of the road at Sala Hinboun you will walk a few 100mts to get the river bank. You can hire a local small tail boat for 10€ (100000kips) and add 5000kips( 0.5€) per person. It will take you 3Hrs to go and come back from the under ground river. Kong Lor Cave is just an amazing scenery must be seen once in his life!

The Kong Lor caving network has been developed by a French explorers caving team in 2006.
During the caving expedition Phil Bence, Rodolphe Sturm, Maël Loizance, Momo Piazzini have develop a climbing area 8km before Kong Lor cave near the village called Ban Nam None.
The route setting has been made in very safety and professional manner! 3 areas have been developed and offer 26 routes from 3C to 8A over 3 spots: “Petit Keug”, “Singe en Hiver” and “Climb One”.

For a complete information and guidebook you can visit the French blog:

http://www.explos.org/laosclimbing/index.html

We have climbed and check all various crags and found out some bolts have been stolen!!
Nothing very dangerous but still make sure you will come with extra 10mm bolts and plates along with a 17mm spanner.
In case you wish to develop more routes we request you to send us your new work to update guidebooks and blogs.

From Travel lodge or if you are already on the road to Kong Lor cave , you can do a loop journey to come back to Thakek. It is called the "Loop"!! You will become "Loopers"!

During the loop you will drive for 500km from and back to Thakek including the visit of the Hinboun valley.
To do the trip in a good way without taking any risk is to do it in 3 to four days. You can do it clockwise or anticlockwise.
Personnaly, we have done it clockwise while the most boring part we be done the first day from Thakek to The Hinboun Valley. Also it is the longer stretch 180km.

The first day, you will drive on the NH 13. The road becomes very beautiful and the sceanary amazing from Vieng Kham until Hinboun valley ends (Road #8A).
You will cross a small pass trought incredible limestone pinacles and cliffs!! A limestone desert!!
Are we on the moon...!

The second day you can, early in the morning, visit the Kong Lor Cave and then drive to Lak Sao for an over night. Road is nice and you will need 3.5Hrs to get their (98km - road 8A)

The 3rd day, you will start early and drive on the road 8B to Thakek while stopping at some of the amazing caves along the road. We particularely recommand Tham Phainh.

From La k Sao your day will start on a dirty road for 62km until you get to Thalang bridge where you can stay in a guest house right on the lake bank.
EDF in partmership with Lao and Thai companies have built the first and biggest dum in Lao. 450km²! 75% of the electricity production goes to Thailand.
While driving towards Thaland you will cross an amazing deep rain forest and drive on 25 km dum!! On both side of the dum you will see a dead forest where trees are standing in the water.
Again after Thalang you will drive for 50km on durty but stabalised road until you will cross Mahaxai road. At that point you will drive on road #12 for 2hrs.

We have done this trip on a KALAO 100cc motobike two of us.
Lothar was alone and carrying all climbing gears!

Lao landscape and Laotian people are very nice and still not spoiled by mass tourism and modern constructions.

We wish you a best trip and discovery.

Jeanluc Jubert, Sandrine
Renaud.Travel Informations:



Top Rock Adventures is organizing climbing tours and packages around South East Asia. You can visit our web site about our Indian rock climbing packages in Badami, Hampi, Manali, Spiti and Lahaul Valleys.
For Thaïland, Vietnam, Lao, China, climbing tours you can send us an email at contact@toprockadventures.com
We will organise the climbing gears (sports and traditional climbing), hotel/guest house booking, travel booking, and all transfert facilities to make your trip as much as cool as possible.

Jeanluc Jubert will guide you trough all these marvellous countries and climbing spots while avoiding touristic and crowdies places.
He will share with you is travel experiences and cultural knowledge.
In case you wish to travel by yourself here are some relevant information’s.
How to get Nakon Phanon and Lao border:From Bangkok: Direct flight with Air Asia or NokAir.http://www.nokair.com/ from any of their sale counter. No online booking facilities are available.http://www.airasia.com/ Online booking
Approximately 1800Thai Bath per passenger one way.

From Chiang Mai:From down town Chiang Mai to Airport by taxi it will cost you 100Thai bath.

Direct flight with Nok Air to Udorn Thani.
http://www.nokair.com/
You must get your booking and flight ticket from Chiang Mai airport.
Approximately 6000Thai Bath both way per passenger.
Then you will have to take a bus from the bus station located in the heart of Udorn Thani to Nakon Phanon
Bus starts from 4.30am and run every 30 minutes.
It will take you 6hrs. Slow local bus stopping billion of times on the way. But you can see the local life, at least!!!
At your arrival at Nakon Phanon bus stand you will take a “Tuk Tuk” for 30 ThaiBath each to get you in 10 minutes to the Ferry and immigration.
Both Thailand and Lao immigration office are Open form 8.00AM until 4.00pm everyday.
You can also take a taxi from Udorn Thani to Nakon Phanon: Approximately 3000Thai Baht. 3hrs only!!
Taxi can be hire from Udorn Thani bus stand.

Where to Stay in Udorn Thani:In down town at 3mn walk from the central bus station for Nakon Phanon:
SRITRAKARN HOTEL
Ph: +6642-222454
Email: sritrakarn.udon@gmail.com
A very welcome place simple but well maintained.
The owner is very smiley, helpful and speaks fluent English.
Free internet access.
Room: Fan 250Thai bath, A/C: 350Thai bath
Perfect stay for one night or two.
While staying in Udorn Thani one can visit the Night bazaar near the lake.
Very beautiful market, full of cloth shops’. A best place to eat. Cheap and best!
You must try the Salted grilled fish from Mekong River.
You can get from bus stand or SRITRAKARN HOTEL to the night bazaar in 5 minutes walk or take a “Tuk tuk” for 20ThaiBath each.
Another option is to stay in the south of the city near the university. Student area.

Also, many middle range standard hotel are in Udorn Thani as it is a place where expatriated foreigners stay to cross the border to Vientiane and get a fresh visa for Thailand!
One can check on internet.

Visa: Both Thailand and Lao Immigration office are Open form 8.00AM until 4.00pm everyday.
From Thailand to Lao:
At the arrival from the ferry on the Mekong river Lao side you will get one month visa for:
- 30US$ for European countries
- 40US$ for Canadian.
No any other formality is requested by Laotian authorities except to fill up an arrival form as usual. A passport size picture per person might be useful.
No any exit fees will be requested by the Lao Immigration on departure.

From Lao to Thailand: After crossing on your way back the Mekong River you will get a free 15 days Thailand visa for most of the country.
For longer visa period one must get info from Thai Embassy or consulate.
Lao Visa fees can be paid in US$, € or Thai Bath.
The change will be given back in the same money you will pay.

Mekong ferry fee: From Nakon Phanon to Thakek 1.5€ or 120ThaiBath approximately per passenger
From Lao Thakek to Nakon Phanon Thailand Mekong right bank: 15000Kips

Exchange rates: March' 2011.1€ = 1000kips
1US$= 8000kips.
1€= 40 ThaiBath
You can check for exchange rate up date at:
http://www.xe.com/

ATM and Exchange:You will find ATM everywhere. But still it is always good to carry US$, €, Thai Bath with you if you plan to go in remote areas. You will always be able to pay a restaurant or Hotel/Guest house or your petrol in foreign currency. Your change will be given in Kips.
Where to stay in Thakek:Different options are available but we recommend
The Travel Lodge
From the immigration office take a “TukTuk” for 3€ (30000kips). It is at 15mn drive.
Charming place with a bit of French colonial style. Nice food. Camp fire at night.
Facilities: Free Wifi and free luggage room.
Better to book in advance.

Mr.Hu will arrange your bike for 90000Kips (9€) per day.
You can find a bit cheaper in town but the quality of the bike is very bad (Tyre, Breaks, engine oil…)
You can also stay in Indhira Hotel Near the Mekong river.
Quite noisy and no view on the Mekong river. 45000kips one night:
http://www.inthirahotels.com/

Have a good trip!!

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