Beauty in Laos’ Northern Wedge
||8 (plus half day flying Bkk-Udorn-VTE)
||Kayaking (Class 2-3), hiking, exploring a
We’re heading for the northernmost wedge of Laos between China
and Vietnam to visit a one of the country’s remotest and most
beautiful rivers: the far upper Ou River. We’ll have six days
of paddling, interspersed with hiking through beautiful rainforest.
The paddling is somewhat more challenging than normal but daunting
rapids can be portaged. As compensation, we travel through the spectacular
Phou Den Din National Biodiversity Conservation Area (NBCA), snug
on the Vietnamese border, an area seldom visited by outsiders, hiking
its trails in search of herbs. We’ll also wander in Pongsaly—strung
along a knife-edge ridge with superb view—the first Lao province
to declare for Communism during the 1960s. We’ll spend two
nights in hotels, one night in a homestay and five nights camping
in the wilderness. We need to obtain our visas before departing
We’re at the mercy of the airlines here and that leaves
us only one alternative: flying from Bangkok to Udorn on the early
afternoon flight. We then drive to Nong Khai, cross the Lao border,
and spend the night in Vientiane.
Fly in the morning to Phongsaly, load the van and drive to a small
village which serves as our put-in. We’ll inflate the boats
and set up for an early departure the following morning. We have
time to wander in the village before settling into small bamboo
We’ll put-in, paddle for a few hours, then walk with a villager
who will explain to us the various plants in the rainforest and
their uses. We camp on the riverbank.
A day of long rapids that are as fun as they are challenging.
We’re still in the rainforest so the backdrop is beautiful.
Another night of camping on the edge of the forest with its fabulous
Awakened by the birds, we’ll have one of our longest paddle
days today, through more rapids. We’ll camp on a broad bar
at the confluence with the Nam Khang River. The open space will
allow us—weather permitting—to stargaze, learning
the Lao names for, stories behind, the constellations.
Another long day of big, touch rapids with lots of drops and holes
but with a stop at a hillside village of houses with bamboo tile
roofs. We’ll see if we can set up camp in the middle of
the rapids to enjoy their soothing roar through the night.
After paddling through the last of the big rapids, we’ll
arrive at Ban Oa Tai, a village of wood and stone houses climbing
a hillside which will remind many paddlers of Nepal. We’ll
explore the village and spend the night in a village house.
We’ll break down the boats and, after enjoying the village
a bit longer, we’ll load everything on longboats for the
journey to Hat Sa. A van will carry us to Phongsaly where we’ll
have lunch and check-in at a hotel. We’ll spend the afternoon
exploring this very Chinese town and hiking to a tea plantation
and drying factory. Phonsaly sits high about the valleys (another
reminder of Nepal) and if the clouds haven’t rolled in,
we’ll have a celebratory drink while enjoying the sunset.
We drive downhill to the airport, fly to Vientiane, look at its
temples and shops and then ride to the border, cross, dine in
Nong Khai, then ride to Udorn to catch the late-evening flight
For more information and prices, e-mail +662 653 9712 and +6681 450 5340
noting your country of departure.