LAOS (solo) ADVENTURE
6th May 2018 - 17th May 2018
11 days of amazing riding in Laos! (Google Map – Full trip link)
I’m going to attempt to keep this trip report concise, but it will be hard.
There were so many great experiences that it will be difficult to narrow them down, but for the sake of easy reading, I will try! 😀 (TRIP HIGHLIGHT VIDEO AT END OF REPORT)
Day 1: Chiang Mai, Thailand to Luang Namtha, Laos. (Google Map link)
Knowing that I had a lot of ground to cover I set of early. So by around 5:45am I was on the bike and heading off on the main route to Chiang Khong (via Chiang Rai). I made no stops except for fuel and arrived in Chiang Khong at around 9:45am.
I met up with David Unkovich (GT.Rider) and his friends for coffee and around an hour later I was back on the bike and heading for the Friendship Bridge crossing.
As I had already been through this crossing in November 2017 (Muang Sing or Bust trip report), and was a straight forward process. This border crossing is normally nice and quiet. Once the paperwork was sorted, I was escorted across the friendship bridge (with a compulsory fee of 500 baht..even though no one actually needs this escort and no other border enforces it…..)
At the Laos side I parked up and headed straight to pay for the Laos visa (1500 baht or 35 USD). Next I took my bike documents over to another counter to process my bike through. (I have a full video guide on this crossing HERE).
Once stamped I went to get insurance sorted out, (except the girl who normally does the insurance wasn’t at her station, so I ended up on a bit of a wild goose chase of being directed to some bizarre outhouse of people cooking and families working together. Here was the insurance girl, and she did my insurance right in the middle of this family style kerfuffle. It also took her a REALLY long time to do the insurance..and she hammed it up first time round. So make sure to double check that the details are correct.)
Insurance (eventually) sorted, I then went to the last stage where my documents were stamped a million times by a really sleepy girl who had most of her focus on her mobile phone. Another SLowwwww process, but such is life. All i could do was stand bug-eyed at the wasting of (my) time and breathe my way through it.
Eventually I was through and out the other side. Had a mix of relief, excitement, and apprehension as I set off on my first solo ride through Laos.
You have to have your wits about you on this route to Luang Namtha. The road has strange ripples and ridges, potholes, and crazy Chinese (HGV) trucks going at a fair speed around blind corners (on your side of the road). Then of course there are the usual dogs, cattle, goats, pigs, children, families, slow drivers…. Hah! The list goes on.
Still, it is amazing experience. Many of the homes you pass are simple wooden one room houses, perched on stilts on the edge of the mountain.
Usually these homes all share the same water source for cleaning and showering, which is sometimes just an overflow pipe leading to a ditch on the side of the road.
Most of these families live their lives outside of their homes so you ride past daily life being played out openly for all to view. People washing, showering, cooking. Children playing on the road (often in the ditch at the side, playing in mud). Very surreal.
To top it off many of these homes have a satellite dish sticking out from their humble roof. Such is the modern world, even in rural Laos!
I had one hiccup on this road in a rural location (aside from the usual everything-is-going-to-kill-me moments). My heart skipped a beat when I noticed my bike was leaking fuel like it had incontinence.
My adventure had only just begun and already it looks like it was going to end! I was not actually sure how to fix a fuel leak, but I am completely sure I would have worked it out. I have enough faith in myself to get myself out of a tricky situation. Luck was on my side though as I spotted what looked like a mechanics yard as I passed a rural village. I rode up the dirt slope to his shop and showed him the issue…and he set to work.
Looked to be quite tricky, but he sorted out the fuel line and stopped the leak.
Some curious children came to watch too. I feel really lucky to have had this help, and watching him fix it, I am sure i can sort this issue out on my own, if it ever happens again. He charged me 80 baht, which I am sure is more than the going rate for Laos, but I gave him 100 baht note instead, because i was so grateful.
At around 4:15pm I arrived in Luang Namtha, relieved, and weary. I headed straight for the Dokchampa Hotel because I had stayed there before and meant I didn’t need to hunt around. At only 400 baht, it was a good deal also. Old building, but clean and with a hot shower. It was all I needed. I cleaned up and then headed to The Manychan for food. Half way through my meal I realised i was really fading fast. Sleepiness had caught up and I was finding it hard to chew. It was only 6:30pm! I gave up on finishing my meal and went to the local store to quickly buy a sim card with internet package and a large bottle of water. I then headed straight back to the hotel to sleep.
Day 2: Luang Namtha to Luang Prabang. (Google Map link)
Another early start. On my bike by 6am. Made a lot of sense to set off early, because the air was much cooler and the risk of rain lower (start of rainy season period, and the storms are often dramatic). As I set off, I realised that I had forgotten to top up my fuel tank the night before due to being so tired. Ended up kicking myself because the garage up from the hotel was closed. I had around 40kms left of fuel in the tank, so figured I would just wing it. Thankfully there was a petrol station not to far from the town, so that was a relief. I filled up and headed off, enjoying the misty crisp morning air.
I had hoped that as it was so early that the roads would be quiet and free from the big trucks. Sadly not the case and the trucks still kept trundling through. The road condition wasn’t too bad though, so at least there was that. The first main village I came across was Na Mor, which was bustling with local life. (video clip of this town (and more) is included in my main video at the end of this trip report).
A lot of this road was just fantastic. Take a look at this section between Na Mor and Muang Xai (and it got even better after Muang Xai!)
There was a lot of Chinese development on route (and everywhere in general). Quite a contrast here between a modern factory and a rural roadside town. Strange to see such sweet rural children playing right next to such a monster development.
At Muang Xai (capital of Udomxai Province) I stopped for a coffee and croissant. By this time (9:30am) it was already beginning to heat up significantly.
After coffee I headed back on the R13 and let me tell you, the road between Muang Xai and Pak Mong intersection and was absolutely glorious!
This section of road was a refreshing change from the bumpy pot holed road I had been riding thus far. This section of road was apparently resurfaced back in 2014 and was still in fantastic condition. Lots of great curves and nice road. Just meant i could switch off for a while and enjoy the ride without fear of broken up road around the corner. Wasn’t too busy either, so had a total joy moment and found myself grinning and laughing out loud.
Spotted this abandoned house en route and stopped in to take a look around..
Approximately 70km before Laung Prabang I pulled into a garage to fuel up and noticed a large group of big bike riders resting outside a local store. Was an unusual sight to see, as there seemed so little big bike riders around. These guys had some serious bikes too, and all decked out, unlike my humble Dtracker 250cc.
Turned out they were from China and were riding in Laos, exploring the area. The were on their way to Luang Prabang, and invited me to join them. I declined, as I love to solo ride. In all honesty, my bike is more nimble on these kinds of roads, so I was going at a pretty good pace by this time. I also wanted to be able to stop when I want to take photos etc, without the inconvenience of the group riding experience. Lovely people though.
Spotted even more large scale Chinese development projects en route to Luang Prabang. This one was absolutely massive. I think the video doesn’t show it well, but the people working on it look like ants!
At around 2:15pm i pulled into Luang Prabang and began to hunt for someplace to stay. I wanted some place along the river, but I didn’t want to spend high amounts. My plan was to try keep this trip within a reasonable budget (or what i consider reasonable). I found one place that gave me a discount for 2 nights stay. (700 baht per night). Was clean but turned out to have no view, but I was too tired to care.
Unfortunately I soon found out that the shower was pretty much useless and cold and the rooster outside had no concept of time. I cant imagine ever staying there again to be honest, but there was nothing truly wrong with it per say. Not the worst I have stayed in by a long shot. Just think it was pricey for the time of year and for what I got, but I suppose Luang Prabang is probably a pricey city.
After I cleaned up I took a walk around the walking street market and ended up at a small riverside restaurant having dinner and a Beer Laos. I slept erratically that night, mainly due to the annoying rooster. Such is life!
Day 3: Luang Prabang to Kuang Si Waterfall (and explore). (Google Map link)
The next morning I set off on a daytime explore. I had been given a tip off that Kouang Si Waterfall was well worth a look, so had a morning coffee at Joma Cafe, then headed off to the waterfall. The road to the waterfall is quite lovely, with a few advertised touristy things to do on route (animal park, butterfly farm, etc). Plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and fuel stops along this route, so nothing to worry about on that front.
I stopped at one village to enjoy the mood that the village evoked. Was so peaceful to watch the cows chewing grass in front of the temple.
When I arrived at the waterfall parking bay, it was already buzzing with visitors. I parked up in secure parking zone, paid the parking small parking fee (2000 kip), then headed to the ticket booth to buy a ticket (20,000 kip). When you go through the gate to the falls, the first area you come across is the Bear Reserve. Apparently these bears have been rescued, but I am not sure of the full story as yet.
Stunning emerald clear water met my gaze. I had no idea it would be so beautiful. It was so inviting that I took a swim. I got in with all my clothing, because I knew it would keep me cool as I walked around. Plus I did not want to fuss with trying to dry off in order to get the clothes on again. Sometimes easier just to dive in. Unfortunately though I ended up catching my yoga pants on a sharp rock and having it rip at the bum area. Oops! That made for some covert covering up with a small towel I had packed. All i could think is thank goodness i took a towel at all!
The waterfall is a multi level fall, with a 60 meter drop, and also a steep walk up to the top level lagoon and a small cave. This additional walk up is not for the faint hearted, as it’s fair steep ascend on dirt steps. Once at the top you can purchase cool drinks though. At this lagoon area you can also rent a boatman to take you to the source of the waterfall, if you wish.
A little further on from the lagoon you walk a approximately 3-4 km trek through a dirt track to reach the cave.
Its a fair walk with not much to look at on route, so best to have plenty of water and lots of resolve.
At the base of the cave, to the right, is another lagoon with a small restaurant run by a local couple.
They will serve you up simple Laos dishes and have drinks (and even beer), should you want them.
The cave itself is rather small,but still interesting none-the-less. The entry fee is 20,000 kip and you are provided a torch to take with you.
I would say I am glad I went in to see the cave, but I wouldn’t have much desire to go back to it. I have been lucky enough to see some quite amazing caves, and this one was fairly low key…but was good to get some exercise in.
I walked the 3-4km back and then descended the dirt steps again. Not a route you would want to do if it has been raining. Would for sure get very muddy and slippery.
At the base of the steps I noticed a group of monks having their photos taken. I took the opportunity to request a photo. Lucky for me I got one!
So, here is a comedy moment for you.
I decided (as a temporary measure) to cut up the useless flip-flops and just use electrical tape to fix them to my feet. A temp measure whilst I went to find a new pair to replace them.
Thankfully I was able to get a decent cheap pair at the night market that night!
I returned that evening to the same restaurant I had eaten at the night before. To be honest it really wasn’t a good restaurant. The service was bad and the food was not so great. The only reason I returned is that because it is so bad meant that it did not have many customers. Thus, I would have the place to myself. This is the consequence of being an introvert. Sometimes the mere presence of other people is just too much. I had already enough stimuli for overload, and just wanted a reliable place to switch my brain off and enjoy the view.
I slept early.
Day 4: Luang Prabang to Phonsovan. (Google Map link)
Another early rise and on the bike at 6am again. Was a lovely crisp morning and i was looking forward to getting out of the city and into the mountains.
This road did not disappoint. It was not 100% smooth, but not rough either. The views were amazing and fantastic to be riding on a road and seeing a clear view of how it twists around the mountain ahead of me.
The closer I came to Phonsavan the cooler and fresher it became and the last approximate 50km was absolutely beautiful. Was like riding straight through a painting. The landscapes were lush and green and the open roads were filled with cattle lolling about happily. The whole region had a peaceful slow vibe, which is amazing considering how badly the region was bombed during the Secret War.
By 12:30pm I was already in Phonsavan and stopped in at Cranky-T cafe to get my bearings and work out where to stay.
Initially the Vasana Plain of Jars looked nice. More than I wanted to pay, but the rooms apparently had baths and a warm soak sounded great. However, when i took a drive to the location the route to get to it was fairly gravely and muddy. Fine in theory, but thunderstorms were predicted to hit and my body was aching. I just didn’t fancy a bone shaking muddy route just to get to my hotel and back when exploring. It would be an additional achy extra that wasn’t necessary. Instead I (thankfully) opted for my 2nd choice of Favanhmai Hotel, and was totally happy with this hotel. The rate was 700 baht per night, it was very new, very clean, and had fantastic views over the city.
Turned out to be brilliant timing too, as an absolutely MASSIVE thunderstorm hit whilst I was in the room. Quite beautiful to watch this stunning storm from a nice comfortable room and I was very glad to have a birds-eye view of the town as it hit.
The storm and rain lasted throughout the night so I had a very wet walk for dinner (I thankfully had packed a small umbrella. Silver lined. So is good for both sunshade and rain).
(Unfortunately dinner did not sit well with me at all, and got myself a terrible stomach upset. It was a night of not much sleep ..arghh!)
I suspected the mornings ride to Plain of Jars sites would be a pretty muddy affair…
Day 5: Phonsavan (Plain of Jars). (Google Map link)
At 7am I had a light breakfast in the hotel (not much to write home about, but ok. I was careful about what to eat as my stomach still felt off). I then set off to Plain of Jars site 1. It was surprisingly dry given that it had rained all night!
I am glad i turned up early to the site. First, because I escaped the heat (which, by just 2 hours later, was intense), and second, because i escaped the crowds (which came thick and fast later on).
I skipped the exhibition room initially (I already knew the story as i had watched a documentary 8 years ago, and had wanted to visit the site ever since. I figured I would leave this room until after my walk).
The stone jars were very interesting. Well, to me they were. I suppose how interesting they are depends on your own perspective really. Some may just see a bunch of boring jars, but I saw history. Historical sites always gets my skin prickling. Something about the idea of walking in time. Hard to explain, but fills me with awe. So I loved seeing the jars.
Then of course there was the more recent historical aspect of all the bomb craters. During 1964 and 1973, the Plain of Jars was heavily bombed by the U.S. Air Force. Known as the “Secret War”, the area had more bombs dropped there (primarily in the Plain of Jars), than anywhere in the whole of World War II. This includes around 262 million anti-personnel cluster bombs. It is estimated that there are still around 80 million unexploded bombs in the region.
Clearing the area of bombs is ongoing. It is mind blowing to think that many people in this region have gone through this in their own lifetimes. Shocking and not spoken about enough. It has received very little global attention. Many have no idea where Laos even is, let alone this terrible tale.
I spent many hours in site 1 and debated about heading to site 2 and 3. There was also Long Tieng that could have been explored too (where, in 1962 the CIA set up headquarters). However, I made the decision to rest instead. I was happy with what I had seen (and I can always return one day to see more). My stomach was still off and my body was aching a lot from riding, so I just wanted to give myself a break. I purchased a couple of snacks (unhealthy comfort food) and headed back to my hotel for a rest up.
I think I may have been in the room for too long though, because i started doing weird bored stuff, such as:
It was a pretty evening over Phonsavan. Another storm blew through. The air was very fresh. I slept well that night.
Day 6: Phonsavan to Vang Vieng. (Google Map link)
Another early start and a glorious backtrack ride on a tranquil and scenic road. Absolutely love the route from Phonsavan to Phou Khoun, and the route to Vang Vieng was fantastic too.
I arrived in Vang Vieng by 11am.
I stopped in at Luang Prabang Bakery whilst I looked up about where to stay. I found a bungalow resort place with a pool for 700 a night (Initially it was 750 a night, but as I was staying two nights I got a discount). Vang Vieng Garden Bungalows. Was simple and ok. (Overpriced for what it was, but that’s popular tourists spots for you I guess…). I cleaned up and headed out for a wander on foot. Vang Vieng truly is backpacker party-town central. Haha. I had lunch then went back to relax at the pool and try to get some colour on this white farmer-tanned skin of mine.
Found myself getting bored fast, despite listening to podcasts through headphones. I’m not really a sit-at-the-pool-and-do-nothing kinda person and I got antsy. Ended up going back to my room and typing up some trip report stuff. Headed out again in the early evening to walk around the night market (which sold pretty much all the usual stuff you expect in a touristy area, but was still food for the eyes regardless). I treated myself to an oil massage for the first time in years and tried to relax (I seem to find relaxing hard..haha!). I think my masseuse was used to only giving light massage as i kept having to request her to be firmer. My muscles were really quite aching by this point, so was good to have them worked on.
Day 7: Vang Vieng explore & Famous Rocket Festival. (Google Map link)
My morning started at around 7:30am and I headed over the Toll Bridge (where foreigners need to pay 10,000 kip to cross).
I did an anti clockwise loop ride, stopping in at the Blue Lagoon 2. You can see why this place wold be a tourist utopia. It was dead when i went, but for sure by the afternoon it would be buzzing.
I really wasn’t much in the mood for doing the tourist thing, so avoided most of the main tourist attractions. If I were to go again, i will check them out, but I just wanted to ride around and look at nature.
I stopped at one glorious scene and decided to give myself an indulgent selfie moment. Cmon, you would have too i am sure! Haha.
After a few hours of exploring I went back to rest and attempted another lie at the pool area. By mid afternoon I headed out, had lunch, then made my way to the riverside to take in the famous Boun Bang Fai Rocket Festival!
This was my first experience of the rocket festival (which is also celebrated in Yasothon in Udon Thani, Thailand). Let me tell you, it was truly explosive! Men dress up in drag or in some funny way and communities come together for a wild time. The Wild EAST for sure! Drunk people, laymen and children, all messing around with gunpowder and rockets.. what could possibly go wrong? Haha!
At one point a group of children around 7 years old came near to where I was and started to light a fair sized rocket. I noticed that the rocket was taking way too long to fire and that something wasn’t right. I quickly got up and headed away from the rocket fast. I was expecting it to implode. In fact it did, but thankfully just a small implode. The children looked bemused. Madness…! Amazing Laos.
A really crazy festival and lots of partying. Well worth a visit at this time to see this crazy rocket show!
Day 8: Vang Vieng to Vientiane. (Google Map link)
This ride was deflating, I’m sad to say. The main R13 between Vang Vieng and Vientiane is mainly straight, busy, and passing though bustling modern town life. A disappointing contrast to the gloriously scenic roads I had taken previously. If I were to repeat this route or similar, i would find an alternative route.
I switched off my gopro as there was not so much of interest to capture on this road.
When I arrived in Vientiane I stopped in at a cafe next to Benoni Cafe and had a search for accommodation.
In the end I stayed at Lane Xang Hotel, Which I have stayed at before.
More expensive than I had hoped (1000 baht a night), but at least it was comfortable. Their dodgy electrics did fry my computer cable though.
After a clean up I headed out and had a walk about in the city area. I had hoped to eat at an old Vientiane haunt (I have been to Vientiane on and off over the last 11 years), but it was gone! A lot of development has gone on over the years in Vientiane, and is still ongoing. I was sad to see this restaurant gone.
I decided i might just get some food to take away and go rest up in my room. However, as i was walking along I spotted a familiar face. I had a funny “small world” moment, as it turned out to be the owner of El Patio bar in Chiang Mai. I ended up joining him and his local friend for dinner and drinks that evening.
Day 9: Vientiane to Xieng Khuan (aka”Buddha Park”). (Google Map link)
I woke up very early, so took a morning ride around sans helmet (yes I know, poor form for many. However, it was just for a short time and there was no traffic around. I just wanted to enjoy a small ride without gearing up. It was heaven!).
I went back to the hotel for breakfast (included) and then headed off to the Thai Embassy where i would apply for a new Thai visa.
D’oh moment when I got to the embassy and found out that it was closed that day!
I had broken a cardinal rule. Normally I always double check about dates. No matter! Off I went instead to Xieng Khuan (aka “Buddha Park”). As luck would have it, arriving early also meant I beat the busload of crowds that arrived around an hour later.
Was great to revisit this park, which I first visited around ten years prior. At that time I had a simple phone, which had a basic low resolution video facility. I began to film some boys that were playing in the park (between ages around 7 and 10), and they were not used to phones having a video option, so just kept posing thinking I was taking photos, haha! Was very cute. Amazing to think these same boys will be grown young men now. I wonder how their lives are. (If I can find this old video, I will update this post with it)
After the park I had a ride around and explore.
I good day of exploring. Took in a lot of sights. Found many interesting temples. Found out that Vientiane has a massive waterpark, a big exhibition center, a huge mall..and also that the city center mall had a major overhaul inside. Some years back, when i was last there, this mall looked more like local market. Lots of small market type stalls and shops. Now it had major chain stores and a lot more carbon copy to malls worldwide. In some ways better, in many ways worse. Noticed a lot more chain stores and restaurants in the city too. I suppose that is “progression” for you…
That evening I declined meeting up for drinks as I just wanted some quiet downtime. It takes a lot out of you riding around in extreme heat!
Day 10: Vientiane City (Google Map link)
Early in the morning I finally got my visa application in at the embassy.
Afterwards i indulged in a coffee and then went back to my hotel to get changed and explore the area again on foot.
I rested up and then headed out in the evening, where the city has a lot to offer.
…this was fun.
I was interviewed by these students for a project they have to do for school.
The first question was:
“How did you travel to Laos?”
I explained, and they were very surprised! I was asked questions such as where did I go?.. where do i plan to go next? etc.
..they were then additional surprised when at the end I spoke to them in Thai. Haha. Great moment!
They taught me this pose.. it is making a loveheart symbol between two fingers. Cute ! (Not “give me money”, which many seem to think. :p)
Day 11: Vientiane to Chiang Mai (overnight ride). (Google Map link)
A slow morning that morning, which was mainly a waiting game to collect my passport and visa. The collection time was not until 1:30pm and there would be a queue, so i knew it would be a fair wait. When I arrived at the embassy the passports were handed out fairly quickly thankfully and I took off on my bike to the border.
However, this vitory moment didnt last long when I was informed that I did not have an exit stamp in my passport. So, had to go back over the Friendship Bridge to the Laos side to get one. Haha! Doh!
I got my exit stamp and arrived back over the Thai side where i got everything sorted and was finally official over and back on Thai soil.
He then told me where I need to go. I actually already knew where to go, but I was grateful for the kindness. I checked the time. Almost 4pm. Seemed everything took much longer than hoped…and I was on the Thai side later than hoped :/ No matter. At least I was back over!
My original plan was to ride along the border road and stop in at Nam Pat region (aiming for Takayai Resort 2), then in the morning I would ride to Sirikit Dam and take the ferry across the river (I had done this once before. See “5 days, 7 provinces” trip report).
As it got dark I somehow took a wrong route and ended up on a rutted dirt road, in the dark, with the sky lighting up ready for a thunderstorm! I rode along this route for a bit, wondering if the road would improve, but it only got worse. So I decided to backtrack. I didn’t fancy getting stuck in a rutted dirt road in the dark in a thunderstorm!
It was then I just decided to change my plan. I began to crave home. I decided to instantly end my trip. Instead of heading back up onto the border road I headed down towards Loei (as I figured the main roads would be safer in the dark, and also if a thunderstorm hits).
So, off I went towards Loei. I debated whether to drop in on the motorcycle crew at Loei Saloon (a popular rider hangout), but I just wanted to make tracks and get home. (I also did not stop in at the Budapest Bistro in Vientiane. The owner is a rider. Seems to be highly recommended. So if you like Hungarian food, drop in!).
After Loei I headed along the R21. ..and this road gets dark. VERY dark. Pitch black dark! My LED spots burned out some months before and I was aiming to ride this road with the equivalent of a candle light torch, which is my pathetic front light. I handled this by either slowing right down and enjoying the stars and fireflies, or using any passing vehicle as a beacon. Most vehicles had great headlights so if I tailed them I could pick up speed. Usually the vehicles would turn off some place though, so the guide light never lasted too long. The road itself felt like it lasted forever. I was so very slow!
When I hit the main R11 the road had more intermittent spots of flash lit area. So was a little more easy. It also had clearer markings to follow and cats eyes.
As I approached Lampang (approx 100kms from Chiang Mai) I was getting very weary, so pulled in at a garage and got myself some food. That’s when I took a look at the time. It was almost 4am! I had no idea! The route had taken so long due to the lack of decent lights.
I had a short rest to judge how I was, and thankfully a little while later the rest and food had got me a burst of energy. So headed for Chiang Mai. This route is also better lit for the most part, so when I got back on the bike I was able to get a better pace.
When I pulled in at Chiang Mai and noticed the large city digital clock, it read 5:45am. A crazy long time for this ride, and my butt was hurting by now. Parked up and got myself home, where I was grateful to peel off the now disgusting bike clothes. Despite washing them every day, they had taken on a distinctive wet dog odour. Not pleasant.
I have no regrets at deciding to cut out the Thailand side of my trip. I think the Laos adventure was enough for me to chew on for now. I feel good that I achieved my first solo ride in Laos and out the other side ok.
Feeling good after this trip, and I cut it off at the right time. As now I am looking forward to the next adventure, rather than weary about it.
Thanks for reading.
Hope you enjoyed!
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FULL VIDEO COMPILATION OF THIS TRIP: