Ride L.A.R.A. Laos tours - my experiences - read before booking...
Took a tour of Southern Laos last month with Ride L.A.R.A.
Felt the need to make others aware of a number of issues our group had with them - which beyond abusive emails from the boss, Eric, we've had very little success in making amends for.
Among the issues:
We were 7 people in our group including a local guide (Eric didn't join our group) - they had only 6 bikes for us. We missed the entire first day (of 4) due to being a bike short.
The L.A.R.A. website promises well serviced bikes. They were anything but: Bald tires, no brakes, no lights, mirrors, indicators or anything else. Dirty fuel filters - very clearly, the bikes had been ridden hard and sent to us without any sort of maintenance. Our schedule - involved 500kms or so of road riding.
On the last day, one of the CRMs (for which we paid an additional USD50 a day) seized. Our guide insisted we ride it after it started making grinding sounds - and Eric now blames us for the damaged caused. We also had to paid $200 of our own cash to transport the bikes and rider back to Veintiane. We were not reimbursed for this.
We paid $30 for a damage mirror (one of the only remaining ones on any of the bikes) - clearly this money doesn't go to replacing damaged parts - as all the bikes were knackered - it gets pocketed? The rental equipment they supplied was likewise in terrible shape. Unwearable in most cases.
The Ride L.A.R.A website promises support vehicles 'can be arranged'. I wish we had arranged - although I'm sure it would have cost on top of the USD1,039 EACH we paid.
Eric's response to all our concerns has been nothing short of psychotic. My tips, if you choose to use them, would be this: Only collect bikes in Vientiane - and test ride them first, ensure you have a support vehicle or at the very least the provided guide has sufficient mechanical knowledge. Not so I our case, and if not for one of our groups knowledge, we'd have been stranded in the jungle.
In short, the tour had all the potential of being an amazing, 'once in a lifetime', trip. But Ride L.A.R.A failed on just about every level - including after abusive sales service.
Hey Jim, sorry to hear your Holiday was spoiled but shoddy workman ship. Laos is great place to ride, I have heard many reports about the level of equipment in Laos and Asia as a whole, although there are some rental shops with good bikes it seems that prevention is not better than cure.....
Where did you ride...
Hi....I am Eric, owner and operator of L.A.R.A. For the guys who don't know, we are operating moto tours in Laos for 5 seasons now and our 2nd in Myanmar.
Many things Rob says are very true. And others less so, without context. First off, from his Facebook:
"Although some problems, one of the best trips we've ever had"
As I was in Burma leading a tour, I did not personally load the bikes on the bus for transport to Pakxe. I did however call every single day of the tour and even after the tour, once I was made aware of the mistake. I called to Fuark, our partner in VTE, from Mandalay to address the problem. He is human, he made a mistake. Another bike was en route.
Yee, their guide, led them to Sekong, the planned destination, on a rented HOnda Dream scooter, checked them in to the hotel, ordered their beer and food, and set out back to Pakxe at 6-7PM. He arrived at 1AM. The new bike arrived at 6am and he then raced BACK to Sekong to meet the group to begin the next day. A very noble effort, indeed.
In the meantime, I spoke to Yee that evening, of their 2nd day. It turns out, 1 guest had zero off road riding experience, and one could not complete the track or the ride to backtrack, and had to use a tractor. The terrain was discussed in detail, as well they asked for off road adventure on Ho Chi Minh Trail. No mention of one rider with NO experience and none of one with little to none. But Yee said they were still quite happy and smiling. And that they would have to amend the program.
And yes, it is true, one CRM had a bearing go out, in the bottom end. And yes it is true the damage was exasperated by continued driving. But we never asked for any money for that damage from the guests. In a very heated email I did explain that the attempts drive the bike made it worse, but again, never suggested they should pay. These are mechanical items, and to assign blame to the driver would be unfair.
And all of this happened 1 hour from Vientiane. The tours' end.
The other accusations, about the bikes, not true. A clogged fuel filter, on one bike, very possibly could have just clogged with something falling in at a fuel stop, some bad fuel, many possibilities. Hardly a major offense and easily fixed by blowing thru it with your mouth, in this case, Yee's, and going on. It was a 4 day tour and I know Fuark did not install brand new tires. No mirrors, brakes, lights, simply not true.
"The Ride L.A.R.A website promises support vehicles 'can be arranged'. I wish we had arranged - although I'm sure it would have cost on top of the USD1,039 EACH we paid. "
Yes, that is TRUE. And now we are at fault for doing exactly what we advertise, selling tours and the appropriate add ons??? Yes, the truck is $125 per day, inclusive of truck, fuel, driver, and his food & lodging, quite reasonable.
Now I spoke to these guys several times on the phone and via email while in BUrma and once I got home. At the very minimum, I told them, I would refund $200 PLUS the transport of 3500THB for the CRM. In addition to further compensation to be decided.
Once I got home, I spoke to 1 of the Robs about compensation, and again re-stated the above, which he liked, as well as a free tour for 4 days, for everyone, at any time. Just show up to Laos and it's ALL free. Petrol, bikes, hotels, food, everything but the beer and flight to Laos. He loved it, said it was just what he wanted, and he would fire off an email to the group and CC me.
Well imagine my surprise when the email said I had graciously agreed to a 50% refund ($3000) OR a free 4 day tour. I immediately emailed him asking why he would say that, we NEVER discussed 50% of anything, what gives. Of the 6, a few were happy with that, a few used profanity, and a few were indifferent. But no mention of why the 50% refund offer.
A week later, one Rob emails to say they would take the 50% offer.
I again said I never said that, why would they expect half back on a mostly successful, definitely enjoyable tour?
For umpteenth time I was cussed and cursed and spoken rudely of and to, as well as extorted with threats of Facebook and Tripadvisor if I didn't give them $3000.
I told them good luck and goodbye, among other things and have ended our relationship.
In closing, the issues that they had in the beginning were fixed quickly and professionally. I was in constant contact with them, every day from Myanmar, at great expense, more than 3.50 per minute.
The original route had to be edited due to their groups inability to ride safely on the terrain. Our terms and conditions addresses this quite clearly.
We offered to pay them $200 and 3500THB for a bike broken 1 hour from the final destination. We did not ask 1 cent for the Honda clutch lever/perch with mirror stanchion (65 pound sterling)that was broken and replaced with a 5000LAK China one. No damage charged for the bars bent, the dent in the Pro Circuit chamber, and scratches or damages to the tank etc, as it seems according to Yee, the one that fell the most was riding that CRM.
The $30 paid was for a broken mirror and handguard on the XR250 of Fuark. The one with no mirrors...
We offered to give them a free tour in lieu of everything that happened.
What we would not do is respond to threats of extortion and cursing in exchange for money that was way out of line with the problems they experienced or of the experiences they had in and of themselves.
They responded favorably on their private posts among friends in addition to tipping my staff 6000THB for the tour. Hardly what one would think were actions of guests that thought that somehow they should receive a %50 refund.
Again, I wish them all the best as a group and good luck in future touring.
And yes, Caveat Emptor....do your research....this is our 5th season in Laos and take a look around...this is the first major complaint we've had. Our reputation as a company and mine as an individual speak for themselves. As it has been said on this board before, about 5% just can't be satisfied. We do regret that but take it as a cost of doing business. And continue to be grateful the majority of our guests are highly satisfied and continue to ride with us in other destinations like Burma, Thailand and Cambodia.
I Just did a tour with Eric, and unfortunatly i hurt my knee early on and had to ride in the vehicle with his offsider Pac (great bloke). They were nothing but helpful and the rest of the guys who kept riding were having a great time, if a rest day was needed we stayed in a relaxing place to recharge. Or drink beer + rest, do tourist stuff, sleep whatever. I own a few dirtbikes and I do all the maintenance on them so i know a little. Maybe i was just lucky but my KTM 450 exc seemed (I think it was) brand new, best bike i`ve ridden to date. I must admit there were a few of punctures that eric fixed no problem even found some guy to repair a tube in some hut on the side of the road. Anyway im going back in November to have another crack hope i get the same bike :}
I did a tour to Myanmar last year October last year (http://lorrainespence.com/2012/10/) Eric’s tour was one of the highlights of my 6 months trans Asia trip. I wish I could have taken my own bike but since you cannot do I took the opportunity to join an organised tour with Ride Lara. What a GOOD decision the trip was Awesome, Eric is a great guy and a great Guide, in one of the most amazing counties to ride though. Not only do I highly recommend Ride Lara but I highly recommend taking a tour with them in Myanmar or Laos.
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