Laos Bicycling Tour

Tour Details
N O R T H E R N  L A O S
Road Bicycling
12 Days/Nights
Intermediate Cycling
90% Good Condition Paved Roads
Arrival: Hanoi, Vietnam
Extension: Angkor

Tour Dates:
Custom Private Tour

 

Day 1

Arrive Hanoi, Vietnam
Halong Bay
Arrive Hanoi's war-era Noi Bai Airport. After clearing immigration and customs meet driver and escort for transfer into Hanoi, the cultural and political capital of Vietnam that has slumbered largely unchanged for decades. After transfer to hotel on central Hoan Kiem Lake, orientation with guide over refreshments, followed by a "jet lag treatment" at a local herbal spa with massage. In the evening, reviewing other preparations for beginning of the trip before strolling or cyclo (pedicab) for dinner of local specialties such as pho in the busy Old Quarter or at one of Hanoi's finer restaurants such as the Green Tangerine or La Verticale.

Note: Authorization for Vietnam visa on arrival required in advance of arrival (arranged by VeloAsia).

Airline
Cathay Pacific 6727 Hong Kong to Hanoi 9:30-11:30 AM
The Metropole, 15 Ngô Quyền, Hoan Kiem Lake, Tel: (04) 3826 6919 (Club Floor)
International SOS, 31 Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (84-4) 934 0666

         

Day 2

Hanoi
One Pilalr PagodaRise at dawn to witness traditional exercise rituals on Hoan Kiem Lake and explore the busy morning market in the nearby Old Quarter before returning to hotel for breakfast. Afterwards, visit to the Soviet-era Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum where "Bac Ho" lies in state, followed by the Temple of Literature, Hanoi's premier university for hundreds of years.

Afterwards, lunch in the lake area at 5th-generation Cha Ca Va Long , dining on cha ca, a famous northern dish of fried fish, while enjoying a "survival Vietnamese" lesson with your guide. After, begin touring of the bustling Old Quarter by cyclo (pedicab) and foot, pausing to visit with local family in their "tube" home who will play various traditional instruments, including the enchanting single-stringed Dan Bau.

After, enjoying bia hoi, or happy hour, on the streets joining and meeting Hanoians leaving from work. Dinner recommendations and transport provided to one of Hanoi's many fine restaurants. Afterwards, taking in karaoke, wildly popular in Vietnam. (B,L)

Bia Hoi, or happy hour, is a post-work custom unique to Hanoi, with draft beer and snacks served up in street cafes. Other culinary treats? The best pho in the country is from Hanoi, don't miss a piping hot bowl.

         

Day 3

Hanoi
Cycling Hanoi
After breakfast, transfer outside Hanoi with our bikes for a leisurely spin, testing our bikes along the rural dykes and the Red River, through farms, villages and pausing to explore ancient temples. Here few travelers venture and aside from mobile phones and scooters, we'll witness life as it has been in Vietnam for hundreds of years.

After biking, we'll visit contemporary artist Dao Anh Khanh's sprawling compound along the river for a private BBQ lunch with the artist and exploring his property where many of his larger works are displayed.

Afterwards, return to Hanoi for lunch with the afternoon visit to Other highlights of the city including historical city sights such Hoa Lò Prison (also known as the "Hanoi Hilton" where John McCain was imprisoned for five years during the war), pausing to visit Hanoi's newest trend — hip cafes opened up by younger entrepreneurs with varying themes. After, dinner reservations and transport by preference. (B,L)

Our biking route today is a flat, meandering one on footpaths with no vehicles covering from 10 to 22 miles with van support.

         

Day 4

Hanoi to Mai Chau
Mai and Hien Cycling Mai ChauIn the morning, an early departure (6:30 AM) for Mai Chau, a picturesque river valley region populated with a diversity of hilltribes near the border of Laos. After a 1.5 hour drive, arrive at our starting point and begin biking the picturesque, rolling hills towards Mai Chau until lunch. Although most hilltribes now wear Western dress, we'll begin to spy ethnic White Thai, distantly related to tribes in Thailand, Laos and China.

After lunch, continued cycling over steadily longer hills until the final pass near Mai Chau, descending into the beautiful valley fed by the Ma River. After arrival, if the weather is warm, we can cool off in the pool before walking through the sprawling rice fields to a nearby hilltribe village where we'll enjoy a traditional dance performance and dinner. Overnight in Mai Chau, our last night of comfort before the moving on into the hinterland of Laos. (B,L,D)

Cycling mileage today is about 45 miles. (Above right, two of our Hanoi staff Hien and Mai enjoy the hills around Mai Chau).
Mai Chau Lodge, Mai Chau, Tel: (84-18) 386-8959
Weather Mai ChauWeather in Mai Chau: November and December is dry with temperatures in the 60s to low 70s during the day.

         

Day 5

Mai Chau to Vieng Xai
Bicycling Mai Chau, VietnamThis morning, we make a run for the border by bus along mountainous National Highway 15 through Pu Luong and Pu Ha Nature preserves and several developing border towns to beat the 11:00AM border closing time (about 70 miles). After arrival at the border, enjoy a picnic lunch a slow bureaucratic process to cancel our Vietnam visas and obtain our news ones for Laos. After crossing into Laos, and meeting up with our new crew, begin riding on national route 217 , cycling uphill and then over rolling hills towards Vieng Xai on paved roads along the river, passing hilltribe and local villages in the area, including Thai Dam, Thai Dang, Meuy, and Kmu. Pausing for snacks en route, including a delicious lao jerky.

In the late afternoon, arrive in sleepy Vieng Xai. After arrival, a quick freshening up before driving outside of the town to explore a nearby network of caves inhabited by the Pathet Lao during the Vietnam War. The caves, both natural and artificial, were extensively developed and used by Pathet Lao in Vieng Xai during the war, including Khayson Cave, the office and residence of the Pathet Lao chief during the war period, and Souphanouvong Cave, also called Red Prince Cave, the residence of royal Prince Souphanouvong at one time. Then, onto Nouhak Cave, named for Nouhak Phoumsavang, who served as Lao PDR president from 1992. Dinner at the only restaurant in town serving up delicious local dishes. Tonight we're roughing it, staying at the most basic hotel of the tour with bare rooms, simply showers and mosquito nets.

Note: At the border, one passport-sized photo and US$25-35 cash required for Laos visa. ** Passport must have six months validity left to enter Laos **

53 km (31 miles) Laos border to Vieng Xai
Guesthouse

         

Day 6


Vieng Xai to Vieng Thong
Laos Bicycle TouringOur longest cycling day, today after a sunrise breakfast, departing early for an epic day's century ride to Vieng Thong over the mammoth "Laotian Alps," cycling the quiet and winding route past a smattering of villages over two 5,000 foot passes. From Vieng Xai, on National Highway 6 we will ride about 65 miles to Nam Noen (with about 4,500 feet of climbing, nearing an altitude of 5,400 feet). Time permitting en route, pausing to explore Hing Tang (Suan Hin), a man-made formation of vertical stones that may be related to those on the Plain of Jars. At Nam Noen, we'll turn northwest (right) on route 1 towards Vien Thong, a hilly 36 miles way that we'll shuttle in by van rather than bike.

After arrival in Vien Thong, freshen up before walking to nearby hot springs to douse worn legs before exploring the small town set on the Nam Khan River and largely inhabited by a collection of hill tribes particularly Hmong and "lowland" Lao. Dinner at the small town's only restaurant and overnight at simple guesthouse. (B,L,D)

161 km (100 miles) 10,627 feet elevation gain. Weather will be cooler here than in Vietnam, especially at altitude in the last morning.
Guesthouse

         

Day 7


Vien Thong to Nong Khiaw
Another long travel day over the "Laotian Alps," rising early from the noise at sunrise from the hilltribe market directly in front of our hotel. After browsing the market, we'll begin biking after breakfast. Today we ride National route No 1c between Vieng Thong and Nong Khiaw passing through the beautiful jungle and forest scenery of two National Park with lush green mountains over three passes. After departing Vien Thong, cycling on flats until reaching our first challenge, a 2,400 foot climb, before descending to a winding river valley road for about 12 miles until we reach our next climb of about 2,100 feet, plummeting down to Vieng Kham at mile 86 (at 1,200 feet elevation) where we'll enjoy lunch along the scenic river. Afterwards, shuttling by van over a third climb of 900 feet (or cycling if you prefer), the rest of the day is over the undulating hills on a paved, good-condition side road heading northwest to Nong Khiaw, a picturesque northern outpost being discovered by backpackers.

In Nong Khiaw, we'll enjoy drinks along the pleasant Nam Ou River directly in front of our bungalows. Now this is Laos! Afterwards, venturing into town to eat at one of the restaurants along the river. After dinner, a massage in town can be arranged. (B,L,D)

 
184 km (115 miles)
Guesthouse

         

Day 8


Nong Khiaw excursion around Muang Ngoi
Laos Cycling TourAfter a leisurely breakfast, one-hour cruise by longtail boat to Muang Ngoi, base for hiking to remote villages in the area. Muang Ngoi was controlled by the communist before 1975 and the province was under control of Pathet Lao. During Vietnam War, people in this area hid in the caves in the day times and worked at night because of continuous bombing ( land mines remain in the area).

Today, trekking to Tham Kang through stunning scenery, where, according to local legend, a sacred Naga resides.

Also visiting in the villages of Ban Na and Thai Daeng before returning back to Nong Khiaw by boat in the afternoon for dinner and accommodation, and perhaps another leg massage before tomorrow's ride. (B,L)

         

Day 9



Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang
Laos Cycling TourToday we'll ride the initial, quiet and scenic section out of Luang Prabang which after 18 miles, joins a larger road with traffic coming in from China. Mostly flat with short rollers. After riding until lunch (at 54 miles), boarding a longtail boat for the remaining distance to Luang Prabang, once we reach the Mekong River making a slight upstream detour to visit the renowned Pak Ou caves. Located beside the river, the cave is filled with Buddha images and is a sacred place of worship for locals.

After the caves, continued cruising downstream to Luang Prabang. In the late afternoon we arrive Luang Prabang, one of Asia's gems and a UNESCO World Heritage. It is pleasantly located at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers and encircled by distance jagged peaks. In recent years it has been a popular, but not spoiled tourist destination, but it will be a bit of a shock to see so many tourists for the first time since Hanoi. In the evening a private
baci ceremony, a traditional lao welcoming ritual for centuries. (B,L,D)

90, or 139 km (54 or 85 miles). Flat initially, then longer rollers. Traffic near Luang Prabang.
La Residence Phu Vao, Luang Prabang Town, Tel: (856-71) 212194
Weather in Luang Prabang Weather in Luang Prabang for December and January is dry and in the 70s to low 80s during the daytime.
         

Day 10



Luang Prabang
Sleep in for a change or rise at dawn to view traditional alms procession of monks passing through town (right).

Afterwards, we'll walk the small town, visiting the temples Luang Prabang in known for and meeting in one with monks to discuss their lifestyles. Also visiting other notable sites, including the colonial-era royal palace and museum. For lunch, we'll explore the central food market sampling street foods. In the afternoon, driving over to explore the local Phusi marketplace and other sites in town until late afternoon. At dusk, we'll trek to the summit of Mount Phousi for panoramic sunset. Afterwards, wandering the sprawling night market before dining on delicious lao food. (B)

Luang Prabang's night market is one of the best in Indochina for finding unique, handmade goods and at a bargain rate. The market makes a good stop after watching sunset from Mount Phousi. How much to bargain? Typically, counter with offer that is about 1/3 or 1/2 from the price quoted. To see where the locals shop, take a tuk-tuk out to Phuosi Market, about 1 kilometer from the central area.

         

Day 11


Luang Prabang
Kuang Xi WaterfallsAfter breakfast, cycling outside of the city to the Kuang Si Waterfalls (28 kms/18 miles).

After leisurely hike up to and swimming in the falls, continued biking in the scenic rural areas nearby passing through several villages and pausing to visit a local family and school as well as cottage industries until mid-afternoon.

Return to Luang Prabang by van to freshen up before sunset cruise on the Mekong, enjoying drinks on board before dinner in town. (B)

 
         

Day 12

Luang Prabang to Siem Reap (for our Angkor extension) or Bangkok
After breakfast and farewells with crew, transfer to airport for two-hour flight to Siem Reap, base for exploring the magnificent temples of Angkor. After arrival in Siem Reap and clearing immigration, transfer to hotel for lunch and orientation with guide.


In the afternoon, begin exploration with visit the immense walled city Angkor Thom that was the masterpiece of King Jayavarman VII. Following the occupation of Angkor by the Chams from 1177 to 1181, the new king dictated the building of an impregnable fortress at the heart of his empire and the scale of their work is staggering, immediately overwhelming visitors upon arrival at the city’s gates. The causeway is lined by an intricate bridge depicting the Churning of the Ocean of Milk from Hindu mythology in which the devas (gods) and asuras (devils) play tug of war with a naga (seven-headed serpent) to “milk” the elixir of immortality. Afterward, visit to the Bayon Temple, a "temple mountain" situated in the center of the city of Angkor Thom. A three-tiered pyramid with a central shrine surrounded by dozens of towers all crowned by gigantic faces that represent the god Avalokite-shvara. Unlike his predecessors, worshiper of Hindu deities, king Jayavarman VII adopted Mahayana Buddhism as the fount of royal divinity and this sets The Bayon apart from many other Angkorean monuments with Hindu influences.

After, visit at the Terrace of the Leper King. This intricately carved platform was the royal crematorium and the statue that was originally thought to be the leper king is now believed to be Yama, the god of death. Continue along the Terrace of Elephants, originally used as a viewing gallery for the king to preside over parades, performances and traditional sports. At the southern end lies the Baphuon, once of the most beautiful temples at Angkor, dating from the reign of Uditayavarman 1 in the 11th century. It has undergone a massive renovation by the French and is now once again open for viewing.

The climax of Angkor Thom is the enigmatic and enchanting temple of the Bayon. At the exact center of Angkor Thom, this is an eccentric expression of the creative genius and inflated ego of Cambodia’s most celebrated king. Its fifty four towers are each topped off with the four faces of Avalokiteshvara (Buddha of Compassion), which bear more than a passing resemblance to the king himself. The colossal heads stare down from every side, exuding power and control with a hint of compassion, just the mix required to keep a hold on such a vast empire. Before clambering upwards, unravel the mysteries of the bas-reliefs, with their intricate scenes of ancient battles against the Chams and their snapshot of daily life during the Angkor period.

The day concludes with a dramatic panorama view at sunset from the nearby summit of Phnom Bakheng, overlooking Angkor Wat.  Return to Siem Reap for dinner and accommodation. (B,D)

Note: Cambodia visa issued on arrival with one photo and US$20.

AirlineVietnam Airlines Luang Prabang to Siem Reap (2hr 0mn)
La Residence d'Angkor, River Road, (855-63) 963 390 (855-63) 963 391
Divining Angkor, National Geographic Magazine June, 2009

Weather in Siem Reap Weather in Siem Reap for December and January is dry and warm in the 80s to low 90s.

Angkor is astounding and complex in scope. Early French explorers could not imagine the Khmer kings were responsible for such monumental work. The inspiration for Angkor architecture was born from a unique mix of Hinduism and Buddhism which drove Khmer monument construction for nearly three hundred years from the 9th to 12th centuries creating Angkorean structures that have no parallel.

         
  Angkor Wat Post-Trip  

Day 1

Siem Reap
Rise before daybreak view Ta Prohm in the light of dawn. Ta Prohm has been abandoned to the elements, a reminder that while empires rise and fall, the riotous power of nature marches on, oblivious to the dramas of human history. Left as it was ‘discovered’ by French explorer Henri Mouhout in 1860, the tentacle-like silk cotton and fig tree roots here are slowly strangling the surviving stones creating a surrealistic juxtaposition.

After soaking up the unique atmosphere of Ta Prohm, continue to the giant pyramid of Takeo, one of the tallest temples in the Angkor area. Built at the end of the 10th century, it was never completed. This morning also visit the remains of an old Angkorian bridge which once spanned the Siem Reap River.


Time permitting, optional visit the smaller temples of Chau Sey Devada and Thommanon. In the afternoon, pause at the local village of Preah Dak before moving onto the 12th century temple Banteay Samre. Built by King Suryavarman II, the ruler behind Angkor Wat, this temple has been extensively restored. The temple is unique in that over-quarrying of sandstone led to the use of laterite for the roofed corridors. The pediments above the inner doors here include some of the most accomplished carving from the Angkor period.

Afterwards, continue further north to Banteay Srei, Angkor’s ultimate art gallery. This petite pink temple is the jewel in the crown of Angkor-era sculpture. The elaborate carvings here are the finest found in Cambodia and the name translates as ‘Fortress of the Women’, thanks to the intricate detail here, which Khmer’s consider too fine to have been crafted by hands of men. The day ends with a panoramic sunset over the rice fields from the royal crematorium of Pre Rup, providing a classic view of the Cambodian countryside. In the late afternoon, return to Siem Reap for dinner at one of Siem Reap's fine restaurants. Note: en route to Banteay Srei, visiting the unique Landmine Museum. (B)

         

Day 2

Siem Reap
Early morning departure from Siem Reap to visit "the lost temple" of Beng Mealea (about 30 miles). Beng Mealea, a titanic temple the size of Angkor Wat, was a slumbering giant lost for centuries in the encroaching forests of Cambodia. Although it is the most accessible of Angkor’s lost temples, to reach the best viewpoints, some climbing is necessary and in some areas are ladders to aid. The temple is a mirror image of Angkor Wat, but totally consumed by the region's voracious flora. Constructed by Suryavarman II (1113-1150), the builder of Angkor Wat, the forest has grown wild here making hard to get a sense of where the monument ends and nature begins. After exploring the complex, enjoy a picnic lunch overlooking the ruins.

Tonle SapAfterwards continue south to Kompong Khleang, one of the largest and least-visited villages on Tonle Sap Lake, Asia's largest freshwater lake. The population of about 10,000 people, all of whom make a living from the fishing industry. We'll explore the canals and streets of this busy town. In the wet season, the houses appear to be floating, as water laps at the verandas, but in the dry season towering stilts are revealed and the houses resemble miniature wooden skyscrapers. After, travel by boat on vast Tonle Sap to Kompong Pluk. Cruising down the narrow waterway into this medieval floating village, where the houses stand atop stilts as much as twenty feet above the water. Everything here lives on or above the water, including pigs, dogs, crocodiles and people, all jockeying for space in this unique floating community. Also exploration the surreal flooded forest here before continuing to the village of Chong Kneas to visit with a local family. After reaching dry land, return to Siem Reap by road to freshen up before dinner. (B)
         

Day 3

Siem Reap
Cambodia Bicycle TourAfter breakfast, bicycling side paths into the temples complex to explore the most majestic temple of them all, Angkor Wat. Angkor on two wheels. We offer a range of original rides to some of the most spectacular temples and sights in the area through our adventure wing, VeloAsia.

We can organize a variety of three half-day rides and seven full-day rides, which include historic temples, beautiful countryside and floating villages, all on back trails and paths away from the crowds. As well as new innovative rides, we also offer the classic rides of old, including the Grand Circuit of Preah Khan, Neak Poan, Ta Som, Eastern Mebon and Pre Rup over the course of a leisurely day, or the Small Circuit of Ta Keo, Ta Nei, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Sra Srang. Finally there is the option of exploring Angkor Thom on bicycle for those who want a short ride among the temples

The shorter trips can be organized for children of all ages (most rides are flat on packed dirt roads with support). Longer, full-day rides will keep even the fittest rider pleased.

         

Day 4

Siem Reap to Bangkok
After breakfast, returning to airport for one-hour flight to Bangkok and international flight home. (B)
         
     

Trip Notes:

ABOUT
Our newest trips. Like so many others we were the first to pioneer, this tour is very much off-the-grid and aside from our Myanmar tours our most "adventurous" passing over a new border crossing on a newly improved road through sparsely populated northern Vietnam and Laos, through national parks, mountain ranges, small villages all the way to one to splendid Luang Prabang.
There is luxury available at both ends of our of this cycling tour, but in between we are roughing it, on and off the bike. For more comfortable touring, please look over our Vietnam cycling trips that we've refined since our first tours in 1992.

COST
Tariff for this tour is from US$2,580 with an luxury hotel upgrade option to stay at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and La Residence Phu Vao in Luang Prabang. Please inquire for this luxury upgrade rate.

All Surlys!
BIKES
Although we have had people ride this on road bikes, this route is ideal on a cross bike, such as a Surly (see photo right, all Surlys). If you bring your own bike, we will assemble and disassemble it for you or along with you. Trek Hybrids and MTBS are also available for rental at US$125, providing a more stable, albeit slower ride.

this flight is operated by another carrier
e-Ticket is available for this flight
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
Please verify actual flight dates and times on ticket. Regional tickets issued in-country.

 
 

 


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