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Cycling in Laos

Explore rural Laos by bike



At a glance

10 days cycling with 100% vehicle support
Surfaces are mostly good but with some broken tarmac and unsurfaced sections
There are some tough climbs and long downhills
Group normally 8 to 18, plus local leaders. Min age 16 yrs
9 nights comfortable hotels, 3 nights basic guesthouse, 1 night sleeper train
All breakfasts included

Explore rural Laos by bike

Laos, known as the land of a million smiles, boasts stunning mountainous landscape and a laid back atmosphere, the result of a long isolation from its neighbours. Our route takes us through some spectacular scenery, from narrow roads shaded by jungle vines to shimmering rice paddies and mountains which are home to a mix of ethnic groups. Out of the saddle, we walk through villages and bamboo forest and visit Luang Prabang with striking colonial buildings, tree-lined avenues and colourful temples. We finish our trip in bustling Bangkok. The cycling is demanding at times, but our reward is to have roads almost to ourselves in South East Asia’s friendliest and least known country.

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Type: Land Only

Flight prices available from NeenanCycling. Contact us for details

What’s included

All breakfasts,All accommodation (see below)
All transport and listed activities
Tour leader throughout
Arrival & departure transfers
Local bike hire

Food: Food is cheap in SE Asia and you can generally avoid the spicier food if you wish, normally consisting of rice or noodle based dishes with pork, chicken, vegetable or seafood.
Western food is readily available almost everywhere. Vegetarians are well catered for but please inform us before departure of any special dietary requests. Please note that in SE Asia the availability of certain specialized products for restricted diets, e.g. gluten-free or dairy-free, is minimal or non-existent and we strongly recommend you bring these items from home. You may find it beneficial to bring some ‘cycling snacks’ with you from home; high energy snacks are not readily available locally. For snacks and drinks during the rides, a kitty is normally arranged (see Extra Expenses).

Start destination: Chiang Mai

End destination: Bangkok

Cycling profile

Day 1

Start Chiang Mai, ‘The Rose of the North’, known for its temples, markets and the many colourful hill tribes that live in the area. Chiang Mai is a former religious and cultural centre; twice coming under the control of the Burmese, there is a strong Burmese influence reflected in the architecture of the city. In the evening we can visit the night market where many of the hilltribe’s handicrafts can be seen.

Day 2

After our bike fitting we start to explore Chiang Mai on two wheels. We will visit the old town, the temple of Vieng Kum Kam and numerous cultural highlights in the morning. We will stop for lunch before driving up to the hilltop temple of Doi Suthep, the most revered Buddhist shrine in the Chiang Mai region. On a clear day the temple affords an excellent view over Chiang Mai and its striking temple landscape. There will be the opportunity to listen to the monks chanting before returning to the city for a chance to try northern Thai cuisine group at an optional group meal. .

Day 3

Leaving our hotel early we set off by bus to the Chiang Rai Province, the northern most province in Thailand (approx. 2.5 hours transfer). We visit the revered Wat Rong Khun (The White Temple) before cycling to Mae Sai. We journey (cycle and 1 hour transfer) into the heart of the Golden Triangle, the compact region where Thailand, Laos and Burma meet offering a heady mix of cultures and landscapes.

Day 4

The Opium Museum is our first stop today (after a 30min transfer) which highlights the history of opium from its natural properties to its illegal uses, and gives historical information on the Opium Wars that led to the fall of the Manchu Dynasty. The Golden Triangle was previously one of the most extensive producers of Opium until Afghanistan became the world’s largest producer. We’ll next board a boat down the mighty Mekong glimpsing local villages and industries before starting cycling at Ban Sew following a quiet route to the border for our crossing into Laos. The cycling today is mostly flat with a few rolling hills passing through tobacco and corn plantations.

Day 5

Today is our first foray into rural Laos. The Luang Nam Tha region is a land of 39 ethnic tribal groups. The Nam Tha river weaves itself through the countryside and has many ethnic tribal villages dotted along its length on one side and dense jungle of the national protected area on the other. We will transfer to the village of Vieng Phu Ka before cycling through quiet jungle-lined roads marvelling at the mountainous landscape. There is a night market not too far from the hotel which provides the opportunity to feast on the local speciality of bamboo and green papaya salad or slow cooked Laotian pork belly. There will be a 2 hours transfer at the beginning of the day.

Day 6

We start the day with a ride from Luang Nam Tha to Udomxai. The town is formed by many small villages and is home to a wide variety of ethnic groups; Hmong, Tai Dam, Akha, Tai Lue and Yao. Men and women in traditional dress are a common sight. The cycling today will pass through rice paddies and rolling valleys with a few hill climbs before transferring to the town at the end of the day.

Day 7

We cycle direct from the hotel today journeying towards Pak Beng. The area is an important intersection between China and Vietnam and has a unique multicultural atmosphere. Located in the Nam Ko River basin and surrounded by scenic mountains the area is famed for its Chinese produce. We will stop for a late lunch before transferring (approx. 2 hours) to Pak Beng town for our overnight spot on the side of the Mekong.

Day 8

Today we journey to Luang Prabang by boat, cruising along the Mekong River which starts its journey high in the Tibetan Plateau, eventually emptying itself into the sea in the south of Vietnam. Its journey takes it through 7 different countries in Asia. Travelling slowly allows us to absorb the pace of the riverside settlements and marvel at the mist covered mountains towering above us. En route to Luang Prabang we will visit the famous Tam Ting Caves, cut out of the limestone banks which line the river at Pak Ou. These caves are filled with thousands of Buddha images brought by the surrounding villagers as a sign of their devotion. Upon arrival we hop back on our bikes for a flat 10km cycle to our hotel for the next 2 nights.

Day 9

Approximately 25 km from Luang Prabang are the beautiful Kwang Si Waterfalls. We ride from our hotel, leaving Luang Prabang passing through a rural landscape of rice paddies and Lao Lum villages. Once at Kwang Si Falls we have a picnic lunch and there is a chance for a refreshing dip. In the afternoon we cycle back to Luang Prabang. The rest of the afternoon is free for individual sightseeing or shopping, or there is an orientation bike ride of the town (any entrance fees are not included). This evening there is a chance to visit the night market in town with beautiful traditional Lao and hilltribe textiles on sale.For those up at dawn there is chance to witness the daily parade of saffron-robed monks receiving alms.

Day 10

Today we drive south from Luang Prabang to Phou Khoun through more mountainous terrain (approx 3 hours), passing through numerous Hmong villages. Once in Phou Khoun we pull out the bikes and start riding. The ride includes a superb winding descent with magnificent views of limestone karsts which gives the impression of entering into ‘Lord of the Rings’ territory’. This is followed by shorter climbs and easy riding through rice paddies and villages as we approach Kasi. The rest of the journey (about 1.5 hours) is on the support bus and we end up in Vang Vieng, a popular town with plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy.

Day 11

We set off from Vang Vieng early this morning. Passing through local rubber plantations and small villages we pause for a rest at a local roadside market – it’s specialty is the local delicacy of dried fish which you may well smell before you see it! We stop for lunch before hopping on the bus for a final two hours drive to Vientiene, the sleepy capital of Laos. In the evening the perfect option is to retire for a refreshing beverage and watch the sunset over the Mekong River.

Day 12

This morning is free to shop or explore Vientiane. We take an orientation tour of the city, visiting the Thatluang Stupa, Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple in the city, and Haw Phra Kaew, a temple which originally housed the Emerald Bhudda now on display in Thailand which we will see tomorrow. After this we ride out of the city and over the Mekong into Thailand across the Friendship Bridge. After completing border formalities we ride (on the left in Thailand!) to Nong Khai railway station. Here we say good-bye to our Lao guide. We can relax for a couple of hours in a local hotel (with pool) before returning to the train station for our overnight train journey to Bangkok.

Day 13

On arrival in Bangkok we transfer to our hotel. Later in the morning we take a short walk to the Chao Praya river where we board a long tail boat for a tour of the local canals. Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the East because of its intricate canal network. We get a glimpse of daily life as we pass locals selling their wares by the river. We will visit what to this day remains the home of the Thai Royal family at the Royal Palace complex followed by Wat Phra Kaew, home to the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand’s most venerated images. Another highlight is Wat Pho, the largest temple in Bangkok, housing a 46m long, 15m high gold-plated reclining Buddha. We then head back to our hotel by ferry. This afternoon is free for further exploration of this exciting city.

Day 14

End Bangkok.

Prices & Dates

Customer Feedback

Cycling in Laos

Summary:
Far more than a holiday, this was a real experience. We travelled through villages in Laos where the children and adults were genuinely pleased to see you with the shouts of 'saibaedee' echoing from their homes. Children loved to 'high five' as we pedalled through their village. Although the temperatures were far higher than we had expected the team helped us through with plenty of breaks for snacks and fluids. Each section brought another satisfied smile.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Every day brought a new challenge. Rit, our group leader was an inspiration himself, watching his cycling style gave me something to try to aim for, although at a much slower pace!

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Rit was a softly spoken but interesting and cheerful guide who kept us busy from morning till night, He made sure we were looked after well and everything went to plan. His organisation and planning was very good and made the holiday run smoothly.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Make sure you are fit for the challenges ahead. March was hot and 'smoggy' so possibly a time to avoid.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
This was our first Exodus holiday but we are already planning where to go next. Totally inspired with having been able to cycle and enjoy the experience of being part of local life.

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Cycling in Laos

Summary:
A great cycling holiday through the northern rural areas of Laos

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
So many inspirational moments. The stand outs for me being the welcoming nature of the children and communities of the small rural townships, the descent through the limestone mountains and the boat ride down the Mekong River.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
The group leaders were fantastic. Funny and sociable, yet all the time keeping us informed, safe and on schedule.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Take your time to look around and enjoy what is happening around you.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
The bike riding was fairly challenging in a couple of sections, particularly if the weather was warmer, but a van and support crew were always available to assist or provide a lift if required.

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Cycle Laos

Summary:
Great Bike Ride, lots of hill climbs and even more fast descents through spectacular limestone mountains.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Riding past so many friendly villages , all waving and very friendly smiles from all ages of people on the side of the roads.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
The riding guides did a magnificent job , kept the faster people going fast while looking after the slower riders and those stopping to take pictures, the back up crew kept us fed and watered , and looked after anyone who wanted a ride in the van , everybody was looked after.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
This trip is not for inexperienced bike rider , but average fitness is good enough.
If you like asian food , cycling , river trips and overnight trains as I do this is the trip for you

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
There is a lot more to see in Laos but this trip was a great start

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Laos cycling

Summary:
A well organised trip exploring the outer reaches of Laos. Rather too many long bus transfers.

Rating: 3

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Drifting along the Mekong River in a traditional boat which we had all to ourselves.

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Rit & 'Mr La' were always enthusiastic but rather rigid in their asherence to the set programme.

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
Do not go to the 'Complimentary' meal/ evening in Chiang Mai. It is the crystallisation of why Exodus cutomers do not go with other tour Companies – awful food, a 'theme park' style of entertainment all in the environment where there are hundreds of other long suffering tourists.
Do not assume that because it is South Asia it will always be warm.

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
Do not blindly follow the restaurants recommended by the guides – there are far better places if only limited research is done.

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cycling in Thailand and Laos

Summary:
This is a cycling trip not for the 'faint hearted' It is a truly cultural experience which takes you to the heart and soul of the local people in the remote mountains and valleys of Laos. It would be almost impossible to get to this part of Laos without cycling and without the knowledge and back up of the local leaders and drivers.

Rating: 5

Question:
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

Answer:
Stopping to visit a mountain village while the road was temporarily closed and drinking the most amazing Green tea in a small road side cafe. Meeting the smallest woman I have ever seen carrying a basket ofthe biggest pieces of root ginger I have ever seen!

Question:
What did you think of your group leader?

Answer:
Great. Knowledge enthusiasm and fully committed to the trip and everything Laos!

Question:
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

Answer:
If you just want to cycle as far as possible for as long as possible or as fast as possible each day without looking to the right and left, ahead or behind and without stopping for the unexpected, then this trip is not for you! You will miss sooooo much!

Question:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Answer:
My first trip to SE Asia was everything and more than I expected. I have over 400 photos to prove it!

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Activity Levels


Activity Levels range from Leisurely to Tough, the grading takes into account the daily cycling distances and terrain, as well as any technical riding skill required. We also consider the number of cycling days as there can be a cumulative affect from tiredness on a longer trip and the type of accommodation used, as this can also influence your day to day recovery.

If you are in any doubt, please give us a call on +353-1-607 9900 or email us.


Activity level 1 - Leisurely Activity level 1: Leisurely

If you can ride a bike and enjoy gentle exercise, these are an ideal introduction to a cycling holiday. No routes are entirely flat, so expect some short climbs and descents. Maximum daily height gain is approximately 250 metres and daily distances rarely exceed 50kms (32 miles), any longer days are often optional.


Activity level 3 - Moderate Activity level 3: Moderate

Most people who enjoy a weekend riding at home will enjoy a Moderate trip. You need to be in good health and reasonably fit. Ideal for occasional cyclists, or as a more relaxed trip for fitter riders. Moderate off-road trips require no previous experience. Distances rarely exceed 70kms (43 miles) per day.


Activity level 5 - Challenging Activity level 5: Challenging

For any ride at this level, fitness is important. Challenging trips require confidence in your ability and physical condition. They are equivalent to an extended period of cycling at home. Previous mountain biking experience is essential for Challenging off road trips as they will involve some technical riding.


Activity level 7 - Tough Activity level 7: Tough

Previous experience of the cycling style or surface is a must as these routes have long cycling days and tougher terrain on both road and off road trips. You need complete confidence in your fitness and technical ability to cope with difficult or steep terrain, rough surfaces and longer distances. Ideal for those seeking a challenge!


Split grades

In order to provide more accuracy, where a trip falls between two grades we use an intermediate or ‘split’ grade, for example 2: Leisurely/Moderate.


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