Day 1: Arrive Hanoi, Vietnam
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, midday meeting at hotel for lunch orientation at an outdoor cafe for introductions, followed by bike assembly, testing and other preparations for beginning of the trip. Afterwards, free time in the capital before we rendezvous at our hotel and stroll for dinner of local specialties such as pho in the busy Old Quarter. Dinner at the local restaurant . O / N in Hanoi .
Note: Vietnam visa required in advance of arrival.
Meals 😀 = Dinner
Day 2: Hanoi Cycle to Mai Chau
In the morning, early departure for Mai Chau, a picturesque river valley region populated with a diversity of hilltribes. After a 2.5 to 3 hour drive, arrive Mai Chau for lunch. Balance of afternoon leisurely, warm-up cycling in and around Mai Chau to hilltribe villages, farms and scenic backroads of the area. Overnight in Mai Chau, home stay with Thai people before the moving on into the hinterland of Laos.
Meals: B / L / D
Accommodation: Home – Stay
Day 3: Mai Chau Cycle to Vieng Xai ( Laos ) .
After morning ride to Na Meo border gate , cross into Laos. Meet crew at Laos-Vietnam border, the continue cycling to Viengxay on paved roads under karst scenery, passing hilltribe villages in the area, including Thai Dam, Thai Dang, Meuy, and Kmu. Picnic lunch en route. After lunch heading to Vieng Xay, arriving in afternoon. exploring the nearby 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 Phoumsavanh, who served as Lao PDR president from 1992.
Meals: (B, L,D)
Distance: 53 km
Accommodation: Thavyxay Hotel
Day 4: Vieng Xai Cycle to Samneua to Viengthong
Our 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.
Meals: B, L, D
Accommodation: Souksakhone GH.
Day 5: Vieng Thong cycle to Nong Khiaw
Another long cycling 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.
Meals: B, L, D
Distance: 184 km (115 miles)
Accommodation: Phaxang Resort
Day 6: Nong Khiaw excursion around Muang Ngoi
After 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.
Day 7: Nong Khiaw cycle to Luang Prabang
Today 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.
Meals: B, L, D
Distance: 139 km
Accommodation: SalaPrabang Hotel
Day 8: Luang Prabang rest day
Breakfast and all day free in Luang Prabang.
Day 9: Luang Prabang Cycle Tour
After breakfast, cycling outside of the city to the Kuang Si Waterfalls (28 kms/18 miles) or quieter roads looping through the countryside, by preference.
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.
Distance: 35 km
Accommodation: SalaPrabang Hotel
Day 10: Luang Prabang to Kiu Ka Cham, Kiu Ka Cham to Bor Nam
Depart Luang Prabang by van, shuttling to Kiu Cham (48 miles) to begin our ride. Our ride this day involves more beautiful mountain scenery with a fair bit of up and down. In the afternoon we have a gorgeous 25 km downhill ride, the road surrounded by peaks and cliffs to Bor Nam where we lose about 800 meters. Bor Nam is nothing more than a hot spring, a tiny guest house and a trucker’s restaurant. The bungalows are very simple, but clean. Hopefully we will have the place all to ourselves. The spring warm not hot, but it’s definitely worth going for a dip to loosen up those leg muscles. Next to the hot spring is a good restaurant with simple tasty food and a gorgeous views of the mountains.
Meals: B, L, D
Distance: 76 km
Accommodation: Bornamoun Bungalows (basic).
Day 11: Bor Nam cycle to Vang Vieng
Another early start, not to cover a long distance, but so we have the afternoon to enjoy Vang Vieng. Downhill ride to the valley floor and the town of Kasi. From here to Vang Vieng is pretty easy riding with one notable climb. For the those who are interested, we can kayak on the Nam Song River in the afternoon. Plastic sit-on-top kayaks would meet about 5 miles before Vang Vieng and we would paddle the river from here right to the door of our hotel. There are a few easy rapids and the river is suitable for beginners. Our hotel is set beside the Nam Song River with a long row of beautiful karst peaks as a back drop. Drinks all around to celebrate this last day in the saddle!
Meals: B, L
Distance: 78 km
Accommodation: Elephant crossing hotel. www.theelephantcrossinghotel.com
Day 12: Vang Vieng cycle to Vientiane
After breakfast transfer by van for 3 hours to the small capital city of Lao PDR, after check in the hotel you can hang around or discover the most tourist attractive sites of Vientiane such as emerald Buddha temple, Thatluang stupa, appear on the national symbol of the country, or shopping at the morning market.
Meals: B, L
Distance: 155 km
Accommodation: Sengtawan hotel . www.sengtawan.com
Day 13: Vientiane departure
After leisurely breakfast, transit to airport for fly back to your country.