Cycling in Asia forum

Single female cycling Thailand, Laos and Cambodia June 2011

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Hi there
    As the title suggests, I'm planning on cycling from Thailand, into Laos and through into Cambodia in June of this year, on my bike, alone, all in just over two weeks.

    I'm hoping to take overnight trains to and from Laos border crossings and take boats as transport allows.

    Am I way out of touch with reality and making a really bad choice here?

    If not, all suggestions/ideas/advice welcome.

    Cheers,

    S :-)

    #1 Posted: 21/3/2011 - 15:54

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  • Tilapia

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    Hi Swit,

    If you're wondering if you're out of touch with reality for going cycling alone over there, then by all means, no. It's a great place to cycle in, and I've met many female cyclists going solo and having a blast. One of the girls I met on my last trip in January had started her trip in Beijing. We met in Sukhothai.

    "I'm hoping to take overnight trains to and from Laos border crossings and take boats as transport allows."

    Are you aware that there is only one train, the Northeast train, that will take you to and from the border with Laos? This train will take you from Bangkok to Nong Khai, where you will have the option to cross the Mekong River by train, or get off and 1) ride your bike or 2) take public transport over the border. There is no longer a boat option for this crossing.

    If you go in this direction, it will be very difficult, though not impossible, to ride down south into Cambodia. The distance is quite substantial and with some seriously long days you can probably make the border in a week, or so. At that time of year you might be struggling with the weather (rain). I haven't cycled in Cambodia, but from the reading I've done, and the conversations I've had with cyclists who have been there, the roads are not particularly good, especially during the rainy season.

    If you're thinking of crossing the border from Chiang Khong into Huay Xai, you will only get to Chiangmai by train, and will then have either a big bike ride, or a big bus ride to Chiang Khong.

    If you are planning on taking the train to Ubon Ratchathani, you will then have another 50 km - 60 km (or more) to get to Chong Mek. That would be a better point to cross in if you plan on continuing down into Cambodia, but you would still be pressed for time to get out of Cambodia and back to Bangkok for your flight home.

    If I were you, considering the limited time available, I'd just stay in Thailand. There is some fantastic riding to be done there. Also consider that at least 3-4 full days are going to be taken up in Bangkok.

    I also recommend that you take a look at Crazy Guy on a Bike, if you haven't already. There are lots of great journals, and loads of fantastic information regarding cycling in all parts of that area, at all times of the year.

    I cycle there a lot. If you want to PM me with any questions, please feel free.

    #2 Posted: 21/3/2011 - 20:36

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Hi Tilapia

    Thanks for the reply and advice.

    I was thinking of getting an overnight train (with bike) from Bangkok to Udon Thani and getting into Laos via Vientiene on the way there and perhaps cycling from Cambodia back into Thailand and getting a sleeper back to Bangkok from Ubon Ratchathani.

    I haven't yet looked at Crazy Guy on a Bike. Sounds interesting.

    "If I were you, considering the limited time available, I'd just stay in Thailand. There is some fantastic riding to be done there. Also consider that at least 3-4 full days are going to be taken up in Bangkok".

    Do you mean I'll be in Bangkok 3 - 4 days sorting out a visa for Laos? I've been to Bangkok and it's not top of my list for places I'd like to stay in again. I've never been to Laos or Cambodia and it's been on my mind to cycle through that route since last year.

    Best,

    Swit.


    #3 Posted: 22/3/2011 - 15:25

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    Swit,
    If it were me, consider taking the train from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani and then cycling from there to Khong Chiam and then from there going north on the Thai side of the Mekong - to Khemerat, Chanuman, Don Tan, Mukdahan, That Phanom , Nakhon Phanom , Ban Paeng, Bung Khla, Phon Pisai and then to Nong Khai - crossing into Laos there. Then from there over to Vientiane and back down the Mekong on the Laos side. Great opportunity to compare and contrast the two places.

    Khong Chiam is a cute little town, very scenic, with an excellent resort, where the Mun and Mekong rivers come together. Friend of mine has been there often and likes it a lot. I prefer Khemerat, which is quiet but old, and cute in its own way. Chanuman is a boring, duty backwater, like most small Thai towns. So it gives you real authenticity. Ditto Don Tan, though I find it more attractive than Chanuman. Mukdhan (where I live) is a real city, with good nightlife and a few cool things to see. That Phanom is a great little town. VERY scenic, and the temple there is one of the oldest in Thailand. It's beautiful, and the Chedi is the oldest in the country. Between Muk and That Phanom, if you go up the river road (vice the 212) you will come to the Church of the Seven Martyrs. Beautiful modern Catholic church with an interesting history behind it. Sits right on the Mekong. After That Phanom, Nakhon Phanom is a scant 50 km ride. This is also an old city. Ho Chi Minh lived there on and off for three years. His house is now a museum and worth visiting. The nightlife around the Vietnamese clock tower is good as well. After that, the ride north to Nong Khai is very scenic. food for thought as you plan where to cycle. Be careful riding here as the drivers suck - and suck a lot. They don't know what right is, so you can count on them doing moronic things that will leave you wondering if half the driving population was lobotomized.

    #4 Posted: 22/3/2011 - 17:22

  • Tilapia

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    Hi Swit,

    When I said 3 or 4 days, I meant this ...

    Day 1) the day you arrive
    Day 2) the day you get onto the train and head out of Bangkok

    That is, unless you are able to arrange your sleeper train ticket the day you get there, or before you arrive in Thailand. You probably could do it the same day if you're on top of things. That train, typically, isn't full except during holiday time.

    Day 3) the day you get back to Bangkok on the Ubon sleeper train
    Day 4) the day you go home

    If your flight is late enough, it's totally possible to return to Bangkok, get your bike packaged up, and get to the airport in plenty of time for your flight. I guess I should have said 2 to 4 days. It all depends on your flight times, whether or not you can get a train ticket out of town on the day you arrive in Bangkok, and if you leave for home on the same day that you return from the cycling part of your trip.

    I wasn't suggesting that you stick around in Bangkok for the heck of it. Your Laos visa you can get at the border when you arrive in Vientiane, if that's your route. They are available on arrival at Chong Mek, as well.

    The ride from Udon to NK isn't particularly nice. It would be a very long, very hot day. It's doable, though. Highway 2 is awful for riding. If you've got a GPS you could get there on side roads, but it would add a lot of mileage to your trip. You might want to consider staying on the train and getting off in Nong Khai , or stay on the train and head straight across the river into Laos. You'll be in Nong Khai sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 am if you stay on the train.

    So, you're planning on arriving in Vientiane, then cycling to Southern Laos, along the Mekong, then crossing into Cambodia at Veun Kham - Drom Kalor, then leaving via Chong Sa Ngam? That is the closest Cambodian border crossing to Ubon.

    If you want to see any photos of the areas your thinking of going to, or if want any info on bike shops in Bangkok (for packaging up your bike, or for taking care of any unforeseen problems), feel free to PM me.

    MadMac mentioned Khong Chiam. It really is a lovely little spot, and it's a very nice ride there from Ubon along parts of the Mun River and gong-making country. From there it is about a 2-3 hour ride to the border town of Chong Mek, then another 2 to 3 hours to Pakse. Terrific ride!

    #5 Posted: 22/3/2011 - 20:32

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Thank you so much Tilapia and MadMac

    It's times like this that make me love the internet :-)

    So, based on your advice, here's my itinery...

    Land in Bangkok mid afternoon local time having flown for nearly 12 hours from the UK. Stagger around a little looking dazed and washed out.

    This bit courtesy of MadMac... Catch the train that evening from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani, cycle from there to Khong Chiam and then from there to Khemerat, Chanuman, Don Tan, Mukdahan, That Phanom, Nakhon Phanom, Ban Paeng, Bung Khla, Phon Pisai and then to Nong Khai, crossing into Laos there. From there over to Vientiane and back down the Mekong on the Laos side.

    It's a really detailed route that I can follow and I'm very grateful, MadMac.

    I'm guessing these's no boats to be had to get me down the Mekong down to Pakse ???

    Next is a route taken from Tilapia's suggestions...

    From Pakse into Cambodia via Stung Treng (?aka Veun Kham or Dom Kralor), highways 7 and 6 into Angkor Wat, then highways 6 and 5 to Poipet, via Siem Reap. If I'm right, although I accept I might not be, it's a 12KM cycle to Aranya Prathet train station and a two hour train ride back to Bangkok. I can fly out from Bangkok around midnight and get back to the UK for the early morning. If it all gets too much by the time I get to Pakse, I'll cut short there and make my way back to Bangkok from UR.

    Tah dah!

    All comments welcome...

    Thank you both again.

    S :-)

    #6 Posted: 23/3/2011 - 04:00

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Hi Again, Swit.

    I think you better take a close look at a map, train schedules (right here ... http://www.railway.co.th/English/Time_HTML.asp), border crossings, and consider how far you'll be able to ride in one day before you make too many decisions regarding routes.

    MadMac's suggested route is great, most definitely. It is a fantastic ride and one I'd suggest, as well, but it will take you at least 3 weeks to complete, not including your travel time to and from the border. It's a huge (!) distance. I think you'd be far better off making it a one-way trip either up the Mekong, or down the Mekong. Either would be terrific. Either would be fun. Either would be totally possible.

    I was not recommending any route. Just asking if this is what you intended since you stated that you planned to return to Bangkok on the night train from Ubon Ratchathani after leaving Cambodia. I was assuming that you'd considered this. What I put down was the most practical situation.

    If you want to get an idea of how far a typical day on the road on a bicycle would entail, without any delays except for those involving food, photography, and stretching, look at the highway that runs along the Mekong from Nong Khai to Chiang Khan. Highway #211. This is an absolutely brilliant stretch of highway. Gorgeous, quiet, superb asphalt, lots of great little villages, temples, gently rolling, brilliant views of Laos and the Mekong, and lots and lots of places to eat and sleep. Nothing that would hold a cyclist up such as potholed roads, massive hills, or big cities. Going at a good pace each day (average moving speed = 21 km/hr), the time it took to cover this distance was 3 very full days. The distance was about 300 km. The distance from Siem Reap to Aranyaphrathet alone is about 450-500 km, and that stretch of road is desolate, dull, and at that time of the year, HOT!!!

    You can certainly do this trip through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia if you are putting your bike onto a bus now and then.

    There are boats that will take you from Pakse to Si Phan Don, or back, but when I was there they were not regular. Most were rickety little long-tail boats owned by villagers looking to make a quick buck. The cost for the trip from Champasak to Pakse was about U$10. Frankly, I thought the trip was one of the most exciting things I'd done in ages. We were stranded several times in the current, thanks to a **** motor, in tumultuous waters, at the mercy of the currents and rocks. We were rescued each time by villages who saw our boat and came out and towed us inland. The 40 km, or so, trip from Champasak to Pakse took us no less than 6 hours!!! We arrived in the dark and had to make our way ashore on a muddy river bank with no lights to help out. But what a trip!!! WHAT a trip!!! Incredible!!!

    Anyway, I don't mean to sound discouraging. You asked for advice and I'm giving it to you based on my cycling experience over there. Unless you're an Olympic cyclist with very little luggage, I think you're going to find that doing all 3 countries in 3 weeks is going to be a lot more than you bargained for. Two would be fine. One would be better, even if it is just Laos.

    Here are a couple of routes to consider ...

    1) Train to Nong Khai and over to Laos, cycle south as far as Pakse, cross into Chong Mek, then ride to Khong Chiam then Ubon Ratchathani. Take the train back to Bangkok. Problem with this route, I'm told, is that the distances between places are substantial, and there's not much to see or do in between. Perfect if you're into meditation and sleeping on front porches.

    2) MadMac's route ... but don't leave Thailand. Go to Khong Chiam and then head north as far as Nong Khai, or Chiang Khan if possible. If you stop in Nong Khai, take the train back to Bangkok. If you get to Chiang Khan, then ride to Loei, then take the bus back to Bangkok, or bus it to Phitsanulok and take the train to Bangkok from there. If you've got time, check out Sukhothai and/or Si Satchanalai (recommended).

    I can't really comment on Cambodia as I've never ridden there. Sorry. Lots of firsthand info on that country to be found on Crazy Guy on a Bike.

    Best of luck, but more than anything else, have fun. I have been traveling there for a very long time and just started taking my bike 5 years ago. It is, by far, the best way to travel there, as far as I'm concerned. It's not always the easiest or most convenient, but the pace and the slow exposure to people and places more than makes up for all of those other things.

    Take a GPS!

    Happy Trails.

    #7 Posted: 23/3/2011 - 08:54

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    I'd have to agree with Tilapia here. But, here's the deal, you can just keep going along whatever route you take until you run out of time and have to return to Bangkok. You do not need to hold to a specific timetable. Maybe you'll get to Khong Chiam and say "wow, this is nice, think I'll chill here a few days". Or Perhaps you'll get there and say, well, let's get something to eat and ride on. Everyone is different, and has different tastes. The beauty of your kind of vacation is you aren't tied to someone elses schedule. You are your own boss when you consider when to go and what the next destination is. Have a great trip. If you come to Muk, look me up.

    #8 Posted: 23/3/2011 - 10:12

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Again, thank you so much to the both of you.

    I have an aluminium frame bike which may not withstand the Cambodian roads... I'm a (veteran) sprint distance tri beginner so I'm rubbish on hills, although my bike is very forgiving.

    All I have to do now is book my ticket and then I've committed... Job to do this evening.

    Re GPS - I have maps on my phone - is that good enough?

    S :-)

    #9 Posted: 23/3/2011 - 13:43

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    Once you've decided what route you're taking, use google maps and check out the details. I find it easy to memorize and you can recheck at internet cafes while on the road. Between that and your phone, you should be good to go.

    One word of caution - if you take the route I suggested, or any other remote areas, remember to take a phrase book for the applicable language. Most people out here speak zero - or close to zero - English.

    #10 Posted: 23/3/2011 - 14:19

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  • Tilapia

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    Hi Swit,

    I have to admit that the trips I've done have been nearly 100% made-up as I went along. I know the areas I want to go to and just go. I will do research on a lot of areas just to make sure there are places to stay. When things are looking tight for time I will just throw my bike onto a songthaew, bus, tuk tuk or train. No problem! I think that the best area of the country for cycling, that I know of, is along the Mekong, especially between Nong Khai and Chiang Khan. Amazing. But it's all nice.

    If you need to get your bike boxed up in a hurry, I can't recommend these guys enough ... http://www.velothailand.com

    They charge 250 baht and do a professional job. If you have your own box, it's 150 baht. They'll box it up, hail a cab or mini-van, make sure it's secure in the back, then send you off to the airport. They open at 10:00 and close at around 9:00 pm.

    From the train station to Banglamphoo it's about 5 km. This place is just off of Samsen in the first alleyway on the right when you cross the Banglamphoo Canal heading north.

    Have fun.

    #11 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 00:29

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Thanks both for more great information.

    Do either of you know if Thai Airways accept bikes in bike bags and if so, the type of bike bag they accept? I had an mildly unpleasant near miss getting a bike onto a flight to Sardinia last summer using a cheap polythene bike bag (sack really).

    Also, I loathe camping, even at a festival, so as long as there's a guesthouse around every 50 - 70K on my route, whatever that turns out to be, I'll be more than happy.

    MadMac, I'll give you a shout if I get to Muk, for sure.

    Tilapia, I'm probably gonna give those boats a miss :-/

    S :-)

    #12 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 04:43

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 6341
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    Tilapia is the man for bikes! Sorry, can't help much there. I just know this area pretty well because I live here.

    #13 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 10:21

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Oh, one more... Do you think I'll incur any problems with getting my bike secured (locked up) at a guesthouse? Is it in danger of being nicked? Should I take it into my room wherever I stay? I am very attached to it :-D

    S :-)

    #14 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 13:33

  • watchray

    Joined Travelfish
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    its great if you would have to visit Cambodia. This is a place of temples, nature and many other things you would really have a great time if you would come and stay in Cambodia for 3-4 days to explore the world of Cambodia :)

    #15 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 15:22

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    I think you'll be able to tell whether your bike is safe or not at each place. When in doubt, bring it in.

    #16 Posted: 24/3/2011 - 16:53

  • Tilapia

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    This is straight from their website ...


    +++++++++++

    Bicycles

    Bicycles can be included in the permitted allowance however any additional weight will be charged as normal excess luggage.


    ++++++++++++
    I use this website often ... http://www.ibike.org/index.htm

    On that site you will find this info and chart ... http://www.ibike.org/index.htm

    And there you will see that the max size is 62" and that the bike must be in a box, and that you need to inform the airline that you plan on bringing a bike when you make your flight reservation.

    I've found that Asian airlines are great for taking bikes, but my beloved Cathay has just started charging $75 per direction.

    You should probably give them a call and ask yourself. They may not go 100% by the book.

    As for security, I've always brought my bike into my room, or left it on the balcony of my bungalow. When this hasn't been possible, the guest house/hotel/bungalow owners have always put it into one of their own rooms, a storage room, or just kept it behind the front desk, etc. Like Mac said, you'll know what to do (bring it in, leave it out, etc.) when you get to a place. The chances of being ripped-off are very, very small. If you're at a train station, or at a bus station, and need to go to the bathroom, you can leave it at the information booth, or at one of the police boxes. Someone will always be happy to watch over it while you're gone for a few minutes. It will give them a chance to paw at it and, perhaps, get their photo taken with it when you come back.

    #17 Posted: 25/3/2011 - 04:42

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    As ever, thanx for your pearls of wisdom.

    Thai Airways have advised that all I need to do is take my pedals off and turn my handlebars sideways. I'm pretty confident that all of my luggage, including my bike will come in under the 20kg baggage allowance. I've informed Thai Airways of my flight details so they have space set aside for my bike on those flights. As far as me and my bike are concerned, we're good to go.

    I'm so excited. There's nothing quite like cycling into an airport, putting a bike through at a check in desk and collecting it the other end.

    S :-)

    #18 Posted: 2/4/2011 - 02:11

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Have a great time. Let us know how it goes.

    #19 Posted: 2/4/2011 - 19:28

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Don't forget to deflate the tires before putting your bike on the plane.
    Have a blast!

    #20 Posted: 2/4/2011 - 20:43

  • AbgAcid

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    Additional tip
    1. Some cases the bicycle is allowed to be kept in the lobby and not in the room. Just remove the front wheel and keep it in your bathroom.
    2. Be best if you had a handlebar bag, where all your valuables, passport be in it. Easy to remove and take with you,if you need to be away from the bike for short while to the toilet etc.
    3. If you are sending the bike without box, you may need a rear derailleur guard. Its just a small curved steel piece that protects your derailleur during shipment.

    Good Luck and have a good time.

    Acid

    #21 Posted: 4/4/2011 - 12:28

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Hi all

    Sorry for the delayed response.

    Thanx for the further advice.

    I've been trawling the net of late looking for a decent 6L handlebar bag.

    Is there any reason for deflating the tyres before getting the bike on a plane? I didn't when I took my bike to Sardinia.

    S :-)

    #22 Posted: 24/4/2011 - 02:07

  • AbgAcid

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    Basically when an airplane goes up onto higher altitude, there will be a decrease in atmospheric pressure. If the luggage compartment experienced this as well, you tyres may blow up and cause a small explosion onboard.

    Acid

    #23 Posted: 24/4/2011 - 20:48

  • FNG

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 1

    Hi,
    I'm a single female who spent 10 months traveling SE Asia entirely by bike. I rode over 11,000 km across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos and had the time of my life doing it. You may already be on your trip, but in case you're not my advice to you is this... GO! GO NOW! Book your flight, pack up your bike, and just figure out the rest as you go.
    SE Asia is a pretty safe place. Obviously you have to be careful and use your head. I experienced very little problems on my trip. The few I did have were all in Vietnam, and it doesn't sound like you're going there anyways. Laos was, by far, my favorite place. It can be hilly at times, and the long climbs can cause problems when trying to make it from one guesthouse to the next. That having been said, there are tons of small villages and hill tribes that will take you in for the night. I stayed with a couple of different families and actually preferred it to staying at guesthouses. The people are unbelievably kind, the scenery is stunning and I found it to be a much more authentic cultural experience in comparison to Thailand and Cambodia.
    Thailand is the most "westernized" of the 3. Finding hotels and guesthouses is pretty easy. There are primary and secondary highways throughout, and they are in great shape. Laos roads can be a little sketchy at times. There is lots to see in Thailand. Don't bite off more than you can chew. In total I spent about 3 months in Thailand, and there were still things I didn't have the time to see. I preferred the north, but I'm a bit of a mountain girl. If you're looking for beaches stick to the south.
    I biked almost all of Cambodia in a few weeks. Ankor Wat is obviously the main attraction. If you do go to Cambodia, please make sure to hit Phnom Penh and check out S21 and the killing fields. Although it's not the most uplifting experience, it's important to see. When I was there most of the roads had been paved, except for the stretch between Siem Reap and Si Saphon and the roads north of Siem Reap. however, that was in 2008, and they may have paved some of them since.
    Your idea of doing all 3 countries is good, but you'll have to bike fast, or take a couple of buses. Personally, I would just do Laos if I were you. Stock up on bike supplies, especially tubes, in Bangkok. There's 1 bike shop in Laos. It's in Vientiane.
    It's good to have a general plan, but like I said, the best way to do it is to just go and figure it out as you go. My blog is still up and running from my trip. Feel free to check it out. It might be a good reference. All the entries are labeled by location. www.fredthebike.blogspot.com (fred is my bikes name, not mine). I spent a good chunk of time doing this, so if you have any questions during your trip don't hesitate to send me a message via my blog. I'm always happy to help another cyclist.
    Have fun, be safe, and good luck!

    #24 Posted: 8/6/2011 - 09:15

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Hi FNG
    Thanx for the advice. I am here already :-) I'm currently in Khong Chiam. Aside from a few 'uh, oh' moments (like discoveringI couldn't get my pedals off for the flight, I've loved every minute so far.

    I'm realising how painfully polite everyone has been in their replies to me. I stopped in Bangkok for one night - what was I thinking of getting straight onto a sleeper having already been in the same clothes for 24hour? - and I've bus/trucked it from Ubon to here. I'll maybe say more when I get a good internet connection and clean up after yet another 24hours in the same clothes. Cycling in this heat and humidity is challenging to say the least!

    My bike's called Red. She's an amazing road bike and is getting a lot of comments. She's a cannondale tigra feminine so very striking out here.

    S :-)

    #25 Posted: 8/6/2011 - 12:51

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Wish I was in Khong Chiam right now.

    Hope you're having a good time Swit.

    #26 Posted: 8/6/2011 - 20:16

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Hello all

    Madmac, Tilapia, now that I read your words of advice to me over again, I see exactly what you are saying :-) :-O I'm in Kehmerat right now and am going to stay for two nights rather than one; I'm knackered. It's bloody hot cycling in the afternoon and I seem to be averaging around 10K an hour when I am cycling. My bike and I have seen more buses and trucks than we have open road :-))) I'm not ashamed to say that either.

    So, tomorrow is Sunday which means I have a week until I fly back to the UK. Here's my (adjusted) plans; please can you advise?

    Sunday: cycle to Chanuman - is it 30, or 47 or 44K from Kehemerat? Is there anywhere to stay in Chanuman?

    Monday: cycle to Don Tan - am I right in thinking that's 30K from Chanuman? Is there a place to stay in Don Tan?

    Tuesday: cycle to Mukdahan (?33K) and stay for two nights. No need to ask about accomodations as it's a big enough place on the map to answer that question. Madmac, are you around then? Let's get a beer together? I've tasted some fabulous food so far, but as my Thai is next to nothing, I *know* there's plenty more out there I have yet to try. I am in desperate need of a tyre spanner; I lost my fancy one in Bangkok and have't been able to get another one since.

    Thursday: some form of public transport to Meuong Kohn Kaen (train station). Is there a bus or truck that goes there that you know of?

    Friday: take the train to Nakhon Ratchasima and stay there for a night.

    Saturday: train back to Bangkok. Stay with my friend in Bangkok for the night, before flying back to the UK on the Sunday night.

    I'm sat in an internet cafe for the next hour at least. Bliss :-)

    My phone picks up my email... when-it-damn-well-chooses-too....

    S :-)

    #27 Posted: 11/6/2011 - 13:00

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Hi Swit,

    During times like these, your best friend will often be this website ...

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/

    I took this from a journal that was written in January by a guy doing a route that contained the area you're in now ...

    "I reach Chanuman, which has nothing else to offer the noble knight of the road but noodle soup and a post office. Met the first fellow cyclists until now, an elder couple from Holland (anybody surprised ?) on Cannondales. They started their trip in Chiang Mai and are heading for Phnom Penh. The wind demons have finally surrendered and I roll into the Ban Rai Saeng Resort, one kilometer before you come into Don Tan City. The bungalow here is 500 Baht, bathroom and aircon and water and satellite TV included. Very helpful people here- when I ask for Bia Singh and LM, the managers son jumps on his motorbike and speeds off to the next store.

    Don Tan isn't much, I could not find any attractive place to eat, but finally I came upon the night market which I had overseen as long as it was not dark. Plenty of interesting take-away food- I go for something springrollish and pancake with surprise filling. Plastic bags full of food dangling at my handlebar I ride back to the resort. The spring rolls come with a bag full of salad and coriander plus a small bag containing a sweet-sour sauce. A bit hard to eat out of the bag, I must get me a plate tomorrow. In the smaller towns the night markets sell food only to take home, there are no plates and tables available."

    So you may want to consider going all the way to Don Tan. It's around 65 km. Might be worth the extra effort. Sounds like the road is good.

    Happy Cycling.

    #28 Posted: 11/6/2011 - 20:44

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Swit, you might want to consider changing buses in Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) and heading straight to Phimai. It's a really nice little town with an incredible Khmer temple in the middle. It is a UNESCO Heritage site. The temple was the prototype for the Temples of Angkor, and predates them by around 150-200 years.

    Phimai is around 70 km north of Khorat, worth the extra hour or so on the bus. It will be much easier for you to find your way around, find a place to stay, and the temple is worth it.

    However, the day may be getting late by the time you reach NR as it is quite a hike from Muk. Khorat has its charms, as well, so if you end up staying there I'm sure you'll enjoy it. The food there is fantastic.

    I like the big Isaan towns and cities. They're much different from others in the country.

    Phimai might be worth a day, though, and could be easily reached the same day if you leave Muk early enough.

    You'll have plenty of transport options between Nakhon Ratchasima and Bangkok.

    #29 Posted: 11/6/2011 - 21:20

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Cheers Tilapia,

    Much appreciated :-) At least I know I need to get up at a reasonable hour and crack on with it. What I wouldn't give for my tyre spanner... I can't believe I lost it. What an idiot. I'll look at the crazyguyonabike website when I next get a decent website connection. Please God I don't get a puncture and that it's not all uphill to Don Tan. I had the most amazing chicken with cashews in Khong Chiam by the way. The woman must've thought I didn't think I liked it very much, but truth be told, I ate it really slowly because it tasted so great.

    This website has been a lifesaver and great support too.

    Thanx again,

    Swit :-)

    #30 Posted: 11/6/2011 - 21:24

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Hi Swit,


    When you use Crazy Guy on a Bike, search for the next town that you want to go to and you'll find the journals where the place is mentioned. This saves time. It's a huge site with a mountain of info.


    If you blow a tire there will always be someone in the area who can fix it for you. And if not, there will be someone who will be happy to throw your bike into the back of their nice, shiny pick-up truck and take you to a place where it can be fixed, if they don't take you straight to where you want to go/stay.

    Learn how to tell someone you need some help ... "Dee-jhan ow chuay kah."

    Go to the Thai Language section of Travelfish, and look at the Words and Phrases for Cycling. Keep this link just in case. You never know when you might need to a word or phrase or two.

    http://www.travelfish.org/board/topic/learnthai

    Have fun, and stay cool ...

    #31 Posted: 11/6/2011 - 21:57

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Alright Swit, I should be here on Tueseday. When you get to Mukdahan, go to the Indochina market and ask for the falang who plays "Mak Luk" (thai Chess). They'll send you my way. Ask near door number four at the IndoChina market (the doors that lead down stairs).

    #32 Posted: 12/6/2011 - 01:32

  • Tilapia

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    Sounds rather Deer Hunter-ish to me, Mac ...

    #33 Posted: 12/6/2011 - 09:22

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Believe me, I lead a very domesticated lifestyle.

    #34 Posted: 12/6/2011 - 11:16

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Hey, Tilapia,

    I wasn't getting what you were meaning previously re crazyguyonabike. I thought it was one person's blog. DOH! I get it now :-) I registered yesterday but not yet received a confirmation email. My connection in Khemerat was rubbish, so I probably need to repeat.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you re advice on Chanuman and Don Tan... and the speaking Thai section on this website. My ability to miss vital information lives on...

    Chanuman was pretty much as described and if anything, Don Tan looked even more sedate... So I decided to bite the bullet and ride on through to Mukdahan :-) It was so worth it! I've been here for a few hours now. Showered - where DOES all that dirt come from? - eaten yet more great food and now chilling out with a beer. My legs feel like lead and if I don't sleep well tonight, then it's because I ate a jar of raw coffee.

    So Madmac, are you around tomorrow? Not to worry if not because I'll make it my mission to find you Tuesday. I need to get a long sleeved shirt tomorrow because my arms are starting to look slightly comical...

    Oh, and Tilapia, Phimai sounds like a great plan.

    S :-)

    #35 Posted: 12/6/2011 - 21:38

  • Tilapia

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    Hi Swit,

    Suddenly, you've got two more days on your hands. Weren't you planning on being in Muk on Tuesday?

    Good idea to plod on. It wasn't really that far, was it?

    You don't need to be registered to use the Crazy Guy on a Bike site. If you want to contribute, or send messages to people, you need to sign up, but not for browsing and gathering the info that's on there.

    Here's a link that covers Phimai , and then the ride from Phimai into Nakhon Ratchasima, followed by some info on places to stay in NR. This site (Travelfish) also has some god info on places to stay in NR.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?o=RrzKj&page_id=102210&v=1O

    I used this site when prepping for my bike trips more than any other source of info. Nothing is as up-to-date, detailed, and complete as Crazy Guy ... no disrespect to any other sites. Crazy Guy covers road conditions, food stalls along the way, alternate routes, locations of bike shops, guest houses & hotels & resorts (the good, the bad, the ugly, and those that have karaoke all night), accurate distances, speeds and times, wind direction, topography, etc. etc. etc.

    It might come in more handy next time you go cycling in SEA.

    Have fun.

    #36 Posted: 12/6/2011 - 23:13

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Catch me in the morning Swit. I have to go to Yaso tomorrow, but it's not pressing to be there early.

    #37 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 00:13

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    I can't find you, Madmac :-( I think you mean down by the immigrations office as I could see a possible number 5 and a gated place with stairs going downwards next to it. I am getting the big "huh" when I ask for the falang even... Do you want to email me? sarahwitwicka@hotmail.com

    S :-)

    #38 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 10:32

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
    21st March, 2011
    Posts: 19

    Hey, Tilapia,

    yes, I now have two more days at my disposal. I'm so glad I went the extra 33k to get here but I didn't stop until I was 16k outside of Mukdahan and I should've probably made a pit stop before then. I was shaking a bit and with the lack of wind generated from cycling, I was drenched within seconds when I did come to a stand still. Full fat coke has as much sugar and salt as any fancy electrolyte rebalance drink so a litre and a half of that and a litre and a half of water mixed together did the trick :-) I just can't eat and cycle...

    S :-)

    #39 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 10:45

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Dehydration - a soldiers worst enemy. Probably true for cyclists too.

    #40 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 11:19

  • Tilapia

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    Swit, you can get rehydration packets at most pharmacies for abour B5 each. WAY cheaper than here. I buy them when I'm riding and keep them on hand as they are really good for preventing and getting rid of the headaches, shakes, and other symptoms brought on from too much heat and not enough fluids. I bring as many as I can home, too.

    I always stock up on the orange flavoured ones. Very tasty, and not as sweet as soft drinks ... which also work, as you know.

    Look for the green and white signs with the cross (+) on them. Those are the pharmacies.

    Have fun, and stay hydrated.

    #41 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 23:35

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Just realized that I recommended Crazy Guy in my first response to your post. Completely forgot.

    #42 Posted: 13/6/2011 - 23:36

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Thanx for the tip Tilapia :-) I'll definitely pick some up tomorrow. I don't think I've ever lost so much fluid through sweating so quickly as I did when I stopped on Sunday. I thought the giddy, lightheaded feeling was a bit of heatstroke...

    Sorry to have missed you today Madmac :-( I'm actually quite bad with directions believe it or not.

    Can either of you please tell me what Thai is for "tyre lever"? I lost mine in Bangkok. It's a really nifty retractable thing that clips onto the middle of the wheel and removes a tyre in seconds when spun the wheel's circumference.

    S :-)

    #43 Posted: 14/6/2011 - 00:44

  • Tilapia

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    No idea. I've never had any reason to know the word, or words.

    Tire (the rubber part) = yahng
    Wheel (the wheel itself) = lor
    Lever = (I think) may raeng or "mae raeng" (or however you want to spell it phonetically)

    So, the word might be "may raeng yahng" since you want a lever that will take off the rubber from the wheel. But I'm really not sure. It could be, and probably is, something completely different.

    You'd be better served by going into a bike shop in Nakhon Ratchasima, or Muk if you're still there, or Bangkok to ask about it. Or Mac might be able to help you out.

    #44 Posted: 14/6/2011 - 04:42

  • MADMAC

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    You did way better than I could Tilapia. I only ride motorcycles.

    #45 Posted: 14/6/2011 - 13:20

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Thanks guys. Great to meet Madmac. As I said to him, the smallest tyre lever I was shown in a bike shop was a massive steel chisel type thing I'd be scared to put to my wheels; mine's a road/racing bike with skinny wheels. I think I'll just leave it to the experts here and ask them to change the inner tube as and when required.

    S :-)

    #46 Posted: 15/6/2011 - 07:44

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Great to meet you too Swit. Anytime you come by, you got a friend. Enjoyed the evening and the conversation.

    #47 Posted: 15/6/2011 - 15:39

  • MADMAC

    Joined Travelfish
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    Swit
    I hope you made it to NKP OK and from there back to Bangkok. I forgot to tell you that at the back of the temple in That Phanom, there is a museum. It's a nice little place, and it has descriptions in English. Hopefully you fund it serindipitously.

    #48 Posted: 16/6/2011 - 16:42

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Well hello!

    I had so much fun and had such a great trip in 2011 that I've finally managed to find the time and the cash to do it again. Woohoo!!!

    This time me and my bike will be in Thailand from mid-April to the beginning of May.

    Last time I was in Thailand I had some brilliant advice here and that's what helped me around my route from Khong Chiam up to That Phanom.
    This time I'm thinking of getting a train to Udon Thani then cycling up the the Freedom Bridge in Nong Khai and going into Laos for a few days. I might then come back across the bridge and follow the river road back down through Nong Khai area towards into Nakhon Phanom. If it's hilly around Bueng Kan, then I'll go via Sakon Nakhon instead.

    OK, having thrown a rough shod plan onto this post, please advise this idiot?

    Best wishes,

    Swit :-)

    #49 Posted: 9/2/2013 - 03:33

  • Tilapia

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    Hi Again, Swit.

    I just returned from riding around in Thailand again and did much of what you are considering, though I didn't go into Laos.

    I got off the train in Udon, rode to Ban Dung, headed to Nong Khai, then rode along the Mekong and ended up in Ubon.

    Bueng Kan is really nice. There are a few hills but nothing too tough or extreme.

    Private Message me if you want more info on the area. I've got a webjournal going on CGOAB but it's not finished yet. I'm just writing up the part about Bueng Kan ... a place I really enjoyed, by the way.

    #50 Posted: 17/2/2013 - 09:10

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Hello again, Tilapia :-)

    I'll private message you now.

    Best wishes,

    Swit.

    #51 Posted: 19/2/2013 - 12:43

  • Tilapia

    Click here to learn more about Tilapia
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    Didn't get anything from you, Swit. Did you send me a message?

    #52 Posted: 20/2/2013 - 10:05

  • swit

    Joined Travelfish
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    Posts: 19

    Yes, I did... I'll try again now. Please let me know if it doesn't come through this time?

    #53 Posted: 21/2/2013 - 00:20

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