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Laos: Backpack, Bike and Sail?

  • HugoTrip

    Joined Travelfish
    10th December, 2010
    Posts: 1


    I discovered this website two weeks ago. I'm going thoroughly throughout it, and noting infos as much as I can. I didn't think I would post something, as I want to be as self-minded and original as possible... but here i am.
    I'm a nineteen year old kid, trying to make the best out of a month and a half (12 Jan-22 Feb) solo trip starting in Hanoi, then North Vietnam, Laos (from North to South) and Cambodia. I want to be as much flexible as possible.

    1. Please, if you've even been in these regions, give me your top 2 or 3 "off-the-beaten-track" sights. Easy: I want to be on my own... with nature, and of course always up to meet other travelers and locals.

    2. Question: is it possible to go down the Mekong from North to South alone on a pirogue? I know there are plenty of villages and mid-sized cities all along the river, but is this plan possible?

    3. I would like to use buses and trains as least as possible... I prefer to stop by three villages in 5 days than take a 12 hour long bus. Is biking (a bicycle) and walking possible for Laos distances?

    I'll come up with different questions/ observations throughout the thread.


    #1 Posted: 10/12/2010 - 09:57

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    Joined Travelfish
    6th June, 2009
    Posts: 6955
    Total reviews: 10

    1. If you are "off the beaten path" then you probably won't be meeting other tourists. I'd say those two things are kind of mutually exclusive. The indigsnous peoples in remote areas are very unlikely to speak English, so you'll have to factor that into your planning. A phrase book in the appropriate language (with local writing text) would be most useful.
    2. Keep in the back of your mind here that nature is not as forgiving as it tends to be in northern climates. In the tropics, nature has more lethal things like snakes and mosquitos can carry things like Dengue and Malaria. So a touch of caution when off the beaten path has some value to it.
    3. I've never seen a pirogue here. But there a plenty of shallow draft boats, usually using oversized engines that haul ass!!! Those are a lot of fun, and also somewhat dangerous as the Mekong has water obstacles that can be tough to see - especially when haulting ass. Assuming you aren't obsessive about the type of boat and could find one to purchase (and boats are for sale in Nong Khai) then yes, you could do this. A friend of mine did it. It's slow going though if you want to paddle. And you have to embark and disembark from the side where you purhcase the boat for visa reasons. You can't just get out wherever you see a village regardless of which bank it's on, as the Mekong makes up an international boundary.
    4. As for biking and so forth - Unless you are a serious rider and intending on covering a lot of ground every day, you don't have even close to the time you need to do what you are suggesting here. These might look like small countries on a map, but the roads are often not so great, and often not so direct. Serious riders do go from, say, Savanakhet to Paxse in one day, but your average Joe isn't going to do that. Indigenous peoples ride bikes wiuthin towns, but from city to city - no way. Be cautious, also, about truck, bus and car traffic, as they aren't the most cautious drivers and often won't hold you in high regard as a fellow occupant of the road. Also, three villages in five days means two days sleeping where??? Don't even think about sleeping on the roadside. Again, nature isn't your friend here. If you're doing the village thing here, you've got to have a plan for where you will RON.

    #2 Posted: 11/12/2010 - 11:10

  • agarlao

    Joined Travelfish
    13th June, 2008
    Posts: 30

    This website also has a 'Cycling in Asia' section. Check out the 'Following the Mekong on a Bicycle' post, which has lots of detailed info.

    You can find it here:


    #3 Posted: 12/12/2010 - 07:13

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