Photo: Cycling the backblocks of Thonburi.

Cycling in Asia forum

CHANG MAI to VIENTIANNE

Posted by msimojoki on 18/4/2012 at 07:01

Hi all,
Continuing my queries, in June I am riding my bike from Chiang Mai to Vientianne, then through to Vietnam via Cambodia. I need to know the best route from Chang Mai to Vientianne. Last year I got caught on a Chinese expressway which wasn't fun and am wondering if Hwy 11 out of Chang Mai is an expressway?? Thanks, Mike

#1 msimojoki has been a member since 18/9/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by Tilapia on 19/4/2012 at 11:44

Hi Mike,

Do you plan on crossing into Laos at Huay Xai, or via the Friendship Bridge in Nong Khai?

Best.

#2 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,496
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Posted by msimojoki on 22/4/2012 at 03:47

Hi Tilapia, I intend crossing at the Friendship Bridge, thanks, Mike

#3 msimojoki has been a member since 18/9/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by Tilapia on 23/4/2012 at 08:41

Hi Mike,

Last year I cycled from Nong Khai to Sukhothai and then up to Si Satchanalai and Uttaradit, so I can give you info for that route, but not up to Chiangmai. My original plan had been to cycle from NK to Uttaradit and then down to Si Sat and Sukhothai, Tak, Kamphaeng Phet, and then over to Lopburi, but it didn't quite happen that way.

The route was fantastic, but not without its problems. Going in reverse, Uttaradit to Si Satchanalai/Sawankhalok was fantastic, as was Sawankhalok to Old Sukhothai. Flat, well maintained asphalt, rice and sugar cane all the way. Small towns and distant hills in the west near Tak. Very light traffic, some shade here and there. Really beautiful for riding!

Sideroads to Phitsanulok are possible. The main road is a nightmare in my opinion. Between Phitsanulok and Dan Sai there was quite a lot of traffic and the road into/out of Dan Sai was very hilly. Beyond Dan Sai, on the 2114, the going was also quite difficult due to the hills, but it was also very rewarding. Outstanding scenery, quiet villages, fantastic people. 2114 merges with 2195 which takes you right into Chiang Khan.

2195 follows the Heuang River to Ban Thawadee, where the Heuang meets the Mekong. From this point it is only about 15-20 km to Chiang Khan. From the junction of 2195 and 2114 to the village of Ban Pak Huay the road was under construction as much of it was damanged from flooding and heavy rain. This made the going very slow. Hills were quite steep, and when the tops of hills were reached it was impossible to coast down most of them due to damaged asphalt and the risk of damaging both my wheels and myself. So this was quite frustrating and made for some very long, difficult days which were complicated by a couple of flat tires. Most of the trip was through very rural areas, at times 20-30 metres from Laos (on the other side of the Heuang River), through orchards of citrus (which were in blossom and made the air very fragrent) and plantations of bananas. Got chased by a few dogs but fortunately this only happened in areas where the surface was good and I was able to outpace them.

The good news about the road surface was that there was a large reconstruction project going on so it is possible that some of the road may be repaired by now.

From around Pak Man to Chiang Khan and beyond to Nong Khai the road surface was fantastic with the exception of the stretch between Chiang Khan and Pak Chom, which was a little rough but still very ridable without causing slowdown. This is one of the best parts of the area!!!. Don't miss it.

I had originally planned on going through to Uttaradit by continuing through Na Haeo. Captain Bob had given me some info on this area and called the road into Na Haeo, perhaps, the steepest in the country. Frankly, the hills were such a struggle for me that I decided to change my course and approach Uttaradit from the south. But this guy did continue through Na Haeo and you can read about it here ...

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=5927&v=dr

Captain Bob is a great source of info for roads in this area. He may have some good ideas for you.

If I were to do it again, and I probably will, I think I'd probably ride to Loei from Phitsanulok rather than go up through Dan Sai. Then, from Loei, I'd go up Chiang Khan and then go east from there.

Good luck with the ride. It'll be a beaut! Let me know if you want to see any photos of the road surfaces and types of landscapes.

#4 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,496
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Posted by Tilapia on 23/4/2012 at 16:18

I forgot to mention that I always take my GPS when riding over there. Works like a charm.

#5 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,496
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Posted by msimojoki on 25/4/2012 at 02:49

Wonderful, with those directions I won't need a GPS. Thanks again.

#6 msimojoki has been a member since 18/9/2011. Posts: 11

Posted by Tilapia on 25/4/2012 at 09:26

Mike, when I was riding through Si Chiangmai a few years ago I was told by some of the locals that it was possible for foreigners to cross the Mekong at Ban Mo, just a little west of Si Chiangmai. If you're approaching from the west you might want to check this out as it would save you about 30 km of riding each way (from Si Chiangmai into Nong Khai, and from the Lao side of the Friendship Bridge to Vientiane). You'll need your visa ahead of time, though. I'd be interested in knowing if it's still possible to cross here.

Downside is that you won't get to hang out in Nong Khai, which I think is great.

Happy Cycling.

#7 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,496
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