Photo: Cycling the backblocks of Thonburi.

Cycling in Asia forum

Cycling in SE Asia

Posted by svichy on 10/4/2008 at 10:02

Hello there all you fantastic helpful travellers,

I am considering cycling part of a 10 week trip in SE Asia which will take me to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam (I am using the region's "explorer" suggested itinerary as a guide).

I have heard that Vietnam is good for this.

A couple of questions:
- Would you recommend joining a tour or going solo?
- Can you recommend some good tours?
- What is the best thing to do about luggage when going solo?

... and last, but not least, which are some good streches suitable for cycling?

Thanks in advance.


#1 svichy has been a member since 21/3/2008. Posts: 3

Posted by somtam2000 on 11/4/2008 at 07:58 admin

Hi svichy,

The most popular option is to cycle the length of the country -- Hanoi to Saigon or the reverse -- but that's a long long long pedal!

An area that has always struck me as a good spot for cycling is the Mekong Delta -- it's flat -- totally flat -- and large swathes of it are undeveloped. The towns are interesting and there's not a lot of tourists down there.

If you were doing some kind of loop into the Delta you could leave the bulk of your stuff in Saigon...

Not sure about tour operators -- Google cycle tour operators Vietnam and see what you get.

#2 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,931
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Posted by Tilapia on 15/4/2008 at 05:02

Hi Vichy,

The stretch from Chiang Khan to Nong Khai, along the Mekong, is excellent. It takes at least two days if you're really humping it, but I recommend that you take your time and spend 4 or 5 days doing it with a stop in Pak Chom, Sangkhom or Si Chiangmai. The road (211) will take you through Thai Bo and straight past the Friendship Bridge and into Nong Khai (just stay on 211 and DO NOT go onto . You can continue on 212 on the Thai side down to Mukdahan, or further, or you could cross the Friendship Bridge and continue on the Laos side.

Most of the trip is flat except for the area around Pak Chom which is quite hilly, and absolutely lovely. There's not much traffic on the west side of Sangkhom, but between Sangkhom and Nong Khai it has increased significantly because of the bridge. It's still not bad, though. Plus, there are lots of small sideroads you can take that go through villages and farms.

If you're feeling up to it, you can begin your trip in Loei and cycle up towards either Chiang Khan, or over to Tha Li and then over to CK and beyond.

Of course, you can do all this in the other direction.

You can do it solo. No tour needed. As long as you've got the river beside you, you'll never get lost.

Another good area to cycle in is the area around Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. Flat, scenic, close to Tak, places to stay, very little traffic. You could start in Phitsanulok, negotiate the traffic over to Sukhothai, cycle around the temple areas there, and then head north to Si Satchanalai. This is an amazing place that sees very few people aside from Thai tourists and worshippers. There's a bit of a hippy community there, but it's very low key and welcoming. From there you can head up to Uttaradit, and then Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai ... etc. etc. etc.

Lots of great areas in the north and northeast.

Hope this helps get the ball rolling.

Have fun.

#3 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by Tilapia on 15/4/2008 at 05:07

Ooops ... sorry ... a couple of things ...

1) I meant to type out "Tha Bo" and not "Thai Bo."

2) I didn't finish this ... "... DO NOT go onto Highway 2. Just stick to 211 and you'll ride straight into Nong Khai, right past Muk Mee Guest House. Just keep the river as close to you as possible otherwise you will end up, unknowingly, on a busy highway (#2) heading north towards the Friendship Bridge."

#4 Tilapia has been a member since 21/4/2006. Location: Canada. Posts: 1,521
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Posted by horseman on 11/12/2009 at 22:48

Some general comments about cycling in SE Asia

1. joining a tour or going solo?
Depends on what you're looking for. Joining a cycling tour is often like joining other kinds of tours - choose from preset itineraries, pay and join the tour. There's convenience since much planning has been done (which you pay for) - and inconvenience too depending on who else is in the tour / what happens in the tour. It might help if you choose your own travel companions eg form a group of friends you already know. If you don't mind/look forward to spending days in the saddle with strangers who hopefully become good friends, a tour works too.
Going solo may take more work especially if you're working out your own itinerary and routes, but I've found it to cost a lot less money-wise. Anyway, there are travel resources including blogs from those who've been there, done that.

2. Can you recommend some good tours?
There are several tour operators who organise rides in the region; search engine will list them and check out their routes, prices, terms and conditions etc.

3. What is the best thing to do about luggage when going solo?
My luggage goes on my bike :)

4. Some good stretches suitable for cycling?
Depends on what you feel is good. If you love riding up mountains, Vientiane to Luang Prabang is great; the first few days warms you up before you hit the long uphills. If you're into delayed gratification, start in Luang Prabang and ride south :p If you'd rather ride in the plains, most of Cambodia is flat (but look out for the headwinds / monsoons).

Having travelled by rail, bus and bicycle, I find the travel experience is different as a cyclist. I see a lot more on a bicycle since I'm not zipping by surrounded by metal; I'm not squashed in a crowded vehicle getting car sick. And the locals somehow seem even friendlier and more helpful :)

Details (distances, night stops etc) of my bicycle rides in Southeast Asia - Peninsula Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos (ok, the last 2 are "Indochina") - here:

#5 horseman has been a member since 10/12/2009. Posts: 2

Posted by horseman on 19/12/2009 at 13:25

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