Photo: Classic scenery surrounds Vang Vieng.

Laos forum

Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang via Vieng Kham and Pak Xeng

Posted by eljefe on 19/1/2011 at 19:00


A group of 5 of us are planning to bicycle from Nong Khiaw to Luang Prabang. We're hoping to do it in 2 days. I've read that Rte 1C from Nong Khiaw to Vieng Kham and on to Sam Soun is paved and in pretty good condition. From what I've read here and on other sites, the road from Sam Soun to Hiway 13 is a well graded dirt road.

We're hoping to break the trip up at Phou Sanam. Phou Sanam is about 25 kms south of the 1C junction (between Vieng Kham and Vieng Thong) and 30 kms before Pak Xeng.

Does anyone know if there is a guest house in Phou Sanam? Or, alternatively, are there any guest houses in either Sam Soun (near the junction of the road to Luang Prabang) or in Pak Xeng?

And finally, does anyone have any recent reports of the condition of the road from Sam Soun to Hiway 13, just north of LP? I'm pretty experienced with the roads in northern Laos, but this is one section that I am not familiar with.


#1 eljefe has been a member since 16/11/2008. Posts: 25

Posted by wanderingcat on 19/1/2011 at 23:02

not travelled this route before, but seen reports of it on the GTRider forum - perhaps post your question there too?

if you have the GTRider map of Laos, you'll see that part of the 30.8km section between Phou Sanam & Pak Xeng is labelled as 'Very Steep 12 kms' (not indicated if mostly uphill, downhill or equal parts both)...& that is from the point of view of people who rely on engine rather than pedal power :P

as of Dec 2009 there were 2 songthaews per day between Pak Xeng & LPB northern bus station, so i think this section of the road should be OK (at least during dry season), but possibly very dusty in some parts (based on what i saw at the junction of this road & HWY 13)

you might just have to keep asking locals + keep your options open to homestay in some village headman's house.

good luck & hope to hear about your experience if you do go ahead with it!

#2 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
 Send wanderingcat a private message   Where has wanderingcat been?   Website 

Agoda coupon: Get an extra 7% off selected properties with the coupon code

Posted by eljefe on 21/1/2011 at 22:34

I've read the GT Rider website and, of course, I have their map. so, yeah, I know there's a steep section. I have no worries about that. But the fact that there were 2 songthiews a day over a year ago, doesn't tell me whether it's dirt, gravel, or paved today. I actually went halfway to Pak Xeng from LP 3 years ago and it was pretty bad on a bike.
If it was just me I would take my chances on staying in someone's home, or just do the whole ride in one day,but with a group of 5 I'd rather not pass up a guesthouse.
So I was hoping to hear from someone who had actually been on this route.

#3 eljefe has been a member since 16/11/2008. Posts: 25

Posted by wanderingcat on 25/1/2011 at 13:51

whether it's dirt, gravel, or paved today

if you have seen the GT Rider forum, there are pretty recent photos of the route taken on 8th Nov 2010. roads in Laos don't get upgraded to gravel or paved within a few months :P

reply #9 here:

#4 wanderingcat has been a member since 21/10/2006. Posts: 730
 Send wanderingcat a private message   Where has wanderingcat been?   Website 

Posted by bambinoworld on 11/3/2013 at 20:37

Did this route 2 weeks ago by bicycle with paniers on the back as we were traveling 10 days in Laos. This road was certainly the hardest I ever did but at the same time the most beautiful. The views from the top of the mountains are fantastic and you pass some villages that see very little tourists, certainly very rarely on bicycles!

We departed from Vieng Kham early morning 6AM for a steep ride 450m to 1100m high on a good paved road, all the way up to Sam Soun (20km). Absolutely magic as we passed the fog and mountains looked like small islands.
Did not see any accomodation in Sam Soun. From there on, the road turns to dirt but at least in the dry season, is ok to ride on. The road follows the top of the mountains, meaning that for the next 55km, you will keep going up and down between 1100 and 1300 m with very steep ascent and descent. Some ascents were so steep that even in first gear, it was too hard and we had to make turns in the ascent!

Phou Sanam is a very poor village and I doubt they would have any guesthouse. You can probably stay at some private house however. The road to Pak Xeng (78.5 km from Vieng Kham) is still very hard with a big descent below 1000m at km 65 followed by a last ascent of 100m again. Then comes the very very steep descent to Pak Xeng. I can't remember descending such a steep road ever, down from about 1000m to 400m in less than 10 km.

In Pak Xeng, you find a guesthouse on a large square on the left just before passing the bridge.

From Pak Xeng to Luang Prabang, it's another 86km. The road follows the river, pretty much flat all the time with some small ascents until you reach the main road.

Enjoy it!

#5 bambinoworld has been a member since 7/3/2009. Posts: 1

Please login to add a reply

You need to be a Travelfish member to be able to add a reply to this post. Please use the button below to log in. After logging in you'll be returned to this page automatically to add your post. Not a member? Join up here.