Cycling South East Asia
Vietnam | Laos | Thailand
Getting bikes to HanoiAfter getting our bikes hand built in Kunming China at a small bike shop in the city, which allowed us to pick out all their best Shimano parts to fit a nice 'Giant' frame with butterfly bars, we headed over to Hanoi in Vietnam on a series of bus journeys (with our bikes strapped to the roof or kept in the hold), on what was to be our final section of public transport leading up to our cycle tour.
Getting bikes to the Vietnam was easy within China, with some gentle persuasion buses happily took us to the Vietnam boarder. Once in Vietnam the bus staff for our Hanoi connection were keen to take pleasure in trying to ride our bikes around the car park before loading to the bus. This of course did not go down well and lead to a few stern words and a less than comfortable bus ride to the capital. With many bus horror stories of stolen luggage we did worry for the safety of our bikes, but all arrived in the capital the next day in full working order, and our luggage untouched.
Hanoi and Vietnam's smaller towns and cities
Getting out into the small cities allowed us to view Vietnam for the beautiful country that it is, and appreciate the unique qualities that Vietnam has to offer that sets it apart from the other South East Asian countries surrounding it. With an incredibly driven and hardworking population Vietnam is up at the crack of dawn and only stops to rest late into the night.
Vietnam's roads for bikes
The majority of roads could probably have been done on a road bike, unlike many areas in Laos which sports some fairly lumpy, gravelly and muddy roads. However unlike Laos there was no hope for a quiet ride; with each passing vehicle using their horn to indicate their presence - many of which were 10 tonne lorries who's horns were bone rattling to say the least. Their sounding however was in good nature and is of the norm in Asia... although in our opinion is demonstrated to an extreme somewhat in Vietnam.
Vietnam and Laos by bikeI won't say that we were not pleased to reach the quieter roads of Laos (hills and mountains or not) and whilst both countries offer stunning scenery, the mountains at the Laos/Vietnam border take the prize, and Laos certainly feels more remote which we love.
You do learn to adjust to the sounds of Vietnam's roads when cycling, although I would not expect to get a good nights sleep until you cross into Laos; which comes with impeccable timing as when in Laos we found ourselves setting into the road at 6am sunrise starts, just to get a head start on the 36 degree heat. Read all about it on our Vietnam Cycling Post.
Cycling in LaosLaos we have found to be incredibly friendly, laid back and whilst hot - a pleasure to cycle in, with days that are so beautiful they can bring tears to the eyes... along with some ascents that can do the same!
With the mountains being most beautiful we expected to have some even more exciting days ahead as we headed further north of the country for a loop to Vang Vieng after a few days rest in Vientiane. Read all about our cycling adventures in Laos on our Laos Cycling Post.
Cycling - although on busy roads - has felt safe, as we have been given plenty of room on the hard shoulder. That is until we got to Ayuthaya - any cycling we did past there we do not recommend.
Get a very detailed map and take the small roads, or get the train.
If planning the trip again we would have also cycled from further north where it is known for it's beauty - however this did not fit in with our Bangkok route, so alas we are stuck with our contrete and tarmac... although the roads are brilliant for picking up a good speed, as you can see from the stat's below.
Khorat to Pak Chong saw our first real sites of Thai beauty as we passed Mountain Creek Resort - marking the beginning of what were difficult but rewarding giant 'demon drop' like hills, that looked out onto beautiful waters and the giant hills of the National Park.
Thailand has saw us two punctures, from wire and glass; whereas suprisingly Laos and Vietnam we were completely puncture free.
Read about our cycling in Thailand on our Thailand cycling post.
Cycling Stat's For South East Asia - Vietnam, Laos and Thailand
See below for Miles, AVG MPH, Rd Conditions and Weather Conditions.
- Hanoi Hai Phong 57.86mi, 11.94mph, Flat, Mild
- Cat Ba Loop of SW of CB Island 19.51mi, 10.53mph, Hilly, Mild
- Hai Phong Thai Binh 44.44mi, 13mph, Flat, Mild
- Thai Binh Ninh Binh 31.41mi, 11.26mph, Lumpy, Mild
- Ninh Binh Tam Coc & Return 11.86mi, 11.49mph, Flat, Mild
- Ninh Binh Tan Hoa 37.63mi, 12.17mph, Flat, Mild
- Tan Hoa Thai Hoa 70mi, 11.44mph, Lumpy, Hot
- Thai Hoa Do Luong 53.05mi, 12.23mph, Hilly, Hot
- Do Luong Pho Chao 48.19mi, 11.6mph, Lumpy, Hot
- Phoe Chao Lak Sao 49.39mi, 10.99mph, Mountainous, Hot
- Lak Sao Na Hin 34.6mi, 12.6mph, Hilly, Boiling
- Na Hin Ban Lao 25.37mi, 10.47mph Hilly, Boiling
- Ban Lao Paksan 54.75mi, 13.1mph, Flat, Boiling & Windy
- Paksan Ban Na 41.31mi, 13.28mph, Flat, Boiling & Windy
- Ban Na Vientiane Flat, L'Scorchio & Windy
- Vientiane Nam Lik Eco Village 53mi, 12.79mph, Lumpy, L'Scorchio
- Nam Lik Village Tha Hua 35.97mi, 10.65mph, Hilly (very bad road - gravel), L'Scorchio
- Vang Vieng Phon Hong 52.2mi, 10.61mph, Hilly (very bad road - gravel), Boiling
- Phon Hong Vientiane 43.21mi, 12.96mph, Flat, Boiling
- Vientiane Nong Khai 12mi, 14.5mph, Flat, Boiling
- Nong Khai Udon Thani 32.98mi, 15.47mph, Lumpy, Boiling
- Udon Thani Khon Kaen 73.67mi, 14.01mph, Hilly, Boiling
- Khon Kaen Ban Phai 27.04mi, 13.98mph, Lumpy, Boiling
- Ban Phai Phon 19.79mi, 12.98mph, Lumpy, Boiling
- Phon Phimai 47.79mi, 14.11mph, Flat, Hot
- Phimai Khorat 37.23mi, 15.41mph, Lumpy, Boiling
- Khorat Pak Chong 54.34mi, 14.73mph, Hilly, Boiling
- Pak Chong Saraburi 40.61mi, 14.9mph, Lumpy, Boiling & Windy
- Sariburi Ayuthaya 39.22mi, 13.4mph, Flat, Boiling & Windy
- Ayuthaya Bangkok 32.81mi, 14.4mph, Flat, Boiling & Windy
|Flat: 100 - 200 ft||Mild: 18 - 23|
Lumpy: 201 - 900 ft
|Hot: 24 - 32|
|Hilly: 901 - 3000 ft||Boiling: 32 - 36|
L'Scorchio 37 - 42
|Mountainous: 3001 - 5000 ft|
Garmin Tracks (and our corrupt file)Unfortunately the first 625mi we recorded was lost from our Garmin stat's due to a corrupt file. The file size was apparently NOT too large, but it does show that several smaller files do pay off, in case a file corrupts and you lose a ridiculously large amount of data - as we did.
Garmin support were very quick in response to our query, but entirely useless unfortunately, and unable to recover any data from the file in question sent over by email.
I have taken the embeds to our Garmin Connect uploads down, because every now and again their site is offline or erroring on the iframed pages, and looks scruffy on our blog... however the links to the (mostly!) available online routes are below.
600mi of cycling tracks in South East Asia - the other 625mi (Vietnam and Loas cycling) can be plotted on Google maps upon request, and speeds, conditions etc are listed above.
Written by Christina Gyles