mysterious Laos & Vietnam!
Leg 1 Vientiane to Savanakhet
Leg 2: Savanakhet to the VN Border
Leg 3: LaoBao to HoiAn
Note: Includes the run south of Savanakhet to Khong Island and the Cambodian border. See below.
The Ride: An easy, 450km ride along Hwy 13 between Vientiane and Savanakhet (Savan). Not tremendously scenic, as you don't see that much of the Mekong, but a pleasant jaunt through paddy fields and rolling countryside. The people are a treat.
Traffic: Constant but thin. Local buses, samlors, motorbikes and bicycles.
Accommodation: From Vientiane through to Hoi An, and also down to the Cambodian border (south of Savanakhet) there are Guest Houses or hotels at least every 100 km or so.
Food & transport: Food and drink stalls every few kilometres serving 'phur' (noodles), bottled water and Coke. Lots of local transport if you need it.
Security: Bike security is pretty good in Laos, however, take the usual precautions; lock it and keep it in sight at all times.
General: Laos is like a 'very country' Thailand. It's laid back, easy and something of a relic of days gone by. It's one of my favourite places.
Vientiane, ThaKhek and Savan are the only sizable towns. Thapabat, Pakxan and Pakkading are small highway towns of varying dust factor. It's the easy riding and roadside noodle stops that make this leg worth the effort.
The ride in detail: Vientiane sits on the banks of the Mekong and is no bigger than a mid-sized Thai regional centre. You are struck immediately by the total lack of 'hassle factor'. There's heaps of hotels and guest houses to suit every pocket and the town is well worth a few days exploring.
The biggest surprise once you leave Vientiane is the number of kids that wave at you from the side of the road. You won't get lonely on this ride.
HWY 13 is wide and flat, and there's a large Buddhist Wat 90 km out of Vientiane (5 km before Thapabat on the left) that will put you up if you ask nicely.
Thapabat is 95 kilometres from Vietiane and one Guest House (but it's a good one!).
Pakxan, 54 km from Thapabat is a nondescript dusty, road town. There's about six Guest Houses to choose from.
The scenery isn't that great, and really only improves once you get past Savannakhet and onto the Vietnam border. However, the ride is so hassle free, the road so good and the people so friendly, that this more than compensates.
Pakkading, 40 km from Pakxan, doesn't have a Guest House but it's a good stop for lunch. It has friendly Lao people, and a fair amount of dust.
55 km on from Pakkading, HWY 13 joins HWY 8. There's a Guest House just north of the junction and another at the small town of Namthone, 3 km south on HWY 13.
From the Namthone it's about 100 km on to ThaKhek.
ThaKhek is an interesting town, but gets a lot of Thai tourists zipping over from Mukdahan (in Thailand) for a bit of cheap shopping and entertainment. There's plenty of hotels to choose from.
Highway 13 continues mainly flat, weaving along beside the Mekong 100 km onto Xeno. In Xeno, there's a Guest House just north of the HWY 9 turnoff.
It's best to ride straight through Xeno and head on to Savannakhet which is 35 km away and mostly downhill. Savan is a most pleasant old French colonial town sitting quietly on the Mekong; with plenty of hotels and resaurants to choose from.Savannakhet to Pakse and Cambodia:
Highway 13 is in great condition the whole way, and the traffic is very light.
From Savannakhet it's 70 km to Paksong. Head out of Savannakhet southeast on HWY 9B about 30 km to rejoin Hwy 13. It's a further 40 km south to Paksong.
has a Guest House in town (just north of the main
From Paksong, it's 105 km to Muang Khongsedone where there's a decent Guest House, and a further 64 km to Pakse. Pakse which has lots of hotels, internet cafes and backpackers.
From Pakse the
next stop with accommodations is the short ride to Champasak,
about 34 km away, on the other side of the Mekong and it's easy to continue
on the same day to
From Champasak, it's a 107 km south on Hwy 13 to Don Khong (Khong Island). Khong Island is a pleasant spot, extremely laid back and a nice place to recover from the effort of the last few days riding.
For a detailed report on the route from Khong Island into Cambodia and down to Phnom Penh, go to Cycling Cambodia: North to Laos.