Biking Southeast Asia with Mr Pumpy!

Updated Jan 03



Capital: Vientiane
Population: 4.5 million (est.)
Language: Lao (Eastern Thai)
Religion: Buddhist
People: Friendly

Roads: Variable
Left/right: Right hand side
Traffic: Not much at all
Bike shops: A few
Food & drinks: Every 5 km
Weather: Tropical

Pumps Up!
Savan - an extremely pleasant former French colonial town on the banks of the mighty Mekong.

Go for a stroll around town and soak up the atmosphere, eat omelettes and chips at the 'French & Lao Food Restaurant'`and drink fruit shakes in the town square.



Ride 1 Across 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.

The Road: Hwy 13. A new Japanese built road, wide and in great condition. No hills. Flat to undulating and paved all the way.

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.

Many thanks to
Bill Weir
for the general updates
& report on
Savanakhet to Pakse.

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.

Side trip to the Tham Lot Kong Lo Caves:
A spectacular side trip!

Ride east on HWY 8 (paved) from the HWY 13 junction for 70 km to Sala Hin Boun, where there's acccommodation.

10 km further on, turn south onto the dirt road to Tham Lot Kong Lo, a natural cave-tunnel over 4 km long, with a stream running through it that you can boat along.

Hwy 8 was the most spectacular ride I did in southern Laos; be sure to stop at the overlook pavilion at the top of the killer hill near the KM 33 post.
- Report by Bill Weir

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.

Side trip to the Limestone Caves:
A short, dusty 16 km ride east of Tha Khek will take you to four spectacular caves.

All the caves are on your right (south), but they're not signed in English, so you'll need to ask for directions.

The first, Tham Pha Bahn Tham has Buddha figures and is dry (the giant alcove is visible from far away); the second cave Tham Xieng Liap is a tunnel with a stream running through it (wade or swim to get through); the third cave is also a spectacular tunnel with swimming (I don't know the name, but it's past where the road goes through a narrow gap); the fourth cave is more developed, with lights and steps into its large chambers. It also has a stream and pools where you can swim.
- Report by Bill Weir

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.

Paksong has a Guest House in town (just north of the main
crossroads) and a new hotel on the south edge of town near
the 500 km post.

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
the Wat Phu Champasak, 8 km farther to the southeast.

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.