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SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 5 Feb 2016, 8:37pm
by CyclingTerrier
After finishing a 3 month tour in october I'm itching to get back on the bike.
The idea of cycling Vietnam/Thailand sounds amazing.
Skimming crazy guy and this forum I have a few ideas but would love anybodies thoughts on good routes/roads and things to see.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 6 Feb 2016, 3:33pm
by simonhill
I can probably help. I've cycled quit a few times in Vn and also know other parts of SE Asia pretty well. I am on tour at the moment and may find time to answer some specific questions. I'll be happy to speak (phone) when I return to the UK in April. Message me then if you want.

In the meantime you need to decide some basics.
How long are you going for.
When, climate is important.
Do you like hills, do you really like hills.
What do you want to see eg culture, food, history. Reading a good guidebook can be the start of a route.

If you like big hills the NW circuit is unbeatable. Plus great scenery, a bit of history (Dien Bien Phu) and plenty of hill tribe colour.

The Ho Chi Minh Highway running from Hanoi to Saigon is a good way of doing an end to end and can include historic, cultural, war, etc in Hue, Hoi An and the DMZ.

Delta area completely different. Also worth a good look.

..................and I haven't even mentioned Thailand yet, one of the best all round places to cycle in the world.

As I said, I'm happy to answer specific questions.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 15 Feb 2016, 11:53am
by CyclingTerrier
Hi Simon,
Thanks for getting back to me and sorry for the late reply.
Reading your post made me realise I need to have a bigger think about which parts of the SE I want to cycle. My cycling buds aren't as adventurous as I so it looks like we will be doing the Pacific Coast from Vancouver this summer. I'm looking to stay on and work in DC for a few months to save up and get a flight to the cheapest airport in SE Asia thereafter.
I'm not madly in love with climbs but for me mountains hold the greatest scenery, adventure and travel so can't miss out!
So would be heading out around Jan/Feb and are easy on where to go. For me riding through scenery and getting out into the sticks is important to me although I like a bit of everything.
OP was written with the intention of getting experienced people's thoughts on what rides are unmissable/personal favourites in order to formulate an idea for a possible route.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 16 Feb 2016, 4:45pm
by simonhill
Jan Feb is a great time, but don't leave it any later as it starts to warm up.

The NW circuit in Vn is probably the most spectacular, but lots of big hills. Many people like Lao, it has a good balance.

Cheapest airport will be Bangkok. You can then fly, train or ride to surrounding countries. A train to Chiang Mai and riding from there is popular. Or AirAsia flight to Vn.

I think Northern Thailand is very underrated. I rode a great 1000 km route there a couple of months ago.

For getting amongst the teeming masses, the Delta area of Vn is great. Flat as a pancake though.

Not many people on this forum ride SEA so unlikely you will get many favourite routes.

Lots of thinking needed.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 1 Mar 2016, 5:49pm
by CyclingTerrier
Loads of thinking. Don't really know where to start.
Might have to get my read on and amazon some books, any recommendations? I find scrolling through countless crazy guys a but tedious but if there's any you would recommend that would be great.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 1 Mar 2016, 8:43pm
by bohrsatom
I'm currently reading Shift Happens ( which follows a Canadian couple across Thailand/Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam.

If you fancy something a little more off-piste I enjoyed Ian Mitchall's account of a ride through Myanmar ending in Thailand/Cambodia.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 2 Mar 2016, 7:52am
by andymiller
CyclingTerrier wrote:Loads of thinking. Don't really know where to start.

I know it's a bit of a cheat, but why not look at where the tour companies go? eg ... view.rails

Others I would guess would be Explore, Exodus etc

You don't have to follow their routes, but if you don't know where to start, it's a start ...

I would also go to your local library and borrow a guidebook or two (or you can buy older editions of guidebooks very cheap on amazon). Make a list of places you want to go then think about how to join them up.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 23 Aug 2019, 10:57am
by albal1
I,m thinking of this for jan/feb 2020. If I fly into penm penh, and ride north then west into Thailand, finishing in Bangkok. Is this doable in 2 months? Know nothing of visas either. Or ride in Thailand for x2 months? All advise greatly appreciated..

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 24 Aug 2019, 6:59pm
by simonhill
albal1 wrote:I,m thinking of this for jan/feb 2020. If I fly into penm penh, and ride north then west into Thailand, finishing in Bangkok. Is this doable in 2 months? Know nothing of visas either. Or ride in Thailand for x2 months? All advise greatly appreciated..

Yes, 2 months is more than enough. I have cycled from PP (Phnom Penh) to Bkk in 6 or 7 days.

There is so much in SE Asia that is worth cycling and Jan Feb is a great time to go. You need to work out what you want to see and where you want to go.You can either read some blogs, eg crazyguy stuff or better still get some guidebooks and see what appeals.

Re visas, assuming you are from UK (always worth specifying if asking about visas) you can get a visa on arrival in Cambodia - 30 days for about $30, or do it before you leave as an e-visa. For Thailand you can get a 30 day visa exempt entry at the border or a 2 month tourist visa for £30 at an Embassy.

Happy to try and answer any questions

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 24 Aug 2019, 7:30pm
by simonhill
Having just read a bit of you round Britain crazyguy,I see you ride fairly long days, so here are a possible few routes you could consider for 2 months:

Fly into Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh Highway to Saigon (see my comments on this above). Then into Delta, into Cambodia for PP and Angkor, then onto Bkk for flight home.

A classic used to be Bkk to Singapore (via Malaysia). Not the most exciting but some very pleasant cycling.

Burma is now open, I rode a month there earlier this year then into Thailand for another month.

You could easily do 2 months in Thailand, but choose your area. Generally the central area is flat and uninteresting, but the North is great. Also following the Mekong can make an interesting route - but not in Lao, where it is pretty boring. I like the south, some great beaches and pleasant towns.

If you like big hills, then Northern Lao and NW Vietnam are interesting, but a bit remote and can be tough.

I'll be heading for Southern Thailand for a month in Nov/Dec and probably a couple of months in Vn (and maybe onwards) in the new year - the area still attracts and appeals to me.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 25 Aug 2019, 8:10pm
by albal1
Thanks for the reply and advice. Yes I am a UK citizen

I probably didn't make it clear, as my 1st option was a long way round to bkk. PP then north into Laos. North for pretty much til I,m a hop over border to chang mai. Then south to bkk. I did read northern Laos in January was pretty cold.

Tho Burma and South to bkk sounds interesting. Having looked at flights into pP and out of bkk was over £1000. Where a return flight to bkk was£ 545.

A lot to ponder.


Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 26 Aug 2019, 2:02pm
by simonhill
The ride north from PP is some of the best in Cambodia, but only as far as Kratie, or maybe Stung Treng. After that it is a long, flat and tedious ride up the east side of the Mekong. At the Lao border there is a bit of interest around the 4,000 Islands as far as Pakse (great side trip to Bolaven Plateau), but from there to Vientianne along Highway 13 it is flat and boring again. The road is a long way from the river so you never see it and the hills to the east will be shrouded in a dust haze. The land will be dry and dusty as it will be the dry season.

If you want to go that route, I would recommend crossing into Thailand at Pakse and cycling up the Mekong on that far more interesting side as far as Nong Khai for Vientianne.

The route from Vientianne to Luang Prabang is a cycle tourist favourite with a few big hills. After LP, many then get the 2 day boat to Huay Xai - for Thailand and your 'hop' to Chiang Mai. if you don't want the (very) big hills on this route, one of my favourite rides in N Thai is to follow the Mekong from Nong Khai as far as you like before dropping down to Chiang Mai.

If you go in N lao, and like hills, I would recommend deviating off the standard V > LP to cycle some of the wonderful, but very hilly Northern Lao.

Temps in N Lao are good even in winter, but you get occasional cold weather systems rolling down from China. These bring nasty cold wet weather which will be made much worse by any altitude. The good thing is that they only last 3 or 4 days and then the weather returns to warm and pleasant. I've had to sit out a couple of these cold spells in the past. Also had to buy long underwear as there is rarely any heating in Lao hotels and restaurants.

Visas for Lao are $30 for 30 days available at border.

I usually fly Emirates as they give multi piece 30 kgs and take boxed bikes. You can get open jaws (ie in one out of another) with them and they fly to PP and Bkk. I haven't checked, but reckon it wouldn't be much over the straight Bkk return. Alternatively, fly into Bkk, change airports (free bus takes bike box) and then fly AirAsia from Bkk to wherever. Bkk to PP would probably be well under $100 for bike, bags and you. My trip earlier this year was Emirates in to Yangon (Burma); AirAsia from Chiang Mai to Bkk; and Emirates back to UK.

Finally, I presume you are not camping, definitely not necessary or recommended.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 28 Aug 2019, 7:36pm
by albal1
Great advice to which I am processing.

The route I envisaged looks good. Is x2 months enough? The boat ride along the Mekong may help I guess. 3000 km is my rough estimate.

You were right Emirates fly to PP and return x58 days later from bkk was quoted £576. My guess is the 30kg allowance is the boxed bike + I usually fly with a small cardboard box tho this may not be necessary. As I could probably carry it in hand luggage. I am riding bikepacking set up, 700x28mm tyres. Obviously no tent or cooking equipment needed.? Tho I do like a cuppa in the morning. So little in way of bags attached.

Thai visa-
I understand I can take the visa exemption. X30 days, does this allow me to enter and exit the country and re enter? ( as you described it, I.e -- cross border at pakse) same applies to Lao.

(Then into Vientiane)

I got confused slightly, not difficult :mrgreen:

For mapping? Paper maps from gas station? GPS? Tho how I get Asia maps on my garmin is beyond me!
Also SIM cards? Are they readily available in cam,Lao,Thai?

Many thanks for taking the time to get the information across. Much appreciated.

Re: SE Asia routes advice

Posted: 30 Aug 2019, 2:01pm
by simonhill
Most visas cease when you leave the country, unless they are multi entry. The Thai visa exempt entry is good for 30 days, but ends when you leave (my record is 6 hours when in transit).

You can only get this free entry twice in a calendar year for overland entry. It is unlimited if flying in. This means that you can enter Thailand twice on your cycling tour for free.

Lots of maps available for Thailand, but normally from book stores or tourist areas, rarely in Service Stations. I used to use Nelles maps as they are in English, except for Lao where the excellent GT Riders map is good for cycling (google it). I still occasionally use a good paper map of Thailand I have, but nowadays, the electronic maps are much more detailed. I mainly use google maps which are good enough for me.

With 30kgs you should be able to check in most if not all your luggage, which is much easier than lugging it about and trying to find on board storage. I hate having much hand luggage.

I take a small electric kettle with me. Good for morning tea, porridge for breakfast and a few cuppas at end of day. Also useful for pot noodles if caught out.