This was my first bikepacking expedition, having wanted to do a big trip like this for some time I decided on Laos as I had never been there before and the scenery is just stunning.
The plan was to cycle from Chiang Mai to Hanoi via Laos. It was a little ambitious I realise, especially after I had mapped it out on GPS and over the entire route it was a 25km vertical climb! Laos is just one of the most mountainous countries I have ever seen, I don’t think there are actually any flat roads (except within a couple of the larger towns). So I made a few alterations to the initial plan.
I started off cycling from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, up through Khun Chae National Park. Slightly more challenging than I anticipated, with a 600m vertical climb and 200km distance, but I did finally made it. After spending a couple days in Chiang Rai I made my way to the border and the small Laos border town of Huay Xai. From Huay Xai there is a slow boat to Luang Prabang which takes two days cruising down the Mekong River with an overnight stop at Pak Beng. This was a great way to get to Luang Prabang, there are so many little villages dotted along the banks of the river, it’s just a shame that it was not possible to stop at any of them.
After arriving in Luang Prabang and cycling around this UNESCO world heritage town, I can honestly say it’s own of the nicest towns I have been to. It really does have the feel of a colonial town in the middle of the jungle. Sitting in one of the cafés overlooking the Mekong River, one can easily imagine a time at the turn of the 20th century with rickshaws passing by and Hemingway sitting opposite writing a new novel (not that he ever visited Laos I think).
After Luang Prabang I cycled to Nong Khiaw. A small town on the Ou River surrounded by impressive limestone mountains in every direction. From here I made my way off road heading north through the mountains passing some gorgeous scenery and a few small villages. As these are so far off the beaten track they get very few tourists at all. Everywhere I went everyone was so friendly, especially the kids. They would all come running saying hi, and some even accompanied me on their bikes for a short time.
After making it through the mountains I decided to take the bus to Hanoi, I wasn’t quite making the progress I anticipated and had to get back to Bangkok for work commitments. Next time I will plan it a bit better and make sure I have enough time.
Main Kit used:
Trek Superfly 5 Mountain Bike
Revelate Designs Vischacha seat bag
Revelate Designs Saltyroll handlebar bag
North Face 22ltr rucksack.