The Lads Back in Asia
19-30 Aug 2019
Hilly but with support vehicle
The Lads are back cycling Asia, reliving where it all began many years before. This is a remote overland trip that takes us across a little used border crossing between bustling Vietnam and sleepy Laos, two neighbouring countries that couldn't be more different from each other.
Starting in the historic but busy city of Hanoi we travel through stunning limestone karst mountain scenery into the lands of Vietnam's ethnic minority people. One night we homestay with a people who are most closely related to the Thai.
Over the border and into Laos the region we cycle is quite remote and little travelled. This was the region where the 'secret war' in Laos was fought during the better known Vietnam War. More mountains await with little in the way of flat peddling. Our rest day includes a boat trip and night safari. We will stop at the curious Plain of Jars before finishing out tour in charming Luang Prabang.
Our local team will include one or two cycling guides, Jason as tour leader and support vehicles. The vehicles will be used to carry luggage, provide transfers and lend a hand for anyone who wants to skip out some of the cycling or decides to stop riding.
There is little flat land in this part of the world so be ready for lots of hills, both up and down. Road surfaces will be varied with good sealed roads much of the time but also potholes and sections of road in disrepair. Our hard tail mountain bikes will handle these conditions with no problems.
The daily distances noted in the itinerary are the maximum distances that can be cycled if we do not do any transfers. Depending on the wishes of the group we may decide to transfer some sections to make some of the distances at little shorter. Of course, any individual person can choose to skip out a section by using the support vehicle.
We can't go above a group size of 20 as the accommodation won't cope with bigger groups.
PRICING & PAYMENT
US$2700 per person, twin share
US$500 Single supplement (does not include the homestay night in Mai Chau)
A AU$500 deposit is required to confirm places on the trip. The deposit is refundable (less fees) until 31 March 2019 after which time we will refund providing we can find a replacement person to fill your place on the tour.
Pricing is in USD but you will be able to pay in AUD. We will set the AUD price at the time of final payment which is due 2 months before the tour starts. Credit card payments will incur a 2% fee.
With a limit of 20 people we will take the first 20 to book and pay their deposit. Once 20 bookings are received a wait list will be opened.
Aug 19 - Arrive Hanoi
Aug 20 - Transfer to Ninh Binh, Cycle to Cuc Phuong National Park (55km)
Aug 21 - Cycle Cuc Phuong National Park to Mai Chau (62km/110km)
Aug 22 - Cycle Mai Chau to Quan Son (75km/101km)
Aug 23 - Transfer to Laos Border, Cycle to Xam Neua, Laos (85km)
Aug 24 - Transfer Xam Neua to Ban Son Khua (Rest Day)
Aug 25 - Cycle Ban Son Khua to Meuang Kham (63km/101km)
Aug 26 - Cycle Meuang Kham to Phonsavanh (69km)
Aug 27 - Cycle the Plain of Jars (50km)
Aug 28 - Cycle Phonsavanh to Phou Khoun (77km/135km)
Aug 29 - Cycle Phou Khoun to Luang Prabang (112km/128km)
Aug 30 - end
Daily distances vary depending on whether you take the predetermined transfers or not. See below for the detailed itinerary. Itinerary is subject to change.
AUG 19 - ARRIVE HANOI
We meet in Vietnam's capital of Hanoi. You have time to explore the city on your own before we gather for dinner and a trip briefing.
AUG 20 - Transfer to Ninh Binh, Cycle to Cuc Phuong National Park (55km)
We start the day with a 2 hour transfer to Ninh Binh. On arrive in Ninh Binh, we start out on the bikes to cycle along the Hoang Long River through some impressive landscape. The first 35km are flat and then we'll have some small climbs up to the park, but they are all short. Upon arrival at Cuc Phuong, Vietnam's largest national park, we visit the endangered Primate Rescue Center where a wide variety of native monkeys and gibbons, including critically endangered langurs were saved from wildlife smugglers and are being rehabilitated to return to the wild. After the visit, we continue cycling to the center of the park and then have the option to transfer or cycle the 20 km back to our overnight accommodation in the park.
AUG 21 - Cycle Cuc Phuong National Park to Mai Chau (62km/110km)
We start our cycling on a small tarmac road with dramatic mountain scenery and a section along the along the Buoi River. We cycle past local villages of Muong people and their fields of rice, corn, cassava and sugarcane. After a lunch of Pho at a local restaurant we have an uphill to start our afternoon ride with a descent to Mai Chau. There is no better way to enter this rice paddy filled valley than by bicycle.
AUG 22 - Cycle Mai Chau to Quan Son (75km/101km)
From Mai Chau we cycle deep inside Pu Luong national reserve. After 20km of flat terrain, be ready to start pushing the pedals as we conquer the biggest hill of the day with a 550 m climb over 17 km But the effort is well worth it for the exhilarating downhill cruise to Dong Tam. We'll have a picnic lunch en route at a stilt house of the ethnic Thai people. Once we reach Dong Tam you can keep riding or we can load up the bikes to avoid construction and transfer 35km to our hotel in Quan Son town.
AUG 23 - Transfer TO LAos Border, Cycle to Xam Neua, Laos (85km)
This morning we'll be met by our Laos guides on the other side of the border and start our ride to Vieng Xay. Our ride will be along streams and through karst landscapes interspersed with rice paddies. Our first destination today is historic Vieng Xai, once the war-time headquarters of Laos’ communists, famous for its remarkable landscape of karst limestone mountains honeycombed with caves that were used as shelter during the relentless bombing raids. Along the way we’ll see a number of historic caves, including the Lao-Cuban Hospital Cave.
We’ll head to the Vieng Xai Caves Visitor Center to get our bearings and get ready to go on the audio tour. Four hundred and eighty of these caves were used by the Communist Party army to shelter from American air raids during the Second Indochina War, also known as the Vietnam War. We’ll use our bikes to get from cave to cave and walk through the caves listing to the commentary and audio effects. After lunch, we’ll get back into the saddle and cycle to Xam Neua, Houaphanh’s provincial capital, passing a number of traditional ethnic villages.
AUG 24 - Transfer Xam Neua to Ban Son Khua (Rest Day)
Today we will have a rest and go on a different type of adventure, a safari within the Nam Et-Phou Louey National Protected Area. The area is known for its primary forest, high level of biodiversity and endangered species including tiger, gaur, sambar deer, and white-cheeked gibbon.
We’ll transfer from Xam Neua to the starting point of this adventure in Ban Son Khoua. Along the way, we will stop to see the 100m-long cascade over rock slabs of Saleuy Waterfall. When dusk comes, we'll head out for wildlife- spotlighting down the Nam Nern River on long-tail boats that drift downriver to allow for the best chances of spotting wild animals. We overnight at simple but well-appointed bamboo huts with the sounds of the jungle surrounding us.
AUG 25 - Cycle Ban Son Khua to Meuang Kham (63km/101km)
After breakfast, boats will float us back to Ban Sonkhoua, where we get on our bikes to start riding again. Today is all about magnificent downhills! Our first spectacular descent will bring us to lunch on the Nam Nern riverbank in Ban Sop Lao. After lunch, we climb to Ban Souanmon from where we’ll cycle through the mountains towards our second outstanding descent onto the Xieng Khouang Plateau. The day ends at Ban Xang Hot Springs, where we’ll be staying the night in a community lodge.
AUG 26 - Cycle Meuang Kham to Phonsavanh (69km)
After a hot spring bath and breakfast we’ll start our traverse of the plateau, which is home to the mysterious Plain of Jars, which is now on Laos’ tentative World Heritage list. We ride through numerous villages and have an overall gradual climb for the first part of the day as we end up at 1100m from our start point of 500m. Once we are up on the plateau the landscape changes to grassy plains. This area was one of the most heavily bombed in Laos and evidence of unexploded ordinances (UXO) are everywhere. Resourceful locals use bomb casings and other remnants and put them to use as fences, tools, vegetable planters, decorations and barbecue fireplaces.
AUG 27 - Cycle the Plain of Jars (50km)
Today we'll cycle to visit the mysterious prehistoric jars and learn the many theories of their existence. We return to town for lunch and you have the afternoon free to visit the MAG Office-UXO Visitor Information Centre and watch their movie for a fascinating insight into the legacy of the second Indochina War, aka the Vietnam War.
AUG 28 - Cycle Phonsavanh to Phou Khoun (77km/135km)
We’ll head east to Phou Khoun with the first 50 km to Nongtang, a large lake surrounded by high limestone cliffs, a relatively flat ride compared to our previous hills. Stop for a photo of the lake and then it's a quick 27 km as the last 14 km are all downhill, on to our lunch spot on the Nam Chat River. You can cycle the remaining 60km or transfer the final 60 km uphill to Phou Khoun. We'll arrive in time for you to enjoy the sunset and stunning view from your guesthouse tonight.
AUG 29 - Cycle Phou Khoun to Luang Prabang (112km/128km)
Today we have an overall descent to Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage listed site located on the banks of the Mekong River. For those that want to cycle you ride the first 52km down and up a mountain. Or choose to transfer to start of the ride at the top of a long climb. From here we have a glorious 18 km descent to Ban Khoua Nam Ming, which translates to the bridge over the Ming River. Here we’ll have lunch and then prepare for a 14 km post lunch ascent. We have one more swooping downhill before we are down on the rolling flats. We ride into charming Luang Prabang and to our riverside guesthouse. Tonight we head out to the temple-filled town to have our last dinner together.
AUG 30 - END
The tour ends with a check-out before 10am. Stay on and explore Luang Prabang or if you are heading home there are flights from Luang Prabang Airport to regional centres like Bangkok.
INCLUSIONS & EXTRAS
This trip uses a range of accommodation including modern 3 star hotels, plenty of local guesthouses, and a homestay with dormitory sharing.
Some of the hotels we intend to use:
Church Boutique 95 Hang Gai Hotel in Hanoi
Vasana Plain of Jars Hotel in Phonsavanh
Sala Prabang Hotel in Luang Prabang
MEALS & SNACKS
All meals are included from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 12.
While cycling we will be treated to local fruits and snacks as well as fresh water.
We will provide you with quality mountain bikes. You will be required to change bikes at the Laos border as the bikes don't cross over the border. The bikes in Vietnam are Trek X-Calibers, and in Laos they are Giant Talons; all with lightweight alloy frames, 24- to 27-speed gearing, disc brakes, and Shimano components and front suspension.
Ebikes are available in Vietnam for an extra cost of US$100.
Guides - we will have 1 or 2 local cycling guides with us out on the roads each day.
Backup Vehicle - we will have a dedicated support vehicle at the back of the group to look after anyone who needs a break from the cycling.
You must have travel insurance as part of the conditions of travel. Your insurance must cover emergency medical and evacuation.
Helmets are available locally but we recommend you bring your own to ensure a good fit.
Single rooms cost US$500. No single rooms are available on the night in Mai Chau when we stay in a homestay.
Ebikes are available in Vietnam for an extra cost of US$100.
You will need to apply for your visa through your nearest consulate. For those in Australia this is in Sydney.
The form is completed through the website: https://visa.mofa.gov.vn/Homepage.aspx
A couple of points to remember:
It is recommended you attach an itinerary
You will need to enter Tourism twice for purpose of entry
You can either upload a photo or stick a passport photo on
You can apply within 6 months of arriving in Vietnam.
For those outside Australia the website will provide information on where your nearest consulate is located.
A 30 day Laos visa can be obtained at the border crossing. For this you will need:
Original passport (valid more than 6 months
2 passport photos at 4cm x 6cm size
Empty passport at least 2 pages
Visa fee US$35-45 in cash