Part 1.3 of the bikepacking journey from Asia to Europe
On our way through Thailand many people told us about the beauty of Laos! Some cyclists we randomly met said "oh boys, Laos is what you guys are looking for"! We never take peoples' negative opinions seriously, no need to get influenced by them, but if there's such an injection of positivity, why not believing in it? And so, Laos was a true wonderland! The natural beauty beyond comparison!
Riders: Thomas Calcagno & Rafal Ramatowski
Distance: about 725km
Duration: 13 days of touring
Gear: TRESHOMBRES the WOLFBORN
Wheels: TRESHOMBRES 3.8
Shifting Group: Shimano 105 & Shimano Ultegra hydraulic
Bike Bags: Blackburn OUTPOST Series: Carry All Bags, Frame Bags, Seat Pack & Dry Bags, Handlebar Roll & Dry Bags
Tires: WTB Riddler 37c x 700
Minds open for new sensations
We crossed the Thai-Lao border without any problems and rode on to the Capital - Vientiane. We stayed there over night to see how the vibe of the town is actually. Next day we woke up early to get as close to Vang-Vieng as possible because we heard so many good stories about this town! Moving away from Vientiane, we noticed a radical change in the landscape and shapes of mountains far away! Yeeeyy!
We reached the beautiful lake in Nam Ngun Reservoir that day and decided to spend the night on the waterside.. A truly amazing place indeed!
Magic of Vang Vieng
Heavy rain woke us up early the next morning. We just managed to put the covers on our tents and well, we were totally wet, so we went to hide in the lake;) Soon it got nice and sunny again and we rode up North already so cheered up by the presence of the surrounding mountains. We camped some 50km before Vang Vieng in a Buddhist temple up a hill and early next day reached the city for lunch. We loved it right away! There is something magical in Vang Vieng, that is beyond words! You need to go there to find out by yourself!
So we spent 3 days in Vang Vieng, getting the most out of it. The third day we finally moved on towards Luang Prabang, passing through the spectacular landscapes of Kasi. We were camping most of the nights, trying to find some random roofs shelters in little villages, climbing higher and higher.
A day before reaching Luang Prabang we climbed up to a sort of mountain centre / station. View from up there was startling! A Wonderland out of a Fairytale! Have a look at the video summing up our first part of Lao adventure below to have a better spectrum of this idyllic landscapes!
We reached Luang Prabang after 6 days of bikepacking in Laos. We were expecting a big and hectic city, but the town surprised us with a peculiar cosiness and relaxed vibe! Beautiful weather, Mekong slowly flowing along, good food, nice restaurants, for sure we're staying overnight!
We left Luang Prabang with a new portion of energy! Making our way North, we stumbled upon many small villages, full of happy kids, having fun at the river, so we joined them of course! Finally we reached another beautiful temple and were welcomed by young monks and offered us one of the most beautiful sleeping room of the whole tour so far!
Diving into the depths of Laos
Leaving Luang Prabang we decided to take a shortcut to Muang Meuy through the mountains. The road is solidly marked on the maps, so we went for it full speed ahead! At some point however the sealed roads changed to gravel, ascending higher and higher without ending! At some point we realised we have been fighting already over 20km of the steep gravel ascent and were running out of water! Luckily we eventually reached a little village on the top of the mountain. What turned out over the next days was that we got up on the mountain ridge road which was winding above the valleys, making cycling a true paradise!
The entire "shortcut" section through the mountains - was like a 4-day long ultimate adventure! Despite harsh road quality and demanding climbs, we had the best time ever riding #roadlikethese. Unbelievable views, beautiful weather and almost only nature all around! What a retreat from civilisation! Pedalling over the mountain peaks, every now and then, we were passing through little villages settled along the dirt road. It was fascinating how harmonious life between the locals, animals and nature was! Hundreds of excited smiles, waving and shouting kids, running around accompanied by little piglets, puppies, goats, cows and even buffalos! It seemed to us that people there had so much happiness within them, although they didn't seem to posses much! Life was simply perfect up there in the mountains and we felt truly blessed to ride through this part of Laos on our bikes!
Camping in these mountains gave us sooo much energy and stoke! We finally reached the main road and aimed for Sam Nuea. We went through all our spare tires at this point and Tom's front tires started tearing apart slowly after the days of gravel and stones! We fixed and patched the tire as much as we could, but decided to hitchhike in some sections of the road to prevent the tube from exploding suddenly!
We were approaching the Vietnamese border slowly, cycling and hitchhiking. The one and only road to Nam Meo crossing was under a heavy construction, with earth slides making it really hard to pass. Finally we reached to the border crossing, happy to enter Vietnam again, but suddenly boom, it was not meant to go so easy and smooth...
Adventure within adventure
We got a clear message from the officials at the border, Tom as French citizen can get the visa on arrival, Rafal as Polish passport holder NO! No online application allowed either. We just left Laos, but couldn't enter Vietnam. Left in between the countries we had to come up with some idea. No ATMs, not much cash left, we decided to split. We managed to convince the Lao officials to cancel the departure from their country for Rafal, so that he can somehow get back to Luang Prabang and take a flight to Hanoi. Tom on the other hand took two bicycles and left to Hanoi.
Believe it or not, but we met in the Vietnamese capital the next evening, excited to have solved all problematic situations and changed them into an epic experience!
Below our second video from Laos! Enjoy!
The main and only advice for bikepacking in Laos - simply buy a plane ticket and go there! Don't think twice!
Daily Average: 55km