21 Days
Duration
Moderate, Difficulty
Physicality
China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand
Location
Year-round
Dates

Cycling Holidays 4 Countries in 3 Weeks 21 Days

China – Vietnam – Laos – Thailand
Overview

Difficuly
8/10 – Challenging

Avg. Daily Distance
85km / 52miles

Off Road Cycling
5%

Max Altitude
1,950 / 1950 m

The new Four Countries of South East Asia Adventure is a fantastic opportunity to experience outstanding natural beauty, ancient cultural traditions and hill tribes with challenging cycling through dramatic landscapes.

From Yunnan Province in China we journey past lakes and rice fields up into the mountains, to minority areas visiting the spectacular Hounge Hani Rice Terraces; a glassy hillside mosaic reflecting the colours of the sky and one of the great hidden wonders of the world.

We cross into Vietnam cycling to Sa Pa, a former French hill station perched in the Hoang Lien Son mountains before heading over the Tram Ton; the highest mountain pass in Vietnam and visit historic Dien Bien Phu, where French colonialists were defeated during the first Indochina War.

Next we cycle on into beautiful landlocked Laos, journeying through rural landscapes, always greeted with a warm welcome, particularly at our home stay in Ban Nalay where we will experience a traditional Baci ceremony.

Our final destination on this four countries adventure is Northern Thailand. Following the road less travelled through a celestial mountain landscape where a rolling ‘sea of clouds’ is draped over dramatic Karst rock and verdant forest. We encounter minority communities and ancient temples ending our journey in Chiang Kham district.

B = Breakfast
L = Lunch
D = Dinner
* = estimated

Additional information

DestinationChina, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand

Day 1: Kunming

On arrival you will be met and transferred to our joining hotel. There will be a group briefing this evening.

Accommodation: Hotel (D)

Day 2: Kunming to Tonghai

We transfer out of Kunming heading south and follow the road along Dian Lake then turn east towards Fuxian Lake. Our 52 km cycle begins along a lovely route with scenic views to Jiangchuann. From here to Tonghai is about 25km further. The road stays flat for around 5km before we begin to climb, over the summit is a 10km descent almost all the way into Tonghai. Overlooking Tonghai city is Xiushan: a large temple park inspired by China’s famous Holy Mountains. Small gatherings of monks and pilgrims pray in earnest contemplation and leave offerings for the gods, whilst nearby locals drink tea and play Mah-jong.

Cycling distance: 52 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B, L,D)
Total climb: 510 m
Total descent: 545 m

Day 3: Tonghai to Jianshui

We leave Tonghai cycling up hill, enjoying views of the Red River in the valley beneath us. We enter the Honghe Hani & Yi Autonomous Region following a rolling mountain road to Lihaozhai. Then we have just a short downhill stretch on to Jianshui. The town has a traditional centre with a beautifully restored Confucian temple (originally built during the Yuan Dynasty 1271-1368) and an artificial lake. In the afternoons traditional music performances are staged here. Just outside Jianshui there’s a Seventeen Span Bridge, typical of the region,  on a small road going south out of the city.

Cycling distance: 78 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 716 m
Total descent: 1,159 m

Day 4: Jianshui to Yuanyang

We begin the day with a 35km climb on well surfaced road. Over the pass at Goujie we descend on rough road for about 40km. An amazing scenery of rice terraces and the Yuan river compensates for the tough terrain. Yuanyang itself is split into two locations, the new town of Nansha lies in the valley and has a subtropical climate. We have a further 31km (transfer/ride) uphill to Xinjie which is sometimes also called Yuanyang old town.

Cycling distance: 76 km (106 km)
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 806 m (2,064 m)
Total descent: 1,827 m

Day 5: Yuanyang Rest Day

Old Yuanyang (Xinje) is a Hani minority settlement. The Hani wear traditional blue embroidered clothing and black or white turbans and are renowned for their vocal polyphonic singing. The town has spectacular views of the surrounding rice terraces and nearby mountains which have been cultivated for more than1300 years by the Hani people.

Only one rice crop is produced each year and after the harvest in autumn the terraces are filled with water until April, when planting begins. In some places more than three thousand layered terraces extend upwards creating a spectacular glassy mosaic on the mountainside. The terraces are particularly stunning at sunrise or sunset. If you visit during the autumn you may have the opportunity to experience a Long Table Feast. Each village holds their own feast at different times. Wicker tables laden with food extend throughout the villages. Bowls of rice wine are provided for a series of toasts which begin at one end of the village and snake their way along the entire stretch of the tables.

Cycling distance: n/a
Accommodation: Hotel
Altitude 1,531 m

Day 6: Yuanyang to Lianhuatanxiang

What goes up must come down! We start the day with an exhilarating 3o km decent before starting on a fairly flat day’s cycling. As we cycle closer towards the border today through a landscape of banana plantations. We will encounter settlements of different minority communities; the women wear bright pleated traditional dress elaborately decorated and particular to each minority community. We stop for our final night in China in the small town of Lianhuatanxiang.

Cycling distance: 124 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 734 m
Total descent: 2,050 m

Day 7: Lianhuatanxiang to Hekou to Sapa

Today we leave the landscapes of rural China behind us heading for Vietnam. At Hekou, following visa formalities, we cross over a bridge into Vietnam. We have a 35km ride on to Sapa; a continuous steep cycle (with some stretches of the route a 10% incline!) uphill on good road.

Cycling distance: 104 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L)
Total climb: 1985 m
Total descent: 553 m

Day 8: Sa Pa Rest Day

High in the mountains, often shrouded in cloud Sa Pa is an old French hill station perched in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains near the Chinese border. Its position offers some of the best vantage points from which to enjoy the views of surrounding mountain peaks. Sa Pa holds one of the main markets in the area, where ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tí y and Giay gather to trade their wares.

Cycling distance: 
Accommodation: Hotel (B)
Altitude: 1550 m 

Day 9: Sa Pa to Lai Chau

We begin the day with a hard climb out of Sa Pa heading for the Tram Ton Pass (1,900m; 6,230 ft) the highest mountain pass in Vietnam. After about 12km we pass the 100m-high Thac Bac (Silver Waterfall); the loop track is steep and scenic. With a few more km to go to the peak we may glimpse Mt Fan Si Pan: (if it is not cloaked in mist and fog) this is S.E. Asia’s highest peak and the last major peak in the Himalayan chain, The Tam Tron is a dividing point in NW Vietnam’s climate, leaving the cold conditions in Sa Pa behind us once over the peak. After a descent of a few hundred metres we will experience warm sunnier conditions. Our second climb of the day is gentler and then it’s downhill to Lai Chau with a smooth final 7km to end the day.

Cycling distance: 72 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 1,165 m
Total descent: 1,816 m

Day 10: Lai Chau to Muong Lay

We leave Lai Chau climbing on winding road through lush green valley. Some of our route will traverse rough roads, through narrow gorges as we follow the Na River to Muong Lay passing through Black Dao villages. The Dao worship spirits and ritually sacrifice pigs and chickens. Dao women’s clothes are embroidered with intricate weaving, silver coloured beads and coins. It is said that the wealth of a woman can be judged by the weight of the coins she carries. We cross the Hang Tom suspension bridge to reach Muong Lay.

Cycling distance: 104 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 1,025 m
Total descent: 1,775 m

Day 11: Muong Lay – Dien Biên Phu

Crossing again over the suspension bridge we then climb uphill for 20km. Over the pass we descend for 100m, we are surrounded by rice fields and jungles. Cycling through winding valleys on roads that snake across beautiful countryside. In 1954, the Vietnamese achieved the impossible, carrying heavy artillery into the mountains to defeat the French Garrison at Dien Biên Phu. As you cycle this route you will wonder at how this was ever achieved. The surrender at Dien Biên Phu marked the end of French influence in Indochina. It is not widely known that the US had developed a plan to aid the French by using tactical nuclear weapons at Dien Biên Phu.

Cycling distance: 105 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,)
Total climb: 1,635 m
Total descent: 1,362 m

Day 12: Dien Biên Phu – Rest Day

The French defeat here in 1954 marked the beginning of the end of French colonies in Indochina, and the division of Vietnam into North and South and inspired other independence movements globally. There are a number of colonial era bunkers, a Vietnam Military History Museum and cemetery nearby. Nowadays Dien Biên Phu is a relatively quiet town, home to a high proportion of ethnic minorities; only one third of residents are ethnically Vietnamese. You will see many minority women wearing traditional dress.

Accommodation: Hotel
Altitude: 495 m

Day 13: Dien Biên Phu – Muang Khua

Today is one of the most challeging days of the trip. Leaving Dien Biên Phu we bid farewell to Vietnam and cross into Northeast Laos at Tay Tran. This area of Laos is the least populated part of the country. From here we travel on to Muang Khua. On the banks of the Nam Ou river and surrounded by scenic mountains Muang Khua is the largest city in Northern Laos.

Cycling distance: 106 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 2,403 m*
Total descent: 2,527 m*

Day 14: Muang Khua – Muang Xia

For much of today we follow a road alongside the Nam Ou River on a fairly flat route through mountain scenery and agricultural landscapes. The final 25km stretch into Udom Xai is along rolling road. Close to the border with China, Udom Xia has a distinctly Chinese feel.

Cycling distance: 100 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 765 m*
Total descent: 678 m*

Day 15: Maung Xia to Ban Nalay

A real roller coaster of a day. Our cycle route takes us through lush jungle and hill tribe villages where age-old cultural traditions live on. Simple bamboo houses perch on stilts, whilst children play beneath them alongside chickens and pigs.We stop in Ban Faen (our guide’s village) for lunch, then visit the school that was funded by TLV’ charity LCVF. Tonight we stop in Ban Nalay where we will be hosted by local families. TLV has developed a special relationship with this village. Our friends here will welcome us with festivities and we have the opportunity to experience life in a traditional Laos community.

Cycling distance: 58 km
Accommodation: Homestay (B,L,D)
Total climb: 566 m
Total descent: 683 m

Day 16: Ban Nalay – Pak Beng

Today we cycle along sealed roads through many friendly villages. It’s a day of steep rolling hills but none that last longer than 4 or 5 km. As we pass by, friendly local children will shout “sabaai – dii, sabaai dii” (the Loas greeting) to every passing cyclist. Pak Beng is a stopping point for boats travelling up the Mekong from Luang Prabang. There are two Wats in the town that offer lovely views over the river.

Cycling distance: 87 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 686 m
Total descent: 868 m

Day 17: Pak Beng – Muang Ngeun

The first 20km out of Pak Beng are fairly gentle, as we cycle uphill out of town, easing us in gently before we tackle hill country for the next 32km all the way to Muan Ngeun with a series of steep stretches

Cycling distance: 65.1km
Accommodation: Guest House (B,L,D)
Total climb: 780 m*
Total descent: 640 m*

Day 18: Muang Ngeun – Chiang Klang

For early risers there is a bustling morning market in Muang Ngeun, but be warned, the action is all over by 07.30. We leave Laos today crossing into Nan Province in Northern Thailand and cycle through a jungle scenery of rolling hills. We are close to the Doi Phu Kha National Park. 70% of Nan province is remote mountainous terrain, untouched natural beauty, populated by Lanna, Lan Xang and Sukhothai hill-tribe cultures. Chiang Klang is a small friendly town in the midst of fields of rubber tobacco and corn crops. About 50km from the Laos border with views in the distance of Doi Phu Kha and Chang Rai mountain ranges.

Cycling distance: 64 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 965 m
Total descent: 1,230 m

Day 19: Chiang Klang – Phu Langka

We cycle westwards tackling more hills in a remote rugged scenery, on quiet forested road. Phu Lang Ka is a small and remote area in the mountains of Pong District, Payao province perched on the hillside overlooking a beautiful landscape of rice paddies, temples and limestone karsts and mountains.

Cycling Distance: 68 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 2,024 m
Total descent: 1,518 m

Day 20: Phu Langka to Chiang Kham

It is worth rising early this morning to catch the breath taking sun rise. Often shrouded in early morning mists the stunning landscape of karst rocks, mountains and valley emerges with a quite magical aura on a clear day you will glimpse Laos in the distance. We follow snaking road down to join towards Yoan through a vast expanse of rice fields. The area is home to many Tai Lue people. The Tai Lue originated from Yunnan province in Southern China and migrated to Northern Thailand, (particularly to Nan and Phayao), around 200 years ago. There are a number of traditional temples and teak house villages in the area. Tonight we will have a celebratory meal to mark the end of our journey.

Cycling distance: 46 km
Accommodation: Hotel (B,L,D)
Total climb: 372 m
Total descent: 778 m

Day 21: Chiang Kham – Home

You will be transferred to the airport for your flight home from Chiang Rai. We will be organising 2 transfers from Chiang Kham to Chiang Rai; one at 08.00 and one at 12.00 midday. So the earliest we would suggest booking a flight is 10.30

We can tailor make a tour that will best match your budget – the guide below serves as a reference point for you to decide how much to spend on this trip.

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