(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner; S= snacks)
Day 1: Arrival: Hanoi.
You will be met on arrival at Hanoi’s International Airport and transferred to our hotel in the city's charismatic Old Quarter where you will be met by your tour leader. Your day is free to relax and rest after a long flight or explore this intriguing city. The group will meet early this evening for drinks, a briefing, and our first dinner together.
Day 2: Transfer to Sapa.
Today we take care of necessary preparations with our bicycles before boarding our AC minibus for the journey to the old French hill station of Sapa. Home to a mix of different ethnic groups Sapa always has plenty to stimulate the imagination as one wanders past markets where groups of mountain tribe people trade their wares.
Day 3: Sapa to Than Uyen.
And so it begins. After breakfast, we mount up and begin what is to be an epic journey of discovery. The day begins with 13kms of gentle climbing before a final stiff 3-kilometre climb takes us to the highest pass in Vietnam at 2000 metres. From here we begin a wonderful 25km descent, sweeping through curves on a well-sealed road with stunning mountain views. From the bottom of this descent, we turn south into a broad valley with ever-widening views as we head through an area of tea plantations. Here ladies in traditional conical hats work, and the aroma that always companies tea crops lends a distinct character to a beautiful first day’s ride.
Accumulated Ascent: 1500M
Day 4: Than Uyen to Quynh Nhai.
A beautiful and challenging day of adventure cycling lays ahead as we saddle up this morning. Soon we are following a small and little used byway with much beauty all around us. At around 15kms we reach the formidable Ban Chat Dam where a stiff climb leads us to the beautiful Ban Chat Lake. From here an undulating rural road provides stunning views, showing off fairytale vistas before the Black River looms dramatically into view. We now skirt this huge lake like river to our home for the night in the new town of Quynh Nhai.
Accumulated Ascent: 1600M
DAY 5: Quynh Nhai to Dien Bien Phu.
Events at Dien Bien Phu over 60 years ago had one of the most dramatic effects on Indo China in recent history when Vietnam’s Viet Minh forces defeated the French. This bloody defeat bought an end to colonial rule across the region and, ultimately, gave rise to the circumstance that would lead to the American War.
Happily, our journey here takes place in far more peaceful times, and our experience with the Vietnamese as we cycle through a scene of beautiful rural tranquillity today will be one of peace, friendship and harmony.
Accumulated Ascent: 2000M
DAY 6: Dien Bien Phu to Muang Khua.
We start early this morning, for an eventful day lays ahead. First, we must transfer the 40KMS to the remote international border with Laos where we bid our Vietnamese crew farewell and meet our Laotian guide and driver. From this hilltop border, we enter a different world where all is quiet and still, and even in this remote wilderness the laid back nature of Lao is evident as we cycle the hills and valleys on a beautiful, empty, and newly surfaced road leading us to the small riverside town of Muang Khua.
Accumulated Ascent: 2000
DAY 7: Muang Khua to Oudomxai.
Our first full day’s ride in Laos sees us on an undulating valley ride following two rivers. This leads to a final 30 km where the undulations grow a little harsher as we climb from 450 metres to 750 metres before the final drop into the dusty bustling streets of Oudomxai town.
Accumulated Ascent: 1000M
DAY 8: Oudomxai to Namtuam.
Forty-five challenging kilometres will occupy us this morning as we undertake two significant climbs. The scenery is oh so typically Laotian, mountainous, forested for much of the way, and ever beautiful. With the morning’s challenge out of the way, we can enjoy a wonderful 1100 metre descent over 20 splendid and exciting kilometres en route to the little community of Pak Mong, which gives a great feel for the middle of nowhere towns in Lao.
Accumulated Ascent: 1500M
Day 9: Namtuam to Luang Prabang.
Today’s ride is described by the locals as ‘Lao flat’, which translates to ‘free of long mountain climbs, but never short of undulations and the odd cheeky little climb to keep your legs warm’. The Nam Ou river leads us south for most of the day’s ride, but it is one of the world's most celebrated rivers, the mighty Mekong that we follow for the final twenty kilometres to our teak wood guesthouse in the delightful town of Luang Prabang.
Accumulated Ascent: 800M
DAY 10: Luang Prabang - Rest Day.
It is difficult to imagine a nicer town in which to while away a lazy rest day than the splendid World Heritage site of Luang Prabang. Beautifully preserved colonial architecture and delightful old temples and monasteries sit on a small strip of land between the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers. While away some pleasant hours wandering the streets and alleys, visiting the temples and meeting the monks. And once your legs are tired take a seat and an espresso in one of the many charming little cafés - and how better to finish a wonderful day that a glass of wine as the sun sets beyond the fast flowing water of the Mekong? Your only regret will be that you have to leave.
Accumulated Ascent: 0M
DAY 11: Luang Prabang to Pak Beng.
A relaxing day afloat today as we take a classic Asian river journey aboard our private boat on the mighty Mekong river. Cruising to our overnight destination of Pak Beng we see Laos from a different perspective as we watch riverside life passing by. We spend the evening overlooking the Mekong as we look forward to recommencing our cycling on the morrow.
Accumulated Ascent: 0M
Day 12: Pak Beng to Muang Ngeun.
It is hoped that you have rested well over the past two days and that your legs are keen for some action, for today you are introduced to hills Thai style. Although still a day’s ride from the Thailand border this road has all the hallmarks of how Thai road builders cross hills, and the evidence suggests they are not cyclists. As we mount up we have 55kms of beautiful rolling countryside ahead of us and three short but stiff climbs, the most challenging of which gains 350 metres in a little over 4KMS, with a maximum gradient of nearly 20%! remember, we have a support bus.
Accumulated Ascent: 1300M
Day 13: Muang Ngeun to Tha Wang Pha.
With a border crossing and some thirty kilometres of unmercifully steep gradients ahead of us we have a prudent start to the day with an early transfer in our support vehicle. With most of the day’s climbs and the border crossing behind us, we mount our machines and set out to ride the byways of our third country - Thailand.
For much of the ride, we will be following the valley of the Nan river, sometimes we are sheltered from the sun by high hedgerows of tropical trees, and sometimes we are treated to wide open vistas of bright green fields, speckled with glinting Buddhist temples. By the time we reach our lodgings for the night, there will be little doubt that Thailand is a land of grace and beauty.
Accumulated Ascent: 1400M
Day 14: Tha Wang Pha to Chiang Kham.
With arguably the toughest day of the tour ahead of us an early start to beat the heat is a wise move. The road today is well surfaced, and the vistas of rolling hills leading off into the distances are beautiful. With the majority of the climbing behind us after eighty kilometres, we can relax a little for the latter part of the tour’s longest day as we cruise towards the little town of Chiang Kham.
Accumulated Ascent: 2200M
Day 15: Chiang Kham to Chiang Rai.
The last day of the tour is far from the least as we explore a delightful region of Northern Thailand crossing hills and valleys via roads, tracks and trails. We pass fields of rice and plantations of rubber trees, water buffalo wallowing and monks wandering the byways as we head to the tour's ultimate destination, the provincial capital town of Chiang Rai.
Relaxing with a much-deserved beer beside our resort’s pool we can reflect on a journey that has taken us from the hectic and colourful communist capital of Vietnam, through laid back Laos with its lovely relaxing rest day town of Luang Prabang, and finally to the Westernised trappings of 21st century Thailand.
From this odyssey, we are now rich with a multitude of experiences of wonderful scenery, enchanting people, and adventurous cycling that will provide precious memories for many years to come.
Accumulated Ascent: 500M
Day 16: Finish.
The tour official finishes today after breakfast. For those heading home or further afield, we will provide transport to Chiang Rai international airport, or to the bus terminal.
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