Cycling in north Laos
Cycling in north Laos is more challenging then in south Laos. However, it's not difficult, let alone impossible. However cycling in north Laos demands a bit more then in the south. Apart of the ongoing roads, smaller roads are usually in lousy condition and it's unknown when or even if they will be upgraded.
You will enter the Lao mountains and while you not reach some of the highest peaks you will still cross the 1500 meter altitude on the way to Luang Prabang.
This page gives some info about Vientiane and Luang Prabang and it will direct you to a few other pages I wrote about the roads you take.
The first time I arrived in Vientiane I asked the bus driver, I wasn't cycling then, to drop me in the middle of the town. He did so but I thought I was still in the suburbs. Vientiane is for the Lao people a big city but compared to big Thai or Chinese cities it's still relative small.
The city is a bit more expensive then the rest of the country but it's still cheap enough. There's a few things to be visited
That Luang is probably Vientiane's most well-known landmark. It's a stupa which is covered with gold paint. Together with the Victory Monument or Patuxai (Anousavary) it's one of the must seen things in Vientiane. The Victory Monument is situated at the north end of Lane Xang Avenue. It looks very similar to Paris' Arc de Triomphe. You can climb the monument and have a good view over the city.
Vientiane, as I said, is a small city. However, for most of the Lao people it's a big and busy place where it's dangerous on the streets. To the Lao people from outside Vientiane, there's too many cars and pollution but there's few buildings with more then a few storeys. Compared with some Thai cities it's still a reasonable relaxed place at the banks of the Mekong river.
Along the riverside you will find small restaurants serving typical Lao food. If you can't live without western food, the boulevard has numerous other types of restaurants including a Texan steakhouse, north Indian food and even a Malaysian restaurant!
Accommodation in Vientiane
There is a good range of hotels in Vientiane. From cheap to up market, you find your hotel.
The former royal city of Luang Prabang is open to tourism for many years. Therefore during your journey in north Laos you may find it a touristy but it's still a nice place to relax and find your breath back after the hardship in the mountains behind you.
So, what does Luang Prabang offers besides an abundance of accommodation? The town is UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 (and Laos is very proud of that!).
It's actually a small town surrounded along the Mekong river. The town has a lazy feeling where some say: time stands still. Walking through the kampongs and the town centre does give this feeling despite the large amount of guesthouses and tourists hanging out.
In the evening the main street in the centre of town changes into a tourist market. Here you can buy crafts, clothes and paintings. At the beginning of the market on the crossroads you can enjoy a cheap meal the way locals eat. The usual banana pancakes, fresh soy milk and barbeque chicken and fish are also available.
In the heart of the town there's some wats (temples) which show some of the grandeur of the days when local kings were in charge. Vat Xiengthong is probably Luang Prabang most beautiful and well-known temple. It was build in the 16th century by king Say Setthathirath.
The museum is worth a visit. Once it was a palace for King Sisavangvong. Nowadays it still houses the Royal throne of Lan Xang kingdom in its original splendor, and many other religious treasures.
Accommodation in Luang Prabang
As a heritage city you would expect a range of hotels in Luang Prabang. And you are right. Dozens and dozens of cheap and not so cheap guesthouses and hotels. Some are good, some are so so. There's little need to book in advance as the amount of guesthouses is staggering.
Village life on the road to Oudomxai
Around Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang was in the past easier to reach by boat then by road. Just north of the town there are the Pak Ou caves, a collection of Buddha statues in the caves on the opposite site of the river. You can't cycle there but you can hire a boat on the riverside in Luang prabang.
There's a few waterfalls around the town though honestly I wasn't too impressed with them. Much nicer are Kuang Si Waterfalls. They are on the way south, about 30 km from Luang Prabang. You should be able to find a place to stay here.
Pak Ou caves, near Lung Prabang
And Luang Prabang is best to explore by ..... bicycle. Are you lucky you have your own with you!
A great way of exploring the surrounding of Luang Prabang is by boat. Many travelers take the slow boat to Luang Prabang which includes a night in Pak Beng and a visit to the Pak Ou caves.
Phonsavan and accommodation in Phonsavan
Phonsavan is much missed town in North Laos. It's worth the effort to visit this little town with beautiful hills that houses 3 main sites filled with stone jars. It is this Plain of Jars you want to see. Here's more about Phonsavan..
Other pages about Laos:
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Map of Laos