Cycling through Central Laos: Lao Bao to Savannakhet
One of the roads I never traveled I did in November 2011: I went cycling through Central Laos from Lao Bao (Vietnam) to Savannakhet. The journey is 239 km long and takes 2-3 days depending on your speed.
Cycling through central Laos started in Lao Bao, where I stayed at the Vietnamese side. You can stay at the Lao border too. Both parts of the border are very uninteresting but I think the Vietnamese Lao Bao town has better accommodation.
The Vietnamese-Lao border is easy. You can get a Lao visa here but it's pricey. I paid US $42 (no additional "stamp fee"). Both Lao and Vietnamese parts of the town are practically build on the border.
The Vietnamese town was a bit weird, I had some trouble to find a meal, even at night time. And it seemed the market was for a large part filled with soap and washing products although there were fruits available too.
Once in Laos road Highway 9 is in excellent condition, at least for the first 100 or so km's. After that, you will have to face a partly pothole and partly bad surface road. But in general it's fine cycling.
I was cycling through central Laos to Savannakhet in 2 days but I think it's better to do in 3 days as the total distance is 239km.
When I arrived in Lao Bao after some climbing to Khe San, I was expecting a lot of hills on the Lao side. Nothing was further from the truth. Most of the road was flat with a few short lazy ascending here and there. It's easy cycling, even if you have not much experience.
Accommodation when cycling through central Laos
The first few km's from the Vietnamese border show several guesthouses though you are better off staying in the border town itself, where you can find a few restaurants and shops.
You will find guesthouses all along Highway 9. Convenient places are Sephon. The next is in Muang Phin and useful should you decide to go south to Saravan (I couldn't do that due to a loose crank).
The next guesthouses are to be found around Muang Phalan, around 60km further. There are guesthouses in Donghen too. Seno is located at the junction of Highway 13 and if you plan going south to Pakse and have no desire to visit Savannakhet (still 35 km) you can stay here.
For accommodation in Savannakhet, see my Savannakhet page.
The Lao-Thai border
Just north of Savannakhet there is a second Friendship Bridge. Do not make the mistake, as I did, to try to cycle across it. The bridge is for cars, buses and trucks only. Should you still want to pass here, you have to put your bike on a pickup truck. There is no way cycling across but you CAN cross here.
Instead it is easy to take the ferry in Savannakhet town center to Mukdahan. It's shorter too.
Other pages about Laos:
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Map of Laos
North East Thailand
Another part of Thailand which is much ignored by travelers is the north east. Admitted, there's not a whole lot to see but it's great cycling here: