Laos: Nam Phao Checkpoint to Thakhek – 234km

Nam Phao International Checkpoint to Vieng Kham Via Route 8 – 131km
Laos route 8

Vieng Kham to Thakhek via Route 13 – 103km
Laos route 13

Laos is apparently a very popular cycling tour destination. During our short jaunt cycling across Laos, we met the most cyclists since we started the trip. The pristine scenery, unique culture and hilly terrain are beyond compare to anywhere we have traveled in Asia so far.

DSC04939 DSC04915

The traffic on the road is minimal, and the drivers are cautious when overtaking cyclists. We felt pretty safe traveling through Laos. The trick is stick with major roads. We tried to cycle on Route 1E, and admitted our defeat after 10km on the unpaved road. Other than the secondary roads, all main roads are paved and smooth. Villages are sparsely located among the mountains. We enjoyed long stretches of quiet roads but the downside was the lack of accommodation facilities. We were forced into long days just to reach towns that have 1 or 2 guesthouses. The scarcity of restaurants and grocery was not a good news for cyclists either. We learned the lesson to take whatever we can find along the way and not be picky, because the next sight of civilization might be 50km away.

Google Maps has been essential to our trip. We have 1 android tablet (Google Nexus 7) with GPS. We cached maps along the routes so they were available offline. And in places like Laos, where Internet connection is non-existing, GPS is indispensable. Once GPS pinpoints our location on Google Maps, we could roughly plan stops ahead based on the offline maps. However the lack of Internet access put a strain on our planning. We had no way to learn if there would be any amenities along the way without WiFi connection. We often rely on the size of the town as shown on Google Maps, but once we were tricked into finding a completely abandoned village towards the end of a very long day of peddling. Regardless of the occasional deficiency of modern technology, traveling will not be the same if there is no adventure and uncertainty ahead..