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  1. #1
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Touring in Southeast Asia

    Hi,
    We are planning on cycling in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Any suggestions will be very much appreciated. Also, we read that Laos may be dangerous for touring, not because of the road conditions, but the terrorists. Is that true?
    Gizem

  2. #2
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I've traveled 'round there, but not on bike. So....

    Info on Laos from the US State Department:
    http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_p...s/cis_946.html

    You may not be allowed by the governments of Laos and Vietnam to go wherever you please. Thailand is pretty open, but Southern Thailand is having lots of issues with violent Muslim extremists.

    Get used to riding in hot and humid weather; prepare yourself for squat toilets; never touch anyone on the head (yes I've seen people do that...); most of the people who live in these countries prefer modest dress despite the climate, so at a minimum I'd use baggy cycling clothes; don't go into temples in shorts or casual dress, it's disrespectful. I.e. read up and acclimate yourself to the local environment, customs and manners.

    You won't need to camp, since guest houses are like $8 a night.

    Roads in Thailand will mostly be good, although the drivers of scooters, cycles and tuk-tuks are insane.

    If you're going to fly several times during the trip (seems likely), consider a folding / travel bike to avoid paying fees.

    And eat lots of mangosteen.

    OK, you're all set to go.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gizem310
    Also, we read that Laos may be dangerous for touring, not because of the road conditions, but the terrorists. Is that true?
    Gizem
    What terrorists? I haven't heard of any terrorists in Laos, and virtually every cyclist who has been there raves about cycling there.

    I've toured in Thailand and Malaysia. Specifically, northern Thailand and along the east coast of Malaysia + Penang on the west coast. I loved northern Thailand (north and east of Chiang Mai, including the "Golden Triangle" area), and if you go during the winter, you'll have much more comfortable temperatures than the rest of the year, or that you'll find year-round in the rest of Thailand and all of Malaysia. Most of Laos also has much cooler temperatures in the winter.

    I haven't biked in central or southern Thailand, but from looking at maps and reading guidebooks, I have a strong suspicion that the best cycle touring in Thailand is in the north.

    The roads were good in Thailand, and there was a decent paved shoulder on most of the busier roads, though I tried to find smaller roads whenever possible. There was lots to see, people were very friendly though there's often a significant language barrier, the food is delicious, and prices are absurdly cheap for food and lodging. That's true throughout SE Asia. Don't even think of bringing camping gear to SE Asia.

    I enjoyed Malaysia, but there was often more traffic than I would have liked on the east coast (and the east coast has far fewer people than the west coast). People were friendly, english was widely spoken (Malaysian is not a tonal language like Thai or Chinese), food was good, and prices were cheap. Penang was the only part of the west coast I saw, but Penang was a wonderful place, one of my favorite places anywhere, with superb colonial architecture, great food, and an amazing variety of sights around the island. Penang (mostly Chinese and some Indians) has a different ethnic mix from the east coast (mostly Malay).

  4. #4
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Sorry, not terrorists but "bandits" as my First Time Asia book likes to call them. "Traveling in Laos is hard, not least because of the potholed roads; worse stiil, bandits render some roads too dangerous for tourists to use. Many areas of Laos were very heavily bombed during the American-Vietnam War and away from the tourist areas, there us a real danger of stepping on unexploded land mines." Also goes on to talk about how anti-government groups occasionally set off bombs etc.
    I'd really like to go to Laos, though. I will ride in Thailand before I get to Laos, so maybe I'll have a better idea then.

  5. #5
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    You might also read through http://www.mrpumpy.net/.

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    Traveling that region is pretty straight forward. All of Thailand is awesome riding, the only area to avoid is the five southern most provinces as a Muslim insurgency has made things kind of dicey ... but the rest of southern Thailand is beautiful for cycling (as well as central and the north - my fav). Throughout the country, roads are nice and guesthouses are quite affordable.

    Loas has awesome riding as well, but the roads are not in good shape. Not sure where your guidebook was referring to, but bandits are not a problem cycling through most of the more interesting areas.

    There are some issues with unexploded ordinance left over from the Vietnam War and other conflicts in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, so don't go wandering off into woods without checking with the locals.

    Overall Southeast Asia is awesome cycling, great scenery, friendly folks, good food and reasonably priced. You will love pedaling there. Check out Mr Pumpy's website as mentioned above.

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    mrcycling, what is your 2nd favorite part of Thailand for cycling? I've already biked in the north around Chiang Mai and the Golden Triangle and liked it a lot. I'm considering returning to Thailand and would value your thoughts. Mae Hong Son loop in the northwest? In the south near Phuket? Somewhere else?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Prodigy4299's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    You might also read through http://www.mrpumpy.net/.
    +1 That is an excellent site.

  9. #9
    Really like your peaches
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    Quote Originally Posted by gizem310
    Hi,
    We are planning on cycling in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. Any suggestions will be very much appreciated. Also, we read that Laos may be dangerous for touring, not because of the road conditions, but the terrorists. Is that true?
    Gizem
    1. Don't give your bike to a Thai bus driver to load. They are brutes. Polite, but brutes.
    2. The Ranong-Chumphon ride is highly recommended.
    3. Riding in Phuket is no fun. Bad traffic. Touristy.

    You can also take a look at http://www.2rouespourvoirlemonde.com/. They have a rambling touring style and spent a lot of time in Malaysia. Also google for Jan Boonstra. He does a kind of very high speed touring, but it may still be helpful for you. Also see http://www.mybikeadventure.de/. He has a portion on Indonesia as well as Malaysia.

  10. #10
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    This is from a Thai. axolotl and mrcycling offer good information, but route from Luangprabang to Vientien can be dicey from insurgent/ bandit attack. Same for the five southern border provinces in Thailand. I'd like to reccommend you to contact
    http://www.explorertime.com/

    Email: tctc@explorertime.com
    Tel. 02-990-0274, 081-686-1239 Fax. 02-990-0900
    Mr. Thanin operates commercial bicycle tour and is very knowledgeable about Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. You could shoot him questions and may be try to join his cheapy tours with camping at national parks. Don't go for his expensive tours. You can do that on your own more economically. You should visit
    http://www.thaimtb.com/
    This web site has English board which you can post questions. Some one is bound to come and help. BTW Nov- Feb would be the best time to visit this region. As for Thailand, the Chiangmai- MaeHongson loop cannot be beat.
    Best wishes and happy cycle touring.
    Good mentor= success

  11. #11
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    Take a look at www.downtheroad.org/ where Cindie and Travis have a long section on the areas you are talking about.
    Wells

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    axolotl,

    Buriram! I just did a tour from Udon Thani to Chachongsao, and Buriram was great. The scenery was fine, especially if you like rice, but the people, oh my god, they were fantastic. Most of the tours I have done in Thailand have been in the NE and what it lacks in scenery, the people make up for. Every water stop is a fun time, and eating a chicken, what an experiance. I didn't bother to see any old stuff they have around there but the next time I will. When I go back I plan on a two week trip around the province, taking in the historical spots along with the out of the way places where tourists don't often venture.

    My journal is on crazyguyonabike: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=2038&v=ap

  13. #13
    1. e4 Nf6 Alekhine's Avatar
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    I did a tour in Thailand just last June from Bangkok to Ao Nang (southern Thailand along the Andaman Sea, mostly on route 4 from Chumphon onwards). It was excellent, and there were no problems. I would say that Bangkok is generally a very bad place to ride in or start out from, because it's an enormous city with really no bike-able roads, all being clogged with traffic. You really have to learn how to weave in and out of cars there, and it's an easy city to get lost in. The rural areas, on the contrary, were a dream to cycle in, though a bit flat for my tastes. The roads themselves were surprisingly smooth and well-kept, with ample shoulder on the route we took. Note that they ride "English-style" there, on the left.

    Learn some rudimentary Thai - particularly the number system, because haggling for goods is expected of you with virtually any transaction, including hotel prices, but not including noodle stands, massages (get one!), and food in general or anything you buy from a 7-11 or whatever. Most Thais don't speak much more English than "hello," which was shouted at us about 1001 times while we rode past homes, noodle stands, and small country stores.

    Also, make sure you have a very good map. Latin alphabet is scarce there, particularly in the more rural areas, and road signs will generally be jibberish for you if you don't already know how to read Thai. Also, some of the smaller roads that we ventured onto were poorly indicated even by their numerical names with the map we had. This was especially true on the way down to Phang Nga, when we deviated from major roadways.

    Thailand is a beautiful country, and the people are even more beautiful. It is called the "land of smiles" for a reason, and I was overwhelmed by the kindness and sweetness of the people I met there. At one point, while I was wiping the sweat off my forehead at the top of a small hill, someone driving the other way stopped and gave me a big bottle of ice-cold water gratis, no questions asked, and no real conversation other than my bumbling attempts at "thank you" in Thai. That has never happened to me here in the US!

    I would highly recommend at least one excursion during your trip into the interior jungle in a local national park. I saw some incredible things in a park near Phang Nga. Overall, I was the least thrilled by the most touristy places. Ao Nang, while having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, was heavily populated by fellow westerners, and it did have a bit of an effect on the friendliness of the locals in my opinion, and was less interesting to me as someone who wanted to see the "real" culture there rather than the local McD's - so I was by far the most entertained by smaller towns in the middle of nowhere, but YMMV.

    Have fun! I'm going back in summer 2007 for sure!
    Last edited by Alekhine; 12-10-06 at 02:32 PM.
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  14. #14
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    We will be pedaling south from Luang Probang, Laos to Vientien in the next few days and have gotten reports of no problems along the once troubled road. Thailand was wonderful!
    www.VWVagabonds.com
    Mexico, Central America, South America & Africa in a Volkswagen

    By bicycle West Coast of the U.S., Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia

    India by Royal Enfield

  15. #15
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    Losligato, I would love to hear more about your trip, do you maintain a blog?
    I also have a question: Do you guys ever go hiking/camping? If you do, what do you do with the bikes? We are avid hikers but we are concerned about leaving our bikes behind.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by gizem310
    Losligato, I would love to hear more about your trip, do you maintain a blog?
    I also have a question: Do you guys ever go hiking/camping? If you do, what do you do with the bikes? We are avid hikers but we are concerned about leaving our bikes behind.
    It's very common for guesthouses in SE Asia to store luggage for folks for a very small price. For example, many tourists in northern Thailand go "trekking" for a few days. I see no reason why guesthouses wouldn't store a bicycle. I left the suitcase for my Bike Friday in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a couple of weeks while I biked. I think they charged me 10 baht (about US 25 cents) per day.

  17. #17
    VWVagabonds.com Losligato's Avatar
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    Sorry for the delay in responding. We just crossed the border from Laos to Thailand and are spending the holidays at the Mut Mee Guesthouse on the banks of the Mekong.

    I agree with axolotl. Virtually every guesthouse will store your bikes safely for a small fee. Theft is not a great problem in Thailand and Laos. Here at the internet cafe I am sitting with Dutch fellow who will be storing his Koga Miyata World Traveler (which he treats like his child... I told him I said that) at a guesthouse in Bangkok while he travels by bus to Cambodia for a week.

    When leaving the room unatteneded we store our valuables in a PacSafe for a little extra security.

    I know you were concerned about the security situation in Laos. This is no longer a problem. While there are some areas that are dangerous, the government does no allow travelers into those regions. The road from Luang Prabang to Vientiane was safe.

    Yes we have a blog, VeloVagabonds and a website, www.vwvagabonds.com both of which we hope to update in the next few days.

    A few weeks ago we loaded our bikes onto a boat in Northern Laos and floated down the Mekong to the town of Luang Prabang. From there we road south to Vientiane.

    www.VWVagabonds.com
    Mexico, Central America, South America & Africa in a Volkswagen

    By bicycle West Coast of the U.S., Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia

    India by Royal Enfield

  18. #18
    half way commuter
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    few reference if you want to go to indonesia

    http://www.kutu.com/indo/riau/6bridges.htm
    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=lt&doc_id=1994&v=1lh

    other than that, just few common tips : use bike with 26" tire than 700C, not only easier to find a replacement, with 26" it will be easier to take road side / unpaved road shoulder. The road side gets eroded so quickly in rainy season, and now is rainy season,...(usually from October to April).

    be ready with waterproof bags / panniers, and you better avoid camping in this season.

    Avoid night trip (except if you are in town), most of road lights in Indo are not enough for safe riding at night and car / bus drivers tend to ignore bicycles.

    have a nice trip.

  19. #19
    Mutt Owner gizem310's Avatar
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    I love this Pacsafe stuff! What a great idea! I'm definitely getting two of those!
    Losligato, I wanted to tell you how much I've been enjoying your blog. We'll be tracing your footsteps in October and your tips are very much appreciated. We are starting our trip on Match 12 in Amsterdam.
    Me and hubby are rooting for you and Amanda.

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