Bicycle Tour in Thailand and Laos.
Slow boat from Houay Xai to Pak Beng, Luang Prabang
If you’re planning a bicycle tour between Thailand and Laos, the slow boat from Houay Xai to Pak Beng and Luang Prabang is a fantastic option to spend a relaxing day flowing down the Mekong River.
Bicycle tour itinerary options from Houay Xai and Chiang Khong.
Most travelers start their bicycle tour from Thailand and head towards Laos. Flight prices are cheaper airports and transportations are more efficient in Thailand.
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai are both excellent starting points which are well connected to Bangkok by plane or bus. There’s also a train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.
From Houay Xai, you can cycle north to Luang Namtha and Pongasali between the Chinese and Vietnamese border. The mountains here are tall, with plenty of steep roads. If you’re traveling during the winter season, we recommend reading the ‘clothing equipment’ articles first, as you will face some harsh weather.
- Our pick:
It’s an 8-12 day ride from Chiang Mai or Chiang Rai (Thailand) to Luang Prabang (Laos). Chiang Mai is located about 315 km from Chiang Khong. From there, you can follow the smaller roads and pass through villages like Chiang Dao (70 km) – Mae Salak (100 km) – Chiang Rai (80km) – Chiang Khong / Houay Xai border crossing (90 km). The distances I show here are from each place to the next.
If you are short of time, we recommend starting from Chiang Rai, which will cut about 170 km off of the journey to the border crossing.
From the border crossing, the classic route is to get the slow boat that connects Houay Xai to Luang Prabang.
On the first night, the boat will stop is Pak Beng, a lovely village to use as a starting point to cycle to Oudom Xai (145km). It’s a pleasant ride on flat roads trough small villages, rice fields and people making different kinds of handcrafts. If the section is too long for you, you can overnight half way at Muang Beng.
- Odom Xai is growing very fast but offers several attractions like Chom Ong Cave, waterfalls and beautiful countryside.
- The ride from Oudom Xai to Pak Mong is 85 km, and the road leads you through a mountain pass about 1,300 meters high. The views from the pass are breathtaking.
- If the 142 km ride that separates Pak Mong and Luang Prabang is too long, don’t worry, you can turn 30 km before Luang Prabang to Pak Ou and get a boat to the city.
Cycling the border between Thailand and Laos:
Houay Xai and Chiang Khong face each other across the Mekong River, which carves the border between the two countries. Both villages are nice and offer good choices of hotels, guesthouses, restaurants and amazing views of the river.
If you need spare parts or maintenance for your bicycle, there’s a good shop a few kilometers from the center of Chiang Khong. It’s located 500 meters from the intersection between the main road and the road that leads to the Friendship Bridge. (Green Bike)
Unfortunately, the traditional border river crossing boat (as in the video) seems to have stopped running since 2013, when a new bridge was built. The bridge is about 10 km from the center of both Houay Xai and Chiang Khong.
If you’re coming from Laos into Thailand, the visa stamp is free. From Thailand into Laos, the visa will cost $30 – $42 , depending on your nationality.
Enjoy the ride!!!!
Other recommended itinerary options: