A 36 km Cycling Itinerary North of Vang Vieng
Vang Vieng, in the northern part of Laos, is a very popular touristic destination. Most travelers include it in their itinerary and for good reason: its countryside is one of the most beautiful you will find in Laos. You are at all times surrounded by lush rice paddies and the characteristic limestone hills.
It would be too bad to stay in town and not take adventage of this fantastic scenery. Fortunately, it is very easy to find a scooter or a bicycle for hire so you can go explore the countryside. I opted for the bicycle (but I think the scooter would have been more comfortable under the hot sun).
I chose to head north of Vang Vieng, following the Road 13 and the Nam Song River all the way to the village of Pha Tang. There is about 18 km between Vang Vieng and Pha Tang.
This virtual tour was shot on the way back from Pha Tang to Vang Vieng, at times going off the main road and exploring nearby villages and rice paddies.
How to go: Renting a bicycle or a scooter.
Rental price: 30,000 kip (3.60 USD) for a good mountain bike, 70,000 kip (8.40 USD)for a scooter (full day).
Best season: November to March (dry season).
My Experience Cycling The Countryside Around Vang Vieng
What can you expect exactly?
First of all, unlike many roads I travelled on in Laos, the Road 13 is in good condition and will not constitute any particular difficulty. The traffic is also pretty light on this road, but it’s still important to be very careful because the Lao people are not always aware of safety rules when they are driving.
I have heard of a couple in my remote family who left for a very long trip in Asia, that was cut short because the woman got hit by a truck while cycling on the road in Laos, and had to be sent to the hospital (and back home).
The heat can also be a problem, and it’s important to make sure your bicycle or scooter is in good condition, wear a cap and bring enough water.
Anyway, let’s talk more about the fun stuff. I had already seen the most famous attractions of Vang Vieng such as tubing in the Water Cave, or jumping in the Blue Lagoon, that’s why I wanted to explore the area a little beyond the basic touristic places.
My trip to Pha Tang following the main road was wonderful. The scenery just seemed to be even more beautiful after every turn. I made countless stops along the road, just to contempltate this scenery made of rice paddies with endless shades of tender green, with the typical hills and mountains in the background.
At some point of the trip, I started looking for a bit of relief from the heat, and found the perfect one! A little after the village of Pha Tang, there is a nice little place to relax in the cool and clean water of the river. After that, I treated myself to some well deserved sticky rice and chicken in the village.
The return trip was even more interesting. I decided to go off the main road, and that’s where the magic happened.
I found myself cycling on dirt roads totally immersed in the rice fields, and I was inside the postcard.
This led me to explore wild portions of the Nam Song River, small villages with women doing their laundry in the crystal-clear water of a stream, and always these rice fields sometimes emitting a subtle and wonderful smell of rice heated under the tropical sun.
It shows that as often, it’s when you venture into the paths less travelled that you experience the most wonderful moments.
I was back close to Vang Vieng at the end of the day, waiting for the sunset from the middle of a rice field, and went back in town to give my bicycle back before the shop closes.
I often hear of people renting a bike just to go where everybody goes. I think that on the contrary, renting a bike should be an opportunity to go where tours don’t take you, and experience something a little more authentic by venturing deep into the countryside.
The route I followed is just an example among many possibilities, but hopefully this page can help you plan a nice cycling itinerary if you are planning to spend some time in Vang Vieng 🙂