On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who travel to Laos (you can share your experiences here).
Cycling South East Asia
I am building a touring resource for cyclist in South East Asia at www.silkwheels.com. The site is primarily my own routes but will be developed to hold other cyclists tales and experiences. There is also a forum for Q & A.Simon Stewart, October 06, 2007
China, Thailand, Laos
OK here's a few more bits for your site - I'll leave you to put them in their respective places. In a week or two there will be a full SE Asia trip report up at the following link - www.trackster-man.co.uk (there's a bit of stuff there already):
Kunming Airport, Yunnan Province, China - the airport is an easy ride out from the city centre, adequately signposted, maybe 1/2 an hour's ride. It wasn't necessary to box up the bike (for a Thai air flight to Chiang Mai), just the usual handlebar/pedal/tyre business. If you want to smuggle a couple of kilos of hash out of China inside your frame this is the airport to do it from - the x-ray machine's too small to fit the bike through so it just got waved through security!
Chiang Mai Airport, N. Thailand - again, no problems. Easy, signposted ride, no need to box up. You can check your bike through all the way to its final destination (in my case, Manchester UK via Bangkok and Amsterdam), saving hassles en route. There are no shower facilities at Chiang Mai airport but you can get a shower at Bangkok - the Dayrooms in Terminal 1, although it'll cost you $10 for the privilege.
Land crossing: Thailand to Laos via the Nong Khai-Vientiane Friendship Bridge - you are ABSOLUTELY not allowed to cycle over the bridge. You have to put your bike on the bus at a cost of 10B and there are NO exceptions. Paperwork at each end is minimal. The checkpoint at the Thai side is right on the edge of Nong Khai. On the Laos side you've got a 16 mile ride to Vientiane's city centre once through customs.
Land crossing: Laos to China via Boten-Mohan - the 11 mile dirt road from the Boten turn-off to the border is very bad, chewed up by the cross-border lorries. The tarmac starts again at the border post, and is OK once into China. Paperwork on the Lao side was minimal - a passport stamp and a cheery wave goodbye. The guards at the Chinese checkpoint were a bit bemused when I turned up, wanting to see proof of onward flight tickets etc; just keep smiling and you'll be OK. There are no money changing facilities in Mohan (China) but there is a hotel - I'm sure you could change money on the Black Market, although I rode through to Mengla, the first major town 37 miles to the north. When leaving Laos you won't be able to get rid of any unwanted Kip (Lao currency) because it's worthless.
Bus journey, Jinghong to Kunming - the bike went on top of the bus for free and arrived undamaged (I tied it down myself). However, be VERY WARY at Kunming bus station - I had one of my panniers stolen while I was on the roof of the bus getting the bike. The ride through from Jinghong to Kunming would have been superb but I was suffering from hamstring strain; there are enough towns and roadwork camps en route that accommodation shouldn't be a problem if you're not carrying camping gear.
Flying with bikes - my tuppence-worth - the only time I've had a bike damaged in transit was when it was in a box: if it's boxed up it's just another piece of luggage and gets treated as such, buried beneath the suitcases. If it looks like a bike it gets treated with more respect. What I do is turn the bars round, remove the pedals and deflate the tyres - the tubes and bars sometimes get a bit of cardboard wrapped around them (which you can rescue from a dump or get from any shop). The advantage of this approach is that you can ride to the airport with the cardboard bungied onto the rack. It's a 5 minute job reassembling your bike in the arrivals hall at the other end and you can just ride away - no taxi touts, box storage logistics etc. Even when the bike's prepared for its journey you can still wheel it around with the panniers on, rather than messing about with trolleys.
Pete Jones, January 22, 2000
Cheers Pete Jones
Don't believe the hype www.trackster-man.co.uk