Vietnam, Laos, Thailand · 99 Days · 131 Moments · October 2018

2019 Hanoi to Chiang Mai


31 January 2019

28 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 97.2 miles, 7,118 feet climbing (strava) Total: 1,335.9 miles, 160,846 feet climbing (strava) We had planned on clearing the two passes into Chiang Mai and only do 60 miles, and then a nice easy 40 mile into Chiang Mai, but there was massive road construction so we just rode the whole way.

27 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 62.8 miles, 2,537 feet climbing (strava) Total: 1238.7 miles, 153,728 feet climbing (strava) My only flat of the whole trip was an avoidable pinch flat. I was too lazy to fill my rear tire even though I knew better. I had 28c size tires which was a bit of a gamble. There were a few days where 28 was too small but overall I’d do the same thing. Another reason to pack light.

26 January 2019

Cory and I were both not yet recovered from long days in the saddle so we decided to take a boat ride down the Kok River to Chiang Rai.

25 January 2019

Took a short ride up the Kok River to check out the border. The kids said we couldn’t cross the gate.
Distance/Climbing Summary: 66.7 miles, 3,549 feet climbing (strava) Total: 1175.9 miles, 151,191 feet climbing (strava) Have had a mild stomach issue since Laos, and still feeling slightly weak. Took a nice pleasant ride to Tha Ton. Tha Ton straddles the Kok River and is within a rooster’s call from Myanmar. We found a quiet place to rest on the river, below a large wat (temple). https://strava.app.link/VdvzIl1Q0T

24 January 2019

24 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 50.9 miles, 2,423 feet climbing (strava) Total: 1109.2 miles, 147,642 feet climbing (strava) Golden Triangle opium museum.
Scrap metal from Laos being dropped off in Thailand.

23 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 80.1 miles, 5,050 feet climbing (strava) Total: 1058.3 miles, 145,219 feet climbing (strava) Got a bit turned around in some rice paddies today.

22 January 2019

The market vendors all had their products lovingly arranged this morning and every morning. They start at 3 am and by 9 am, everything is completely packed up until the next morning.

21 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 70.5 miles, 8,382 feet climbing (strava) Total: 978.2 miles, 140,169 feet climbing (strava) Today was the hardest bicycling day for all of us. We had done farther days with more climbing but we think it was the very steep pitch of the roads. Maybe it was just fatigue from previous days.
The struggle was real

20 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 63.3 miles, 8,779 feet climbing (strava) Total: 907.7 miles, 131,787 feet climbing (strava) Between Laos and Thailand border control.
There is a new lignite mine (dirtier coal) and power generating plant in Hongsa Laos. Picture from the night before and above power plant the next morning.

19 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 61.3 miles, 12,028 feet climbing (strava) Total: 844.4 miles, 123,008 feet climbing (strava) The best word to describe today’s road would be malicious. None of us crashed but I had a Hail Mary save and not sure how I didn’t go down after the front wheel went sliding. It was a lot of 15-20% grade hills, and the downhills couldn’t be enjoyed because of rim splitting sharp pot holes in corners, and slippery dust and gravel. I need to tighten both brakes after this ride as the pads wore so much because it was necessary to keep them on the entire descents cringing as they overheated. We had intended to get to border but feel far short.

18 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 71.4 miles, 5,132 feet climbing (strava) Total: 783.1 miles, 110,980 feet climbing (strava) We decided to take the smaller road which ran alongside the Mekong, but it was difficult to get reliable information about road conditions. Today’s road went from bad to worse. About 30 miles of dirt sandwich with a 10 mile rotten middle. All fun of course. Enormous dinner of papaya salad (somtum), region’s sausages, and sticky rice.
Mae Nam Khong
This snack stop is also a gas station. The red and yellow liquid in front of my friends is gasoline.
I’m not sure I’m curious enough to learn what this road looks like in the rainy season. I’m guessing the people here resort fully to the Mekong for any transportation further than 100 meters.

16 January 2019

Night market
Meat salad and sticky rice is a local favorite.
Mae Nam Khong

15 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 51.4 miles, 4,099 feet climbing (strava) Total: 711.7 miles, 105,848 feet climbing (strava)
Fruits, vegetables and flying squirrel?
Meme: Backpacker’s of SE Asia.
Daily maintenance.
Luang Prabang isn’t the sleepy place it was 16 years ago. There was a lot of traffic and gritty roads getting into town.
China is building a dam on the Nam Ou. High tension power lines now spoil the emerald mountains and giant trucks scream through the villages day and night.
Hard Core Cory Hardy

14 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 78.3 miles, 11,386 feet climbing (strava) Total: 660.3 miles, 101,749 feet climbing (strava) Ben looking fresh after our most basic night. We found a bed with roof every night, but this place wasn’t much and that was refreshing.
The local kids found us checking out the river.
Roasted banana with fresh baguette lashed to rear bag. No room for Beer Lao.

13 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 65.6 miles, 10,637 feet climbing (strava) Total: 582.0 miles, 90,363 feet climbing (strava) This 11 year old was in charge of the money at dinner.
They say if you follow lust, you will be reborn as a dog. That was making sense at breakfast today.

12 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 69.1 miles, 11,347 feet climbing (strava) Total: 516.4 miles, 79,726 feet climbing (strava) We crossed through border into Laos after 90 minute wait while the officials finished lunch. The border was at the top of a remote mountain range at about 3900 feet with several kilometers between the Vietnam and Laos stations. Today was my most difficult day, but Ben and Cory didn’t seem as tired. Two substantial hills. We ended up getting in at dark (6:30 pm) but probably would have been closer to 4:15 pm. Carrying broom material back to village.
First Beer Lao. Probably not the last.
Vietnam side of the border.
Curious border sights. Goat whiskey? We showed up right after lunch started and had to wait 90 minutes.
Gentleman from Austria 2.5 months into one year trip. He plans to bicycle back to Austria on a more northern route passing through the ‘Stans.
Road on Vietnam side was making me worried about less developed Laos.
Last breakfast in Vietnam. Headed to Muang Khua, Laos.

11 January 2019

10 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 35.5 miles, 5169 feet climbing (strava) Total: 447.3 miles, 68,379 feet climbing (strava) Today was another relaxing rest day. Short ride to Dien Biên Phu with just one substantial hill, but we are all a little sore still. It’s getting warmer. First sunburn.
Coffee is nitro.
More rain! Luckily short day and rest day in Dien Biên Phu

9 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 25.8 miles, 4787 feet climbing (strava) Total: 411.8 miles, 63,210 feet climbing (strava) Today was a relaxing rest day.
This Hmong mom was probably 4’6” tall. She has a baby strapped to her back. I think she has a proud smile. Although the Hmong exist in N. Thailand/Laos, they are often blended in.

8 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 50.9 miles, 9636 feet climbing (strava) Total: 386.0 miles, 58,423 feet climbing (strava) Didn’t feel like 9636 feet of climbing because the road was rolling up and down and it was usually possible to maintain some momentum from the previous downhill. Ceaseless rain all day, but I was only cold a few times after taking breaks. It was pointless to believe in staying dry even wearing rain gear so I just tried to stay warm. Five minutes after arriving at hotel the sky just opened up with violent thunder/lightning and a torrential downpour. Although It would not have been possible to be wetter, I felt lucky I wasn’t in that. I got in the shower with my shoes and clothes on.
This river was our companion all day as well as it’s sister, rain.

7 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 64.5 miles, 8531 feet climbing (strava) Total: 335.1 miles, 48,787 feet climbing (strava) Stunning 10 mile descent to Phong Tho with remnants from storm in the valleys. What you don’t see are the switchbacks with water buffaloes, goat herds, ‘hello’ children, Hmong people, etc..
Torrential downpour. Thunder and lightning. Luckily I ducked in here for coffee seconds before it started. Ben and Cory got caught and rode through the front. Of course that’s a fake frown on Cory. There’s a 36 hour band of wetness from Rangoon, Myanmar to Shanghai, China caused by a tropical storm in the Andaman Sea.
Shedding layers before climbing again.
Coffee break after 14 mile shit eating grin descent before starting next uphill.
Climbing back out of SaPa. A few mortals see Tram Ton pass, fewer bike it, fewer still get to bike it twice. Some tell us we are crazy, but we know otherwise.
Pre-ride group photo.

5 January 2019

Fixing Cory’s wheel. Luckily one of my spare spokes was the correct length.

4 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 62.1 miles, 11,549 feet climbing (strava) Total: 280.6 miles, 40,256 feet climbing (strava) Today we finished our first goal, arriving in SaPa. It was a difficult four days starting with Hanoi traffic and ending with a 14 mile climb up to Tram Ton pass, Vietnam’s highest pass. Cory ended up breaking a spoke on the way up but was still rideable. We were incredibly lucky with the weather being sunny and pleasant. We all had packed for the eventuality of snow.
Water buffalo pho

3 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 55.2 miles, 11,917 feet climbing (strava) Total: 218.5 miles, 28,707 feet climbing (strava) Today’s ride was simple. Start with a steep climb up to 5000 feet and then a long descent. After the pass, there were thick clouds that made the descent cold and wet. Still exhilarating. I didn’t take a picture of the dog trying to eat my leg at the top. Word must travel fast in these mountains.

2 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 84.5 miles, 11,925 feet climbing (strava) Total: 163.3 miles, 16,790 feet climbing (strava) Now we are into the beauty we were hoping for and the hills we feared.

1 January 2019

Distance/Climbing Summary: 78.8 miles, 4865 feet climbing (strava) Amazing breakfast. Amazingly horrible dinner. After a gigantic buffet of all an American bicyclist can eat breakfast at the hotel, we were anxious and excited to finally start bicycling. Leaving old dense Hanoi was a cycle couriers dream riding. Vision filled with amazing sights was sensory overload finding a clean efficient path through the controlled chaos. Unfortunately the Hanoi beauty fairly quickly transitioned into a drab light industrial landscape with plenty of pollution and dusty roads. We decided to take a detour and ended up biking through some mud and directionless village roads, and ended up finding a hotel just short of our goal well long after sunset. Somehow our dinner was a confused jumbled clumsy mess and we ended up eating dog on accident. I think we all felt a little nauseous. We were generously plied with rice whiskey which may or may not have helped. I’m not sure.

31 December 2018

The visa on arrival starts at home. I had previously filled out paperwork and paid a fee to a third party while I was home. A few days later, I received an acceptance letter and more paperwork I filled out, printed and brought with me. I had passport photos created as well. Finally in Hanoi at customs, I saw there were long snaking lines everywhere. I found the visa area is in back facing the many immigration kiosks. I should have just followed the smell of apprehension. At the visa desk an official was being questioned by a young traveller repeated yelling ‘why?’ at him. She had no fear. The official who impressively had an unstressed demeanor, grabs my papers and passport without questions or review, and instructs me to sit. I watched as four men processed stacks of foreign passports ten at a time in some sort of chaotic organizationtion that must make perfect sense to someone. Eventually, my name was called, and I exchanged crisp $25 for my passport and it’s new sticker.
Arrived in Hanoi about 10 pm after a 24 hr + journey and then navigated the final two steps of Vietnam’s visa on arrival process.

28 December 2018

Everything for 32-100 F degrees and a month. Too many hills in the future for taking kitchen sinks along. Plus doing laundry is easier when there is nothing to wash.

24 October 2018

Preparation and training