Leg 6 – Cycling from Huay Xai (Chiang Khong, TH) to Udomxai

From the northern-most border crossing between Laos and Thailand, to a central road junction (Udomxai) in Laos.

From Udomxai it is possible to go anywhere in Laos.

What do I see on this leg? Mountains, small bamboo hut villages. Lots of children shouting ‘Sabai dii’. It is very scenic but the ride is quite hard.

Roads: The roads change between good, paved and bad, unpaved. It changes on a yearly basis (one year; good, next year; bad), so you will have to ask right before you go…The road is reasonably wide the whole way. There were 100’s of people repairing the road while I was riding it, so it might get better.

Is it for everyone? No, I guess not, the hills are rather steep at places. But still you can probably always flag down a truck or a bus, if it gets to hard or the bike breaks down. They can then take you to the next town.

Food and Water: I had great difficulty finding restaurants/food stalls outside the towns I stayed in. I managed to get along with a decent breakfast in the town I slept in and then biscuits for lunch. If you really look for restaurants/food stalls I guess there must be some in the small villages you pass. Water is readily available in the villages (however make sure you have enough for at least 1 hour).
There towns I slept in all had restaurants; not great restaurants but restaurants none the less.

Accomodation: More or less only the towns I slept in. Accommodation is best (price/quality) in the larger towns (Luang Namtha, Huay Xai and Udomxai). In the smaller towns the rooms tend to lose their quality faster than the price falls.

Chiang Khong – Huay Xai, 2km, border crossing

Crossing the border to Huay Xai is easy. Longtail boats sail from Chiang Khong across to Huay Xai from 8 to 16 (I think), and will take you (40Baht) and your bike (40Baht, but I guess this depends on the person selling you the ticket), for this 5 minutes ride. Immigration in Laos is situated at the harbor. You get a 1 month visa for 30 to 42US$ (depending on nationality). Note: remember to get your passport stamped at the harbor in Chiang Khong, leaving Thailand.

There are banks in Huay Xai that can change your US$ or Baht to Lao Kip (on weekdays), and there are exchange booths for when the banks are not open. Thai Bath can be used in most hotels/guesthouses.
I would not rely on getting money from an ATM (There are ATM’s though). It is supposed to be really expensive and you can’t get more than 70US$ worth of Kip at a time.

Huay Xai – Vieng Phoukha, 124km


The road is paved and good the first 60km and the last 20km. The 40kms in between differs between gravel road and paved road.
There are 2 small hills at around 38km and 59km a bigger hill at 80km. The road up the last hill was not paved and really hard to climb.

However there were people working (Chinese actually) on the road and it might improve in the near future.

Food and water: I saw no restaurants in any of the villages I went through. There might be some though, I wasn’t looking hard. I would bring a sandwich from Huay Xai, you can get them wrapped in the restaurants in Huay Xai. Shops selling water was plentiful.

Accomodation in Vieng Phoukha: There are lots. Look for signs (they are in English). I can’t really recommend the guesthouse I stayed at (I can’t really remember the name either).
There were no regular electricity at the guesthouse I stayed at, but they had the generator on from 18-22. Bring a flashlight!
In the morning at 6 or 6.30 a radio (can be heard over all of Vieng Phoukha) started playing and stopped at 7.30. This might be a single occurrence, but it might also happen every day. I was damned annoyed anyway!

Vieng Phoukha – Luang Nam Tha, 64km


The road was paved and good the whole way.

Food and water: Did not see many (if any) restaurants, but it is a short distance. I ate well in Vieng Phoukha before leaving. Shops selling water are plentiful.

Luang Nam Tha – Na Maw (Na Mor), 64km


The first 39km to the t-junction at Na Teuv is paved and flat and nice, and it seems that the road going north to China is equally nice. But the road south to Vientiane is bad, very bad.

The next 28km to Na Maw the road is bad. It changes between bad paving with huge holes and gravel road.

Spot Na Maw by the petrol station in town, it is the only petrol station within 20km on both sides. If you want to go the whole way from Luang Nam Tha to Udomxai in one day, then you should start really early!

Food and water: I saw no restaurants in any of the villages I went through. There might be some though, I wasn’t looking hard. Shops selling water was plentiful.

Accommodation: I don’t think there are any guesthouses between the t-junction in Na Teuv (There are guesthouses in Na Teuv) and Na Maw. I saw 2 guesthouses in Na Maw, both advertise in English, though it is very hard to see. The guesthouse I stayed at (don’t know the name) was basic and expensive at 40000Kip.

Restaurants in Na Maw will serve you noodle soup and I guess that is it K

Na Maw (Na Mor) – Udomxai (Oudom Xai), 54km


The road starts out worse than the road from Luang Nam ThaNa Maw, and this continues until 10km from Udomxai, where the road turns into a paved road again.

The road is unpaved or bad the first 44km and paved and good the last 10km.

Food and water: I saw no restaurants in any of the villages I went through. There might be some though, I wasn’t looking very hard. Shops selling water are plentiful.

Accomodation: I don’t think there are any guesthouses between Na Maw and Udomxai. There are plenty good guesthouses in Udomxai. Look in any guide.

Restaurants in Udomxai has English menus (some of them do anyway) and will serve you a nice alternative to noodle soup. Check out the restaurant ‘Soupalin’ about 50m south of the post office on the same side (Thai and Lao food). This is good food!

3 comments to Leg 6 – Cycling from Huay Xai (Chiang Khong, TH) to Udomxai

  • […] earlier. It was a shorter ride than our general goal of 50 miles, but I had found another biking blog where the author had stayed in this town and the next big stop was a further 30 […]

  • I cycled the same route in March 2013 with my girlfriend, so I can give an update about the road. The whole way from Huay Xai until Udomxai was paved and in good condition.

    Between Huay Xai and Viang Phouka there is one guesthouse in Don Chai, about 70 km from Huay Xai. There’s no guesthouse sign, it’s a simple wooden building by the river with three rooms, managed by the family in the shop next door. The accommodation is basic (shared bath, 50.000 Kip per room), but a good option for people who don’t want to do the whole 120 km from Huay Xai until Viang Phouka in one day. There is also a restaurant in Don Chai, immediately upon entering the village from the west.

    In Viang Phouka we can recommend the Thong Myxai guesthouse, consisting of five bamboo bungalows on the right hand side. The bungalows are basic but nicely situated by the river, one of the cheapest we had during our trip (30.000 Kip for a bungalow), the owner was very friendly and helpful, food was tasty and portions big. No hot water, but each bungalow has a bath, mosquito nets above the beds, electricity and also a fan if I remember correctly.

    In Luang Namtha we particularly enjoyed the Lao herbal sauna and massage. The clientele was mostly local, I think we were the only westerners there that evening. Overall Luang Namtha is the most popular place among travellers on the route, with a large choice of guesthouses, restaurants and other services.

    Otherwise no major things to add. We also stayed one night in Na Mor between Luang Namtha and Udomxai. If I remember correctly there were 3 or 4 guesthouses now and they charged 50.000 for a room – which seems to be the most common rate in basic guesthouses in the countryside at the moment.

  • Andrew Wilson

    We stayed in the sane place in Don Chai, almost opposite the gas station which us aost the market. The owner cooks up fabulous meals.

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