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11 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail South to North Motorcycle Tour in Laos

Champasak, Laos

Discovering Laos Motorcycle Tours

Stretching from the north of Vietnam and traveling right down to what was then Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in the south of the country. In reality, it is not just one trail, but a collection of seemingly thousands of back roads and trails that scythe through the achingly beautiful landscapes of Laos, passing through everything from deep valleys lined with rice paddies to dense jungles far from civilization. It is a truly epic route and for motorcycle riders, a true bucket list motorcycle tour. Come and enjoy it!

Key information

  • Bike: rental bike (Kawasaki KLX300 or Yamaha WRF450)
  • Terrain: mix of asphalt and off-road
  • Mileage: 1,745 kilometers / 1,084 miles
  • Daily rides: 80 - 260 kilometers / 50 - 162 miles
  • Meals: all meals

Highlights

  • Go through fast-paced dirt roads
  • Pass river crossings on small wooden boats
  • Starts in Champasak and ends in Luang Prabang
  • Snake alongside the Nam Kham River as you approach Luang Prabang
  • Take a boat trip through a cave nearly seven kilometres long with your bike
  • Enjoy steep rocky hills, river crossings, and winding dirt roads
  • Meet with members of remote hill tribes
  • 10 nights accommodation

Skill level

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate

Styles


9 riding days
Airport transfer included: Luang Prabang International Airport
Airport transfer included: Pakse International Airport
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Accommodation

During this tour, you will stay overnight at various accommodations along the route including luxury riverside resort with a pool, luxury resort with a pool, luxurious riverside resort, guesthouses, town hotel, private campsite with individual tents, beautiful hilltop cottages (each equipped with open wood fires and surrounded by pine tree forest), and luxury hotel with a pool.

Ride Expeditions uses excellent quality accommodations where they are available. In the smaller towns and villages, you will stay in the best available accommodation. Please be aware that this can sometimes be quite basic but that is all part of the experience. Ride Expeditions promotes bullying of those that sit on your phones too much. If you are caught on Facebook at the dinner table, it is an instant 5 USD fine that goes towards that night's drinks bill.

Program

SOUTH TO NORTH ITINERARY

Day 1: Champasak

If it’s your first time in this stunning country, arriving in the bustling city of Pakse will be a treat for all your senses, from the beautifully colourful streets to the amazing cooking smells and the noise of the markets. Ride Expeditions will pick you up from the airport and follow the mighty Mekong river through truly stunning landscape all the way up to Champasak. This beautiful riverside resort town marks the start point for your epic adventure, and there will be a chance to cool off in the pool before a delicious welcome meal and a chance to meet your new riding buddies.

  • Accommodation: Luxury riverside resort with a pool
  • Included meals: Breakfast and dinner

Day 2: Champasak - Attapeu (145 kilometer / 90 miles)

It’s the first day of the tour and after breakfast, it’s time to check out the bikes and get them adjusted for the journey ahead. The first part of the day will continue to track the Mekong north away from the town before your first experience of a Laos ferry takes you across the massive river. From there, it’s dirt roads and trails up towards the Xe Pian National Park. You then head on to tiny and twisting local tracks and ox-cart trails through the dense forests to take you to your first overnight stop on the Ho Chi Minh trail. The riding is truly wonderful, but you’ll have to concentrate on the many creek crossings if you don’t want to be the first one to take a dip; but don’t worry, it’s so warm you’ll hardly notice!

  • Accommodation: Guesthouse
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 3: Attapeu - Paksong (230 kilometer / 143 miles)

You start the day with a quick blast along the blacktop to look at an enormous abandoned Russian missile. It’s a stark reminder of the turbulent history of the Ho Chi Minh trail, and great for selfies! After this, it’s onto a wonderful mix of dirt trails that climb up into the hills, and there’s more military hardware littering the side of the trails, from tanks to bomb shells. The trails continue to climb to give astounding views over the forests that cover the rolling hills below, the scars of the battles now hidden beneath the canopies of the trees.

You take a break for a delicious lunch with the local people in Chaleunxai before heading on upwards to over 1300 meters and into the villages of the remote hill tribes that are only seen in the south of this wonderful country. The day continues as you cross a new bridge over a wide river below and pick up the main road towards the wide Bolaven Plateau an on to your evening’s accommodation at a beautifully picturesque and luxurious garden resort. After 230 kilometes, a cool beer is a welcome sight!

  • Accommodation: Luxury resort with a pool
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 4: Paksong - Xepon (255 kilometer / 158 miles)

It’s another long day today, but you’ll start with some tasty coffee grown in the plantations surrounding the resort. You’ll saddle up and travel along a sweeping dirt road to catch up with the indigenous people of the A-Lak tribe whose lives are lived almost unchanged for centuries. It’s an incredible experience.

This area was heavily shelled in the Vietnam conflict, but years after the bombs stopped falling the locals have turned the craters into fishing lakes and pools for the water buffalo or just for the children to play in. Your first river crossing is another echo of the war, as the remains of the bridge wrecked by American bombings still stand on the banks of the now peaceful water.

You’ll splash your way past and on to some fantastic trails, down steep hills, up inclines, through forest creeks, and across every surface from chunky rocks to deep sand. You’ll travel through cool woodland glades and tiny villages and finish your day’s ride crossing the final river of the day on impossibly small wooden boats to reach the town of Xepon.

  • Accommodation: Town hotel
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 5: Xepon - Ta-Oy - Xepon (230 kilometer / 143 miles)

Leave your bags in the room and give your laundry to the concierge as today you're on a circular route that will bring you back to Xepon in the evening. After a hearty breakfast, you head a short way up the road to visit the Laos-Vietnam War Museum, a fascinating display of the weapons of the conflict accompanied by explanations of just how Laos fitted into this terrible war. It’s a sobering experience that ties in the history of the trail that you are following.

After that, you’ll be ready for a bit more riding, so it’s time to jump on the dirt bikes and head due south towards the longest bamboo bridge in the country. But you’re not there to just look; you’re riding over that bad-boy, so buckle up and focus on where you’re going as it only moves up and down and side to side at the same time. There’s still a lot of unexploded bombs on the far side of the river, so you’ll be keeping very firmly to the safe route as you head away and follow a fantastic mix of trails and dirt roads back to Xepon.

  • Accommodation: Town hotel
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

DAY 6: Xepon - Nakhai (240 kilometer / 149 miles)

Leaving the comfort of the Xepon hotel, you’ll be heading straight onto a tough and technical dirt road on the way to Vilabouly, which is one of the biggest sites for the gold mining industry in Laos. Leaving the mines behind, you’ll head onto rocky trails that will lead you through the vast Hin Nam No National park. After this, you enter what Ride Expeditions head honcho, Toby, has dubbed ‘Swiss Cheese Valley’ and you’ll see why straight away.

Having taken another tasty lunch with the local people, it’s a river crossing on those rickety wooden boats again so try not to wobble about too much as we don’t want to be fishing for dirt bikes! The last part of the day is on an unexpectedly smooth and flowing blacktop ribbon that will lead you to your campsite for the night on the banks of the Nam Thern Lake. While you sup on a cold one, Ride Expeditions will fire up the barbecue and you can dine like kings as the sun goes down. Does it get better than this?

  • Accommodation: Private campsite with individual tents
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

DAY 7: Nakhai - Konglor (80 kilometer / 50 miles)

As you’ve been raking up the miles, today is low on the distance and high on the scenery. You’ll leave the tents after a leisurely breakfast and head up a winding track that enters the deep valley that houses the entrance to the massive Konglor Cave. With your bike loaded on the front of your own boat, you’ll float through the stunning seven-kilometer-long river cave all the way through to your support truck that will be waiting with cold drinks.

Suitably refreshed, you might just want to go for a swim in the crystal-clear lagoon and just chill out. If you can drag yourself away, it’s back on the bikes for a short schlep on to your overnight stop at another great riverside resort where dinner and a crackling fire pit is waiting.

  • Accommodation: Luxurious riverside resort
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 8: Konglor - Muang Mok (260 kilometer / 162 miles)

If you like mountains, you are going to love today as you are going to climb high up into the stunning Nam Kading range. The first part of the day is on tarmac, but in the afternoon it’s back to those dirt trails through tiny and fascinating hill villages of Hmong and Khmu. These places are so far off the beaten track that few tourists ever get to witness them, so count yourself truly blessed to be with the warm and friendly people in these remote communities. The trails eventually take you to the small town of Muang Mok hidden in the mountains like an eagle’s eyrie, where you will spend the night. This is something special.

  • Accommodation: Guesthouse
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 9: Muang Mok - Phonsavanh (110 kilometer / 68 miles)

Starting the day high in the mountains, the trails today are truly epic, from sweeping dirt trails and narrow winding tracks as you head towards Phonsavanh. You may have time to call in to the Mines Advisory Group and hear more about the history of the region and their efforts to make the country safe again.

It’s pretty cold in this part of Laos, so you are going to need to wrap up warm for both the ride and the exploring once you get off the bikes. But don’t worry, your night’s accommodation is in tiny little cottages each with their own log fire; a wonderful way to end the day. Phonsavanh is a chilly place, so please remember to pack warm layers for this afternoon / tomorrow mornings ride.

  • Accommodation: Beautiful hilltop cottages (each equipped with open wood fires and surrounded by pine tree forest)
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 10: Phonsavanh - Luang Prabang (195 kilometer / 121 miles)

It’s the final day of the tour, so after stocking up with another great breakfast, you’ll jump on the bikes, drop the clutch, and set out for the trails once more. The trails run alongside the Nam Kham river for mile after mile of epic riding as you head for your destination of Luang Prabang.

As a place to finish the tour, this vibrant and exciting town could not be better. Sitting on the banks on the mighty Mekong and teeming with shops and markets it’s the perfect end point for the tour. You’ll ride into your luxurious hotel, ditch the riding kit, and grab a shower before heading into the may bars in Luang Prabang to celebrate your achievement; 1745 kilometers over ten epic days. You can raise a glass to that.

  • Accommodation: Luxury hotel with a pool
  • Included meals: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

Day 11: Luang Prabang

The following day, if you’re going home straight away, Ride Expeditions will take you on to the airport in Luang Prabang, just a short drive away. If you are meeting up with partners to continue your exploration of the beauty of Laos, then Ride Expeditions will wave you goodbye and look forward to riding with you again.

Skill levels

Beginner

  • Can ride for two to three hours
  • Minimal riding experience
  • Assistance required
  • Comfortable with curves and leans
  • Basic experience with unsurfaced roads
  • Short distance ascents and descents

Intermediate

  • Can ride for three to four hours
  • Average riding experience
  • Little assistance required
  • Comfortable with extreme curves and leans
  • Average experience with unsurfaced roads
  • Steep ascents and descents

Motorcycles

Kawasaki KLX 250 or 300

Ride Expeditions uses the new fuel injected (2013+) models of the ever faithful Kawasaki KLX250, most of which they bore out to 300 cubic centimeters to improve the performance. All of these bikes have been modified with strong handlebars, hand guards, performance exhausts, and fuel controllers or engine control units (ECU’s). This machine is the perfect trail bike to reliably and comfortably take you on an adventure of Cambodia.

Yamaha WR450F

If you are looking for a powerhouse trail bike, it does not get much better than the awesome Yamaha WR450F. Equipped with an astonishingly powerful yet usable motor, the fuel-injected Yamaha has legions of fans all over the world from Brisbane to Baja. For Cambodian tours, the WRF makes light work of the sweeping dirt roads but is precise and controllable in the deep jungle trails, just right for the more experienced off-road rider.

Included excursions

During this holiday, you will visit Phnom Penh, the bustling Russian Market, Killing Fields Memorial or the Genocide Museum, Khone waterfalls, Kong Island, Laos-Vietnam War Museum in Xepon, Konglor Cave, and Mine Advisory Group (MAG) Information Center. You will meet the people of the A-Lak tribe, spot the incredibly rare Irrawaddy dolphins, and take a boat trip through a cave nearly seven kilometers long.

Location

The tour will take place along the Ho Chi Minh trail from Luang Prabang to Champasak and the other way around in Laos. You will go through Attapeu, Paksong, Xepon, Nakhai, Konglor, Muang Mok, and Phonsavanh. For all the beauty of the trail, as it is today, the origins of the Ho Chi Minh trail are far from peaceful. Between 1959 and 1975, the trail provided a vital route for the Viet Cong to transport arms and supplies to help in their resistance to the American forces during the Vietnam war.

Such was the importance of the supply route to the communist forces, the US dropped over half a million tonnes of bombs onto the trail in Cambodia and a staggering three million tonnes in Laos in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to stem the flow of arms to the Vietnamese fighters.

Forty years later, the Ho Chi Minh trail is an altogether more agreeable place to be. It still cuts through the landscape, but where there were bomb-ravaged vistas, there is now mile after mile of stunning sceneries and beautiful tribal villages of friendly and welcoming people. The debris of the war has been recycled, so village huts are supported on enormous bomb casings and spent artillery shells are now pressed into use as flower planters and animal drinking troughs. This is a very special place.

Food

All meals are included in the price. If you do not like rice, noodles, vegetables, or spicy Asian food; you are going to be very hungry for ten days. If you really cannot stomach the idea of going Asian for more than 24 hours, Ride Expeditions will do what they can to cater to you. They will let you know when Western food options are available and where possible provide Western-style lunches such as baguette sandwiches imported meats, cheeses, crisps, and fruits.

While they cannot make guarantees, they will always pass on any dietary requirements to places that you eat. That said for a lot of the tour you will be in rural areas, so trying to explain lactose intolerance is trickier than in a city center wholefood restaurant in Sydney. The food in both countries is both plentiful and delicious, but if there are any ingredients that are going to cause you real issues, let them know.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

Things to do (optional)

Your motorcycle tour up the Ho Chi Minh trail will not disappoint. Riding some of the best tracks in southeast Asia, you will be accompanied and supported by a team of guides, mechanics, and an expedition medic at every moment. When you are not riding bikes on the sweeping and joyful tracks and roads, you will stay in accommodations from luxury hotels with infinity pools to tents in the middle of the Mekong River.

You will see some of the rarest dolphins in the world, take a boat trip through a cave nearly seven kilometers long (with your bike), meet with members of remote hill tribes, and swim in a blue lagoon before sinking a cool beer while watching the sunset.

What's included

  • Bike rental of your choice
  • Western medic riding with the group
  • GEOS search and rescue cover
  • 4×4 support vehicle and spare motorcycle
  • Professional local guides / mechanic(s)
  • 10 nights accommodation as per itinerary
  • All fuel
  • All meals as per itinerary
  • Ride Expeditions' personalised travel app for android and IOS
  • Ride Expeditions' riding jersey
  • Welcome pack
  • Airport pickup
  • Entrance fees / crossings, etc.
  • A percentage of tour profits to a local charity / school
  • 1 tree planted on your behalf

What's not included

  • Personal travel insurance
  • Flights
  • Motorcycle damages - 500 GBP security to be 'held' on your card
  • Optional motorcycle damage insurance: 175 GBP for Kawasaki KLX300 or 199 GBP for Yamaha WRF450
  • Meals not listed in the itinerary​
  • Visa - approximately 30 USD
  • Alcohol
  • Other personal expenses
  • Emergency transportation
  • Protective riding gear: 175 GBP

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please book your flight to arrive at Pakse International Airport (PKZ) and the departure should be from Luang Prabang International Airport (LPQ). Transfer from and to the airport is included. Ride Expeditions will pick you up from the airport.

Airport: Luang Prabang International Airport Airport transfer included: Luang Prabang International Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.
Airport: Pakse International Airport Airport transfer included: Pakse International Airport No additional charges. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 15% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid 30 days before arrival.
11 days / 10 nights
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Availability

Start: Monday January 27, 2020
End: Thursday February 6, 2020

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