I attempted to gather in one place a few practical tips for those willing to visit South-East Asia by bike. Please, bear in mind, that that is my subjective point of and personal experience only.
It will be about “four countries” Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia. since I have already talked about Burma in a separate blog entry. Here is a ma of my route in this region “kindda complicated” and – very general.
I go to Southeast Asia for the first time - which country to choose having 2-4 weeks?
I would recommend Thailand. This is for me the perfect blend of Asian exoticism with, let's call it.. reality. The roads are good, gas stations frequent accompanied with small markets and toilets, you can buy something cold to drink or just wash yourself, not to mention the fact that it can be a place for stealth camping. Guesthouses often called here resorts can be found almost everywhere are clean and nice, mostly with air conditioning, mosquito net in the window, TV (if needed) and it is all included in the price 5-12 USD for a double room. The food at the street stalls in this part of Asia is fabulously cheap and my favorite dish for lunch or dinner that is (sticky rice), a piece of grilled chicken and a salad of green papaya called som tam I used to pay about 2-2,5 dollars. fried rice costs about dollar.
It's safe ! But remember, that large cities such as. Bangkok and very touristy places are different - generally one always needs to be more careful.
The worst downside of driving in Thailand are stray dogs. There are lots of them and they are aggressive, when it starts to chase you I recommend to stop and make a move, as if you was taking a stone from the ground (or throwing it). it helps. In other countries of the region I did not have much problem with dogs.
When to go?
The best would be in the dry season, between November and February, When the temperature is about. 25- 30 degrees (though as I write this region is hit by low temperatures that fell down to 10-15 degrees) and almost no rains fall. Since March the heat wave is coming, felt especially inland, They are hard to bear, in April and May they were killing me - you can effectively spoil your holiday this way. The rainy season starts from June and September is the month with the greatest amount of precipitation. And precipitation in that area is a wall of rain, Although as with the weather – you never know. I know travellers cycling in September, which statistically has the largest amount of rainfall – apparently there were downpours, but short. Rainfall, however, may prevent you from getting to certain areas, where there are no asphalt roads for example. eastern Cambodia.
A major problem in northern Thailand and Laos is burning of forests, that takes place from February to April. Do not take with me as an example and give up your trip there just at this time of a year, as the sky is covered by smoke, the so-called. haze, can be problems with breathing and visibility is close to nothing – already in the morning the sky looks as if the sun was setting. Blue sky missing – as for example, in Luang Prabang.
What to bring?
No, you will not find a full list of things to take, everyone certainly has its own set, but such, which should not be forgotten:
It will be hot! I suggest you take:
– a few t-shirts - up to you how many, You can wash them everywhere - if not where you stay for the night. you can do it at petrol stations and wear it wet - it gets us a while cooler and T-shirt and it will soon dry up. Personally I cannot wear typical cycling clothes in Asian superhumid climate, it nearly burns me.. I would recommend cotton or linen, but the thinnest possible and preferably with medium or long sleeves.. cover your arms and body as sun can cause problem. It is better to lie on the beach for two hours if ou dream of a great suntan. Moreover, it is better to adapt to local customs - women rather cover themselves and men do not go around with naked torso.
– Sweatshirt and pants with long trouser leg - the mountains are much colder. several degrees (in North Vietnam even less), necessary to travel by plane or by train with strong aircon
– or flip-flops - bring or buy on site. To walk around or enter showers – mandatory
– head protection - helmet, cap and the best hat with brim. As you can not get at home you buy it on the spot
– shoes meaning SANDALS. For me it had to be a typical open sandals with hard sole - unfortunately in my favorites Keen shoes with a covered toe I was also too hot. And inversely to flip - flops - it is hard to buy good shoes apart from maybe a few major cities in Thailand. In covered shoes I would die from the heat.
– sunscreen with a large filter, for example,. 30 or 50 .. it goes to you men as well !!! - I used just 50 . I recommend that you buy the lotion at home, since one I could get without a problem only in Thailand – in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia it was a problem.
– Rain cover – I suggest instead a waterproof rain jacket buy a raincoat for a dollar in any roadside shop - will be more efficient and lighter
– other like swimsuit, towel and if you want to have cup of tea or coffee each morning (like i do) take a cup and small water heater.
Shall I take a tent and camping equipment?
It depends on what is your trip like, what do you like, where and how you will be on road. I do not know if I would take on the camping equipment 2-3 on a 2-4 weeks trip. to Thailand, I think in general 80 percent of the cyclists in that area is travelling light and stays at a guesthouses or hostels. On the other hand, – if you you like to sleep in nature, for example national parks in Thailand (there are more then 100) of them - in the mountains or at the coast – This great after place. They have always designated areas for camping, and it is often possible to rent a tent on site.
Stealth camping the situation differs – do not expect in this part of Asia or European nature meadows (There are rice fields) forest means jungle – you will not enter. You can ask people to put a tent close to the house, it should not be a problem or you can find another secluded corner, like old dry rice paddies. Not that difficult if you want it, but sometimes you have to try hard.
As for me, the easiest way to find this type of sleeping places was in Thailand (though often the stray dogs barked and I had to leave, but I got lots of help even from the police) and in Laos, where like addicted I stayed in schools or beside them,. In the morning though be sure they you will find you… 🙂
Shall I take vaccinations?
It is also up to you. AS for me when it comes to health issues I am cautios – before starting my journey I visited the doctor of tropical diseases, and took these vaccinations he suggested . And since I was not able to determine where I will travel exactly I was to take quite a few vaccinations. Vaccination is a big expense and the process should start like 6 weeks before departure, the day of vaccination I recommend not to plan much for the evening - I felt very bad, but in the morning it was ok. You would definitely consider vaccination against rabies since you are likely to meet stray dogs and monkeys , animals tend to be aggressive.
What with antimalarial protection?
As in other areas I recommend using your common sense. In South-East Asia malaria happens to be, but only in some areas (rather, mountain and not touristy) and surely every trip is different. You'd better google the map of malaria areas in the world and compare with your route-the risks are mainly mountain areas such as. in Burma. I highly recommend the information for this topic on Tomek Michniewicz.
How it was in my case? I had not, heard of one case of malaria during my stay in Asia - that means I have not met anyone, who got sick or met someone else, who got sick - but maybe that's just a coicidence. There is also a theory, which says, that the local people will warn you, if there have been cases of malaria in the areaand I stick to this one. I began to worry a little and explore the topic, when I was cycling through the province of Yunnan in China and read in the guide, it was a very malarial place and I had some red blisters on my legs (imagination works). After coming back home I had malaria test done and I know for sure, I'm ok.
Definitely I would not invest money into buying drugs like. Malarone if you plan to cycle just Thai coast. I think as well, that is medical marketing mostly. Very heavy for your pocket.
Shall I take a mosquito net - I did not have any and do not think, that it was needed. The guesthouses and hostels have net in windows, a tent (the inner part) has its own too.
I do not recommend buying specifics against mosquitoes at home - a lot cheaper and equally effective you can buy on the spot for the equivalent of more than a dozen gold.
I generally I remembered about using antimosquito spray, when he was already bitten. But do not I have experienced some spectacular ailments because of this (the fact is -I cycled mainly in the dry season, which is November - May).
Real is catching on extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis that is denga fever.
Paper maps, navigation
I would recommend to buy maps at home - in South-East Asia you can find them (that, except maybe Thailand, where they are available in roadside shops at petrol stations) it only in larger cities such as. Laos- Vientiane, Luang Prabang and they are really expensive (ok 50 12 USD). Anyway, you can use them to plan your route only, because they are not very accurate, but certainly will help you plan your trip. I went on just on google maps, which help me find small roads or find myself in big cities, but they are not the ideal solution. GPS I never used, I do not have any.
No worries-wifi there reached J will in most establishments, and if you're going to stay in a tent on the Mekong, I recommend buying a local SIM card and take care of the appropriate limit data - I just did. It cost about 10-15 USD per month.
On the issue of visas, the situation changes, therefore in the first place to look for information on the official stornach embassies and the MINISTRY of FOREIGN AFFAIRS. Now in each of the countries of South-Eastern Asia, the Poles need visas. The best is to make them in your home country, although in the case of Cambodia and Laos visa can develop at the border. Remarkably manufacturing recommend a visa in advance if you are planning a long stay in Thailand - at the entrance mainland (or as cyclists frequently enter) You can stay in the country only 15 days, Inlet plane 30 days, kneaded embassy visa allows you to stay two months.
I recommend also to find yourself in the net itself what it przemyślne ways to misuse the money apply to Cambodian border crossings (Double-inflated fee for a visa, false "research" medical etc., fee for filling in the form) - Remedy for this is to develop e-visa online.
What to Vietnam only one tip - that the border guard depends on how long it will grant visa. I got three months (I asked the border guard), though I escaped from Vietnam after 3 weeks, while my colleagues crossed the border together, every (Spaniard) He received a visa months, Others (Hindus) three months. A month was not much time to proceed through the entire length of Vietnam (more than 2000 km distance).
I hope, Although a bit helped. Something I forgot? Do you have other questions or experience?
Browse through the my travel Essentials – Or is there something, what did not you think? Either I did not think?
Have a nice journey!