Ninh Binh to 4.000 Islands: 10 Things to Do When Cycling in Southeast Asia

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Cycle in Halong Bay on Land in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

There are many options to explore Asia and cycling is one of the best ways to learn more about this fascinating part of the world. It offers a slower pace, allows you to easily step off for a closer inspection, makes you hear, smell and see better the sights along the way, and is the perfect immersion in the local culture and landscapes. But what’s the difference between all the places and what are the best things to do in Southeast Asia? We’ve listed 10 places for you that are definitely worth your visit and are in the top things to do when cycling in Asia.

 

  1. Luang Prabang

The laid-back village of Luang Prabang is great for slowing down

The laid-back village of Luang Prabang is great for slowing down

Where?

Laos – In Northern Laos in a valley where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers meet on a small peninsula.

What?

Luang Prabang is one of the most picturesque cities in Laos where you won’t find any high-rise buildings.

Why?

Laos is regarded as the hidden gem of Indochina and Luang Prabang is at its heart. Cycling out of a countryside of limestone karst mountains, the mighty Mekong River, tiny settlements inhabited by hill tribe minorities, rice terraces and dusty roads you’ll slowly arrive in Luang Prabang. What you’ll find? A completely low-rise city with white buildings and terracotta roofed houses and many ancient Buddhist temples. Monks in orange robes walk the streets, no pollution or traffic jams, and the calmness of the local Lao people present all around you. Explore the city by bicycle, take a longer ride to the Kuang Si Waterfalls, relax by the riverfront or go on a bicycle ride to see some of the handworks in the villages surrounding Luang Prabang.

Cycling holidays that take in Luang Prabang

  1. Inle Lake

The famous leg rowers of Inle Lake is a thing to see in Southeast Asia!

The famous leg rowers of Inle Lake is a thing to see in Southeast Asia!

Where?

Myanmar – On the foot of the Shan Hills in the mid-east of the country on about the same latitude as Chiang Mai in Thailand.

What?

The second largest freshwater lake in Myanmar known for its famous leg-rowing fishermen.

Why?

The lake is a major source of food for the local Burmese, which gives us visitors a fantastic insight in the way people live. Unmistakably connected to the leg rowers who you can spot fishing in the early mornings, waterways to travel between villages, and floating gardens with tomato, cucumber, and aubergine are just some of the things to see here in Southeast Asia. There’s a daily market that rotates between villages around Inle Lake and the way people built their houses on stilts is ingenious.

The downhill bicycle ride from Heho Airport to Inle is a fantastic way to arrive in this must-visit part of Myanmar. On your way to Inle Lake’s gateway village of Nyaung Shwe you can pay a visit to the wooden monastery which features beautiful carvings and a collection of Buddha images.

Cycling holidays that take in Inle Lake

  1. Cu Chi Tunnels

Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon in Vietnam for historical an insight ©jo.sau

Visit the Cu Chi Tunnels near Saigon in Vietnam for historical an insight ©jo.sau

Where?

Vietnam – Just outside Ho Chi Minh City about 2 hours driving upstream the Saigon River.

What?

A network of underground tunnels, hideout rooms, kitchens and information on the defense methods of the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War.

Why?

The Cu Chi tunnels are part of a nationwide network through which the Viet Cong navigated during the war. It’s an important part of the war legacy and gives you a good insight in what life must have been like around 1970. You can enter one of the very narrow tunnels and test how far you can walk. The Cao Dai temple in close proximity is a colourful stop to add and the cycling ride to the tunnels takes you through rural villages and farmland with corn, rice and various fruits.

Cycling holidays that take in the Cu Chi Tunnels

  1. Angkor Temples

Where?

Cambodia – Just outside of Siem Reap and scattered in the countryside of Cambodia. Everywhere actually.

Angkor Wat should be on the top of your list of things to do in Southeast Asia

Angkor Wat should be on the top of your list of things to do in Southeast Asia

What?

Ruins of the most important temples of the Khmer Empire that flourished in this part of Southeast Asia from the 9th to 15th century and are in a remarkably good condition.

Why?

The Angkorian temples where deserted and forgotten for long and literally overtaken by the jungle until Henri Mouhot wrote about them accompanied by detailed sketches in 1868. They were incredibly important in the times they were build and it’s unbelievable how well they have been preserved. Our favourite temples are Angkor Wat (the most important and impressive temple), Tha Prohm (known because of a tree growing out of it), Banteay Srei (made out of red stone), Bayon (known as the face temple), and Phnom Bakheng for its magnificent views from the top.

Cycling holidays that take in the temples of Angkor

  1. Battambang

Take a ride on the bamboo train in Battambang - Things to do in Southeast Asia ©oldandsolo

Take a ride on the bamboo train in Battambang ©oldandsolo

Where?

Cambodia – Southwest from Siem Reap, in the middle between the Tonle Sap Lake and the border with Thailand.

What?

The second biggest city in Cambodia after Phnom Penh and the former hub for trade with other Southeast Asian countries steeped in history

Why?

Why? There’s many reasons! The relaxing riverfront with some great restaurants on stilts for a slow afternoon of reading or chatting. The nearby Angkorian temple of Phnom Banan, the laid-back colonial feel of the town. The acrobatic circus of Phare Ponleu Selpak where underprivileged youth are given education and learn new skills. The more historically interesting temple and killing cave where the Khmer Rouge used to rule. Wineries, the 1960s architecture of the Battambang train station and the Pepsi plant, and of course the famous ‘bamboo train’ on which a ride should definitely be taken.

Cycling holidays that take in Battambang

 

  1. Ninh Binh

Where?

Vietnam – About 2-3 hours driving southwards from Vietnam’s capital Hanoi.

Cycle in Halong Bay on Land in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Cycle in the Halong Bay on Land in Ninh Binh, Vietnam

What?

Referred to by many as the Halong Bay on land, this is the Red River Delta surrounded by rice paddies and gigantic limestone karst formations.

Why?

Cycling around Ninh Binh you’ll be looking up to the high and imposing rock formations. The temperatures are pleasant as you cycle through a quiet landscape to witness rural Vietnamese life. This is also the area where Dinh and early Le dynasties settled in the 10th & 11th centuries. Today you can still visit their ancient capital and some of their remaining temples. The backroads lead you further to Bich Dong Pagoda from where you have stunning views over the countryside.

Cycling holidays that take in Ninh Binh

 

  1. Wat Phou & 4.000 Islands

Where?

Laos – All the way in southern Laos around the borders with Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Wat Phou in Southern Laos is in close cycling distance of the 4.000 Islands

Wat Phou in Southern Laos is in close cycling distance of the 4.000 Islands

What?

A UNESCO protected temple complex that was built by the Khmer people in Angkorian times and a wider section of the Mekong River dotted with thousands of small islands.

Why?

The temple of Wat Phou is a fantastic stop and definite highlight when cycling through Laos. Step off your bike on the bottom of the complex and walk your way up to finally admire the stunning view of the surrounding countryside you came cycling through. The temple ruins are very well preserved and the detailed carvings of Apsara dancers, flowers, and daily-life scenarios are definitely a thing to do in Southeast Asia. The 4.000 islands (also known as Si Pan Done), of which some are inhabited and others deserted, offer a true and honest insight of the lives a rural Laotian lives. Quiet sandy beaches, local temples, rice paddies and tiny villages together with the legacy of French colonial times (there’s an old railway track and hospital for example) make for an interesting part of Southeast Asia to visit.

Cycling holidays that take in Wat Phou and the 4.000 Islands

 

  1. Bagan

Where?

Myanmar (Burma) – In the middle of Myanmar, on the Ayeyarwaddy River

Things to do in Southeast Asia? Cycle in Bagan for a day!

Things to do in Southeast Asia? Cycle in Bagan for a day!

What?

Temple-dotted ‘Valley of the Kings’ (known from those picture perfect postcards with balloons flyer over the landscape and amazing sunrises).

Why?

Bagan must definitely be high on your list of things to do in Southeast Asia. Cycling is the best way to take in the enormity of the area and diversity of the temples. Stop at the ones you like for a wander around. Perhaps you can discover ancient religious murals inside, a hidden Buddha statue in a dark corner, or find a local craftsman working on his latest sand painting on the top level of the pagoda. Dotted with peanut plantations, acacia trees and sand paths that the kings from bygone times have travelled before you – this is one of the best things to do in Southeast Asia.

Cycling holidays that take in Bagan

 

  1. Koh Yao Noi

Island and fishermen life on Koh Yao Noi in Thailand ©arileu

Island and fishermen life on Koh Yao Noi in Thailand ©arileu

Where?

Thailand – South Thailand just off the shore of Phuket

What?

A little island in the Andaman Sea with beaches as you’ve seen them in commercials for Thailand

Why?

It is as if time has stood still on this small island in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay. Quiet fishing villages along the shore, beautiful white sandy beaches, stretches of coconut and rubber plantations, and lush green patches dot the island. It makes for a great day out cycling to experience rural Thai life, and if you pay attention carefully, you may even spot a wooden pick-up taxi crisscrossing the island!

Cycling holiday that takes in Koh Yao Noi

  1. Kep & Kampot

Try some of the delicous fresh crab when visiting Cambodia's Kep ©james_antrobus

Try some of the delicious fresh crab when visiting Cambodia’s Kep ©james_antrobus

Where?

Cambodia – Southern Cambodia along the coast just south from capital Phnom Penh

What?

Two charming coastal villages within easy reach from Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh

Why?

Kep is known for its crab market and daily fresh crabmeat that you can enjoy on the waterfront while the name Kampot may sound familiar for its world-renowned black pepper. Both cities were a favourite weekend escape for Phnom Penh’s elite in the 1940-60s when they built their summer villas – the architecture of which most remain until today. Kampot’s riverfront offers for relaxing strolls and nice restaurants while the beach of Kep and its nearby Rabbit Island (Koh Tonsay) make for another relaxing break.

Cycling holidays that take in Kep & Kampot

 

Sounds like a thing you’d be interested to do on your next Southeast Asia visit? We offer a large range of cycling holidays in Southeast Asia to countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and many more. You can find our complete overview of cycling holidays in Southeast Asia here, or get in touch with our travel experts for more detailed information.

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