6 Best Bike Routes in Southeast Asia
Boasting everything from well-paved roads to small rural bike trails, this region is almost as awash in excellent biking as it is smiling faces and delicious food.
Below I’ve rounded up six of the very best places to cycle in Southeast Asia (at least in my humble opinion), divided into categories based on the geographic and cultural sites on offer along the way.
2 Mountains, 2 Rivers and 22 Temples
1. Doi Suthep, Thailand
Waking up at sunrise and biking up the hill to the perfectly placed temple of Do Suthep in Chiang Mai is one of the best ways to enjoy this city.
It’s a great 12-km bike ride uphill but not overwhelmingly steep. Often you will be biking with some locals, as it’s a common “before work” activity.
Another advantage is early arrival to Doi Suthep, which can get pretty crowded with tourists during the day. At this time, it’s just locals and pretty serene.
Check it out on Day 6 of our Myanmar to Thailand Active Expedition.
2. Hai Van Pass, Vietnam
A fantastic hill climb we offer on most of our trips to central Vietnam is the Hai Van Pass, or Ocean Cloud Pass.
This road used to be the only way from Danang to Hue and was graded for large trucks and tour buses, so it’s not too steep and has nice asphalt.
About 10 years ago they built a major tunnel through the mountain, which the trucks and buses now use, so one of Vietnam’s least pleasant roads to drive on became one of its best bike rides. It’s about 16 km up and 16 km back down, and pleasure the entire way.
Check it out on Day 4 of our Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City Biking trip.
3. Perfume River, Vietnam
Hue is home to the sites of imperial Vietnam, including the Vietnamese version of the Forbidden City and many tombs of various emperors, which are located around the countryside surrounding the city.
In order to link up the sites in an interesting way we include a great cruise up the Perfume River. Starting in the morning we bike past family tombs and skirts the walls of the Forbidden City, finishing at Tien mu Pagoda.
From here we board our boat and have a light lunch on board while cruising upriver to the riverside tomb of Ming Mang, after which you can do a long bike ride or take a short drive to the hotel.
Check it out on Day 2 of our Vietnam Biking trip.
4. Thu Bon River, Vietnam
Hoi An is a gem. A charming town, with great restaurants, pedestrianized town centre, impressive local market and surrounded by interesting, low-traffic, flat biking.
Over the years we have perfected our rides here, continually getting off the beaten track.
My favorite adventure involves taking a local ferry across the Thu Bon River right from the central market. We board the ferry with all the school kids and local market vendors and cruise about 10 minutes to the other side.
From here we ride past rice paddies, drying rice paper and mended fishing nets for 30km before looping all the way back to Hoi An.
Check out this ride on Day 3 of the Vietnam Family Adventure.
I’m pretty sure if you combine the two rides below you’ll pass at least 22 temples – but feel free to try it for yourself and check my math! You can experience both rides on B&R’s Indochina Active Expedition.
5. Grand Circuit, Cambodia
Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world and a site to behold, but travellers are often surprised to learn there are tons of temples around the area.
My favorite ride starts at Bayon Temple in the heart of Angkor Thom and heads north before making a large loop back towards town.
Along the way you pass many temples and can stop for a visit or just enjoy the ambiance by biking past. My favourite of the temples is Preah Khan, which was recently restored by our friends at the World Monuments Fund.
You can enjoy this ride (and many others in Siem Reap!) on the Cambodia Biking trip.
6. Across the Nam Khan in Laos
I consider Laos to be Asia’s undiscovered paradise.
There aren’t many tourists here, the people are kind, the Buddhist legacy is strong and interesting, and the colonial architecture is dilapidated and romantic.
My favourite ride in Laos is one I often do when I arrive with travellers on a morning flight. We jump on our bikes just after baggage claim and bike straight from the airport.
Crossing the tranquil Nam Khan river on a bikes-only bridge, we head into town and ride past the many temples for which the town is famous, including the gilded Wat Xieng Thong. I like to stop at Wat Mai for a talk on Lao Buddhism.
This ride is featured on many of our Laos trips, including Laos Biking.