A bike trip is more about the journey than the destination. Cruising along the long, open road and being at one with nature is the greatest high of riding. Add to this amazing scenery, exciting routes and great company, and there is no better way to travel than on a motorbike. For the ultimate biker’s bucket list through Southeast Asia, read on.
1. The Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam
This 350-kilometre route in Vietnam’s northern-most province runs along China’s southern border and offers enchanting views of forested hills, limestone peaks, lush green paddy terraces, meandering rivers, valleys and quaint villages. The loop takes about five days to complete and can be tricky, with high peaks and hairpin bends. The roads are also extremely narrow and trail the edge of a cliff. Nonetheless, it is one of the best routes in Southeast Asia and a must-try for bikers. Tip: be sure to plan your trip when the weather is pleasant, typically between March and April or September and October.
2. Ho Chi Minh trail, Vietnam
A favourite among bikers, this legendary trail, which runs through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was built between 1959 and 1975 to provide passage for the Viet Cong to transport arms and supplies during the Vietnam War. There are several ways to attempt this route, depending on how much time you have.
For an authentic experience, you can follow the trail over the mountains into Laos and onto Cambodia. The other option is to not leave Vietnam and follow the trail (now a highway) from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh. This is often said to be the best part of the route. Spanning approximately 1700km, the trail takes about 10 to 11 days to complete and journeys through stunning coastal roads, tiny villages, paddy fields and limestone karst formations. While the roads are pretty mostly decent, there are some muddy and rocky paths to tackle along the way.
3. Mae Hong Son Loop, Thailand
This scenic route through the cool and mountainous region of Northern Thailand, features cascading waterfalls, limestone caves, authentic Thai towns and forests, making it a nice and quieter departure from the country’s more popular islands and beaches. There are two ways to do this loop. Inexperienced riders are recommended to begin their journey from Mae Sariang, which starts them off on a straight and simple route through a stretch of forest and green farmland, before slowly leading up to the misty mountains and on a thrilling ride through 762 winding hill curves. While you’re up amidst the mountains, expect short of sensational panoramic views, a cool breeze, and the sweet scent of pines. Experienced riders, however, can choose to take the more difficult route starting at the heart of the action into the mountains. This loop can be done comfortably in six days, with plenty of villages along the way to rest or put up for the night.
4. The Thakhek Loop, Central Laos
The Thakhek Loop is a 450-kilometre journey that leads you on a long and winding route through mountains, limestone cliffs and farmlands. Its starts out on straight and paved roads but is soon met with dirt, mud, puddles and sharp corners. Bikers can stop by the various caves along the way – like Thame Ene, a kilometre-long cavern with a stream running through it and limestone formations on the walls inside; and the must-see Khong Lor cave, a 50-metre-high caverns with an underground chamber and massive stalactites and stalagmites hanging from the ceiling and series of columns and pillars. If you factor in overnight stays at Thalang Village and Khong Lor, the loop will take you three days to complete.