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ABOUT CHINA-VIETNAM-LAOS 2016
November 10-27

Itinerary at a Glance

Day Date Destination Kilometers/Miles
Thurs Nov 10 HONG KONG Arrival 0
Fri Nov 11 ZHAOQING 20/12
Sat Nov 12 WUZHOU 80/50
Sun Nov 13 FU YU CAVE, LIPU 40/25
Mon Nov 14 YANGZHOU 60/40
Tues Nov 15 YANGZHOU 60/40, river cruise
Wed Nov 16 GUILIN 50/30
Thurs Nov 17 PINGXIANG Travel
Fri Nov 18 HANOI, VIETNAM Sa Pa hiking, train
Sat Nov 19 HANOI City tour
Sun Nov 20 MAI CHAU TBD
Mon Nov 21 VIENG XAI TBD
Tues Nov 22 VIENGTHONG 100/65
Wed Nov 23 NHONG KHIAW TBD
Thurs Nov 24 MUNG NGOI Day trip
Fri Nov 25 LUANG PRABANG TBD
Sat Nov 26 LUANG PRABANG City tour
Sun Nov 27 Departure Fly to Bangkok

Note: All meals in China are included beginning with breakfast on November 11. Most meals are included in Vietnam and Laos (see descriptions below)

COMPLETE ITINERARY NOVEMBER 10-27, 2016

DAY 0: HONG KONG ARRIVAL
It's best to arrive by early afternoon so you can meet our group for a quick tour briefing in the hotel lobby and an optional dinner together afterwards. The transfer from the airport to the Hong Kong Park Hotel is easy, either by bus or taxi. Since Hong Kong was a British colony for more than 150 years, all the signs are still in English as well as Chinese and you won't have any trouble finding someone that speaks English. The Chinese government took over in 1997, and the following year we ran our first tour in China. If you come early to see the sights, our hotel in the heart of the Tsim Sha Tsui shopping district in Kowloon, across Victoria Harbour from Hong Kong Island. You can take the historic Star Ferry across and climb Victoria Peak (or take the cog railcars) to the top for stunning views. It's easy to take public transit to see the Giant Buddha and monastery on Lantau Island. [3-star hotel included; no meals]

DAY 1: ZHAOQING

We'll be picked up early by a local guide and shuttled to the train station to depart for Guangzhou at 7:30 a.m. The hotel will provide box breakfasts for us and the train also sells drinks and snacks from a cart. Our Chinese guides meet us as we exit customs in the city of Guangzhou on mainland China. We’ll stop for lunch at a typical Chinese restaurant, then bus to our hotel where we’ll select and adjust our bikes. Our check-out ride will be a scenic 20-km loop around Star Crags Lake. Tonight we’ll get our first taste of Guangdong (Cantonese) food – some of the best cuisine in China. [4 -star hotel; BLD]

DAY 2: WUZHOU
Today's quiet and remote roads make for a memorable day of cycling. The support vehicle will drive us out of the busy town (as they usually do) to begin our 40-km morning ride (about 25 miles) through rolling farmland and bamboo forests. In the afternoon you can pedal another 40 km (or less ... or none). We overnight in Wuzhou, the snake capital of China (but don't worry - you won't see any!). [4 -star hotel; BLD]

DAY 3: LIPU

Our vehicle again takes us out of town, then we cycle about 40 km on a very scenic and hilly road through quaint small villages. In afternoon we ride through a beautiful mountain area and watch farmers working their rice paddies with water buffalo or by hand. We especially wanted to include this rural region for the wonderful opportunity to witness these age-old farming methods, and we'll visit during the harvest. China is rapidly becoming more modern and mechanized, so now is the time to visit! On some of our recent routes in China we've seen firsthand the development of super-highways and construction of large urban areas. In the late afternoon our vehicle will drive us to Lipu, a typical Chinese town in a beautiful setting. [4-star Fu Yu Cave Hotel; BLD]

DAY 4:YANGSHOU
The route today from Lipu to Yangshuo is what many consider to be the highlight of the trip. We’ll ride 60 km (about 38 miles) through rolling countryside dotted with terraced farms and orange orchards. We’ll have a picnic along the way, then cycle through the beautiful surroundings of Yangshuo, with the limestone karsts and mist-covered rivers that have so inspired artists over the centuries. [3-star hotel; BLD]

DAY 5: YANGSHOU
This morning we’ll have breakfast in a local café, then bicycle 30 km (about 19 miles) to Xing Ping for a boat cruise on the Li River. You can watch cormorant fisherman ply their trade, and lunch is in a noodle shop in the small village of Xing Ping. You can either cycle back to Yangshuo or ride in the van, and the rest of the afternoon is free for shopping and exploring. Yangshuo has been compared to Kathmandu, Nepal or Cusco, Peru, with shops selling classical silk paintings, antiques, woodcarvings and a host of other souvenirs. [3-star hotel; BLD]

DAY 6: GUILIN
Breakfast is again at a local café, then we ride 50 km on the back roads around Yangshuo toward Guilin, cycling through more of the region's famous karst topography and beautiful green terraced hills. Incredible photo ops will be plentiful again today! After a picnic lunch along the way, we drive to Guilin for some sightseeing at Elephant Trunk Hill Park and Teacher's University of Guilin. [4-star hotel in the heart of Guilin; BLD]

DAY 7: PINGXIANG (on the China-Vietnam border)
We get an early start after breakfast in the hotel, and transfer by vehicle to Nanning, the capital city of Guangxi province. After lunch in Nanning we'll visit the Guangxi Ethnic Relics Center, an outdoor exhibition featuring relics, ethnic buildings and folk customs of four minorities: Zhuang, Dong, Yao and Miao. Then we continue on our way to Pingxiang, a border town between China and Vietnam and a symbol of Sino-Vietnam Friendship. [3-star hotel; BLD]

DAY 8: HANOI, VIETNAM
After breakfast we bid farewell to our Chinese crew (and Chinese bikes) and walk across the Pingxiang Friendship Pass into Vietnam. We meet our new Vietnamese guides as we exit customs and immigration. Next we're in for a real treat - a hiking (and eating) trip to picturesque Sa Pa. The region of Sa Pa (as well as the town of the same name) is located in the eastern end of the Himalayan chain at an elevation of about 5,000 feet. Just over the border with China, Sa Pa is home to several minority peoples and a rich variety of plant and animal life. Many very rare species are only found in this area. The majority of the land is so mountainous that the crops are grown on terraced fields. We'll hike some great local trails and for lunch we'll sample the famously delicious local cuisine. In the evening we'll return to the border town for dinner on our own and take the night train to Hanoi. [L; train]

DAY 9: HANOI
Today is a full day of sightseeing in Hanoi, one of Asia's most interesting cities. Hanoi is a mix of old and new, and much of the French colonial architecture remains. Even in the bustling urban areas many of the streets are lined with trees. We'll tour the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum, as well as temples and street markets. You'll also be able to visit the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison. Dinner will be on your own, and there will be a myriad of choices near our hotel including a few of Hanoi's famous noodle shops. [BL]

DAY 10: MAI CHAU
Now riding our Vietnamese bicycles, we begin our journey through the rolling hills of northern Vietnam. Steady climbs lead to the final pass and a descent into Mai Chau, set in a lush river valley dotted with stilt homes. The area is populated with a diversity of hill tribes, some of whom still wear native dress. [BL]

DAY 11: VIENG XAI, LAOS
Travel through the Laotian Alps to the Nam Meo border, where we'll get visas and meet our new crew. After the border the terrain is still mountainous as we ride along a river, passing many tribal villages en route. Be sure to stop if you see the delicious lao jerky for sale! Vieng Xai is a sleepy little village surrounded by a huge network of limestone caves, both natural and artificial, that sheltered 20,000 people during the Indo-China and Vietnam wars. Every aspect of village life was hidden underground, including schools, hospitals, markets and military barracks. [BLD]

DAY 12: VIENGTHONG
This will be our most challenging day of cycling, should you chose to ride the entire distance of just over 100 km (about 65 miles) to Nam Noen. A quiet and winding road through the Laotian Alps climbs and descends two 5,000-foot passes, passing a smattering of small villages on the way to Viengthong. Our home for the evening is a small town on the Nam Khan River largely inhabited by a collection of hill tribes, mostly Hmong and "lowland" Lao. [BLD]

DAY 13: NHONG KHIAW
There are several passes to navigate today on another long day of cycling in the Alps, but the scenery will be spectacular. We'll ride through jungles, lush green hills and two forested national parks. We descend on a beautiful winding road along a river valley. Our destination, Nhong Khiaw, is a picturesque northern outpost on the banks of the Nam Ou River that has recently been discovered by backpackers. [BLD]

DAY 14: NHONG KHIAW (MUNG NGOI day trip)
Today we'll take a day tour to remote and picturesque Mung Ngoi and surrounding villages. During the war people in this area also hid in caves because of intense bombing, emerging only at night to work outside. Mung Ngoi was controlled by Communists before 1975. [BLD]

DAY 15: LUANG PRABANG
Follow the Mekong River valley today with a more forgiving terrain. Along the route we'll stop at one of the caves by the river that's filled with images of Buddha and is a sacred place of worship for the local people. Luang Prabang, the finish location for the tour, is one of Asia's gems and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This lovely setting, at the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, is surrounded by tall jagged peaks. [BLD]

DAY 16: LUANG PRABANG (city tour)
You can sleep in this morning or rise at dawn to witness the traditional alms presentation by monks passing through town. There are countless sightseeing opportunities in the city, and you can cap off your day by wandering through the night market before dining on delicious Lao food. [BL]

DAY 17: DEPART FOR BANGKOK
After breakfast we'll say farewell to our guides and depart on the short flight to Bangkok and our connections for home. Or stay a few days to explore this fascinating spot on your own. [B]

Our Our Asia tour is in partnership with Grand China Bike Tours

ON THE ROAD

On our Asia tours there's a seat for each participant in the support vehicles, so you can ride as much or as little as you want. Even non-cyclists can enjoy the sights from the van, which travels the route and stops at all the same attractions. We ride on the right side of the road, American-style. In Hong Kong vehicles drive on the left; even though we won't be doing any cycling, as pedestrians we'll have to look right and not left before we step off the curb! The roads we travel were selected to be the quietest and most scenic possible. Sometimes we'll see roadside shrines or quaint buildings or interesting farming techniques, all making excellent photo opportunities. The children are wonderful, and we might be lucky enough to ride through a village when school is letting out for lunch. The kids on bikes ride with us, and they all like to practice their English, calling out hellos. Many of the highways are well paved with generous shoulders, but we'll ride mountain bikes. They really come in handy when we encounter construction or rough roads. And there have been times when we rode a dirt path to a village or a side road filled with potholes.

ACCOMMODATIONS & FOOD

Our hotels in China are very nice, and some are downright luxurious. For the most part we overnight in the larger cities where we can find accommodations with three- and four-star ratings. A couple of hotels are in scenic resort areas. They all have amenities galore, including all your typical toiletries plus toothbrushes/paste, combs and paper slippers. There's always bottled drinking water and a "hot pot" to boil water for tea, tooth brushing or filling bike water bottles. If your room doesn't have a hair dryer you can request one from the front desk or housekeeping, and they even have electric adapters to loan. In Vietnam and Laos it's largely the same except when we're in the most remote mountainous region. There our accommodations are more rustic, but they will always be clean.

The beauty of this trip is that we travel through several regions, each with a different cuisine, and we get to enjoy them all! The food will be varied, delicious and abundant. Breakfasts are usually served buffet style at the hotel, with both western and Asian foods. The choices are mindboggling at first, but you'll soon be a pro. After a few days you'll move through the vast array of platters and chafing dishes with speed and confidence. Our dinners will often be at a local restaurant, and we'll dine at round tables with a lazy Susan for the copious amount of dishes they serve. Just when we think we can't possibly eat another morsel, out comes another dish or two. It's a long-standing tradition in China that the steamed rice is served last so the host doesn't appear to be filling his guests up so they'll eat less of the expensive meat dishes. Even though we get some strange looks, sometimes we ask for our rice to be served with the rest of the food, American Chinese style.

LOGISTICS

Instead of a round-trip flight, you'll get an "open jaw" ticket. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) is your arrival destination and at the end we'll fly you to Bangkok for your departure flight. All the info you need will be provided in your tour packet.

HEALTH

The CDC currently lists no absolute requirements for inoculations, but you'll want to talk to your doctor or HMO travel desk about 6 months before departure. Typhoid shots and Hepatitis A vaccine are recommended, and the latter is a series of injections over several months. You'll need to be current with all typical vaccines like tetanus, and flu shots are recommended. Some people take malaria drugs, as we're in areas of "limited risk." Your tour packet will go into greater detail.

CLIMATE & WEATHER AVERAGES

 
Hong Kong
Guangzhou
Wuzhou
 Guilin
 Sa Pa
 Hanoi
Luang Prabang 
Ave high temps
83
82
85
79
68
82
89
Ave low temps
75
70
65
62
55
72
69
Ave rain in Nov
4.7"
2.5"
1.7"
2.6"
7.5"
5.8"
3.1
Elevation in feet
80'
25'
390'
500'
5000'
20'
1000'

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