Altitude Profile (915 ft to 1,201 ft)
This track offers an alternative route to visit the Pak Ou caves including some great rural cycling away from the main road. If you time it right (i.e., leave early) you will see many kids on their way to school on single-speed bikes. There are several climbs of course, but nothing too steep that you would need to walk, assuming you have decent bicycle fitness. The challenge in this ride lies in the length (although easily be shortened by 12 km - see below). In addition, the condition of some of the roads is not too good (trampled by buffalo and rutted from farm traffic and 4x4s). However, this applies to only a small portion of the roads and overall it is fine. Not suitable to road bikes though, as this ride is ~60% on dirt and gravel roads.
A few additional notes:
1. The second smaller loop (to Pak Ou via Somsanouk) adds about 12 km to the trip and can be omitted without without any smiles-per-miles penalty. It consists of a relatively boring stretch along the main (sealed) road and a bit of a grind along Nam Ou the river to Pak Ou (that segment has some nice views but also one very steep climb). Thus, unless you really want to see the bridge over the Nam Ou river (nice view) and/or want those extra km's and some more climbing, this is easily skipped from the ride by just doing an out and back along the Mekong (shortest option to Pak Ou from the main road); this would bring the total length of this track down to 73km.
2. Once you turn right past the airport on the way back into town, take the first opportunity to move away from the noisy and stinky road, and choose the (bumpy) gravel road along the Mekong. This dirt road is not the best, but will lead you past an interesting mix of shacks, expansive/expensive mansions, and some very nice buddhist temples. This track will lead straight to the bamboo footbridge over the Nam Khan river (7,000 KIP), which ends with a steep scramble up the river bank (a bit challenging with a bike on your neck).
N 19°53.589' E 102°08.334'
N 19°53'35.355" E 102°8'20.076"
N +19.8931544 E +102.138910
N 19°53.591' E 102°08.331'
N 19°53'35.519" E 102°8'19.903"
N +19.8931998 E +102.138862
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