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Having lived and travelled extensively within the region, Chris Greener has racked up some miles on the open road in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Here are five of his favourite road journeys.
From steep mountain passes and scenic rice terraces, to winding coastal roads and picturesque countryside villages, Indochina is home to some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world. Here’s the countdown of my top five journeys that make the most of this unique landscape:
5. Kep to Kampot (Cambodia)
Starting off with one of the smallest journeys. The 20km trip between Cambodia’s coastal towns of Kep and Kampot is one of the country’s most charming and picturesque. Whether by car, tuk tuk or bike you can’t help but stop to gaze over endless rice fields and stilted Khmer villas along the way.
4. Hai Van Pass (Vietnam)
Another short, but no less spectacular, journey; a 19km road connecting Danang with the town of Lang Co in Hue Province, made famous by Top Gear. The presenters called the Hai Van Pass “a deserted ribbon of perfection, one of the best coast roads in the world”. Who are we to disagree? A must for anyone linking the ancient towns of Hue and Hoi An.
3. Ninh Binh to Pu Luong (Vietnam)
With stunning karst formations surrounded by verdant rice fields, Ninh Binh is known as ‘Halong Bay on Land’. Driving here is spectacular, but taking a road trip from here to Pu Luong is unforgettable. The 3.5-hour journey on this 140km road winds past the oldest National Park in Vietnam, Cuc Phong. It then meanders into the mountains of the Pu Luong nature reserve where you are greeted with stunning rice terraces, steep valleys and forest-covered hills as far as the eye can see.
2. Ha Giang to Dong Van (Vietnam)
The northern province of Ha Giang, near the border with China in Vietnam’s far north, has some of the country’s most striking scenery. The drive along mountain passes between Ha Giang & Dong Van, with a mythical combination of conical limestone peaks and deep valleys, is one of the best in Asia. Most of the journey is uphill, past lush green forests, rice terraces and small villages built into the mountain slope.
Finally arriving in Dong Kong, you’ll spot ethnic minority communities dressed in colourful costumes as they work in the fields and town. This part of the world has largely been cut off from the West, and people here lead a simple but happy life. Meeting Westerners doesn’t happen often, so be prepared for locals to be as curious and intrigued by you as you are by them.
1. Na Meo border to Muang Hiem to Nong Khiaw (Laos)
Find this area on Google maps and click on the terrain button; you will see just how drastically mountainous this region in northern Laos is. When travelling along this route, I don’t think my eyes left the window. This road winds up and over a fortress of mountains, hour after hour of endless vistas, karst formations, thick jungle forests and quaint rural villages. To say the road conditions could be improved is an understatement, but the scenery more than makes up for it.
It turns out that sometimes the journey really is the destination. For more information about travelling around Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, get in touch with our team.