Hot and humid are the key words to remember when packing your panniers for Southeast Asia.
The sun is intense and the moist air combined with the heat means you’ll be sweating a lot. Choose lightweight clothes that wick well, preferrably long enough to cover your arms and legs. You’ll see the locals cover themselves too – a much better option than slopping on gallons of sunscreen, which doesn’t stay well applied when you’re sweating. If you don’t wear a helmet, you’ll want a hat to cover your head as well.
It’s easy to pick up things in the markets for a few dollars when you arrive if you can’t find the right clothes at home.
If you choose cycling shorts, still pack a long pair of trousers for visiting wats and wearing around rural towns, which can be quite conservative. For women, a sarong is a good move. Many local women wear long skirts in Laos and Cambodia and modesty will be appreciated there as well as in Malaysia and Indonesia, where Islam is the main religion.
Slightly warmer clothes are also good if you plan to visit some of the mountainous regions of Southeast Asia like northern Laos and Vietnam and the Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos. In these areas, more than 1,000 meters above sea level, there can be frost on the ground in the early morning during the cooler season and evenings are also chilly.