If time allows (two weeks to 16 days), Offroad Vietnam invites motorbike riders to take this trip and ride North Vietnam in a big loop. You ride close to the border between Vietnam and Laos and Vietnam and China. You start from the low land of Red River delta, head up the mountain range and ride on the mountain roads for many days before coming back to Hanoi. Places you ride through include Mai Chau, Phu Yen, Moc Chau, Son La, Tuan Giao, Muong Lay, Sin Ho, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen, Xin Man, Ha Giang, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Bao Lac, Ba Be, Cao Bang, Quang Uyen, Lang Son and Mau Son. Accommodation is varied, some nights in home stays and some nights in hotels. This is TRULY an amazing trip to see North Vietnam. To make everything happen, just send us your request and we will get back to you very soon.
If you don’t see the video clip below, click here (Special thanks to Mr. Matthew Heskin from Australia).
Booking code: OV43
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau, ~160 km, ~5 hours, (L, D)
Leaving Hanoi on dyke roads to avoid the heavy traffic and breaking out of the delta plains we pass through endless limestone karst scenery as we travel south through “Perfume Pagoda” country and extensive farming lands comprising a sea of paddy fields split by tree-lined roads. Striking northwest and over two passes, finally dropping down to the mountain valley settlement of Mai Chau. Here we stay overnight with friends of the White Thai minority in a traditional stilt house. In the evening, after feasting, we can enjoy a cultural show of Thai dancing and a range of special local liquors. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Phu Yen. ~140 km, ~5 h (B, L, D)
Head to Moc Chau and turn to the less travelled Road 43 leading to the Da River. After crossing the reservoir of Da river at Van Yen ferry, we ride on a beautiful winding secondary road until Phu Yen where we stay in a guest-house.
Day 3: Phu Yen – Son La, ~160 km, ~6 hours, (B, L, D)
Continuing on the almost empty Road 37 we enter mountains heavily populated with Black Thai people, who work on large terraced rice fields. The winding road passes through many Thai villages and fields and provides a great opportunity to watch country life passing by. We continue through rolling hills before rising up to the sugar cane growing areas on the cooler Son La plateau. Overnight in Son La.
Day 4: Son La – Tuan Giao, ~140 km, ~5 hours, (B, L, D)
Heading out northwest from Son La, the road crosses a series of mountain passes and areas of busy Black Thai activity. Children walk to school, kids tend buffaloes, women plant rice seedlings and men pull the buffalo. Then we come to the beginning of the very long and steep Pha Din pass where at the top we have vast views of the surrounding mountains, then down the other side on very steep sealed road. Overnight in Tuan Giao.
Day 5: Tuan Giao – Than Uyen. ~160 km, ~6 h. (B, L, D)
The road is wild and bumpy. Between Sapa and Hanoi, we will find an important mountainous massif, almost as high as the Fansipan: the Mu Cang Chai. From the top, we have one of the most beautiful views of North Vietnam.
Day 6: Than Uyen – Sapa. ~120 km, ~5 h. (B, L, D)
Walk/ stroll in the morning. The area of Than Uyen is mainly populated by Flower H’mong and Dzao people. Then direction Sapa. Easy track for 100 km and asphalted mountainous road for the last 40 km. Beautiful riding.
Day 7: Sapa, trek or relax (B, L, D)
Depending on the group’s mood, we can either take it easy in Sa Pa town, or make excursions back to the top of the highest pass in Vietnam, or down deep into the amazing Sapa valley. All options are dominated by the crest of the enormous Fansipan mountain range that looms over 2,000 metres above us. The entire region is populated by H’mong, Giay, Tay and Dao people. Stay in Sapa.
Day 8: Sapa – Bac Ha. ~90 km, ~4 h (B, L, D)
The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes ~3 hours, down from Sapa to Lao Cai (34 km) and up to Bac Ha (70 km) with stunning landscape. We check in a hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon, we trek to Lung Phinh village. Overnighting in Bac Ha.
Day 9: Bac Ha – Xin Man. ~50 km, ~3 h. (B, L, D)
Minor roads and tracks, lost in the mountain. Flower H’Mong savagely imposes their bright colours in these wild vastnesses. This road allows us to have time to stop and admire the footpaths going through wild bushes. We envisage going to the market of Can Cau located at the heart of a mountainous circus, very close to the Chinese border, where the ethnic groups on each side of the border meet every Saturday morning. It is one moment very moving which we have no idea about time.
Day 10: Xin Man – Ha Giang. ~140 km, ~6 h. (B, L, D)
Quiet road with the joys of riding through picturesque landscape along the Lo river. Superb! It is necessary for us to be able to obtain authorizations from the authorities of Ha Giang. The following stages cross the mountainous territories of the frontier ethnic groups. Stay in a hotel in Ha Giang or if you prefer a home stay we can arrange it.
Day 11: Ha Giang – Dong Van (~180 km, ~6h). B, L, D
After getting the permit to ride in border areas at Ha Giang’s Immigration Police, we ride on small challenging mountain roads (but incredibly beautiful) on the land of colorful mountain hill-tribes.
Day 12: Dong Van – Bao Lac (~80 km, ~4 h). B, L, D
The road is still under construction and tracks that makes the ride relatively long in spite of few kilometres. The landscape is among the most beautiful of Vietnam, and the slow tempo is only more appreciable.
We cross the wild regions of the mythical province of Ha Giang. Stop for the night at Bao Lac, the ethnic crossroad of Northeast Vietnam. Many other ethnic groups on the two sides of the border meet at the market every Sunday.
Day 13: Bao Lac – Cao Bang (~150 km, ~5 h). B, L, D
Beautiful ride down to Cao Bang province. Few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many blind curves. We can stop very often for photos. All together, stop for drinks and food it should be an 8-hour journey. Stay in a hotel.
Day 14: Cao Bang – Quang Uyen (~140 km, ~5 h). B, L, D
Ride in 1 hour and half to reach the beautiful village of Quang Uyen, in the middle of a mountain cirque. This is the territory of Nung An people. Home stay in a host family and the hostess is a great cook.
We make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam’s most impressive waterfall, Ban Gioc Waterfalls, 50km from Quang Uyen. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50m high falls hit the river.
Day 15: Quang Uyen – Lang Son (~180 km, ~6 h). B, L, D
Ride from Quang Uyen to Lang Son on the famous historical Highway 4. We will have time to discover this city which has become a big trading post between China and Vietnam. You can shop for cheap Chinese products at the nearby Dong Kinh market.
Overnight in hotel.
Day 16: Lang Son – Hanoi (~150 km, ~3 h). B, L
Easy day back to Hanoi on the new Highway 1B. You can wake up late in the morning as we guess you can be tired after 10 long riding days.
Arrival at Hanoi around 3pm.
Mai Chau: A Thai village in Mai Chau district of Hoa Binh province. 160km from Hanoi but we usually ride on a more quiet road and it is 200km. In early 1990′s Lac village is the first to open homestay overnighting business. It became so popular that all surrounding villages stepped into this business, making Mai Chau the largest homestaying complex in North Vietnam. Luckily, friendly people and great food make the night here very entertaining and enjoyable. You will stay in a stilt house, or pile dwelling which is made of bamboo and timber. A house is normally elevated 10-12 feet off the ground in order to avoid water damage and provide shelter for animals.
Phu Yen: A small town, ~170km Northwest of Hanoi, in the heart of the third largest rice field in North Vietnam. The road from Phu Yen to Son La is quite scenic and quiet. It is one of the less travelled places in North Vietnam, therefore the accommodation in Phu Yen is basic.
Son La: ~320km from Hanoi, famous during the war with French Army. Son La was famous under the French colonization when they built up a prison to retain Viet Minh members. Well-known as the Hell on Earth, the prisoners were tortured, leg cuffs, starvation, prison broke, and hung up…During the French War, high way 6 was widen to support to the Dien Bien Phu battle. Riders travel here will enjoy beautiful landscape on Moc Chau plateau, Pha Din pass…Plum and peach flower will bloom up all around mountain in Spring time (Jan and Feb). It’s the time for the kids and young H’Mong girls dressing up in in their most beautiful clothes for Tet festival. That’s such as good chance for photographers to capture nice photos of Vietnam.
Tuan Giao: ~450km from Hanoi, just a small town of Dien Bien province. Another hydro electric plant on the Da (Black) river is being built in Muong Lay (former Lai Chau, ~80km North of Tuan Giao), therefore we would prefer to ride on Road 279 to Than Uyen. The town has basic accommodation.
Than Uyen: A small town, ~400km North of Hanoi, ~120km South of Sapa, Than Uyen district, Lai Chau province. This is on the high mountain massif of Hoang Lien range with the peak is Fansipan (3,143m above sea level), the roof of Indochina. Accommodation is basic.
Sapa: A hill station built by the French in early 20th century, ~400km North of Hanoi, Sapa district, Lao Cai province. This town is about 1,600n above sea level and is one of the few places in Vietnam that had snow. Accommodation is good. With the fast extension and more tourists, the town itself usually have more foreigners than local people.
Bac Ha: A new Sapa, ~400km from Hanoi, ~120km from Sapa. The town is famous for its Tam Hoa plum which must bloom three times before they are ripe. Vietnamese whisky distilled in Bac Ha is also a favourite drink.
Ha Giang: The most beautiful province in North Vietnam and probably of the whole Vietnam. ~320km North of Hanoi. You take in stunning mountain scenery, meet friendly people and Sunday market is colorful.
Dong Van: ~200km from Ha Giang city, ~500km from Hanoi. Probably the most beautiful place in North Vietnam. Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark is located in the northeastern province of Vietnam, Ha Giang. It is the first Geopark in Vietnam and the second one in Southeast Asia to be recognized by UNESCO. The Geopark was formed about 550 million years ago and now is home to 17 ethnic groups which creates the unique and rich cultural heritage of this area. Sunday market is probably the most colourful one in North Vietnam.
Bao Lac: ~ 400km from Hanoi, located in the very north of Vietnam, in a mountainous area at the border with China. Local people live mainly in remote small villages with no waterworks or other infrastructure. This area is among the poorest in Vietnam. The town itself is small and there is nothing special rather than the only stop with basic accommodation in this area.
Cao Bang: A big town in Northeast Vietnam, the capital city of a province with the same name, ~180km from Lang Son or ~400km from Hanoi. The city is also known for the Battle of Cao Bang, the first major decisive victory of the Viet Minh against the French Army along Highway 4. We use this town as a base because there is no better accommodation in the surrounding areas.
Quang Hoa: A commune of mainly Nung people in Quang Uyen district, Cao Bang province, ~400km North of Hanoi via Lang Son or ~500km via Cao Bang. The village is one of the first to offer homestay experience to foreigns who travel there on two wheels. The host house is basic but cozy. The nearby Ban Gioc waterfalls is a scenic site, however with the booming trade at Po Peo border gate the road to this place is usually in bad conditions, either dusty or muddy.
Lang Son: A major trading post in Northeast Vietnam, possibly the largest border gates between Vietnam and China, ~150km from Hanoi in the far North. Lang Son and its ancient citadel have been in the path of many invasions, and were the site of three French defeats during the colonial era. The city was the center of fighting during the Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979, and sustained extensive damage. However, with a surprising fast recovery, there is almost no trace of the war but a prosperous trading town. A chance to buy cheap Chinese electronic items, fakes that cost from 1/10 of the original products.
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