9 days, 8 nights. Northwest Vietnam 9-day motorbike tour.
Booking code of this tour: NW905
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Day 1: Hanoi – Ninh Binh. ~170 km, ~6 h.
Today is the first day of this Northwest Vietnam 9-day motorbike tour. Before starting to ride, we will have a short briefing to let you know about the rules. In addition, the guide will show you how to understand him by his body language. We start around 9.30am after the rush hours.
Ride to the south of Hanoi for ~90 km on National Highway 1. Then follow the little road (~8 km) through rice fields to Hoa Lu. Around 10:30, we propose to visit two temples in Hoa Lu of the two kings, King Dinh and King Le – Dinh Dynasty (968-980) and Early Le Dynasty (980-1009). In reality, this is the old capital of Vietnam with the natural protection afforded by the region’s bizarre landscape.
Ride on the back road of Yen Ngua Mountain along the mountain range, snaking through limestone 8 km until Linh Xuan village. The road is narrow but newly sealed and easy to ride. Then there is a possibility to take many photos of this region and the landscape look like “Halong Bay without water”. We talk with local people we meet on the way and have a cup of tea with them. Finally, there are two roads: Ride to Ninh Binh for 1 km from Linh Xuan village (or straight from Linh Xuan village) to Tam Coc, where we have lunch at Anh Dung restaurant.
We propose 2 options for the afternoon:
Ride to Bich Dong (8 km) to visit the 3 pagodas, of which two are built into the caves. We propose a short boat trip (30 minutes) to discover the 700-m cave under the mountain.
Take a relaxing sampan cruise to visit the three caves of Tam Coc, “The Three Lagoons” in almost 3 hours.
Then ride to Ninh Binh town or Hoa Lu for the night in a hotel.
Day 2: Ninh Binh – Mai Chau. ~180 km, ~8 h.
In general, today you have a beautiful ride. Bumpy road but very quiet and peaceful. Once out of the Red River Delta, which brims with traditional farming activity, we pass through limestone monoliths and into foothills populated by Muong people. We head straight at the main range before breaching a high and beautiful forested pass, which descends into the hidden valley of Mai Chau where we spend the night with friends in a traditional Thai stilt house.
The valley of Mai Chau lies between two rivers: the Da River and the Ma River. Therefore, Mai Chau is very fertile and rich in varied landscapes, medium mountains, forest, lake, rivers, and infinitude of small footpaths and offer many possibilities of a trek. In the valley of Mai Chau and its surroundings are Muong, White Thai, H’mong (in the height), and the Dao who we meet at the markets or in their villages.
Day 3: Mai Chau – Thung Man. 100 km, ~4 hrs.
Today we continue venturing onto Northern Vietnam by following the old National Highway No 6 which has been neglected for 20 years. The rough narrow road, cutting through many hill-tops makes the terrain difficult to manoeuvre, so the road transport is very quiet. Sometimes, if lucky you might catch sight of a horse-drawn carriage or buffalo cart but, apart from that, this road is quite deserted. Along the way, we have excellent opportunities to learn about the people of different cultures, such as the Red Dao, Dao Tien, Muong and Thai ethnic groups. The people living here are very friendly and also live a simple lifestyle. Typically they live by cultivating dry rice, vegetables and fruit at high altitudes and hunting in the wild forest.
At noon we stop for lunch at the top of the pass and enjoy a beautiful view of spacious Moc Chau grassland and the Da River.
The afternoon will provide a real challenge. After heading out on New Highway 6, we make our way onto the torturous and bumpy road. However, exploring the H’mong hill tribe’s colourful customs and majestic mountainous scenery makes the hardship all worthwhile.
Today is one of the most authentic days of our Northwest Vietnam 9-day motorbike tour.
Day 4: Thung Man – Phu Yen. 130 km, ~4 hrs.
After breakfast, we say farewell to our hosts and visit Thung Mai, the most timeless village of the H’mong ethnic people residing at an altitude of over 1,000 meters above sea level and in complicated topography. The H’mong people have lived here for nearly 100 years. While on the way to Ha Giang, they were forced to flee from French colonialists and settled in this remote area.
To reach Thung Man, it takes about one and half hours to the top of the mountain. Upon arrival, you will see a pretty village with about 20 houses built from “stone” surrounding a small, fairy pond at the mountain top. Visitors to this remote area will have the opportunity to discover these people’s unique customs and simple lifestyle and even share the wisdom of the elders who enjoy the happiness of living under the same roof with 5-6 generations. You also have a chance to listen to the legends about the “toward South” process.
After lunch, we have the afternoon free to explore the dreamlike grasslands. These beautiful grasslands of Moc Chau have the best of both worlds, breathtaking scenery and some of the most favourable climate, in the Northwest mountains. Moc Chau’s flora is diverse, ranging from forests and tea plantations to fruit orchards.
We can walk to the local dairy farms and sample products from the local processing factories. Dairy produce is Moc Chau’s speciality and is exported to many other countries.
After visiting the beautiful area, we drop down to Da River and take a specialized boat along the river. Then we ride along the river to Phu Yen valley, one of the most prosperous and beautiful villages of Thai people in Northwest.
Day 5: Phu Yen – Tuan Giao. 210 km, ~6 hrs.
The journey north continues onto Son La, following the 113 Highway. Along the way, there are superb landscapes with green valley and terraced rice fields. Passing the Bac Yen Mountain top, through Chen Pass to the largest “maize” and “manioc” forest, we arrive at Son La plateau.
After lunch in Son La town, we will visit the former French Prison and provincial museum. We have more mountain passes to challenge us, such as Son La, Chieng Pac, and Pha Din. You will enjoy the beautiful landscape on your way from Son La to Lai Chau town. The afternoon will provide free time to climb over the top of the Pha Din Pass – known as the interface between Heaven and Earth. Pha Din forms a natural border between Son La and Dien Bien Phu, the site of the decisive battle in Vietnam’s struggle for independence in 1954. Then we take time to travel to Tuan Giao to view the sunset.
Day 6: Tuan Giao – Sin Ho. 150 km, ~5 hrs.
Today we continue venturing into northern Vietnam with the 98ksm remainder of the historical Highway 6. The road is rough, but the scenery is unbelievably beautiful and magnificent with the 7 tall passes cutting through steep mountain along the Da River flowing around the foot of the passes, which you can’t find anywhere else in the Northwest route. Moreover, part of the pleasure of travelling by motorbike in this region is the simple joy of the friendly smiles and greetings of the local people, which make the hardship all worthwhile. Along the way, we stop to visit the Black Thai, Kho Mu, Lu, Black H’mong, Green H’mong and White H’mong, just some of the many hill tribe groups and discover their simple lifestyles and colourful cultures.
After lunch at Lai Chau, we take a boat to travel along the Nam Na River, passing the high, dangerous and sheer rocks, the pretty villages on the two sides of the river and the hillside green rice fields. The boat is not a big one, but the boatman is skilful enough to make your cruise safe and adventurous to the next destination. After that, we make our way to Sin Ho.
Day 7: Sin Ho – Lai Chau. 110-170 km, ~4-5 hrs.
Due to the environment and a height of 1,700m, getting there is a very hard journey. Therefore, the people living here mostly retain their long-lasting lifestyle. The old school way of life from ancient days still exists in the modern world. However, there is almost no way for urbanization to occur in these areas. Moreover, only a handful of tourist agencies can visit this remote area. The reason Sin Ho is regarded as the richest mountain market in the northwest province is that anybody visits the area has the fortune of visiting. You see colours of traditional clothes of various ethics such as the Green H’mong, the Black H’mong, the White H’mong, the Dzao Dau Bang, and the Lu.
Sin Ho market lasts till late in the afternoon but due to a long hard road down the mountain, we need to prepare lunch and equipment for the trip. When arriving at the foot of the mountain we will ride along Nam Na River to Pa So. After climbing Hong Thu Man pass, home of the Dzao Khau and the H’mong people, we will reach Lai Chau, a small town surrounding by brilliant tea fields and a tapestry of green mountain ranges.
Day 8: Lai Chau – Sapa. 70 km, ~2 hrs.
This morning finds us on the road for the 50km ride to the village of Lu ethnic minority whose origin comes from Lao. We’ll have a chance to see beautiful stilt houses and girls who blacken the teeth and have a seductive smile. After that, we have to cross the Muong Kim River back to National Highway 4D to travel to Sapa.
We will enjoy a picnic lunch at the top of Tram Ton Pass, the most beautiful one in Sapa. In the afternoon we are free to explore Sapa, which is usually engulfed by clouds. After enjoying an Artichaux cup of tea, a special drink from Sapa, we embark on a walk to discover this charming town and get acquainted with the host people who are the soul of this area.
Sapa was famous from the last century as a hill resort for the French administration. It soon became famous in Indochina for its ideal climate. Nowadays, Sapa’s breathtaking scenery is some of the best in Asia.
Day 9: Sapa – Muong Hum – Lao Cai, Train To Hanoi. 100 km, ~4-6 hrs.
While Sapa is characterized by the beauty of European architecture, the path to Muong Hum is absolutely different from the scenic beauty of Sapa. This road passes through many neglected villages and tracks. During the rainy season, no one dares to ride the muddy and slippery road off the highway. Despite its close link to Sapa, this road receives very few visitors.
This road was newly upgraded and sealed in 2004. However, the journey of 100 km on this road is a tad difficult. In addition, it is definitely worthwhile as the scenery is breathtaking. Moreover, on the way back to Lao Cai, you will ride along the Red River which forms the natural border between Vietnam and China and enjoy a visit to Lao Cai, the international border town with China. Dinner in a restaurant en route to Hanoi and arrive back in Hanoi by 5.30am.
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