North – West Vietnam used to be a far and difficult part of Vietnam or remoted areas. It’s more famous with the war against the French Army in Dien Bien Phu. It now turns into a major tourist attraction that grabs attention from old to young people. Some travel there to see the former battlefield of Dien Bien Phu while more people choose to ride on a motorbike tour to take in the breathtaking views and conquer the high mountain passes. More roads are being built, but there are still many areas that can only be accessible by motorbikes. You start motorbiking from Hanoi, head up the mountains on the historical Highway 6 and snake up and down the zig zag mountain roads, meet colorful hill tribe groups and visit their week-end markets. Places you see include Mai Chau, Phu Yen, Moc Chau, Son La, Tuan Giao, Muong Lay, Sin Ho, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen and Vu Linh. There are home stays in Mai Chau, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen and Vu Linh. In other places we use hotels that offers better facilities. A mix of home stays and hotel is great and you will have many good things to tell your friend after this ride. Allow at least 7 days to have a good loop.
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.
Distance: ~160 km Duration: ~5 hours
Day 2: Mai Chau motorcycle trips to Phu Yen (B,L,D)
We go from Mai Chau to the direction of 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.
Distance: ~140 km Duration: ~5 hours
Day 3: Phu Yen motorbiking to Son La (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.
Distance: ~160 km Duration: ~6 hours
Day 4: Son La motorbike tour to Tuan Giao (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.
Distance: ~140 km Duration: ~5 hours
Day 5: Tuan Giao motorbike tour towards Sin Ho (B,L,D)
Heading out northwest from Tuan Giao the road passes isolated communities of
Hmong and Thai people, whose small villages settle on the banks of dark green rivers and on the steep slopes of the mountains. After lunch by a forest stream the road begins to climb up the high Sa Tong pass. At the top for sunset before dropping sharply into the deep Lai Chau valley. Muong Lay town was sunk in early 2010 and our new place for overnighting is Sin Ho, a small remote town.
Distance: ~180 km Duration: ~6 hours
Day 6: Sin Ho motorbike tour to Sapa (B,L,D)
We head straight toward the main Fansipan Mountain range. There is also the option for a very challenging back route which takes us through several river crossings. The massive mountain range dominates the road until finally we must make a splendid climb up from Binh Lu and up to the top of the highest road pass in Vietnam (Tram Ton Pass). Crossing into Lao Cai Province at over 2,000m the views looks out over the main range for miles and miles, before we descend to the mountainous Sa Pa valley. Overnight in Sapa.
Distance: ~120 km Duration: ~4 hours
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 Hmong, Giay, Tay and Dao people. Stay in Sapa.
Day 8: Sapa off road motorcycle to Luc Yen (B,L,D)
Ride down from Sapa and then through palm forest all the way to Luc Yen and stay in a
Dao family who live in the Tay territory. It’s a great home stay, very typical of Vietnam hill tribes and the hosts are very welcoming.
Distance: ~180 km Duration: ~6 hours
Day 9: Luc Yen motorbike trips to Vu Linh (B,L,D)
Explore the Luc Yen area and visit our friends’ families before riding to our Dao friends’ village of Vu Linh. The hosts are “drinkers of Vietnam” and they like to party. The welcome is exceptional and we hope you will not be too much tired.
Distance: ~180 km Duration: ~3 hours
Day 10: Vu Linh motorbike tours back to Hanoi (B,L)
After breakfast we cruise southeast on Highway 2 and then branch off to the sleepy town of Phu Tho. We follow the edge of the Red River along the dyke, almost to the point where it merges with the Black River after which they flow together to Hanoi. By now we are very much in the lowlands of the delta plains and the north’s main agricultural areas. Harvest time here is a sea of activity. Crossing the Black River by bridge, we pass through Son Tay and then return to Hanoi on the highway.
Distance: ~180 km Duration: ~6 hours
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* ACCOMMODATION: – We endeavour to select a combination of good quality hotels that reflect the character of the local area as well as being as centrally located as possible, all the while striving to keep the cost affordable.
– Your trip will stay in a range of hotels / guesthouses with standardized quality.
– Please be aware that some hotel rooms, especially those in major urban centres or older cities, may be smaller than what you are used to in other parts of the world. Standards and ratings may also be different to your home country.
– Rooms are en-suite and either twin- or triple-share, depending on what you have booked. If you are a solo traveller, you will always be sharing a room with someone of the same sex otherwise you can pay a supplement to possess a single room
– If you are traveling as a couple and would prefer to have a double bed, please officially request a double room with us. We never presume that two people traveling together are a couple, even if you share the same surname, unless informed otherwise.
* MEALS: – Your included meals are detailed in the ‘More Inclusions’ section of this document.
– Breakfasts are included every day in the hotel (except on the first morning). They are usually ‘continental breakfasts’, which are typical in most countries. A typical breakfast may consist of cereals with milk or yoghurt, bread, croissants, cold meats, cheese and a range of spreads, with fruit juice, tea or coffee to drink. It is rare to get a hot breakfast in Asia, though on some occasions there may be some hot food available as well. Included evening meals are in local restaurants or accommodation places, and are either two or three courses. In most cases table water is provided with the meals, and if you wish to purchase additional drinks you can do so at your own expense.
– If you have any dietary requirements we will make every effort to cater to your specific needs as long as you advise your travel agent when you book, or make note by email before you set out. But please be aware that although we will do everything in our power to arrange it, we cannot guarantee that every restaurant we use will be able to cater to all dietary needs, particularly in Asia. We also cannot cater for tastes or dislikes, as most of our included evening meals feature a set menu.
* Ten Tips to Survive Vietnam’s Traffic: + DON’T spend hours waiting to cross the street on foot: that constant tide of traffic won’t stop until late at night, so
+ DO as the Vietnamese do: take the plunge and inch slowly across. Observe the Miracle of the Red Sea, as the traffic parts like magic, flowing smoothly in front of you or behind, meeting up again on the other side.
+ DON’T make any sudden or unpredictable movements: freeze if you have to, but never lunge forward or backward towards the safety of the sidewalk. In fact, you can do just about anything, but do it with conviction!
+ DON’T forget, if you’re riding or driving, to look where you’re going – all the time: if you hit anything in front of you, then it’s your fault.
+ DO give way to any vehicle bigger and noisier than yours. Trucks and buses are particularly dangerous: often old, sometimes unsafe and usually all over the road.
+ DO watch out for unfamiliar obstacles: water buffaloes, rocks of various sizes, broken-down trucks…, people sitting in the road, missing bridges, girls in ao dai cycling five abreast, slow-moving mountains of farm produce, dog fights, impromptu football matches, piles of building materials – and almost no light on anything at night..
+ DON’T hesitate to take evasive action – even if this sometimes means leaving the tarmac or coming to a dead stop.
+ DO try to avoid getting involved in one of the all-too-frequent minor accidents that plague Vietnam’s roads (and the major ones as well, of course), but if you are unlucky,
+ DON’T lose your cool, in spite of the interference of the large and vocal crowd that may gather: try to settle things amicably and swiftly. Sometimes, paying a reasonable amount of money will save you a lot of hassle.
+ DO remember that the only rule is: you’re not allowed to bump into anybody… irrespective of what they did or should have done, or of what the road signs or traffic lights were telling them to do. Some people still seem to think that anything red means forward, comrade
* Tipping for guides & mechanic: Our crews never expect tips themselves and will not ask for any; that’s not what friends do! However, so if you are really satisfied with all of what they did for you, please don’t mind tipping them a bit with a normal norm of US$ 7 – US$ 10/person for a guide per day and US$ 3 – US$ 5/person for a mechanic per day. (just don’t forget Mum’s souvenir).
+ Motorbike(s) (Honda or Yamaha)
+ Driving gears
+ Gasoline on tour
+ English speaking guide
+ Mechanic (only for group from 6 passengers)
+ Accommodation as indicated in the itinerary (based on twin or/and triple shared)