|$0||21 days||from 8 to 12 participants||Beginner|
The mountains of northern Vietnam are inhabited by dozens of mountain people, all of whom have their own traditions, language and dress.
Riding along beautiful mountain roads we visit colorful markets and see the most unique tribes. We quickly leave the inhabited world, riding through fabulous valleys, along rugged mountains with vast rice terraces, small mountain villages in the early morning mist, encountering many hill tribes in their colorful traditional dress.
A trip by motorcycle through this still unknown region allows one to experience the unprecedented and unspoiled beauty of North Vietnam. In addition to the enthusiastic local population and untouched nature, this motorcycle trip is a special experience and certainly an adventurous challenge. Furthermore, we conclude the trip with a visit to Halong Bay.
You will arrive at Hanoi airport either in the morning or the afternoon, depending on the airline. It’s a 45 minutes drive to the hotel in the center of the old town.
In the morning you are free to explore the city. After lunch we will collect our bikes and meet the driver of our back-up car and our mechanic. In order to get used to the motorcycle and the traffic we make a tour through the city.
The trip to the west starts with the bustle of the morning rush hour in the capital. Jam-packed mopeds force their way through the city; we form a small part of this crowd. From Xuan Mai onwards we follow a part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. What is now a beautiful route used to be nothing more than a trail through the jungle used by the North Vietnamese to supply the South during the war. We continue our ride on narrow quiet country roads passing Pu Luong National Park on to Mai Chau. We stay overnight in a Thai home. We will sleep with several persons on the floor in one big room. It is not a luxurious experience but it definitely is a special one. Be careful, it is customary that copious amounts of rice wine will be poured by the village elder in the evening!
In the morning can make a small tour in Pu Luong National Park or take some nice small tracks through the valley. After lunch in Mai Chau, we ride over a scenic mountain pass to Moc Chau. This village is close to the border with Laos. When arriving early you can visit the colourful local market.we did not have the time the day before, we ride back in the morning in the direction of the Pu Luong National Park to visit the chopsticks factories. After lunch in Mai Chau, we ride on the dirt road through the Pu Luong National Park. On leaving the park, we are in Moc Chau. This village is close to the border with Laos. We stay overnight here in a simple hotel. You are free in the afternoon to visit the local market.
Again today, we follow a very narrow but surfaced road. It is a beautiful area and along the route there are many small villages and tea plantations. Throughout the morning, one still comes across mostly Thai people but later in the day one sees more and more Hmong people. We cross over the Black River on a small ferry. After lunch in Phu Yen it becomes a little busier on the road. Nghia Lo is a fast growing mountain town situated on the junction of two important roads. In town you will come across Dao and Hmong people.
We ride further north. The landscape is very beautiful here. On both sides of the roads, there are green rice terraces built against the mountainsides. We ride through the mountains here, crossing over a few high passes. There are more Dao people living in this area. Just before Than Uyen we turn left to follow a beautiful narrow inland route. This road is completely surfaced. We rejoin the main road near the town of Tuan Giao. In this town we will spend the night.
The road from Tuan Giao to Muong Lai is beautiful and has hundreds of bends. Several years ago, a dam was started to be built in Muong Lai. The whole village was demolished. A few kilometres further up the village has been rebuilt. North of this village starts our climb to the mountain village Sinh Ho. We take plenty of time for the climb to the village located at an altitude of 1700m. The exquisite views deserve much attention. Sinh Ho is a small village where very few tourists stay overnight. Our hotel is therefore fairly simple.
In Sinh Ho there is a large market every Sunday where mountain people from miles around come to. Due to the poor accessibility, the village and the hill tribes living in the region have changed very little over the years. It is a very special place. Dao and Hmong people, the latter recognizable by their large red headdresses, throng the market. We ride onwards to Tam Duong on a just opened exciting new descent, after which it is another 60 km ride to Sa Pa. We will go over the highest pass of this trip. If weather permits the views en route to the famous Sa Pa are fantastic. Sa Pa is the most touristy place we visit on this trip. As we do not come here at the weekend for the market, we do not see so many other tourists. Sa Pa is situated at an altitude of 1500 meters; during the French colonization it developed as a summer retreat to escape the oppressive heat in the lower parts of the country. It is a charming place to spend a day. You can walk in the valley just behind the town, rent a bicycle or quietly explore the town and the market.
We ride the first 50 kilometers of the day on a fully surfaced, rather busy road. Along the way we stop in Lao Cai to take a look at the Chinese border. The Red River separates the two countries here and a railway bridge connects them again. Across the river one can see the tall buildings of the relatively-speaking much richer China. After our coffee break we will follow the main road for a short while before we take small quiet, winding back roads towards Bac Ha. Bac Ha is a typical Northern Vietnamese village with colourfull hill tribes. If we have sufficient time, we can take the inland route via Coc Ly. Taking this narrow road our support car cannot follow, and has to take the main road.
Today we go to Xin Man. Tourists hardly use this route nor is the road suitable for big traffic. The dramatic limestone outcrops between the two places gives rise to a beautiful, unique landscape. Just north of Bac Ha we turn right onto a dirt road. We then ride through a spectacular area studded jagged rocks. The people of the small Hmong villages are surprised to see us as they hardly see any foreigners passing through their villages, especially on a motorbike. After a beautiful descent we arrive in Xin Man. We will have lunch in Xin Man. After lunch we can explore some of the surrounding H’mong villages. As we will follow some small tracks, the support car will stay behind.
Just outside of Xin Man we cross the bridge and turn right. We follow the river to the village of Huang Su Phi. There are many people of the Nung people here. Furthermore, there are many Nung villages en route. After a coffee break follows one of the most beautiful rice terrace regions of Vietnam. With each bend, there is yet another view of the beautiful green terraces. We stop for lunch at the junction with the main road. After lunch we will take some small tracks more or less following the main road. For the last part to Ha Giang we have to take the main road. One needs to watch out a bit in the busy traffic. Ha Giang is the capital of the province. We stay the night in a resort next to the river, just outside the center.
We leave early for our ride through an exceptionally beautiful and unique karst mountain region. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, locally known as ‘Dong Van - Meo Vac', after the two largest villages. Immediately after Ha Giang, the road narrows and we climb over a beautiful ridge. The small town of Yenh Minh, where we stop for coffee, lies in the valley behind this ridge. In the Dong Van region, we become the show attraction for the local inhabitants. Foreigners are rare visitors for the tribes in this area. There are still real communist strongholds to be found in the remote areas of the province. Meo Vac is such a stronghold. All the stone buildings in the city are government buildings decorated with red banners. In order to reach Meo Vac, we first need to cross some high passes. Especially last pass today, the Ma Pi Leng Pass, is spectacular. Again here, we are not far off from the Chinese border. We take plenty of time today to explore the back roads of this area.
This is a long adventurous day. The Ba Be lakes are located in the eponymous national park. The lakes are surrounded by jagged karst rocks. In the morning, we ride from Meo Vac to Bao Lac. This is a wonderful peaceful route through a rolling landscape covered with rice terraces. After lunch in Bao Lac, we ride along narrow roads to Lake Ba Be. After a river crossing, for which we have to put our bikes on small boats, we will arrive at our accommodation. We sleep in a small village at people’s homes. The conditions are very simple.
In the morning we can take a boat trip through Ba Be National Park or we can make a motorcycle tour exploring the surroundings of Ba Be.
The National Park is made of limestone, so there are lakes, waterfalls, caves and strange rock formations in abundance. You can encounter special animal species such as the king cobra, the Asian black bear and the Asian golden cat, and are more than 350 species of butterflies. The Ba Be lake is the largest in the country. It is about seven kilometres long and one kilometre wide. Within the park boundaries there are also are a number of villages with ethnic minorities, such as the Tay, Rode Dao and Witte H'mong.
After lunch we ride to the city of Bac Kan taking small back roads. We stay overnight in the centre of the city; there is even a swimming pool at the hotel.
Day 17: Bac Kann – Lang Son
We ride past Chin Huy and Bac Son National Park to the Chinese border. Lang Son is one of the two border crossings open to foreigners. Lang Son is also the place where heavy fighting took place in 1979 between Vietnam and China. If we have enough time, we can look at the border. Alternatively, we can visit the caves of Lang Son or Land Son’s Pagoda.
We ride along the border with China to the Gulf of Tonkin. The jagged mountain landscape slowly transforms to a hilly one. As it is too far to drive to Ha Long Bay in one day from Lang Son, we stop on the coast on the Don peninsula.
The pointy peaked mountains in the Bay of Halong make this bay very special. It is wonderful to sail across it on a boat. We arrive in Halong around noon. We park the motorcycles at the wharf here and get on the boat. We sail into the bay and spend the night on the boat. If people are interested, we will make a stop at different caves. It is a fine way to mark the end of the trip.
Day 20: Halong Bay – Hanoi
Early the morning we are heading back to the mainland and back onto the motorcycles. There is much traffic between the coast and the capital Hanoi. The closer one comes to Hanoi, the worse it becomes. For many participants, riding into the city in the massive traffic, consisting of mainly small motorbikes and scooters, is a fantastic end to the trip. Depending on what time we are back at our hotel in Hanoi you still may have time to explore the old part of Hanoi in the afternoon.
We go the airport for our flight home.
Itinerary may change without further notice due to weather-, road- or any other condition that OVERCROSS or its guides feel will jeopardize the safety of the group or material.
You ride on a Kawasaki KLX 150cc for this trip (first picture). If you prefer a Honda XR 250cc motorbike than this will cost 126 euro extra, please indicate this on your booking. Availability of the 250 cc is limited (second picture).
300 € are recommended.
This trip will be led by our local guide who also is the mechanic. This person has been the permanent mechanic on our Vietnam trips for the past 12 years. He knows all the routes, hotels and restaurants well and speaks good English.
A support car will accompany this trip. This will be driven by our permanent local driver. The support vehicle will transport the luggage, spare parts and tools. There is space in the support car for any companion passengers who do not wish to or cannot double up on a motorcycle.
During this trip through North Vietnam, we ride neither at a high altitude nor through extremely desolate regions. We ride on light motorcycles which make the trip suitable also for those riders who have never undertaken an adventurous motorcycle trip before. The daily distances are not long giving rise to frequent opportunities for stopping along the way to take photographs or to visit villages. What might well prove difficult, however, is dealing with the extremely busy traffic in and around Hanoi. One must also take into account that on the main roads, which we do our best to avoid as much as possible, can be busy with trucks which do not comply with traffic regulations.
Only a small section of the trip goes over dirt roads and paths, amounting to a total of two to three days in the current schedule. These trails are not very difficult and are more than practicable without any off road experience or off road training beforehand. When the weather is worse than expected, however, it can be these off road days in particular which prove to be problematic.
The following items are mandatory: helmet, motorcycle jacket with protection, gloves, a good hard wearing pair of (motorcycle) trousers with protection and solid high (mountain) boots. It can be very warm in the lowland parts of the trip, especially in Spring and Autumn. Accordingly, a protective summer motorcycle jacket is recommended. One can wear extra clothing under one’s jacket as necessary. Furthermore, a good pair of sunglasses and a helmet with visor that protects against dust are useful. The rainy season in northern Vietnam lasts from June to the end of August. We plan our trips before or after the rainy season. Nonetheless, the weather forecasts are subject to change so one must be prepared for a possible rain shower on all the trips. Finally, it can be quite cold in December and January in the mountains so it is advisable to bring warm motorcycle gear then.
It has recently become possible to purchase a visa for Vietnam on arrival at Hanoi airport. This costs USD 25 Nonetheless, this is only possible if you are in possession of a so-called letter of invitation. We arrange this letter on your behalf, the costs of which are included in the costs for the trip.
More details about the trip and items to bring can be found in the tour’s handbook which you will receive approximately one month prior to departure.
|There are no fix dates for this tour. We are happy to set up dates to your liking.|
$411 single room supplement