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.