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)
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.
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 – Sin Ho, ~180 km, ~6 hours, (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.
Day 6: Sin Ho – Sapa, ~120 km, ~4 hours, (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.
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 – Luc Yen, ~180 km, ~6 hours, (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.
Day 9: Luc Yen – Vu Linh, ~80 km, ~3 hours, (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.
Day 10: Vu Linh – Hanoi, ~180 km, ~6 hours, (B, L)