Introduction The North of Vietnam is a dream to conquer for every avid rider, and I am no exception. Northern Vietnam is surrounded by some of the country's most arid terrain, with extreme landscapes - rocky mountains, deep valleys, and breathtaking views.
Guided Tour16 Days / 15 Nights
The North of Vietnam is a dream to conquer for every avid rider, and I am no exception. Northern Vietnam is surrounded by some of the country's most arid terrain, with extreme landscapes - rocky mountains, deep valleys, and breathtaking views.
While many of my peers prefer famous locations for relaxation, I decided to head north to escape from the hectic life. I was lucky to join a half-month grand North Vietnam motorbike tour. I still can recall the majestic wonders and unforgettable memories during the journey.
Among the Vietnam motorbike tours I have made, this 16-day trip is an eye-opener experience.
My companions and I kicked off the tour by traveling down National Highway 6 from Hanoi to Mai Chau. We took small single tracks from Ha Noi, Xuan Mai to Luong Son to Hoa Binh and Muong Khen.
On the very first day of the trip, we had conquered one of the trickiest off-road approaches to Bai Chao - 8 streams and a steep, meandering route with plenty of mud and large rocks.
A full lunch refilled our energy to head to Cao Phong after that. Wheeling through a dry riverbed and a single-track covered with sugarcane and orange trees, we returned to National Road 6 afterward. Later, our team took a backroad and an offroad way to Ba Khan Lake. Strolling around the lake, I was hooked by the massive greenery.
After an hour, Mai Chau, a valley embraced by mighty mountains, finally unfolded in front of our eyes. The destination welcomed us with a dry, chilly, and refreshing climate.
The valley is a wonderful place to visit as our first stop because of its poetic beauty and intriguingly simple cuisine. We spent the night with a Tay family whose home-cooked meal was insanely delicious.
On the second day, we woke up quite early. After breakfast, we made a motorbike trip to visit Mai Chau Valley. The entire morning was covered in muck.
At Moc Chau Plateau, we contemplated and took pictures of the nearby hill tribes’ peaceful villages, the enormous green tea plants and the fruitful gardens of apricot, plum, and other trees. What makes Moc Chau so unique is that you could immerse yourself in four seasons in a day.
Following lunch, our convoy traveled to Phu Yen Da river by taking the Van Yen Ferry to cross the Da River. At 5:30 or 6, we found a motel in Phu Yen to stay overnight. The wonderful second day with the single track in Northern Vietnam ended with unforgettable memories.
We started the third day with a hearty meal and a cup of strong coffee. After that, we decided to follow Highway 37 to the Northwest and ascended a mount on a genuine off-road track in Vietnam.
Luckily, the weather was lovely for us to embark on a fantastic motorbike route. We were thrilled with sections of mud, rocky, and landslide-filled trails.
After a short break for lunch, we discussed the following difficult ride to Son La museum. For every backpacker, this destination is to go for.
The prison, which was established in 1908, exhibits thousands of ancient items demonstrating the unique culture of Son La's 12 ethnic groups. I was taken aback by the enormous library of 1000 old Thai books about literature, social and cultural identities, folk melodies, and epics.
After a quick supper in the town center, we called it a day and rested at a nearby homestay.
We left Son La the next morning and took the medium track. Going down the Pha Din Pass, the tranquility of native communities and the straightforward way of life of rural ethnic people soothed our souls.
A 2km ride through a long, dark tunnel led us to Tham Village, the stunning shelter embracing the residents there. This experience is second to none, and I can only have it when joining Vietnam motorcycle tours.
Our next location was Dien Bien Province, where we visited the historical ruins of the French battleground during the Indochina War. To the base of the Pu Hong Cay Limestone, we arrived at Tham Pua Cave. This 100-meter-high cave is a priceless cultural and historical artifact in Dien Bien Province.
We resumed the visit to Tham Temple, which was 100m from Nam Hua Stream. It was challenging for travelers to locate the location without a seasoned guide because it was hidden by plants.
We recharged our batteries with a good night's sleep at a hotel in Tuan Giao.
As usual, we began the day with breakfast and coffee. From Tuan Giao, we rode to Than Uyen on National Highway 279. Than Uyen is a valley town in the southeast of Lai Chau. This place is granted a cut-and-paste river system. Among them, the 160 km Nam Mu River has a steep slope, which looks majestic.
Our excitement was even higher when seeing a field named Muong Than, considered the top 4 most well-known fields in Northwest Vietnam. When harvest time arrived, Than Uyen would look much more wonderful. It was a pity that we did not visit the field in its most beautiful season. Yet, the picturesque area still made me awe-struck.
After an arduous off-road riding day, we stayed a night in a local guest house. The family treated us with simple yet tasty home-cooked meals.
Our crew chose a smoother route on the sixth day to simplify today's travel. The journey was blessed with beautiful tea hills and vibrant tribes. Then, we proceed over O Quy Ho Pass to pass Hoang Lien Son - Vietnam’s tallest mountain range. The whole route was beyond reality as we could not help complementing the panoramic, magnificent geographies.
We eventually arrived in Sapa at about midday and had lunch there. Soon after that, we discovered Sapa's romantic charm. Sapa is home to numerous natural treasures despite its modest, quiet, and northwest location.
I had two choices: checking into a hotel or completing another off-road route. As a person of adventure, I chose to continue. At the height of 2000 meters, we traveled on many stony and muddy tracks. Adding to the challenge level, there was also fog along the way. The ride was physically demanding, but it was a superb experience.
On day 7, we called it a day and did not ride any pathways. Instead, we spent the entire day exploring and shopping at Sapa. There was another option for those whose itchy feet didn’t allow them to slouch at the hotel - go hiking around Sapa.
However, I preferred discovering the local beauty and enjoying Sapa to the fullest. Some of my companions and I went sightseeing in Muong Hoa, one of Vietnam's most beautiful valleys, where the terraced farms stretched their arms to reach the horizon line. We also navigated the quaint Hmong, Tay, and Zay villages, which kept surprising us with their ethnic features.
Red Zdao lady and her baby on the back
At around 1 p.m., we returned to Sapa for lunch. We took a 30-minute ride to the charming Cat Cat village for fun. The community is far from Sapa and is at an elevation of 1600 meters above sea level. A quick stroll around the area opened up the picturesque view of the villagers' traditional homes and helped us explore the Hmong culture more clearly and capture amazing moments.
We headed back to Sapa for a BBQ party and rest in the evening, recharging energy for tomorrow's motorbike tour.
After breakfast, we left Sapa and traveled to the magnificent Hoang Lien Son Range to discover its opposite side. Today, our paved roads went as far as some rural settlements and the Vietnam-China border.
The track was riskier, dirtier than the days before for the most experienced riders. Yet, the effort paid off. It was a once-in-a-lifetime memory as we viewed the incredible beauty of the mountain with extensive terraced rice fields.
Later, we reached our first destination - Bac Ha market. It is the largest gathering for ethnic minorities in North Vietnam, opening every Sunday. Because of the locals' vivid colors and elaborate costumes, it is the most colorful market in Vietnam. Bac Ha is a meeting place for lovers and a location for purchasing or exchanging items.
We tried on some local clothing and relished the unique taste of local cuisine. At about 4 p.m., we got to the small community of Bac Ha and spent the rest of the day at a cozy motel.
Our 9th day started at a non-touristy, unspoiled village named Lung Cai, which lays low and cowered all year long. From Bac Ha, we ascended an A-shaped road before going down to the charming village of Coc Pai of Xin Man.
Coc Pai village is famous for a hundred significant waterfalls of all sizes, among which is the great Chay river. At the turn of Ma Ngan and Lung Cai, we faced a sheer slope, making the journey interestingly challenging. As we got closer to Coc Pai, the clouds became thicker.
Our next location was the border gate of Xin Man, located in the most remote part of Ha Giang. It took us another 25km of winding mountain road.
Although that route was high and narrow, it was not as challenging as it once was. We followed a paved road to reach the gate. In front of our eyes was the enormous path shaped like a silk strip that was rising to the cloudy sky.
We checked into a hotel at nearly 5 pm. For the rest of the time, we gathered around for dinner and enjoyed some beer.
We started our 10th day of the Northern motorbike trip with a ride down the Lo River as Ha Giang was our next stop. On the way, we learnt more about Hoang Su Phi's magnificent terraced farms. We also witnessed the fantastic scenery of Phung village along the trip. Words could not describe how charming the views were.
Another extraordinary place was the fabled Road of Happiness, paved with blood and flowers. This 200-km road was constructed from 1959 to 1966 by thousands of young volunteers from 16 ethnic groups. We all slowed down to enjoy the serenity of this picturesque landscape.
We completed this intense day with dinner and rested at a local guesthouse. Tomorrow we would go on another tough route.
We took another challenging route today, starting with Ma Pi Leng, one of the four Vietnam greatest mountain passes. Riding along the pass, I felt like I was lost in a fairy tale scene.
The vast landscape of limestone mountains extending to the horizon captured our attention right away. I also casted my gaze downward to see the peaceful neighborhood towns and the vibrant hill tribes. Today could be the best Vietnam motorcycle touring.
Apart from Ma Pi Leng, Dong Van Rock plateau is a must-see attraction when traveling to Ha Giang. It is the first and most well-known geological park in Vietnam. To reach Dong Van, we had to go through a rough road. But it was well worth it.
From there, we visited breathtaking mountain peaks as well as the variety and complexity of local traditions. We felt so tiny compared to the massive size of the landscapes. The plateau is a true miracle of Mother Nature. Today could be one of the most challenging motorbike tour in Vietnam.
After a long day, we had a hearty meal in Dong Van and slept at a local hotel for the night.
As usual, we had a full breakfast to gain energy for the motorbike tour ahead. We were excited to visit the beautiful mountain passes linked to Meo Vac, the final destination on the Happy road. The region of the district in northern Vietnam features magnificent landscapes.
Every season is worth visiting this location. Following lunch, we proceeded downstream down the river. And here, we saw different mountain vistas that are less rugged and green.
Every Vietnam long-day motorbike tour, as always, had a backup route for experienced riders or off-road routes in Ha Giang Province. From Meo Vac, we mapped out a new single track crossing the Vietnam-China border and winded through Khau Vai Love Market.
The market's name and its activities share many similarities to the love market of Sapa. Here, we met Dua - a friendly guy whose handcrafted products were beautiful and sophisticated. His hospitality warmed our hearts in the freezing breeze of high mountain regions.
We stayed overnight at a Bao Lac homestay. The dinner was full of mouth-watering local dishes, making us full after a riding day.
As I mentioned earlier, this trip was filled with one-off thrill and excitement. For the 13th day, we rode to Cao Bang whose nature is out of this world. The road to Cao Bang was not so difficult, but there were some dangerous blind turns. We reached Non Nuoc Cao Bang after 4 hours of riding.
It is the second Global Geopark in Vietnam to get UNESCO recognition. Many historical geographies you have heard in history appeared here - The Ban Gioc waterfall, Pac Bo cave, Le Nin stream, or Phia Oac National Park (including Thang Hen lake, Phia Den, and a conservation area called Cao Vit).
Walking through the park, we were intrigued by various artifacts, physical and intangible cultural legacies, and diverse cultural, historical, cultural, biodiversity, and archaeological values. Today is one of the most amazing Vietnam motorbike trips.
Drinks and regional cuisine were the perfect way to round off an exhilarating 8-hour excursion. In the province, we stayed at a motel and got some rest.
We continued to discover more of the Rocky Plateau's world heritage. The 14th day’s trip only took us 1.5 hours to reach the charming village Quang Uyen.
Lying at the mountain’s foot, the town makes a great pit break for those who want to conquer the traditional Nung settlements. Quang Uyen town attracted us with the surrounding rice fields and lush green flowers.
About 50km from Quang Uyen, Ban Gioc waterfall was the following spot. It is one of the most stunning natural attractions in Vietnam. We did not miss the chance to swim at the base of the 50-meter waterfall.
With the sparse number of tourists, Ban Gioc can maintain its beauty and remain a destination for individuals who wish to get back to nature.
We overnighted at A Tua’s homestay. The host welcomed us with kindness and lavish local dinner.
The trip was about to end, so we took an easy ride in the serene mountainous region with its breathtaking sights. We went sightseeing in the Bac Son Valley, which was deserving of the title "green heaven on Earth."
Together with the mountain surrounding the valley, the paddy fields created a poetic landscape. We reached the top and had a panoramic view of the lovely river cutting through the rice fields.
Our thrilling motorbike tour moved on to Lang Son. We crossed various mountain passes and enjoyed the atmosphere as we descended. At 4:30, we reached the destination. There was plenty of time, so we had an extra motorbike trip to visit some large, vibrant markets downtown. I tried to take as many precious moments as possible.
Like the previous nights, we dwelled in a local guesthouse and got a goodnight’s sleep.
We had steamed rice rolls with eggs (banh cuon trung) for breakfast before leaving Lang Son. We also said farewell to our local hosts and received their whole-hearted souvenirs. Although we only stayed there for a night, I felt like I was their true family member.
After that, we returned to Ha Noi on Highway 1B. Our wonderful 16-day Vietnam motorbike tour to the north came to an end.
The 16-day grand North Vietnam motorbike tour is worth every buck. The trip broadened my horizon as I had the golden opportunity to witness the spectacular geographies of Vietnam and get exposed to the ethnic groups.
If you are looking for a challenging motorbike tour, I highly recommend it. Do your feet feel itchy now? Pack things up and ride to discover!
|Number of riders
|Days on tour
|16 days 15 nights
All prices are per person all inclusive, twin share and are in US Dollars$
A deposit of $200.00 per person is required to secure your booking, final payment in full must be made in Hanoi office before tour departure.
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