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This Northern Vietnam off-road motorbike tour certainly amazes all riders with the most breathtaking destinations highlighting Mai Chau, Sapa, Đồng Văn, Ba Be Lake, and showcases the unique culture of the locals that you will never forget. The adventure will bring back your inner spirit and restore your energy. This motorbike trip will surely give you another splendid riding in Vietnam!
You will be accommodated at several hotels, homestays, and guesthouses.
Start your motorbike tour by leaving Hanoi on dyke roads to avoid the heavy traffic. Around 09:00, you ride your motorbike west to Mai Chau, an area of beautiful landscape and home to the Thai ethnic minority. You will ride on highway 6 passing extensive farming lands comprising a sea of paddy fields split by tree-lined roads punctuated by limestone karst scenery.
After a light lunch in Hoa Binh Province, you cross Thung Khe, one of the most beautiful mountain passes in North Vietnam, then descent to the mountain valley settlement of Mai Chau. After dinner, you join performance, where you can dance and share a range of special liquors (rice wine) with the locals. Stay overnight at a house-on-stilts of the Thai people.
Mai Chau is one of the closest places to Hanoi where you can experience a 'real' Montagnard village. In the morning, you take a short walk around the village to discover local life. Life in the side starts early so by sunrise, there is a wealth of activity. The Thai women are masterful weavers who ensure that there is plenty of traditional-style clothing to buy in the village center. You will see women weaving on looms under or inside their houses in the village and you can buy some handmade traditional-style clothing, knife, or crossbow.
After breakfast at the homestay, you say goodbye to the villagers and leave Mai Chau around 10:00. You will ride from Mai Chau to the direction of Mộc Châu, where you will have lunch. This highland town produces some of Vietnam's best tea and is a good place to stock up.
The surrounding area is also home to several ethnic minorities, including Green H'mong, Dzao, Thai, and Muong. Mộc Châu boasts a pioneering dairy industry that started in the late 1970s with Australian (and, later, UN) assistance. The dairy provides Hanoi with such delectable luxurious as fresh milk, sweetened condensed milk, and little tooth-rotting bars called “banh sua”.
After lunch, you will turn to the less traveled Road 43 leading to the Da River, crossing the reservoir of Da River on Van Yen ferry, then ride on a beautiful winding secondary road until Phú Yên where you will stay at a basic guesthouse.
Continuing your motorbike tour on the almost empty Road 37, you will 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, providing a great opportunity to watch country life passing by. You will continue through rolling hills before rising up to the sugar cane growing areas on the cooler Son La plateau.
Late lunch in Son La City, the capital of Son La Province, before you visit The Old French Prison and Museum. It was once the site of a French penal colony where anti-colonial revolutionaries were incarcerated. It was destroyed by the infamous 'off-loading' of unused ammunition by US warplanes that were returning to their bases after bombing raids, but it has been partially restored.
Rebuilt turrets and watch towers stand guard over the remains of cells, inner walls, and a famous lone surviving peach tree. The tree, which blooms with traditional 'tet flowers', was planted in the compound by To Hieu, a former inmate from the 1940s. To Hieu has subsequently been immortalized with various landmarks now named after him. Stay overnight at a hotel in Son La City.
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, you come to the beginning of the very long and steep Pha Din Pass where at the top, you will have vast views of the surrounding mountains, then down the other side of the very steep sealed road. Have lunch in Tuần Giáo.
Turn to the almost empty winding road 279 leading to Pa Uon bridge. The first span of the Pa Uon bridge spanning the Da River got connected on Highway 279 in Chieng On Commune, Quynh Nhai District, Son La Province.
The bridge invested by the Ministry of Transport lies within the food-avoiding highways and provincial roads project after the Son La hydroelectric power project had been deployed, contributing to forming the nearest road between Son La and Lai Chau Province. The construction of the bridge started on May 28, 2007. It opened to traffic on April 30 and put into use in July 2010. Continuing on the empty winding road until you get to Than Uyên Town, Lai Chau Province. Stay overnight at a hotel in Than Uyên.
You will drive straight toward the main Fansipan Mountain Range. There is also the option for a very challenging back route which takes you through several river crossings. The massive mountain range dominates the road until finally, you 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 2,000 meters where the views look out over the main range for miles and miles, before you descend to the mountainous Sapa Valley. Sapa is located in Lao Cai Province, northwest Vietnam, and 350 kilometers northwest of Hanoi, close to the border with China. Sapa is famous both for its fine, rugged scenery and for its rich cultural diversity.
French used to consider Sapa as the summer capital of Northern Vietnam in the early decades of the 20th century. Its naturally gifted beauty keeps attracting more and more people to spend vacations there since then. Particularly, the place is the foremost choice for honeymoon couples. Stay overnight at a hotel.
Depending on the group's mood, you can either take it easy in Sapa Town, make excursions back to the top of the highest pass in Vietnam, or down deep into the amazing Sapa Valley to do home-stay in a peaceful village. All options are dominated by the crest of the enormous Fansipan Mountain Range that looms over 2,000 meters above you. The entire region is populated by Hmong, Giay, Tay, and Red Dao people. Stay in Sapa or homestay in the village.
Motorcycle down from Sapa to Lao Cai City and then have a coffee stop on the bank of Nam Thi River, which is Vietnam-China border. Enjoy your coffee while taking the view to China. Head to Road 70 before a turn to Bac Ha on road 153. Long touted as the weekend alternative to Sapa, this small highland town doesn't have the same dramatic location of its more illustrious neighbor, but it is calmer when Saturday comes.
It fills up to a choking point on Sunday morning, when visitors flood in to meet the Flower H'mong at the Sapa motorbike tour to Bac Ha market - morning market. Compared with Sapa, tourism is still in its infancy here and during the week, the town has a deserted feel. Bac Ha is a good base to explore the surrounding highlands. Around 900 meters above sea level, it is noticeably warmer than Sapa.
One of Bac Ha's main industries is the manufacture of alcoholic home brews (rice wine, cassava wine, and corn liquor). The corn hooch produced by the Flower H'mong is so potent and it can ignite. Bac Ha is the only place in Vietnam where you'll find this particular moonshine, there's an entire area devoted to it at the Sunday market. Stay overnight in Bac Ha.
After breakfast, you take a motor ride on the track to Xin Man and Hoang Su Phi on many small back roads with scenic mountain views. Xin Man is right on the border between Vietnam and China. It is, as of this writing, well hidden, and completely surrounded by wild mountains and forests.
There's a single road from Xin Man to Hoang Su Phi. Hoang Su Phi is among the most untouched area of Ha Giang Province of Vietnam. The area was separated from the mainstream society until very recently. Passing Hoang Su Phi, you will be charmed by the pristine beauty of the wild mountains and the authentic culture of the local ethnic groups which include the Nung, Flower H'mong, Tay, and Ha Nhi people. After lunch, join the main road heading up to Ha Giang City, where you will stop for the night and apply for a permit.
After getting the permit for motorbike tour in border areas at Ha Giang's Immigration Police, you will ride on small challenging mountain roads (but incredibly beautiful) on the land of colorful mountain hill tribes. Motorcycle up the Mã Pí Lèng Pass. Here is yet another amazing place, with cloudy mountain ranges and the poetic Nho Que River winding off in the distance.
It is really difficult to find the exact words to describe Mã Pí Lèng Pass, located between Đồng Văn and Mèo Vạc, near the northernmost tip of Vietnam, which is a painting of astonishing beauty and magnificence that captures the eyes of all viewers and nature lovers.
Ride on a zig-zag track until reaching Vuong Family's Residence, 14 kilometers before Đồng Văn. Vuong Family was considered the king of the Hmong people in Đồng Văn, Ha Giang. The family residence was built in the scenic valley of Sa Phin with Chinese architecture. The whole house was built out of wood and rock only. The rocks for the buildings were imported from China. Vuong Family Residence is a masterpiece of man work in the valley of the heavenly beauty of Sa Phin.
This is a remote area and you can meet the hardworking local people here. It is inspiring to see how the local survive as they manage to live in the rocks. When you reach Đồng Văn Town, you will have some extra time to wander the ancient streets lined with H'mong homes of clay bricks and tiles roofs built centuries ago. Stay overnight at a hotel.
The road is still under construction and tracks are what make the ride relatively long in spite of few kilometers. The landscape is among the most beautiful of Vietnam and the slow tempo is only more appreciable. You will drive across the wild regions of the mythical province of Ha Giang, you will pas through Mèo Vạc. It shares the border with Đồng Văn District of Ha Giang Province and Bao Lam District of Cao Bang Province. Mèo Vạc has most of the terrain in the rock plateau of Đồng Văn and above 1000 meters above sea level.
Mèo Vạc has a harsh climate in the winter which is from November to April with dry and freezing cold weather. It is inhabited by different ethnic minorities including the H'mong, King, Tay, Dzao. Most ethnic groups have maintained the culture untouched by the outside world. In the afternoon, you will stop for the night in Bảo Lạc, the ethnic crossroad of Northeast Vietnam. Many other ethnic groups on the two sides of the border meet at the market every Sunday.
Beautiful motor ride down to Bắc Kạn Province. Few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but there are many blind curves before you turn to Ba Be Lake (inside Ba Be National Park). Ba Be National Park is an abundant bio-reserve area containing the world’s only fresh-water karst lake and several rare species of fauna and flora.
Ba Be Lake is a 10,048-hectare park, home to 1,268 species of flora and fauna, and a series of caves and a gigantic fresh water lake, which was established in 1992 by the Vietnamese Government to preserve forest ecosystems in the northeast. Ba Be is home to over 3,000 people from the ethnic minorities of Tay, Nung, Dao, and Mong who live in 13 villages within the park.
The Tay people have inhabited Ba Be area for centuries and makeup 58 percent of the population within the park’s boundaries. Drive to Bac Ngoi village which is located inside Ba Be National Park. Your homestay is in Tay's family, right by the side of Ba Be Lake with a wonderful and peaceful view.
Half-day boat ride on the lake to the other side, where you can explore Dau Dang Waterfall on Nang River. As one of the 27 ASEAN heritage gardens, Ba Be has the potential to attract nature lovers with its 450-hectare natural fresh water lake and 553 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish.
According to a survey from the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, over 11,000 years ago, an earthquake caused a collapse of the subterranean Nang River, creating a natural dam which led to the formation of Ba Be Lake.
Have lunch in a village near by Dau Dang Waterfall before back to homestay. Get on your bikes and take a half-day ride on the countryside to Na Khan. This Nung's village is in the middle of nowhere. You will have last experience on the trip to share the meals and house with locals. You will spend an overnight at a homestay.
Have an easy motor ride in the morning, passing peaceful villages and rice fields before reaching very busy road in the afternoon. Traffic is getting worst and worst on road 3, the way back to Hanoi, so you should be back at rush hour. Finish your trip around 16:00.
This tour will begin and end in Hanoi. Along the way, you will visit Mai Chau, Phú Yên, Mộc Châu, Son La City, Than Uyên, Tuần Giáo, Sapa, Bac Ha, Ha Giang City, Đồng Văn, Bảo Lạc, Ba Be National Park, and Na Khan.
Along this tour, you will have 12 breakfasts, 13 lunches, and 12 dinners with fruits and coffee on roads every day.
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