Day 1: Hanoi - Mai Chau. ~160 km, ~6 h.
Once out of the Red River Delta, which brims with traditional farming activity, we pass through limestone monoliths and into foothills populated by Muong people. We head straight at the main range before breaching a high and beautiful forested pass, which descends into the hidden valley of Mai Chau where we spend the night with friends in a traditional Thai stilt house in Pom Coong village.
Day 2: Mai Chau - Son La. ~200 km, ~8 h.
On good road looking high over distant mountains we head up into a forested region populated by H'mong people before descending into a mountainous tea-growing region. Soon after we follow a long valley floor covered in a sea of rice surrounded by Black Thai villages all the way to Son La with its bargain-filled market. Sleep in a hotel.
Day 3: Son La - Lai Chau. ~200 km, ~8 h.
15 passes. Very nice road and stunning landscape. Probably the most beautiful journey of the whole trip even the road is in poor condition. Sleep in Lan Anh Hotel.
Day 4: Lai Chau - Tam Duong. ~150 km, ~7 h.
The most demanding and remote section of the drive takes us upstream along the left side of a Black River tributary through forest on a bumpy dirt road past isolated pockets of Tay, Thai, H'mong and Man peoples before breaching a pass to enter the Tam Duong plain, which is covered in shark's teeth like limestone karst. We would visit a Mang village near Sin Ho, the guide will buy some food to give to the head of the village, and he later distributes our donations to the villagers. We stay O/N at Phuong Thanh Hotel.
Day 5: Tam Duong - Sapa. ~100 km, ~5 h.
Tam Duong market in the morning. There are colourful Montargnard groups living in Tam Duong: Black H'mong and Dzao. ~10 am: beautiful drive at slow pace on bumpy road to Sapa. We will have a big breakfast because there is nothing to eat on the way, just us with the wildness. We stay O/N in Cat Cat Hotel.
Day 6: Sapa - Trekking.
Sapa and Bac Ha are now quite touristy. However, we can trek to Ta Van village where is dominated by Giay people. We pass Lao Chai village on the way and lunch could be in Lao Chai, Ta Van, or wherever we want. The children will go together with you along the way. We stay O/N in a stilt house of Giay.
Day 7: Sapa - Bac Ha. ~100 km, ~3 h.
The drive 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 Dang Khoa Hotel and have lunch. In the afternoon, we trek to Lung Phinh village. Stay overnight in Bac Ha.
Day 8: Bac Ha - Luc Yen - Vu Linh. ~150 km, ~6 h.
From Bac Ha to Luc Yen, the road is easy and sealed all the way. Then, secondary road along the Thac Ba lake, Dzao and Tay territory until the traditional village of Vu Linh where we stay with our friends. The welcome is exceptional.
Day 9: Vu Linh - Hanoi. ~200 km, ~7 h.
Come back to Hanoi by Song Thao. Very nice road.
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