Day 1: Hanoi-Mai Chau (170 km). 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 a Thai village.
Day 2: Mai Chau-Son La (185 km). 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 Hoa Dao Hotel.
Day 3: Son La-Lai Chau (200 km), 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: Boating on the Black river (6 hours boating). Lai Chau is where the Da river and Nam Na river meet. The occasion to go downstream to meet local people. We propose a picnic to have one complete day of relaxation and to discover this wild area.
Day 5: Lai Chau-Tam Duong (120 km). 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 overnight at Phuong Thanh Hotel.
Day 6: Tam Duong-Sapa (90 km). Tam Duong market in the morning. There are colourful Montargnard groups living in Tam Duong: Black H'mong and Dzao. At about 10 am: beautiful ride 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 overnight in Cat Cat Hotel.
Day 7: Sapa-Bac Ha (90 km). The ride from Sapa to Bac Ha takes about 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-Market-Bac Ha (120 km). Market of Bac Ha: true riot of color where flower H'mong carry out the dance. It is a superb and merry show but which becomes oppressive about 10-11 hours with the massive arrival of the tourists. It is time to leave.
Day 9: Bac Ha-Luc Yen-Vu Linh (150 km). We start the day by strolling around Bac Ha to meet with many ethnic villages in this area. We then move towards the lake Thac Ba. From Bac Ha to Luc Yen, the road is easy and sealed all the way. After Luc Yen, we take a small dirt track bordered by palm trees, in the middle of the karsts. A boat is waiting to take us across the lake of Thac Ba while skirting northern bank (3 hours). We arrive at Vu Linh, a traditional village of Dao where we sleep in the family of our friends. The welcome is exceptional.
Day 10: Vu Linh-Ba Be (180 km). Quite a long drive but easy (early departure is better) from Vu Linh to Ba Be (250 km). Ba Be is a nice stop and it is good to arrive the first day to have a full day (of the second) day there. However, if you feel like resting before, it is all the time possible to stop 50 km before Ba Be. The place before Ba Be is Na Khan, a village of Tay people lost in the forest.
Day 11: Ba Be. Easy boating on the lake and river. Go to market (if it is the day you arrive). Stop at waterfall, beautiful swim pirate, the chef of Dau Dang waterfall where we enjoy dinner. Down the waterfall, we could visit the village and a small school (only few pupils during the summer). We propose to stay in the stilt house of forest guards.
Day 12: Ba Be-Quang Hoa (170 km). Cross Ba Be lake to come back to our captain's house. Beautiful ride up to Cao Bang province. Few passes from where you can dominate the area. The road is easy but many curves. We can stop a lot. All together, stop for drinks and food it should be an 8-hour journey. Then ride 1 more hour to reach the beautiful village of Quang Hoa, in the middle of a mountain cirque. This is the territory of Nung An people. Spend the night in our friend's house.
Day 13: Quang Hoa (30 km). Option 1: Na Tau is a completely unknown area that we propose to discover it by raft and motorbike. Rivers and waterfalls everywhere are extremely beautiful and wild. It is only 15 km from Quang Hoa. Option 2: Having obtained permission from the border police, we make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam's most impressive waterfalls. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50 m high falls hit the river.
Day 14: Quang Hoa-Mau Son (180 km). Ride from Quang Hoa to Lang Son. Continue driving toward the border from Lang Son to Mau Son. Mau Son is 30 km away from Lang Son, 1.541 m above sea level. Quite cool in the evening! Night in the guest house of Mau Son Resort.
Day 15: Mau Son-Bai Chay (180 km). We have a long ride mainly on secondary road, passing many coal mines along the road. We hope you are not covered in coal dust when we arrive in Halong City.
Day 16: Bai Chay-Halong-Hanoi (180 km). A boat is waiting to take us to discover the Halong Bay. We first visit Then Cung cave, then a fishing village through myriads of limestone. We have lunch on boat before coming back to Bai Chay and take the bus to Hanoi. We arrive in Hanoi around 4 pm.
Also see tour packages in:
Asia Vietnam Outdoor: Land Rambler Bicycle Touring Boating and Sailing
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