Days 1-2: Hanoi. Vietnam's beautiful and tranquil capital lies at the heart of the northern Red River Delta. It is a city of lakes and leafy boulevards that still retains an air of French colonial elegance. The fine coffee and perfect baguettes have led some to call it the 'Paris of the East', but Hanoi's dates all the way back to AD 1010.
On arrival in Hanoi, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the old quarter. This ancient part of the city is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets each named after a trade or guild. Nowadays it is lined with tempting restaurants, guest houses, shops and cafes, but the past never seems far away. It is a charming place to either unwind or visit some its many attractions, among the most popular being the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We will spend 2 days here before the hard work begins. Accommodation: Guest House. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 3: Hanoi to Son La. After an early breakfast we transfer Son La. It's a fascinating drive past many minority villages as we climb onto a higher plateau. We pass coffee and tea plantations before arriving in the late afternoon. Son La was once the site of a French penal colony where radicals and revolutionaries were incarcerated during French rule. The prison was destroyed by American war planes during the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese sensibly call it the American war) except for a lone peach tree planted by an inmate in the 1940s. Since then the prison has partially rebuilt and a museum opened. Accommodation: Hotel. Cycling distance: 42 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 4: Son La to Tuan Giao. The ride begins with a 5 km climb into the beautiful surrounding countryside. We pass through a patchwork of rice fields and plum orchards. After the 50 km mark we have a 12 km, 900 m lung busting ascent. The scenery makes up for the hard work as the rolling land erupts into stunning karst rock outcrops bristling with trees. The land is home to the Black Thai who originated in southern China. The women can be glimpsed working the fields in brightly colored dresses and hats, the children riding water buffalo and the men speeding along on noisy motor cycles. We finish the day with a thrilling 11km decent before we reach the town of Tuan Giao.
Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 90 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 5: Tuan Giao to Lai Chau. Once out of Tuan Giao the road deteriorates as we take a spectacular back road to Lai Chau. This road isn't well traveled, you first notice this by the increased curiosity and smiling faces and of the people, making this a day not to be forgotten. We cycle past rice fields and bananas plantations as we pass through small minority villages of Red Hmong and Kho Mu. There are two hard climbs today the first starts after 50km with a 5km ascent but the second, and most challenging comes at the end of this stunning day, with an 8km strength-sapping climb. All this hard work is easily forgotten as we finish the day with a stunning descend of 18km on a winding road into this lush valley of Lai Chau. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 98 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 6: Lai Chau to Tam Duong. After we leave Lai Chau we cross the Hang Tom suspension bridge and follow the Na River passing through spectacular gorges and Black Dao villages. The Dao worship spirits and ritually sacrifice pigs and chickens. The women clothes are covered with intricate weaving and silver colored beads and coins. It is said the wealth a women can be judged by the weight of the coins she carries. We finish this long day with a 15 km ascent followed by a gentle 10 km ride down to Tam Duong. Accommodation: Guest House
Cycling distance: 106 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 7: Tam Duong to Sapa. Today is the highlight for many; as we cycle up to the Tram Ton Pass (1,900 m; 6,230 ft) the highest mountain pass in Vietnam, on our way to Sa Pa. We start with a relatively easy 7km ride before we hit the first of two major climbs. A 8km tough ride sets us up for the 26km monster climb later in the day. As we start the second climb we slowly start to witness the beauty of Mt. Fan Si Pan, South East Asia's highest peak. Often hidden with a veil of moving mist and fog, we will hopefully get a glimpse of its lofty peaks. Sa Pa is an old French hill station perched in the Hoang Lien Son Mountains near the Chinese border. Its position gives it some of the best vantage points to savour the surrounding mountain peaks.
Accommodation: Hotel. Cycling distance: 72 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 8: Sapa. Rest day. Accommodation: Hotel. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 9: Sapa to Than Thuoc. From Sapa we start the day's ride with a 15kms climb to the top of the Tram Ton Pass, stopping on route to visit the "silver waterfall". Then it's a 26kms plunge down to Binh Lu junction. From here we continue along the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, there are a number of hard climbs but the magnificent landscape makes the hardship all worthwhile. We finish with a 20 km descent to Than Uyen. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 95 km.
Day 10: Than Uyen to Tu Le We follow the valley out of Than Uyen until the road begins to wind up into the hills. This rugged terrain of dense vegetation brings us into contact with the Black Hmong and the mysterious White Tay people who are famed for their folk music, poems and songs. We end the day at Tu Le. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 88 km. Photos from QT Luong.
Day 11: Tu Le to Nghia Lo. Today we pass large white limestone mountains as we explore the "real Vietnam". We will cycle through meandering roads before we finally end the day in Nghia Lo. It sits on a mountain ridge overlooking the Red and Black River and is home to the Thai, Nung, H'mong, La Ha and Ma peoples. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 65 km. Photos from Richard Cain.
Day 12: Nghia Lo to Yen Bai. The route today day takes us on the back roads to Yen Bai. A spectacular road through undulating terrain of tea plantations, lush forests, rice fields and gum trees. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 74 km.
Day 13: Nghia Lo to Hanoi via Tran Phu. Our last day in the saddle takes us back to paved roads through the rolling terrain of tea plantations lush forests, rice fields and gum trees used for paper production. We finish cycling early in the afternoon, then transfer back to Hanoi. Accommodation: Guest House. Cycling distance: 38 km.
Day 14: Hanoi to Ha Long Bay. After an early breakfast we will be transferred by bus to Ha Long Bay. Halong Bay is often called the eighth wonder of the world and once visited, it is hard to dispute that claim. This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site is the world’s largest marine limestone ‘karst’ landscape. Travelling aboard a wooden junk, modelled on traditional Vietnamese court sailing boats, we will see some of the Heritage areas and quieter grottos and caves. You can swim, fish and take a walk up hill for an unforgettable view over the bay. You will also have the opportunity to travel into some sea level caves in a small sampon. All meals will be provided on board (mainly seafood based). Accommodation on the junk is twin, en suite.
Day 15: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi. This morning we will cruise Ha Long Bay, have a late brunch. The boat trip finishes around midday and you will be transferred back to Hanoi to arrive late afternoon. Accommodation: Guest House.
Day 16: Hanoi. After breakfast you will be transferred to the Hanoi International Airport for your flight home.
- Accommodation will be in hotels, guest houses and a home stay for the duration of the tour. Our prices are based on sharing a twin room; single rooms are sometimes available at extra cost.
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