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North East Vietnam Bicycle and Cultural Tour

offered by supplier M20818 (read about supplier)

Key Information:
Tour Duration: 13 - 15 day(s)
Group Size: 5 - 16 people
Destination(s): Vietnam  
Specialty Categories: Bicycle Touring   Cultural Journey  
Season: October - April
Airfare Included: No
Tour Customizable: Yes
Minimum Per Person Price: 1475 Pound Sterling (GBP)
Maximum Per Person Price: 1749 Pound Sterling (GBP)

This region is home to the highest concentration of hill-tribe people in Vietnam. We visit H'mong, Tay, Dao and Xa Pho villages. Vietnam has the richest and most complex ethnic make-up in the whole of South East Asia; their markets and festivals add colour and character to the areas we cycle through. The French colonial rulers dubbed these minorities the "montagnards" meaning high-landers or mountain people. Despite decades of isolation from "outsiders" these traditional hill tribes show a warm, respectful curiosity to strangers. Now is the perfect time to visit Vietnam; some areas opened to tourism in the late 1980's but it was only in the late 1990s that a lot of the red tape and travel restrictions were removed from Vietnam. The Vietnam cycling holiday offers challenging mountain biking and a wonderful opportunity to experience the traditional and varied lifestyles of the Vietnamese people.

Itinerary:
Day 1: 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 Hanoi the 'Paris of the East' but the city's roots go all the way back to 1010 AD. On arrival in Hanoi, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the old quarter. This afternoon you have time to look around the city and explore more of Hanoi's old quarter. This ancient part of Vietnam's capital 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 cafés but the past never seems far away. This is a charming place to either unwind or visit some of the many attractions, the most popular being the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum.

Day 2: Hanoi - Lao Cai.
We will check our bikes this morning before a vehicle transfer to Lao Cai, the border city to China. This is the principal town in Lao Cai Province in North Eastern Vietnam, bordering Yunnan province, China. The border was closed from 1979 -1993 following war with China and the town mainly consists of modern architecture constructed since then. The town is now a popular destination for those journeying between Hanoi or Sa Pa and Kunming in China, and a key trading post.

Day 3 : Lao Cai - Bac Ha.
Our cycling begins with 45km on gently inclining sealed road towards an uphill route over the mountain pass to Bac Ha. As we cycle up to the pass the final 15km are a tough 800m climb on unsealed road as the terrain becomes more challenging. Our efforts are rewarded with panoramic views of surrounding mountains. Bac Ha is famous for the delicious plums that grow in forests on the hillsides.

Day 4: Bac Ha - Xin Man - Hoang Su Phi.
We're back on the bikes today cycling to Xin Man. Our route takes us into some of the remotest areas of Northeast Vietnam. The ride begins with a 10km climb of around 400m on newly sealed road before we turn off onto unsealed rough track for the next 15km heading into rural tribal areas. Then it's a massive descent of 1000m to Xin Man. Located right on the Vietnamese/Chinese border Xin Man is hidden away in a landscape of wild mountain and forest and inhabited by 15 ethnic groups including the Nung, the Flower H'mong, the Tay, La Chi, Kinh, Hoa. After lunch we cross over the river Cahy for 40km of cycling along quiet road; there is a gentle incline as we approach Hoang Su Phi. We encounter some rough sections of road along the way but are rewarded with beautiful views of the river.

Day 5: Hoang Su Phi - 'Heaven Gate' pass to Tan Quang and along the Lo River to Ha Giang.
Hoang Su Phi is one of the most untouched regions of Vietnam and communities have lived in total isolation from mainstream society until very recently. At an average elevation of 800 m above sea level with high mountains, deep valleys, streams and forestland, it is an area of outstanding natural beauty and unspoiled traditional life. Today we undertake the challenge of cycling over the 'Heaven Gate 2' mountain pass +895m, en route to Tan Quang. The pass offers stunning views beneath a wide open sky.

You really will feel on top of the world. This afternoon we make our descent cycling past villages, rice and maize terraces cultivated by the Red Dao and Tay tribes. The aromatic scents of cardamom and star anise fill the air as we pass along our route to Tan Quang nestled down in the valley. For the final stretch of this long day's cycling we take it easy with a leisurely cycle of 46km along the Lo river bank through unspoiled countryside to Ha Giang the sleepy capital of Ha Giang Province and approx 215 miles (350 km) Northwest of Hanoi. This is the old Silk Road.

Day 6: Rest Day Ha Giang.
Ha Giang is situated on the banks of the Lo River just below its confluence with the Mien River and in between the Mo Neo and Cam Mountains. Tay, Nung, Red Dao and White Hmong people all inhabit this region We have a day off the bikes today to relax after our exertions yesterday. The town has an ancient culture dating back to the Bronze Age and the tradition, still alive today in the local tribal communities of making bronze drums, dates back to this era. Ha Giang saw a number of minority uprisings against the French during colonial times. More recently it was badly damaged during war with the Chinese in 1979 and there are many new buildings. Ha Giang is a market centre; much of the tea grown in NE Vietnam is produced in the surrounding area and sold in the town. As well as green, yellow, black and scented varieties the speciality tea is Shan Tuyet. As our route continues to the border areas we will need to arrange our tourist permits here.

Day 7: Ha Giang to Quan Ba.
Setting off this morning we head out of town cycling for the first 25km on relatively flat road through the landscape of terraced rice paddy fields. Passing through minority villages we cycle the next 25km up winding roads into the vast limestone mountain range with its perpendicular walls of rock, climbing 800m towards the mountain road pass 'Heaven gate'. As we pass through mountain villages sometimes covered by cloud, we will receive a friendly greeting from the local communities. From the pass we can look down at amazing views, including the famous vista of the Tam Son valley with the 'Twin Hills and can spy Quan Ba town, our destination, in its beautiful location. It's mainly downhill for the last 15km into Quan Ba.

Day 8: Cycle Quan Ba to Yen Minh.
We will want to take our time today as our beautiful surroundings offer numerous photo opportunities and the rocky limestone and karst terrain is as diverse as it is beautiful. We cycle uphill for the first few km before a descent of around 10km and then relatively flat terrain for the next 10km. It's a challenging up and down terrain to an altitude of 1.025m before we make a final descent for the last 15km into Yenh Minh. We will have the chance to see the traditional homes of the local hill tribes. The communities in this area are Chinese.

Day 9: Yen Minh Climb over the Rocky Plateau to Dong Van, and Meo Vac.
Today we cycle on semi-surfaced quiet roads as we undertake a challenging uphill ride out of dense cedar forest onto the rocky Dong Van plateau. A registered UNESCO Global Geopark, 80% of the terrain is covered by rock and it is said to contain fossils from 400-600million years ago. Nestled in a valley in the heart of the Rock Plateau, is the isolated town of Dong Van, very close to the Chinese border and surrounded by mountain forest and multi-coloured orchids. Meaning 'sharing culture' Dong Van is occupied by Chinese Hoa, and H'mong, Tay and Kinh People. The houses are built in Chinese style. As we cycle on the modest road from Dong Van to Meo Vac alongside a vast gorge, the views are spectacular. This is a winding and undulating road with the sight of the Nho Que River below. From the Ma Phi Leng Pass we look down from an altitude of around 1500m into the valley. We stay tonight in the small town of Meo Vac. Most of the tribes living here have preserved their way of life from outside influence as travelling to Meo Vac was almost impossible until the recent construction of new roads.

Day 10: Meo Vac to Bao Lac.
There is a market daily in the town centre of Meo Vac used mainly by the White Hmong, Tay and Lo Lo hill tribes. Women dressed in their brightly coloured traditional clothing walk into the town carrying their bamboo woven baskets laden with corn and vegetables. Today we follow a remote mountain road to Bao Lac. After a 5km uphill cycle we make a 20km descent the follow a fairly flat road for the next 10km. The surrounding landscape with predominantly limestone formations is a surreal vista of peaks, troughs, towers and caves. The crops and dwellings seem to perch precariously on the hillsides. There's a relatively gentle uphill climb of 250m before we descend for the final 30km along flat terrain. We will pass people from the local minority communities along the way dressed in their vibrant tribal costumes. We stay tonight in Bao Lac.

Day 11: Bao Lac to Nguyen Binh.
Even in this isolated mountain town there is a busy morning market. We set off for a full day of cycling along challenging terrain but the road is quiet and well surfaced. We cycle through a pretty valley to the tin-mining town Tinh Tuc, heading on to Nguyen Binh. We continue along challenging terrain, but the unparalleled beauty of our surroundings more than compensates for the challenges of the cycling.

Day 12: Nguyen Binh to Hanoi.
This morning we pack up our bikes and have a transfer back to Hanoi. We can relax this afternoon and enjoy the bustle and lively pace of Hanoi after our journey through the remote mountains.

Day 13: Hanoi to Ha Long Bay.
We transfer this morning to beautiful Ha Long Bay. This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site is the world's largest marine limestone 'karst' landscape. Travelling on 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).

Day 14: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi.
This morning we will cruise Ha Long Bay, and enjoy a late brunch. The boat trip finishes around midday and you will be transferred back to Hanoi to arrive late afternoon.

Day 15: Depart Hanoi. We will arrange a transfer to the Hanoi International Airport for your flight home. (B)

Supplemental Tour Information:
Optional Extras
Own Room: From £320
Bike Hire From: £180
e-bike Hire: Giant Explore-E : From £350

Notes:
Airfare is not included in the tour price.

- 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.
- All food is provided from on tour apart from the rest day in Sa Pa and lunches and dinners in Hanoi. Rice is the staple food in Vietnam. Soup with rice noodles is a national dish.
- Spending money depends on your taste for souvenirs, drinks etc. We estimate that £120 will be more than enough to cover the 14-day tour. International departure tax is around £18. Tipping is an accepted part of everyday life, and although it is always at your discretion, you will be expected to tip to reward service. £20 for the guide and team at the end of the tour is recommended.
- International: US$12 from Hanoi, payable in US Dollars or New Dông.

About This Supplier
Location: England
Joined InfoHub: Mar 2011

M20818 is a specialist company taking small groups of cyclists to spectacular, remote areas of the world. We offer a unique blend of physical challenges, cultural experiences and cycling camaraderie, at highly competitive prices. M20818 guides are experienced cyclists and tour leaders. Destinations include Laos,...

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