Day 1: Hanoi - Mai Chau.
Leaving Hanoi and breaking out of the delta plains we pass through endless limestone karst scenery as we travel south through “Perfume Pagoda” country and extensive farming lands comprising a sea of paddy fields split by tree-lined roads. After a picnic lunch near Chi Ne, we visit the hot springs at Kim Boi, before striking northwest and over two passes, finally dropping down to the mountain valley settlement of Mai Chau. Here we stay overnight with friends of the White Thai minority in a traditional stilt house. In the evening, after feasting, we can enjoy a cultural show of Thai dancing and a range of special local liquors. Overnight in Mai Chau.
Day 2: Mai Chau – PhuYen.
We backtrack on the main a few kilometres before embarking on a new road which drops down the side of a huge valley, steadily falling all the way back down to the Black River Reservoir. The 50 kilometres route has plenty of challenging surface and is prone to landslides. Much of the area is inhabited by Kinh and both Black and White Thai ethnicities. Depending on time we can complete another side road which rises up the opposite side of the valley, offering impressive views over the area on a clear day. Just before the reservoir we reach a final steep ascent and pass by communes of Dao people, before the descent to the banks of the reservoir and a ferry crossing. Once across we follow the banks of the reservoir past village all relocated before the flooding of the valley. On easy dirt road we approach the delta settlement of Phu Yen, set in the middle of a vast valley floor of paddy fields. Overnight in Phu Yen.
Day 3: Phu Yen – Son La.
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. Overnight in Sunrise Hotel.
Day 4: Son La – Dien Bien Phu.
Continuing the road no.6 to Tuan Giao after climbing the historic Phadin Pass where dominated by the H’mong people. Many stop for picture. Arrive in Dien Bien Phu in the late of afternoon. Overnight in Dien Bien Phu.
Day 5: Dien Bien Phu – Muong Lay.
Take a visit of the old French battle field, we will be heading out northwest from Dien Bien Phu the road passes isolated communities of H’mong and Thai people, whose small villages settle the bans of dark green rivers and on the steep slopes of the mountains. After lunch by a forest stream the road begins to climb up one high pass. At the top for sunset before dropping sharply into the deep Lai Chau valley. Overnight in Muong Lay.
Day 6: Muong Lay – Sapa.
If the days are right then we can visit one of three busy hill tribe markets as we head straight towards the main Fansipan Mountain range. The massive mountain range dominates the road until finally we 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 2000m the views looks out over the main range for miles and miles, before we descend to the mountainous Sa Pa valley. Overnight in Sapa.
Day 7: Sapa – Vu Linh.
We start from Sapa and ride to Luc Yen. A boat is waiting for you to bring you and the bikes to Vu Linh, at our Dao friends' village. You will cross all the lake (~3 hours) and we estimate that you will reach the village at about 17:00. Alternatively, we can ride from Luc Yen to Vu Linh. The welcome is exceptional and we hope you will not be too much tired. Overnight in homestay.
Day 8: Vu Linh - Hanoi.
After breakfast we cruise southeast on Highway 2 and then branch off to the sleepy town of Phu Tho. We follow the edge of the Red River along the dyke, almost to the point where it merges with the Black River after which they flow together to Hanoi. By now we are very much in the lowlands of the delta plains and the north’s main agricultural areas. Harvest time here is a sea of activity. Crossing the Black River by bridge, we pass through Son Tay and then return to Hanoi on the highway.
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