5 Days 4 Nights
Offroad Vietnam invites YOU to explore one of the best mountain roads of Central North Vietnam in five days. Starting from Hanoi, leave the busy towns and drop down into a valley in Mai Chau, up on a plateau and finally descending in the peaceful Red River delta.
Out of the big cities, the roads are quiet but there is hidden danger from fast trucks and cars as well as animals. Ride slow and you will be safe. Take a rest whenever you want and wherever you need. All in all, a great motorcycle vacation in such a short time.
Today is the first day of this 5 days Central North Vietnam ride. To get out of Hanoi safely, we will have a short briefing to let you know about the rules. In addition, the guide will show you how to understand him by his body language. Finally, we start around 9.30am after the rush hours.
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.
In the morning we can explore the village and the surrounding area by foot. Life in the countryside starts early so by sunrise there is a wealth of activity. After breakfast, we head out on the highway before forking off the main road onto an old French colonial road which has become abandoned. This old road used to serve the north-west in the days of little-motorised transport but became disused from 1994 when Hoa Binh Dam was opened and the Black River (Song Da) valley was subsequently flooded, eradicating the road to Hanoi. We pass steadily upwards through areas inhabited by Thai peoples, followed by the Dao and H’Mong ethnicities at higher altitudes. The road surface is by no means smooth but the winding route offers magnificent views out over 6 ranges of mountains.
In mid-afternoon, we rejoin the main highway and travel on the good winding sealed road to Moc Chau – famous for dairy products, tea, a massive cave, and a waterfall. Overnight in Moc Chau.
On the third day, 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 surfaces 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 breach 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. An easy dirt road leads us to the delta settlement of Phu Yen, set in the middle of a vast valley floor of paddy fields. Overnight in Phu Yen.
We have two options: one takes us around the very end of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, enjoying good riding on winding sealed mountain roads; the other crosses over the very end of the range and takes us through the untarnished rain forest on a challenging rocky road.
The Hoang Lien Son mountain range is the main range of northwest Vietnam and also includes the highest peak – Fansipan. From Ba Khe, we continue on sealed road through renowned tea growing areas, where the hillsides are literally covered in plantations, all the way to the city of Yen Bai which sits on the Red River. From here it’s a short ride to the edge of Thac Ba Lake, also formed by the construction of hydroelectricity dam in the 1970s. We load the bikes and take a boat for an hour’s journey across the clear waters to the Dao village of Vu Linh where we stay for the night, enjoying Dao hospitality.
Overnight in a home stay.
After breakfast, we cruise south-east 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 a bridge, we pass through Son Tay and then return to Hanoi on the highway.