cycling north west vietnam
The 6 days Vietnam Cycling Tour starts from Hanoi, takes you to the North West Vietnam. Enjoy mountain biking through hilltribe villages, terraced paddy fields, and history attractions in Son La, Dien Bien, Lai Chau before you finishes the tour in Lao Cai and take the overnight train to get back to Hanoi.
Day 1: Hanoi to Son La
8:00: You will be met up with Indochina Explore Tours team and transferred to Son La. The drive will take you through different minority villages as we climb onto a higher plateau. We pass through coffee and tea plantations before arriving Son La 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. Check in hotel for overnight.
Day 2: Cycling Son La to Tuan Giao
The bicycle tour begins with a 5km riding up to the beautiful surrounding countryside. We bike through a patchwork of rice fields and plum orchards. 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. 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.
Day 3: Bike Tuan Giao to Lai Chau
Once out of Tuan Giao the road deteriorates as we take a spectacular back road to Lai Chau. 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.
Day 4: Biking 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 15km ascent followed by a gentle 10km ride down to Tam Duong.
Day 5: Cycle Tam Duong to Sapa
Today we cycle up to the Tram Ton Pass (1,900m; 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.
Day 6: Sapa – Laocai – Hanoi.
Enjoy a half day walking to visit hill tribe villages before you take the night train trip to travel back to Hanoi. You will commence your short journey by driving south toward Muong Hoa valley. You will then start your walk by descending into the valley, which is the largest rice paddy terraced among Sapa area. The guide can provide you interesting information about rice. If you visit the valley sometime in between May and October, you will be able to observe and experience how the local do planting and harvesting, one of the most important activities in the daily life. The walk takes you from Lao Chai village of Black Hmong minority to Ta Van village of Giay minority including a visit to the local Catholic Church. After visiting Ta Van the car will return you to Sapa. Have quick shower in a mini/standard hotel before taking the overnight train to Hanoi. Overnight on the train.