16 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorbike Tour Introduction
This 16 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail takes you from Hanoi down to Saigon (HCMC). You will see a great combination of stunning scenery, friendly people, and rich culture. In addition, the riding is quite enjoying and thrilling. 2008 BBC Top Gear Vietnam Special show featured this trail but on crazy highways. Join us to retrace the Top Gear route and see much more than what you saw in this show. All in all, it’s a fantastic motorbike voyage down the historical Ho Chi Minh Trail!
Below is a video clip from one of off-road motorcycle tours on the historical HCM Trail. In case you want to watch more videos please check our YouTube channel.
ITINERARY IN DETAILS
Day 1: Hanoi – Phu Yen (165 km, ~6 hours riding)
This is the first day of our 16 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail through Vietnam. We head out of Hanoi and then ride to Phu Yen on a country road with a stop in Son Tay.
On November 20-21, 1970, a joint force composed of USAF Special Operations and rescue personnel and U.S. Army Special Forces, supported by U.S. Navy Carrier Task Force 77, made a daring raid on the Son Tay prison camp located less than 50 miles from Hanoi. The objective was to rescue as many as 100 U.S. captives thought to be held there. The assault troops, in six ARRS helicopters accompanied by two C-130 air crafts, flew 640km to Son Tay from bases in Thailand. U.S. Navy pilots made a diversionary raid while 116 USAF and Navy aircraft from seven air bases and three aircraft carriers flew refueling, surface-to-air missile suppression, fighter cover, close air support, early warning, communications support, and reconnaissance missions. Surprisingly, there were no prisoners in the camp.
After lunch, ride on the winding mountain road to Phu Yen to take in some of the best mountain views in Northwest Vietnam. Overnighting in a hotel.
Day 2: Phu Yen – Mai Chau (145 km, 5 hours riding)
There are many small roads that lead into the mountains around Mai Chau so we’ll take the chance to ride out to isolated H’mong, Dao and Thai villages. In fact, we will take on the challenge of an old road built by the French army and spend the afternoon exploring nearby villages. Overnight in a Thai ethnicity stilt house in Mai Chau.
Day 3: Mai Chau – Tan Ky (290 km, 9 hours riding)
Today is probably the most demanding day of this 16 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail. Ride on a small, spectacular and paved trail along the Ma river until Cam Thuy. This is the place where we stop for lunch. Hit the Ho Chi Minh trail (now a newly built highway) all the way to Tan Ky town where we spend the night in a hotel.
Day 4: Tan Ky – Phong Nha (280 km, 8 hours riding)
First, ride on Ho Chi Minh Highway until Pho Chau where we stop to visit the HCM Trail victory monument which is, in fact, the real starting point of our HCM Trail ride.
Then ride all the way to Phong Nha – Ke Bang, the biggest and also the most beautiful cave in Vietnam and Indochina and is now a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. The karst formation of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park has evolved since the Paleozoic (some 400 million years ago) and so is the oldest major karst area in Asia. Subject to massive tectonic changes, the park’s karst landscape is extremely complex with many geographic features of considerable significance. The vast area, extending to the border of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, contains spectacular formations including 65 km of caves and underground rivers.
Day 5: Phong Nha – Dong Hoi (60 km, 2 hours riding)
Boating and exploring World Heritage site of Phong Nha where local civilians and military sheltered from incessant bombing during wartime. Then we drive down to the coastal town of Dong Hoi. This place was heavily shelled by US warships during the war. At a hotel over looking the beach, we can take in some sunbathing by the beach. Overnight in Dong Hoi.
Day 6: Dong Hoi – Khe Sanh (200 km, 6 hours riding)
We strike south through foothills which were once sprayed heavily by Agent Orange towards the former DMZ. There is still much evidence of bombing on the mountain sides and from time to time we will see remnants of the original Trail. We take in the Vinh Moc tunnel, the famous Hien Luong Bridge (former demarcation line between North and South Vietnam, the Truong Son Cemetery and finally Khe Sanh (former US Marine base). Overnight in Khe Sanh.
Day 7: Khe Sanh – Hue (180 km, 7 hours riding)
In the morning we head south over the Da Krong Bridge (built by the Cubans in 1973) into the infamous A Shau Valley, an area of intense wartime activity. Passing Hamburger Hill and mountains still barren due to the extended effects of Agent Orange, we arrive at A Luoi, where there are many Bru Van hill tribe people. Then, cruising through green back country down the steep Me Oi Pass. Finally, we continue on to the beautiful city of Hue which lies along the banks of the Perfume River. Overnight in Hue.
Day 8: Hue – Hoi An (145 km, 5 hours riding)
See the Forbidden Citadel in the morning. Join the National Highway 1 and head up the Hai Van Pass (Cloudy Pass) before the World Heritage site of Hoi An, a major trading centre in SE Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 9: Hoi An
Whole morning exploring the old town of Hoi An. Afternoon at the Cua Dai beach, about 6km from the old town. This is probably the most relaxing day of this 16 Days Ho Chi Minh Trail motorbike ride.
About Hoi An
The former harbour town of the Champa people at the estuary of the Thu Bon river was an important Vietnamese trading centre in the 16th and 17th centuries, where Chinese from various provinces as well as Japanese, Dutch and Indians settled down. During this period of the China trade, the town was called Hai Pho (Seaside Town) in Vietnamese. During the French colonial period (1883 – 1945), it was called Faifo. Originally Hai Pho was a divided town, because across the “Japanese Bridge”, it used to be the Japanese settlement (16th – 17th century). The Bridge (Chua Cau) is a unique covered structure built by the Japanese, the only known covered bridge with a Buddhist pagoda attached to one side.
The town is known to the French and Spanish as Faifo, and by similar names in Portuguese and Dutch. A number of theories have been put forth as to the origin of this name. Some scholars have suggested that it comes from the word “Hai pho” meaning “sea town”, while others have said that it seems more likely to simply be a shortening of Hoi An pho, “the town of Hoi An”, to “Hoi pho” which became “Faifo”.
Present Hoi An
In 1999, the old town was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as a well-preserved example of a Southeast Asian trading port of the 15th to 19th centuries, whose buildings display a unique blend of local and foreign influences.
Today, Hoi An is still a small city, but it attracts a fair number of tourists, also being a well-established place on the backpacker trail. Many visits to the numerous art and craft shops and tailors, who produce made-to-measure clothes for a fraction of the western price.
Day 10: Hoi An – Kon Tum (290 km, 8 hours riding)
This is another long day on motorbike of this 16 days Ho Chi Minh Trail tour. First, we strike back up to the mountains, then rejoin the Trail at Phuoc Son (also known as Kham Duc). From there we head up the towering Lo So Pass. Then pass through remote areas thinly populated by peoples of the Ba Na ethnicity. Edging close to the border with Laos, where a number of Trail arteries crossed over in Laos, we continue on to Kon Tum.
Overnight in Kon Tum.
Day 11: Kon Tum – Buon Ma Thuot (240 km, 8 hours riding)
In the morning we head south through the Central Highlands, passing Pleiku and the Ia Drang Valley battlefield, before continuing onto Buon Ma Thuot (also known as Buon Me Thuot), the city where northern forces launched their final assault on the then Saigon. Buon Ma Thuot produces most and best coffee products in Vietnam.
Overnight in Buon Ma Thuot.
Day 12: Buon Ma Thuot – Nha Trang (190 km, 6 hours riding)
We take an easy drive back down off the Tay Son highlands towards the coast. Then join Highway 1 about 30 km north of Nha Trang. Taking in this scenic coastal stretch past turquoise waters and scarlet fishing boats, we arrive in the bright lights of Nha Trang and its relaxing holiday options.
Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day 13: Nha Trang – Da Lat (150 km, 5 hours riding)
This 150km ride shows you some footages of the famous 2008 BBC’s Top Gear Vietnam Special show. Mountainous ride on the Central Highland. In fact, you will find snake ways like in the Northern Vietnam’s Ha Giang province. Therefore, the ride is quite beautiful but challenging.
Day 14: Da Lat Touring (50 km, 2 hours riding)
Da Lat is known as “The City of Love” and is a favorite holiday resort for Vietnamese as well as the French. With evergreen forests, waterfalls, beautiful lakes, the country’s best flower gardens, and delicious fresh produce, Da Lat has always provided a welcome respite from the heat of the lowlands. We can spend the day visiting the highlights of Da Lat – its gardens, cathedral, waterfalls, market, Valley of Love, convent, university, train station and key pagodas. Overnight in Da Lat for the second night.
Day 15: Da Lat – Cat Tien National Park (190 km, 5 hours riding)
Down on road 20, we ride to Cat Tien National Park. This forest area used to be the head quarter of Vietnamese army during the war. The park suffered historically during the Vietnam War when it was extensively sprayed with herbicides like the defoliant Agent Orange. To this day these areas have extensive bamboo and grassland cover and trees have not yet grown back.
Day 16: Cat Tien – Saigon (160 km, 6 hours riding)
This is not so long but is a big day as traffic is very crazy when we enter Saigon (HCM City). We ride straight to the train station where we end the ride. If you need information about places to stay and/or to eat our guide will be able to recommend some. The 16 days Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorbike ends.
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