This page provides details about Northwest Vietnam motorbiking in 8 days. In fact, this tour is a ride to the rocky far away corner of Vietnam.
Northwest Vietnam used to be a far and difficult part of Vietnam. In the past, it’s more famous with the war against the French Army in Dien Bien Phu. However, it now turns into a major tourist attraction that grabs attention from old to young people. Some travel there to see the former battlefield of Dien Bien Phu while more people choose to ride on a motorcycle tour to take in the breathtaking views and conquer the high mountain passes. More roads are being built, but there are still many areas that can only be accessible by motorbikes. You start from Hanoi, head up the mountains on the historical Highway 6 and snake up and down the zig zag mountain roads, meet colorful hill tribe groups and visit their weekend markets.
Places you see include Mai Chau, Phu Yen, Moc Chau, Son La, Tuan Giao, Muong Lay, Sin Ho, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen and Vu Linh. There are home stays in Mai Chau, Sapa, Bac Ha, Luc Yen and Vu Linh. In addition, there are hotels that offer better facilities. A mix of home stays and hotel is great and you will have many good things to tell your friend after this ride. Allow at least 7 days to have a good loop, and if time allows a full 10-day trip is best. When you don’t have many days, even a 4-day ride that ends by train back to Hanoi is also not a bad idea. Below is the standard Northwest Vietnam motorbiking in 8 days.
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Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau. ~200 km, ~6h.
Today is the first day of this Northwest Vietnam motorbiking in 8 days. Before starting to ride out of Hanoi, we will have a short briefing to explain about rules and safety.
Once out of the Red River Delta, which brims with traditional farming activity, we pass through limestone monoliths and into foothills populated by Muong people. We head straight at the main range before breaching a high and beautiful forested pass, which descends into the hidden valley of Mai Chau where we spend the night with friends in a traditional Thai stilt house in Pom Coong village.
Day 2: Mai Chau – Son La. ~200 km, ~8h.
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.
Sleep in a hotel.
Day 3: Son La – Muong Lay. ~200 km, ~8h.
There are 15 passes. Therefore, this portion has very nice roads and stunning landscape. It’s probably the most beautiful journey of the whole trip even the road is in poor condition due to the recent construction of Lai Chau hydroelectric plant. The provincial city was moved to Tam Duong and Tam Duong was renamed, Lai Chau. Lai Chau was named Muong Lay, its former name. In many old maps, the names are quite confusing!
Sleep in Lan Anh Hotel.
Day 4: Muong Lay – Lai Chau. ~150 km, ~7h.
The most demanding and remote section of the drive takes us upstream along the left side of a Black River tributary through forest on a bumpy dirt road past isolated pockets of Tay, Thai, H’mong and Man peoples before breaching a pass to enter the Tam Duong plain, which is covered in shark’s teeth like limestone karst. We would visit some villages off the main roads and meet colorful hill tribe people.
Day 5: Lai Chau – Sapa. ~100 km, ~5h.
Tam Duong market in the morning. There are colourful Montagnard groups living in Tam Duong: Black H’mong and Dzao. ~10 am: beautiful drive at a slow pace on bumpy road to Sapa. We will have a big breakfast because there is nothing to eat on the way, just ourselves with the wildness. We stay O/N in Cat Cat View Hotel.
Day 6: Sapa – Trekking.
Sapa and Bac Ha are now quite touristy. However, we can ride down to Ta Van or Ban Ho village where is dominated by Giay people and start a trek from there. While trekking, we pass Lao Chai village on the way and lunch could be in Lao Chai, Ta Van, or wherever we want. In addition, the children will go together with you along the way.
We stay O/N in a stilt house of a Giay family.
Day 7: Sapa – Luc Yen – Vu Linh. ~250 km, ~7h.
Today we ride back to Sapa, then drive to Luc Yen. Ride to Vu Linh in about 2 hours around the lake on a small road lined with palm trees and scenic mountain views. Once in Vu Linh, it will be dark already. However, the welcome is exceptional and we hope you will recover the long ride after the party.
Home staying in a host Dao family.
Day 8: Vu Linh – Hanoi. ~200km, ~6h.
Ride on the mountain road via Son Duong, at the foot of Tam Dao range. Then ride back to Hanoi via Son Tay. All in all, it’s a very nice road but busy for the last part. End this Northwest Vietnam motorbiking adventure before 4pm to avoid rush hours.
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