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Vietnam N.W

Itinerary

Days 1-2: Hanoi

Vietnam's beautiful and tranquil capital lies at the heart of the northern Red River Delta. Hanoi is a city of lakes and leafy boulevards that still retains an air of French colonial elegance. Its fine coffee and perfect baguettes have led some to call it the 'Paris of the East', but Hanoi dates all the way back to AD 1010.

On arrival in Hanoi, you will be met and transferred to your hotel in the old quarter. This ancient part of the city is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets, each named after a trade or guild. Nowadays it is lined with tempting restaurants, guest houses, shops and cafés, but the past never seems far away. It is a charming place to either unwind or visit some the many attractions, such as the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. We will spend 2 days here before the hard work begins.

Accommodation: Hotel


Day 3: Hanoi to Son La

After an early breakfast we transfer to Son La. This is a fascinating drive through many minority villages, as we climb onto a higher plateau. We stop for lunch in Moc Chau town and then cycle down the Moc Chau valley passing coffee and tea plantations. We will transfer by vehicle into the busy Son La city centre, arriving 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 planes during the Vietnam War (or as the Vietnamese sensibly call it the American war) all that remained was a lone peach tree planted by an inmate in the 1940s. Since then the prison has been partially rebuilt and a museum opened.

Accommodation: Hotel (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 60km
Total Climb: 125m
Total Descent: 896m


Day 4: Son La to Tuan Giao

The ride begins with a 5km climb into the beautiful surrounding countryside. We pass through a patchwork of rice fields and plum orchards. After the 50km mark we have a 12km, 900m lung busting ascent. The scenery compensates for the tough cycling as we travel through a rolling landscape with stunning karst rock outcrops and trees. The area is home to the Black Thai who originated in southern China. Women work in the fields in brightly coloured dresses and hats, children ride water buffalo and men speed along on noisy motor cycles. We finish the day with a thrilling 11km descent into the town of Tuan Giao.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 81km
Total Climb: 1,338m
Total Descent: 1,307m


Day 5: Tuan Giao to Dien Biên Phu

Once out of Tuan Giao we head directly west towards Dien Biên Phu.  This is a stunning day passing through many small villages that are home to Black Thai and H'mong communities. The open curiosity and smiling faces of the people we pass along this road make a lasting impression and are testimony to the fact that this route is hardly used by travellers. We pass through a landscape of rice fields and banana plantations. 

In 1954, the Vietnamese achieved the impossible carrying heavy artillery into the mountains to defeat the French Garrison at Dien Biên Phu. As you ride along the route you will marvel at how this was ever accomplished. The surrender at Dien Biên Phu marked the end of French Indochina. It is not widely known that the US had developed a plan to aid the French by using tactical nuclear weapons at here.  In the late afternoon, we have time to acquaint ourselves with Dien Biên Phu - the city is well known throughout the world as a battle field in the first Indochina War.

Accommodation: Hotel (B, L)
Cycling Distance: 79km
Total Climb: 1,588m
Total Descent: 1,678m


Day 6: Dien Biên Phu- Muong Lay

Today we cycle along winding valleys on roads that snake through the beautiful countryside. We are surrounded by rice fields and jungles. We climb to an elevation of over 1000 m and are rewarded once again with stunning views before descending (20km) to Muong Lay town.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 101km
Total Climb: 1,505m
Total Descent: 1,610m


Day 7: Muong Lay to Lai Chau

Leaving Muong Lay, we cross back over the Hang Tom suspension bridge and follow the Na River passing through spectacular gorges and Black Dao villages. Some of our route will be on rough roads. The Dao worship spirits and ritually sacrifice pigs and chickens. The Dao women's clothes are covered with intricate weaving and silver coloured beads and coins. It is said the wealth of a woman can be judged by the weight of the coins she carries. We finish the day with stunning descents on winding roads into this lush valley of Lai Chau.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 106km
Total Climb: 1,150m
Total Descent: 1,850m


Day 8: Lai Chau to Sa Pa

Today is the highlight for many; as 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. An 8km tough ride sets us up for the 26km monster climb later in the day. As we start the second climb we gradually witness the beauty of Mt. Fan Si Pan, South East Asia's highest peak. Although often cloaked in 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 offers some of the best vantage points from which to enjoy the views of surrounding mountain peaks.

Accommodation: Hotel (B, L)
Cycling Distance: 72km
Total Climb: 1,818m
Total Descent: 1,226m


Day 9: Sa Pa

A well deserved rest day. High in the mountains, often shrouded in cloud Sa Pa is an old French hill station perched at 1,600m in the Hoang Lien Son range near the Chinese border. Its location boasts some of the best views of the surrounding peaks. Sa Pa holds one of the main markets in the area, where ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao (Yao), Giáy, Pho Lu, and Tí y and Giay gather to trade their wares,  wearing their intricately embroidered traditional dress. It is no wonder French colonialists saw Sapa as the perfect summer retreat.

Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 10: Sa Pa to Than Uyen

From Sa Pa we start the day's ride with a 15km climb to the top of the Tram Ton Pass, stopping en route to visit the "silver waterfall". Then it's a 26km plunge down to Binh Lu junction. From here we continue along the Hoang Lien Son mountain range; there are a number of hard climbs but the magnificent landscape makes the challenge all worthwhile. We finish with a 20km descent to Than Uyen.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 106km
Total Climb: 1,150m
Total Descent: 1,850m

Cycling distance: 97km


Day 11: Than Uyen to Tu Le

We follow the valley out of Than Uyen and the winding road leads us up into the hills. This rugged terrain with its dense vegetation is home to Black Hmong and the mysterious White Tay people, famed for their folk music, poems and songs. We end the day at Tu Le.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 86km
Total Climb: 1,571m
Total Descent: 1,443m


Day 12: Tu Le to Nghia Lo

Today we pass large white limestone mountains as we explore the "real Vietnam". We cycle along meandering roads to Nghia Lo. Perched on a mountain ridge overlooking the Red and Black River, Nghia Lo is home to the Thai, Nung, H'mong, La Ha and Ma people.

Accommodation: Guest House (B, L, D)
Cycling Distance: 49km
Total Climb: 658m
Total Descent: 965m


Day 13: Nghia Lo to Hanoi

This morning you will be transferred to Hanoi. There is time after lunch to pack up bikes, and relax before tomorrow's visit to Ha Long Bay.

Accommodation: Hotel (B)


Day 14: Hanoi to Ha Long Bay

After an early breakfast we will be transferred by bus to Ha Long Bay. Ha Long Bay is often called the eighth wonder of the world. This spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site is the world's largest marine limestone 'karst' landscape. Travelling aboard a wooden junk, modelled on traditional Vietnamese court sailing boats, we will see some of the Heritage areas and quieter grottos and caves. You can swim, fish and take a walk up hill for an unforgettable view over the bay. You will also have the opportunity to travel into some sea level caves in a small sampon. All meals will be provided on board (mainly seafood based).

Accommodation on the junk is twin, en suite


Day 15: Ha Long Bay to Hanoi

This morning we will cruise Ha Long Bay and enjoy a late brunch. The boat trip finishes around midday and you will be transferred back to Hanoi to arrive late afternoon.

Accommodation: Hotel


Day 16: Hanoi

After breakfast you will be transferred to the Hanoi International Airport for your flight home.
(B)

Vietnam Cycling Holidays

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