Introduction Of Big North Vietnam In 10 Days
This is a Big North By Train 10 Days motorbike tour of the North Eastern Regions of Vietnam and Ha Giang, Bac Ha and Sapa. This area is set in beautiful rolling green mountains. Highlights along the way include: Visiting the Trekking capital of Sa Pa, Skirting along the mountainous border of China and Vietnam, Visiting Lake Ba Be and spending a whole day boating the lake, seeing waterfalls and limestone caves as well as getting up close to the Ban Gioc Waterfalls. Along the way, we will stay in local villages where will be hosted by some local families. We will taste Vietnamese food, sample Vietnamese brandy/beer and ride some pretty amazing roads!
Itinerary Day By Day
Day 1: Hanoi – Lang Son (~165km/ ~4 hours)
This is the first day we ride Big North Vietnam. Before the ride, it takes 30 minutes to double-check the bikes and ensures that we have all the necessary tools and equipment to guarantee maximum fun. The first day is a nice easy one along the new Highway 1B. We will have time to discover this city which has become a big trading post between China and Vietnam. In addition, you can shop for cheap Chinese products at the nearby Dong Kinh market.
Day 2: Lang Son – Quang Hoa (~180km/ ~6 hours)
Today we make our way to the beautiful village of Quang Uyen, in the middle of a mountain cirque. While riding, there are some challenging tracks along the way. This is the territory of Nung An people. Tonight we enjoy a Homestay with a host family and the hostess is a great cook. The village is one of the first to offer homestay experience to foreigners who travel there on two wheels. In fact, the host house is basic but cosy.
Day 3: Quang Hoa – Ban Gioc Waterfalls – Cao Bang (~140km/ ~5 hours)
We make our way through spectacular scenery to Vietnam’s most impressive waterfall, Ban Gioc Waterfalls, 50km from Quang Uyen. The road was just been upgraded, in good condition. Weather permitting we can swim right up to where the 50m high falls hit the river. After the waterfall, we make our way to Cao Bang where we overnight in a comfortable small hotel.
Cao Bang is a big town in Northeast Vietnam, the capital city of a province with the same name. This city is also known for the Battle of Cao Bang, the first major decisive victory of the Viet Minh against the French Army along Highway 4.
Day 4: Cao Bang – Ba Be lake (~180km/ ~6 hours)
We move southwest from Cao Bang and breach several passes en route in an area hosting huge mountain scenery. The Cao Bac and Ngan Son Pass offer breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside. Descending the pass we see hillsides carpeted with apiaries, Vietnam’s most famous honey-producing areas.
Then in the afternoon, we arrive at Ba Be Lake in the heart of a National Park. Overnight with a family in a Tay minority stilt house on the east end of the lake. This pristine mountain lake, arguably Vietnam’s most beautiful lake. Around this lake, you can find primary jungle and limestone cliffs. In the surrounding areas are many different people such as Tay, Nung, Thai, Hmong and a few other groups of peoples.
Day 5: Ba Be Rest Day
A day to explore at Ba Be Lake, take in some markets, enjoy a boat cruise, go fishing, explore caves, dine with friends at the edge of a waterfall, enjoy the hospitality of the minority peoples who inhabit this area. We will take a boat up the seven-kilometre length of the lake to the Dau Dang waterfalls on the Gam River and also visit the 300m Long Phuong Cave. During the war, the cave was one of the rare natural shelters for the local population hiding from the bombing. Overnighting with a family in a Tay minority stilt house for the second night.
In case you prefer off-road riding and stream crossing, we will just do a half-day boat cruise on Ba Be lakes and a half-day riding as you can see in the photo below. We suggest this for riders from intermediate level. However, if it rains heavily or if the water is high then the stream crossing is unfortunately not possible.
Day 6: Ba Be lake – Dong Van (~240km/ ~8 hours)
Today is a long day – but the roads are good which makes it a bit easier.
We make our way up a zig-zag track, through the Mystical Province of Ha Giang via Bao Lac to Dong Van almost on the border of China. Here we meet the hardworking local people. In a short time, it is inspiring to see how they survive as they manage to live in the rocks. When we reach town we will have some extra time to wander the ancient streets lined with H’mong homes of clay bricks and tiles roofs built centuries ago.
Dong Van is probably the most beautiful place in North Vietnam. Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark is located in the northeastern province of Vietnam, Ha Giang. It is the first Geopark in Vietnam and the second one in Southeast Asia to be recognized by UNESCO. The Geopark formed about 550 million years ago. In addition, it now is home to 17 ethnic groups which create the unique and rich cultural heritage of this area. Sunday market is probably the most colourful one in North Vietnam.
Day 7: Dong Van – Ha Giang (~180km/ ~6 hours)
Today we ride the best mountain pass in Vietnam! Ride the Zig Zag track down from Dong Van and follow the poetic Nho Que river winding off in the distance and then over the Ma Pi Leng Pass and cloudy mountain ranges to Ha Giang. This is probably the best day of the ride with scenic views.
Day 8: Ha Giang – Xin Man- Bac Ha (~180km/ ~6 hours)
Today we ride on challenging tracks to Xin Man and then on many small/back roads with scenic mountain views before reaching Bac Ha. The town is famous for its Tam Hoa plum which must bloom three times before they are ripe. In fact, Vietnamese whisky distilled in Bac Ha is also a favourite drink.
Day 9: Bac Ha – Sapa (~100km/ ~3 hours)
The drive from Bac Ha to Sapa takes ~3 hours. Despite the small roads, this 70km ride from Bac Ha to Lao Cai has stunning scenery. Lao Cai is a border city where we can take photos with China as the background. After lunch, ride up to Sapa (34 km).
We overnight in Sapa, a hill station built by the French in the early 20th century. This town is about 1,600m above sea level and is one of the few places in Vietnam that had snow. In addition, accommodation is good with views. With the fast extension and more tourists, the town itself really have more foreigners than local people
Day 10: Rest day in Sapa. Train Lao Cai – Hanoi. End of Big North 10 days.
Sapa overlooks a plunging valley of cascading rice terraces, with mountains towering above on all sides. Views of this epic scenery are often subdued by thick mist rolling across the peaks. But even if it’s cloudy, Sapa is still a fascinating destination, especially when local hill-tribe people fill the town with colour. In reality, there is a lot to see and do on your rest day in Sapa. The most popular activity is hiking and a visit to Cat Cat Village can either by foot or on your two wheels. There are also village tours and mountain biking available, Otherwise, indulge in a spa day!
Just make sure you are back in time to catch the overnight train back to Hanoi in the evening. We will then load the bikes onto the train with us and we will be booked into tourist class sleeper cabins either with 2 or 4 beds. Finally, the train arrives in Hanoi at 5am on Day 11.
If you want the full Big North loop in 16 days without taking the train back and cover more areas, please follow this link.