Day 1 – Hanoi (D)
We meet in Hanoi (meeting instructions will be sent at a later date - please contact us if you need rooms or flights from Saigon or Bangkok). You have time to explore the city before we transfer to the railway station to catch the King Express Train. The train is a very civilized affair with compartments sleeping four and a carriage where you can buy food and refreshments. Overnight sleeper train.
Day 2 – Lao Cai to Sapa (BLD) 40kms
On arrival in Lao Cai we unload the bikes and rendezvous with our support vehicle. We then make the short transfer to the former hill station of Sapa where we will have breakfast. In the afternoon we have a ride to get those legs moving. We start the ride from Sapa and head downhill for almost 20 km. Once into the valley we hit some off road and some undulations and we pass many minority villages. Depending on time we can ride or transfer back. Overnight at the Chau Long Hotel
Day 3 – Sapa loop (BLD) 35kms
Starting from the hotel we head off road to the village of Ta Phin. We then head out on a loop that traverses forested hillsides and takes in many of the minority villages of the Sapa area. The scenery is a good contrast to that of the first ride and it is a tad more challenging. There may be sections on this ride where you’ll have to carry your bike but they will not be long or difficult. Due to the nature of the trail the ride cannot be supported the whole way by jeep but there will be spots along the trail where we can rendezvous with the support vehicle. Overnight at the Chau Long Hotel
Day 4 – Sapa to Tam Duong (BLD) 80kms
Today we ride out of Sapa and do the 16 km road climb up to Tram Ton pass – the highest road pass in Vietnam at 2,000 m. We then have a 20 km descent into a beautiful valley. The countryside is truly wonderful as we pass tea plantations and all inhabitants are from minority tribes. We overnight in the small, friendly town of Tam Duong. Overnight at the Muong Thanh Hotel.
Day 5 – Tam Duong to Lai Chau (BLD) 110kms
Today’s ride is tough and challenging, but the reward is scenery that is out of this world. The first half of this ride is mainly uphill, with 12 km off-road, to one of the highest mountains in the area. We have lunch at the summit, bring a jacket as it can be chilly at the higher altitude, before the exhilarating descent to the Nam Na river. The undulating road takes us through a picturesque gorge with the river coursing along on our right. The views on this ride are quite spectacular and it is a great chance to stop at the many minority villages on the way. The final part of the ride is a pleasant downhill ride to Lai Chau and our overnight stop. There will be bus support on this entire route or those who find the day a bit too challenging. Overnight at the Lan Han 1 Hotel
Day 6 – Lai Chau – Din Bien Phu (BLD) 100kms
Today we follow a quiet, remote way, but it is another tough ride, as it is impossible to count the number of hill climbs and descents! The road is rough all the way and there are few (if any) flat stretches. It is, however, a stunningly beautiful route. The children are frightened of foreigners, so care must be taken when riding by or approaching children en route. It is advisable to wear discreet riding shorts as we’ll be passing through many ethnic tribal villages. When we reach Tuan Giao we’ll transfer about 2 hours to Dien Bien Phu. Overnight at the Him Lam Hotel
Day 7 – Dien Bien Phu Rest Day (B)
After all those hills your legs deserve a rest and what better place to do it than in the history-rich city of Dien Bien Phu. We’ll visit the war museum which has interesting displays about the climactic battle of the First Indochina War between French Union forces and Vietnamese Viet Minh communist revolutionary forces. From March until May 1954 the Viet Minh pounded the French positions, killing up to 3,000 men, though it's estimated that the Viet Minh lost more than twice that number. The massive French defeat effectively ended the war. There’s also a local market to explore. Dinner is on your own tonight. Overnight at the Him Lam Hotel
Day 8 – Dien Bien Phu – Border - Muang Khoua (BLD) 104kms
Today we say goodbye to Vietnam and hello to Laos. We start the day with a gentle 3 km warm up before the road starts to rise. The trail twists and turns for 24 km before we hit the Laos border and complete immigration formalities. We’ll swap crews and begin the journey to the crossroads town of Muang Khoua on dirt roads. The ride is beautiful as we cross streams and cycle through remote villages mainly comprised of Red or Black Thai ethnic tribes. The trail is also mainly downhill, a welcome respite from the hills in Vietnam. Tat Muang Khoua is built on a steep hillside at the confluence of two rivers, offering plenty of great viewpoints. Overnight at the Sinaly Hotel.
Day 9 – Muang Khoua - Udom Xai (BLD) 96kms
More of a mixture in scenery today, as we start with jungle that gives way to rice paddies, creating a pleasant scenery change. The road again rises and falls and has some small climbs, but nothing too strenuous. We ride along broken road and dirt tracks which double as thoroughfares for the local people (the population here is made up of an astonishing 23 ethnic groups), so we share the trail with all manner of colorful vehicles and livestock – a glimpse of real rural life in Asia. Towards the end of the day we have a long down hill into the town of Udom Xai (also known as Muang Xai), which has a large market where the various languages of the area mingle along with the smells of the produce. Overnight at the Dansavanh Hotel
Day 10 – Udom Xai - Nong Kiau (BLD) 105kms
We are now in the central highlands of Laos and there are some spectacular views across the rugged mountain landscape in an area that suffered extraordinarily heavy bombing during the Secret War against the Americans in the early 1970s. The morning sees us climb over 1000 m into the mountains to Hmong villages in a region that few people ever visit. In the afternoon we have a breathtaking descent through some of the region’s last remaining rainforest. Although this is a hard day, it is also very rewarding as the views and sense of nature are nothing short of breathtaking. You’ll have the option to skip the last 30 km along the river valley to Nong Kiau. Whether you choose to cycle or ride in the van, we’ll end at our comfortable and charming guesthouse that overlooks the river. Overnight at the Nong Kiau Riverside Hotel
Day 11 – Nong Kiau – Luang Prabang (BLD) 115kms
The last long ride of the tour! Cycling an undulating road we head west along the Nam Ou River, which makes for a very scenic ride. After about 30 km we get to Pakbeng, where we transfer by private van as we rode this section the day before. Returning to our bikes we head south to the historic town of Luang Prabang. This road follows the Nam Ou River and has some interesting villages along with the way. The road undulates the whole way with a couple of short climbs of 1 to 2 km, but they are not steep. Overnight at the Ancient Luang Prabang Hotel
Day 12 – Luang Prabang (B)
This morning is free to explore the historic & beautiful city of Luang Prabang. Then, we’ll transfer to the airport for onward connections.