Day 1 – Hanoi - Lao Cai (D)
We meet in Hanoi, having a bit of a chance to explore Vietnam's capital before we catch the Tulico Express, the overnight train up north and the start of our adventure. Bikes and luggage can be dropped off at our local office so you can head off and visit Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature or have a relaxing massage to help recover from jet lag. We will all meet up in early evening for dinner and then transfer to the train station along with bikes and bags for the 260km-long overnight train journey to Lao Cai. The train is a very civilized affair with compartments sleeping four and a carriage where you can buy food and refreshments. Overnight on train to Lao Cai.
Day 2 – Lao Cai – Bac Ha (BLD) 55kms
Our train arrives early morning in Lao Cai, a border town with China’s Yunnan province. We freshen up and have breakfast in a local restaurant and then transfer to one of the regional markets. We'll stay for about two hours for you to browse alongside the local ethnic tribe people such as H’mong, Zao, Tay, and Phu La. Some will have walked many kilometres from their remote villages to have reached the market. Watch the bargaining over the local cattle for sale, taste the local food, or just enjoy the festive atmosphere of these weekly markets. Depending on where the market is being held, we'll cycle between 40 and 55 km, primarily on tarmac road, with a few stretches of dirt. The riding will be undulating and a perfect warm up for the hills to come. We overnight in Bac Ha, which is also where the ruins of the house of a former Hmong King are located. Overnight at the Sao Mai Hotel.
Day 3 – Bac Ha – Pan Hou (BLD) 88kms
We start the morning with a short transfer toward Xin Man Town to avoid a rocky road. Cycling from Xin Man the scenery is fascinating; with rice terraces and deep open valleys at every turn. The paved road is small, with little traffic, but in good condition. There will be a few short climbs and we'll have a break near Hoang Su phi for lunch. After lunch the riding is easier as there will be more down hill sections, including a long descent to the Pan Hou Resort. Located in a beautiful valley, our resort is nestled amid terraced gardens along the banks of a small river. Overnight at the Pan Hou Village.
Day 4 – Pan Hou Rest Day (BD)
Today is at your leisure to enjoy the surroundings of our eco lodge. Go for a stroll through local villages and end your day at the resort's small spa, offering traditional medicinal hot tubs and massage. Overnight at the Pan Hou Village.
Day 5 – Pan Hou – Ban Me (BLD) 90kms
This morning we transfer a short distance to the top of Con Troi Pass, and start the long cycling day to Ha Giang. There are no big hills today but numerous small, and often steep, climbs and descents. Part of the ride will be on the main road leading to Ha Giang and along the majestic Lo River. We reach Ha Giang by late afternoon and have a quick look around town before we head to our home for the night, Me Village, on the outskirts of the town. This beautiful Nung village is a maze of small paths leading through tended rice fields and well kept traditional homes on stilts. Overnight at a Homestay.
Day 6 – Ban Me – Dong Van (BLD) 82-142kms
You have the option of riding from the hotel or to transfer to the town of Yen Minh to start riding to Dong Van – an ancient town comprised of many ethnic people. On the way we stop to see Vuong's Palace which once belonged to a H'mong king during the French domination. The palace is a unique architectuure mix of European and Chinese styles. The road today is rolling with a lot of stiff climbs and long descents, but you will have many opportunities for photos of the perpendicular walls of rock of this limestone mountain range. The most stunning part of the day is toward the end as you ride toward Dong Van. Overnight at the Rocky Plateau Hotel.
Day 7 – Dong Van – Bao Lac (BLD) 75kms
We'll get an early start so we have plenty of time to tackle the challenge of Ma Pi Leng Pass, also known as Heaven Gate. To construct this pass in 1962 thousands of workers tied themselves to the cliffs to complete the project in just 330 days – a legendary achievement. On the summit, you will enjoy the view over the Nho Que River snaking through the valleys. Enjoy the downhill to the other side of the mountain range, where the scenery changes from rocky mountain peaks to rolling lush hillsides. In the afternoon, we ride along a small river on a newly built road through many villages. We arrive at the Gam River Hotel by late afternoon. Overnight at the Gam River Hotel.
Day 8 – Dong Van – Ba Be (BLD) 50kms
We drive to Bac Me to start our ride following the Gam River (a tributary to the Red River) as it cuts a gorge through the karst mountains. After our gentle start we turn onto a small quiet road heading back up into the mountains. There are several climbs and descents on this day with a mixture of paved and dirt roads . The long descent into Ban Lam is a stunning ride with spectacular scenery. In Ban Lam board a longtail boat (with bikes in tow) and head up the Nang river toward Ba Be. The cruise up river is an excellent opportunity to see traditional life and marvel at the enormous cliff faces cut by the river. After about an hour the journey takes you into Ba Be Lake, Vietnam’s largest natural lake. We cross the lake with time for a swim around a small island. We spend the night in a Tay stilted house on the banks of the lake. Hot showers and western toilets are available.
Day 9 – Ba Be– Cao Bang (BLD) 80kms
This morning we begin with a ride around the lake and through the National Park, which is home to 65 mammal species, 27 bat species, 233 bird species and , 43 reptile and amphibian species and is known for its diversity in butterflies -- 354 species have been recorded. Our route to Cho Ra has a couple of climbs in the morning and then follows the Ha Hieu River down to Na Phac. From there we turn onto the main road toward Cao Bang, which is only 30 km away from the Chinese border. We will transfer the last section into town to avoid rush hour traffic. Overnight at the Thanh Loan.
Day 10 – Cao Bang – Lang Son (BLD) 80kms
After breakfast we shuttle 15 km out of town to avoid traffic and start biking on a good road. For our last day of riding there are no big hills and the road undulates through villages and small hamlets. We have lunch in a local restaurant before riding to That Khe then shuttle the rest of the way to the township of Lang Son. Overnight at the Hoang Soi Hai.
Day 11 – Lang Son – Quan Lan (BLD)
This morning, we have a long 3 hour plus shuttle to Vandon District where we'll have lunch and wait for the speed boat that will take us through Ha Long Bay to Quan Lan Island, an ancient commercial port that dates back to the 11th Century. Once we reach the island the transfer by local tuktuk to our hotel will be an experience all in itself. We arrive at the hotel mid afternoon and the rest of the day is yours to explore the beach and relax. Overnight at the Minh Chau Hotel.
Day 12 – Quan Lan Rest Day (BD)
Free day on the beach or take a trip around the island to see sleepy villages and local fishermen returning from their daily trips. The island is well known for its sea worms and you will witness locals sifting through the mud at low tide collecting these valuable commodities for shipment to the mainland. Overnight at the Minh Chau Hotel.
Day 13 – Quan Lan – Hanoi (BLD)
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before transferring back to the dock to catch the speed boat to the mainland and onward to Hanoi. Arrive in Hanoi late afternoon for some last minute shopping before gathering for a farewell dinner. Overnight at the Flower Garden.
Day 14 – Hanoi (B)
At leisure until transfer to the airport for onward international flights