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-Sapa (BLD) 25kms
Our train arrives early morning in Lao Cai, a border town with China’s Yunnan province. We transfer to the hill station town of Sapa, at an altitude of 1,600m. It will takes us approximately 1 hour to drive up the mountain side and on arrival we have breakfast then check into our hotel. We’ll have time to fit bikes before taking in the fresh air and spectacular views on our late morning ride on an off-road track to the village of Ta Phin. Our bike ride will takes us along the trails used by the locals to get to market and through the hills which have been terraced for wet rice agriculture. On some sections you may be required to carry your bike across paddy fields. Support is for only 40% of the ride, though the jeep will never be too far away and will rendezvous with us at several stops en route. At this altitude the weather can vary, so keep in mind that an alternative route may have to be tackled if the weather is bad. Overnight at the Chau Long New Wing Hotel.
Day 3 – Sapa – Tam Duong (BLD) 85kms
This morning we have a long ride ahead of us and our day will start from the hotel with an approximately 16 km uphill to the Tram Ton Pass, at 1,900 m the highest road in Vietnam, so eating a hearty breakfast is recommended. For those not quite up for a challenge so early in the morning a lift to the top can be arranged. The views are stunning from the top of the pass into the next valley we’ll be riding through. You can track where we’ll be heading by following the road snaking its way 20 km downhill. Time to double check brakes before we let loose on the descent through some tea plantations scattered amidst some truly outstanding countryside. We stop at Binh Lu to regroup before taking an off-road trail to Tam Duong. This lovely undulating 35 km ride passes through farmland and villages valley inhabited with Lu people. This section is supported by a motorcycle and we’ll stop off for a picnic lunch en route. After a fantastic day of varied riding we’ll cap it off with a dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight at the Lan Anh 2 Hotel.
Day 4 – Tam Duong – 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 for those who find the day a bit too challenging. Overnight at the Lan Anh 1 Hotel.
Day 5 – Lai Chau – Dien Bien Phu (BLD) 90kms
Today, we enjoy a beautiful ride alongside of Nam Thi River. The winding roads that twist through the beautiful countryside settled under the verdant mountains and valleys. There some steeps to tackle, but in overall the ride is worthy. The biggest steeps today are Mathiho and Co Chay Pass. Along the ride will stop spontaneously en route to interact with hospitable hill tribe people. A stop for lunch in a local restaurant gives us a quick break before we continue cycling towards Din Bien Phu. Overnight at the Him Lam Hotel.
Day 6 – 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 7 – Dien Bien Phu – Son La (BLD) 84kms
We have an early start to transfer approximately 2.5 hours to Tuan Giao to avoid the dust from construction on the road. In Tuan Giao we’ll get back on the bikes and soon start climbing. The climb over Pha Din pass, a famous Indochina War site, won’t soon be forgotten as it’s an unrelenting 10-18% grade for 14 km. The switch backs lead up a very fertile valley, lined with stair-stepping rice paddies on the pretty ride. The traditional dress of the locals varies from village to village depending on the tribe they belong to. After lunch at a local restaurant, the road rolls gently downhill with one last 5km climb at the end of the day into Son La. Overnight at the Hanoi Hotel.
Day 8 – Son La – Mai Chau (BLD) 96kms
Today we start the day with a transfer to avoid the main highway, but you’ll still get the distance in as today’s ride totals 96km! We start our ride on a looping country road that passes through a patchwork quilt of corn, sugar cane and barley fields. We’ll ride 51km before we break for lunch at a restaurant in Kim Chung town. We’ll then transfer for 2 hours to avoid a rough and steep section. Then it’s time to get back on the bikes and enjoy the last 45km which are down, down and down – except for a few small climbs – to Mai Chau valley where our wonderful lodge for the evening awaits you. Enjoy a swim or a sauna before dinner at the luxurious Mai Chau Lodge. Overnight at the Mai Chau Lodge.
Day 9 – Mai Chau – Hanoi (BLD) 35kms
After breakfast, and perhaps a quick walk up to a temple, we pick up our bikes and cycle to the Thai village of Cun Pheo on a mix of good single track paths and undulating rough jeep trails. The views are stunning as the ride passes through many villages and across rice paddies. Pass hot springs, cycle across suspension bridges and follow the contours round beautiful terraced rice fields. On arriving in Cun Pheo we take a break in a local home, then we explore the village trails further by bike. We ride to Buoc Village, where we have lunch in local home then transfer 2 hours to Hanoi, arriving late afternoon. We’ll regroup later in the evening for our farewell dinner. Overnight at the Maison D’Hanoi Hotel.
Day 10 – Hanoi (B)
Our trip ends in Hanoi, where you might want to take the morning to pack up your bike and enjoy a cyclo ride around the Old Quarter. Hotel check out is at noon