> Our motorbike trips in Vietnam > Dien Bien Phu and the North West Plateaus

DIEN BIEN PHU AND THE NORTH WEST PLATEAUS

A travel in Vietnam by motorbike of 8 days and 7 nights

Description

We are heading north-west through the mountains, the peaks, the green valleys, the large rice fields and the ethnic villages to finally reach Dien Bien Phu.

If you are already impressed, it is just the beginning, and now we continue our ride by little dirt roads on the mountainside, getting into the depths of the countryside, in the ethnic groups lands, climbing onto high plateaus, seeking authentic villages, the culture of their inhabitants and their day to day life which stay unchanged since centuries. There, we will discover forests and rice terraces, waterfalls, wonderful panoramas, winding roads and as always, the warm welcoming of the local people. This north-west road had been one of the first to be opened and we revisit it our way, giving it a new breath.

Main strenghts

Adventure through the wild landscapes of the North Mountains of Vietnam

Meet several ethnic groups with their colorful markets

Historic stop at Dien Bien Phu

Climbing various peaks in the landlocked plateaus of Sin Ho and Bat Xat, off the beaten tracks

English speaking guide to translate, explain and communicate with local people

Itinerary  Ha Noi – Mai Chau – Son La – Dien Bien Phu – Muong Lay – Sin Ho – Lai Chau – Sapa – Muong Hum – Y Ty – Lao Cai – Ha Noi

Detailed program

Day 1 : Hanoi - Mai Chau

Hanoi-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-13 - copie

We leave the capitol and escape its noise and its continual traffic by heading south-west. The way out of Hanoi and his suburbs is tough but will permit us to get used to our new motorbikes. We need nearly 1 hour and a half on the national road before joining a small countryside path which ends in a quiet valley.

Mai-Chau-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-4The scenery is totally different and we now discover hills, karst peaks, rice fields and other cultivations. The road is also more interesting, bucolic, sinuous and unfrequented.

Then, the first peak is appearing, announcing our close arrival. Once we passed it, the Cun Peak offers us a beautiful view on the city, the Mai Chau valley and the White Thai villages. We settle in a homestay in Pom Coong, a White Thai village bordered by rice fields.
Then, we will have enough time to discover others hamlets around.
Our place for tonight will be a traditional stilt house.

: Tay homestay / Private house / Shared room

150 km – 4h

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 2 : Mai Chau - Son La

Moc Chau, voyage à moto dans les plateaux du nord-ouest Vietnam et Dien Bien PhuWe say good bye to our hosts in Mai Chau and are now heading to Son La. First, we are riding to the Hoa Binh Lake to discover the old road number 6, nearly deserted and becoming a trail on some parts. A quiet place surrounded by remote villages.

Moc-Chau-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-25Now, it is time to travel through the Moc Chau Plateau of 80km length. At this altitude, local people cultivate tea plants and plum trees, but also raise dairy cattle. Here, the temperatures are always fresh, even freezing during winter. The province is also known for the plum trees flowering at the end of winter and we will be able to stop by in an H’Mong village where they sell it.

Arrival to Son La, we visit the former colonial penitentiary where pro-independence people were jailed. Next to it is located a small museum about the ethnic groups of this province (Black Thai, Méo, Muong) that we can also visit.
Night at the hotel.

Night at the hotel

180 km – 5h

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 3 : Son La - Dien Bien Phu

Dien-Bien-Phu-voyage-moto-vietnamToday is a long journey but we are riding on a wonderful road, climbing peaks where the view is stunning and discovering various bucolic landscapes.
We stop by at the beginning of our ride to visit the Thuan Chau market held mostly by H’Mong and Black Thai ethnic groups.

Dien-Bien-Phu-voyage-moto-vietnam-2We go through Dien Bien Phu and then head to the Muong Phang forest, 25km north-east of the city, where the command post of the Vietnamese Army was located during war. We will be able to visit the guard station, the General Giap’s camp, the information center and the amphitheater, among others.

We are getting down on the main road number 279 to see the Viet Minh canon that assaulted the Dien Bien Phu “rice bowl”, as the General Giap usually called it.
Night at the hotel.

: Night at the hotel

180 km – 5h

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 4 : Dien Bien Phu - Muong Lay

Dien-Bien-Phu-voyage-moto-vietnam-4During the morning, we visit the relics of the tragic Dien Bien Phu’s battle, 1954, which opposed the French colonialist troops against the Viet Minh troops, leaded by the now famous General Giap; also we discover the headquarter of De Castries, the memorial dedicated to the French soldiers, the A1 Hill, most fortified French’s position and the museum.

Muong-Lay-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnamIt is now time to leave Dien Bien Phu to start our ride. The road is rushing across the mountains, going along a wonderful river and then we go straight to Muong Lay, formerly known as Lai Chau. On the way, we will be able to stop by in one of the several ethnic villages connected to the road by floating bridges above the river.

Arrival on Muong Lay, where the ancient city center recently disappeared, submerged after the construction of a hydroelectric dam. Here, the Da River, wild and dangerous, caused numerous deaths when its level rose. The Vietnam was in need of electricity, so the destiny of this small city has unfortunately been sealed.
Night at the hotel.

Night at the hotel

100 km – 3h

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 5 : Muong Lay - Sin Ho - Lai Chau

Muong-Hum-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-6This morning, we ride few kilometers along the Da River before climbing to the Sin Ho Plateau. We are going up on the mountain through winding roads, enjoying few beautiful viewpoints before reaching a large plateau surrounded by limestone hills. At a height of 1500 meters, the landscapes contrast with the one we saw during the previous days.

Sapa-voyage-a-moto-en-petit-groupe-au-vietnam-40

We get our lunch at Sin Ho and then leave to visit few ethnic villages, meeting the Black Dao, the Lao and the White H’mong.

New Lai Chau is our next step; the city is surrounded by some impressive karst peaks.
Night at the hotel.

Night at the hotel

120 km – 4h30

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 6 : Lai Chau - Sapa

Sapa-voyage-a-moto-en-petit-groupe-au-vietnam-41Numerous ethnic groups live in the surrounding hills; Flower H’mong, Red H’mong, Lao, Lu, Dzay and Dao. This morning, we are going to meet the Lu, recognizable thanks to their indigo black suits decorated with colorful pattern and to the turban that the women are wearing. If we are lucky enough to be there on a Thursday, we will be able to visit the weekly market of the city.

Sapa-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-37We are then continuing to the splendid road leading to Sapa, surrounded by little villages.
The road is finally ascending and we have to climb to the top of the highest peak of Vietnam, Tram Tron, rising at a height of 1900m. We will also do a stopover at the Silver Waterfall before reaching Sapa if we have the time.

We will arrive for the lunch and then settle in our hotel. During the afternoon, we discover the main valley that made Sapa famous. Rice terraces, impressive panoramas, ethnic villages, we will either do a little trek or ride our motorbike to go further in the valley.
Night at the hotel.

: Night at the hotel or Giay homestay

: 70 km – 2h30

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 7: Sapa - Muong Hum - Y Ty

Y Ty, voyage à moto dans les plateaux du nord Vietnam et Dien Bien PhuToday, we are joining a remote valley, off the beaten tracks, near the Chinese border. The curves of the mountain road lead us first to Ban Khoang, a Red Dao village and then to Ta Giang Phin, a Dao and H’mong village. After these visits, we are heading to Muong Hum in the lands of the Giay, who live from rice culture and raising animals: buffaloes for the fields, horses to carry commodities, pigs and chickens for food.

Y Ty, voyage à mto dans les plateaux du nord-ouest Vietnam et Dien Bien PhuThe city market is held weekly on Sunday, and was once the biggest cardamom market of the region. We will leave earlier from Sapa to visit it if we are there on the right day.
Once we passed Muong Hum, we ride about 30km, climbing the mountain through astonishing landscapes until arriving at Y Ty village from the small Ha Ni ethnic group, where we will spend the night.

Here, locals live in traditional clay houses, square shaped and with thick walls, which permit them to survive the difficult climate conditions.
We will spend the night in a local inn.

: Night in White H’mong inn / Shared room

: 70 km – 3h

: Guide and motorbikes

Day 8: Y Ty - Lao Cai

Y-Ty-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam-24We spend the morning in the surroundings, visiting our village and few typical others one around. Discovery of rice fields, cardamom plantations, local activities

It is now time to head to Lao Cai by a road following the mountains, crossing Bat Xat district and following the Chinese territoryLao-Cai-train-voyage-a-moto-au-vietnam. Overhanging the valley, hundreds of meters above it, we might be able to see some Chinese villages downwards if the weather is mild.

Arrival in Lao Cai, then we visit the Den Mau Temple from the 18th century, dedicated to the Mother of Vietnamese People and also marking off the limit with the powerful neighbor, China. We can see the border bridge, not far from here.
We now go back to the capitol by night train.
Arrival planned the day after at around 6am.

: Night train to Hanoi / Sleeper cab

: 100 km – 3h

: Guide and motorbikes

Photo gallery

CUSTOM-MADE QUOTATION FOR THIS MOTORBIKE TRIP

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