Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Tour offers 11 days riding from Hanoi to Nha Trang. In fact, this is a tour that retraces BBC Top Gear Vietnam Special route back in 2008. Despite the low mountains, the landscape is varied and diverse in many ways.
The legendary Ho Chi Minh Trail was the supply line used by North Vietnam to link North and South Vietnam during the American War. Soldiers, ammunition, weapons, and supplies were carried by hand, on bicycle and truck for hundreds of kilometres through the otherwise impenetrable jungle that covered Vietnam’s mountainous border with Laos. A testimony to the ingenuity, fortitude, and commitment of the North Vietnamese, the Trail slipped from use at the end of the war and was taken back by the jungle. However, recent road works that follow original sections of the Trail have changed this.
This ride takes in the former imperial capital of Hue, the ancient trading town of Hoi An, Khe Sanh battlefield, the infamous A Shaw Valley, Non Nuoc beach, Vietnamese war museums and the DMZ. We also take time to stay overnight in a traditional Thai hill tribe village and visit the former Imperial Tombs of Hue. Take this one off chance to be among the first to traverse the Ho Chi Minh Trail! This is a moderate trip, specially designed for bikers.
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HO CHI MINH TRAIL MOTORCYCLE TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau (~160 km, ~6 h)
Today is the first day of this 11 days Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Tour.
Heading out of Hanoi on road number 6 to Mai Chau, an idyllic valley populated by mainly White Thai ethnic people. Visiting Mai Chau, you have a chance to enjoy folk songs and traditional colourful culture of White Thai in Mai Chau. The scenery of the arrival to Mai Chau is characterized by beautiful limestone mountains and colourful hill tribes who can be seen and visited on the way. We also have an opportunity en route to learn about the culture of the rice-cultivating inhabitants in the Red River Valley and Da River down stream.
After lunch, we have the whole afternoon free to climb up to the top of Thung Nhuoi pass. From the top of the pass, there is a beautiful view of Mai Chau valley. Sometimes it’s too cloudy but still a sight to be enjoyed. After visiting this wonderful site, we drop down to explore more of the area of White Thai people.
In the evening, we can enjoy a local dinner and overnight in a beautiful village at the edge of a river. After dinner, you can spend the evening sitting together around a fire and join in a Thai traditional music show. In their traditional attire, typical of their culture, Thai women invite visitors to participate in the Xoe dance. To the rhythmical and ebullient music, the hosts and guests will dance for hours hand-in-hand. When they get tired, they stop for a while to drink special sticky rice liquor called “ruou can”. Visitors who participate in the Xoe dance once, especially by the light of a fire at night are likely to remember it forever.
Day 2: Mai Chau (~100 km, ~3 h)
Today is an easy day, preparing for challenging days on Ho Chi Minh Trail later.
In the morning, we explore the mountains to the north of Mai Chau, passing H’mong and Dao hill tribe communities living here for centuries. In the evening we enjoy a traditional music and dancing performance if we miss it on the first day.
Alternatively, we could ride to Bai Sang to see the old forgotten Highway 6. In addition, take a boat to explore part of the biggest reservoir in North Vietnam.
Overnight in a Thai ethnicity stilt house in Mai Chau.
Day 3: Mai Chau – Vinh (~280 km, ~8 h)
We head south on a beautiful winding road which follows the banks of the Ma River until the new Ho Chi Minh Highway. This newly carved route leads us down south, through remote back country, not far from the Laotian border. In the afternoon we cut eastwards towards the coast and stay overnight in the coastal city of Vinh, which is close to where Ho Chi Minh was born. Overnight in Vinh.
Day 4: Vinh – Phong Nha (~190 km, ~6 h)
We ride south along Highway 1. Then head inland towards the Laotian border. While riding, we pass the Dong Loc intersection, (main junction for supply lines during the War). In reality, Dong Loc is the real beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We then pass through the remote back country, close to the border. The scenery steadily becomes dominated by karst limestone rock formations. Next, there are the two famous intersections where until 1972 most of the Trail’s traffic passed over into Laos.
In the afternoon we arrive at the World Heritage Site of Phong Nha cave. During the American war, local civilians and military sheltered from incessant bombing.
Overnight in Phong Nha
Day 5: Phong Nha – Dong Ha (~150 km, ~5 h)
In the morning we ride down to the coastal town of Dong Hoi, which was heavily shelled by US warships during the war. Then we strike south through foothills which were once sprayed heavily by Agent Orange towards the former DMZ. In fact, there is still much evidence of bombing on the mountain sides. From time to time, we will see remnants of the original Trail.
Afterward, we take in the famous Hien Luong Bridge (former demarcation line between North and South Vietnam), the Truong Son cemetery and the Vinh Moc tunnels. In reality, Vinh Moc tunnel wasn’t setup as army tunnel in Cu Chi. It was a shelter for fishing and farming villagers lived and hidden from the extirpation of American bombardment.
Overnight in Dong Ha.
Day 6: Dong Ha – A Luoi (~170 km, ~6 h)
In the morning we head deep into the former DMZ, passing the rock pile on Highway 9 before reaching Khe Sanh (former US Marine base) and Lang Vay (former US special forces base). We then head south over the Dakrong Bridge (built by the Cubans in 1973) into the infamous A Shau Valley, an area of intense wartime activity. Passing Hamburger Hill and mountains still barren due to the extended effects of Agent Orange, we arrive at A Luoi, where there are many Bru Van Kieu hill tribe people. A Luoi is a poor and remote area of Hue and often has landslides in the rainy season.
Overnight in A Luoi
Day 7: A Luoi – Phuoc Son (~210 km, ~8 h)
Many Ta Oi and Co Tu people will be seen tending their fields. In the morning we head further south into the A Shaw Valley, past former battle sites and then we skirt the Laotian border on the side of a large mountain covered in thick jungle. At the remote town of Hien, we continue south through the forest to Phuoc Son (also known as Kham Duc), made famous by a dramatic rescue during the war. Locals call Phuoc Son “Cowboys town”
Overnight in Phuoc Son.
Day 8: Phuoc Son – Kon Tum (~170km, ~6 h)
We strike into the mountains, from there we head up the towering Lo So Pass, passing through remote areas thinly populated by peoples of the Ba Na ethnicity.
Edging close to the border with Laos, where a number of Trail arteries crossed over in Laos, we continue past Dak To and on to Kon Tum. Overnight in Kon Tum.
Day 9: Kon Tum – Buon Ma Thuot (~240 km, ~8 h)
In the morning we head south through the Central Highlands, passing Pleiku and the Ia Drang Valley battlefield, before continuing onto Buon Ma Thuot (also known as Buon Me Thuot), the city where northern forces launched their final assault on the then Saigon. Buon Ma Thuot produces most and best coffee products in Vietnam.
Overnight in Buon Ma Thuot.
Day 10: Buon Ma Thuot – Nha Trang (~190 km, ~7 h)
We take an easy drive back down off the Tay Son highlands towards the coast. Then join at Highway 1 some 30 km north of Nha Trang. Taking in this scenic coastal stretch past turquoise waters and scarlet fishing boats. Finally, we arrive in the bright lights of Nha Trang and its relaxing holiday options.
Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day 11: Nha Trang (relax)
A free day by the beach before gathering for a seafood feast to recount our adventure and toast the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Then take the train back to Hanoi or continue your way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). End this Ho Chi Minh Trail Motorcycle Tour around 4pm.
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