A Sea of Clouds
If you have more time for your motorbike Ta Xua tour, we definitely recommend the long route. It’s quite a lot of driving, but well worth the scenery you’ll see and the spots you’ll visit. Ta Xua is not only a floating sea of clouds, the winding roads crossing over the mountain and Mong village roofs make the North West scene exceptionally beautiful.
It’s a truly unique route through Northern Vietnam and many people, unfortunately, don’t get the chance to experience. Here’s a basic breakdown of the motorbike Ta Xua route.
Hanoi - Ta Xua Itinerary
Day 1 Hanoi - Mai Chau [140km, 5hrs]
This is an easy drive that will get you out of town quickly. You can take the Hoa Lac Highway to Hoa Lac and then the DT446/Hoa Lac Hoa Binh highway to Ky Son. From there, you take the QL6 to Hoa Binh City, where you can stop at the Hoa Binh Hydro-Electric Power Dam for lunch and exploration. Then, it is back on to the QL6 over to Muong Khen and then Tong Dau before turning south into Mai Chau town. Don’t worry – You can choose to stop often on this trip and still get to your destination with plenty of time left for exploration.
It is possible to make it to Moc Chau on this day, especially if you take the QL6 all the way. However, we suggest you take your time and also take the Old Highway 6 (QL6 Cu), which was built by the French to get to Dien Bien Phu.
Alternative Option: At Phu Cuong (marked on the map) you can turn off the main highway and take a small road out to the lakeside that will wind along the shore. It is long but worth it 1) if you have the time or 2) if you have decided to stay at Mai Chau Hideaway or one of the homestays closeby. This will lead you past Go Lao Waterfall, which is a great swimming spot, and then on to either: the Old Highway 6 or eventually back to Mai Chau town.
Around Mai Chau, there is every kind of accommodation from family-run homestay to the corporate-run resort. There are crowded places in the busy villages of Ban Lac and Poong Coong as well as places tucked away in the hillside that is much quieter. Here’s what we recommend:
Day 2: Mai Chau - Moc Chau [80km, 4hrs]
This is a very easy drive along the QL6 or an easy drive along the QL6 Cu. This motorbike Ta Xua route will leave you enough time to get a late start or arrive early in Moc Chau where you can visit Bat Cave (Hang Doi) or Dai Yem Waterfall (Thac Dai Yem), which is being built into a major attraction.
We suggest staying in the Muong Thanh Hotel if the weather has been bad or if you are driving this route anti-clockwise (By now a little luxury wouldn’t go amiss). However, there are many small hotels in and around Moc Chau all offering much the same rates and services. Most of them are clean with friendly staff, so take your pick.
Day 3: Moc Chau - Ta Xua [120km, 5hrs]
This is not a short nor especially easy ride, so it’s best to have done your Moc Chau sightseeing beforehand and focus on making the distance today. Visiting Chieng Khoa waterfall will add around 2 hours to this time.
From Moc Chau you take the QL43 for about 10km and then head north up to van yen ferry where you cross the Da River. You’ll then continue northwards until you hit the QL37 and take it westwards to Ta Xua Nature Reserve. This whole drive is from the hills down to the river and is quiet and winding – A lovely ride and one of the highlights of the motorbike Ta Xua tour.
Today is all about the driving and, apart from Chieng Khoa Waterfall, there are not many places to see. Instead, check out the views as you motorbike Ta Xua and make sure to stop for photo opportunities.
- Ta Xua Hills, Ta Xua Nature Reserve – A great little place at the top of the hill.
- Sao Mai Hotel – A good clean hotel with aircon in Bac Yen.
- Dong Tam Hotel – A very basic place to stay.
Places to Eat:
Ta Xua Quan – A very simple looking place but it has an extensive menu and a friendly owner
Dung Yamaha – The only place in town. He can deliver and collect from the Sao Mai Hotel.
Day 4 Ta Xua - Phu Yen [45km; 2hrs]
This is a very easy and short drive – The reason we suggest this direction is so that you make some headway today while keeping Day 5 a little shorter. This drive is optional and you can choose to get from Ta Xua to Da Bac in one day. This either makes your motorbike Ta Xua trip one day shorter or it gives you more time to spend in Ta Xua.
To get to Phu Yen you simply follow the QL37 back the way you came and then continue past the turnoff to Van Yen Ferry. Then, it is a few short kilometers up to Phu Yen town.
- Phu Hoa Hotel, Phu Yen: 0212 3863315 – a simple basic place.
- Hong Long Hotel, Phu Yen – a shiny new hotel with nice interior.
- Linh Huong Hotel – slightly outside of town with a nice garden but no dinner option (you have to go to town)
Around the Phu Hoa and Hong Long Hotels there are a lot of small eateries. You can take your pick.
Day 5 Phu Yen - Da Bac [140km; 6hrs]
Today, you will be taking smaller back roads to get to Da Bia in Da Bac. If you have time, you could try to get to Hien Luong in Da Bac and save some distance on the next day’s drive.
Either of the DT114’s works equally well and will get you to the DT433 – take this smaller road before it turns into a main road. In Cao Son you take the smaller road down to Da Bia. Be sure to call ahead 1) to make sure there have been no landslides and 2) to let the homestay know that you need food upon arrival.
This is a fun, winding little road that takes you down to the lake. The next day you can follow this route along the lakeside and, eventually, make it back to the DT433.
Below are homestays that are run by local people within a project, DaBacCBT, which helps locals enter the tourist trade.
In Da Bia
Day 6: Da Bac - Hanoi [130km, 5hrs]
From either Da Bia or Hien Luong you will need to get back on to the DT433 heading towards Hoa Binh. You can continue on the DT433 to get to Hoa Binh and see the Hoa Binh Hydroelectric Power Dam if you missed it before. However, we recommend you take the road (marked on the map) north to the DT316. This is because the DT433 coming into Hoa Binh is under construction and can be very muddy and treacherous.
Take the DT316 eastwards to the river and the DT317. Then, ride a short way south. Look out for a small ferry here and take it across the river (They’ll help you load up your motorbike). On the other side, you will be on the DT445. You can take this a little way north before turning off to head for the DT446/Hoa Binh Hoa Lac Highway. This section is best navigated using Google maps as it is not well marked.
The Best Time to Visit Ta Xua
The best time of year is when clouds are most likely to form in the Ta Xua Valley. This usually lasts from November to the end of March. More accurately, following the lunar calendar, the cloudy season is from the tenth to the fourth lunar month. This is also the time of the flowering season of the poinsettia flower, plum trees, peach trees, and many, wildflowers. It is a photographer’s dream.
Between October and April, the low air temperature causes the moisture-laden air to form a cloud. This is also the dry season in the North of Vietnam and so this means you are unlikely to experience torrential downpour. If you are on a motorcycle, this is good news. Clear skies above with cloud below and dry weather really make it perfect for getting spectacular photos.
Before You Drive
- Drive carefully. If you have limited experience: pay attention, do not drive in the evening, do not drive too fast and do not drive too close behind others.
- Check the weather before the trip so that you can have the highest chance of seeing clouds. Also, it will help you pack accordingly. If possible, contact the local people (your accommodation) to get the most accurate information.