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Vietnam Northeast Loop: 6 Day Tour

a wide view of ban gioc waterfall with a bird flying past

Table of Contents

Overview

We had 6 or 7 days for this trip and there was also no real itinerary to start with. It was a case of head out to the countryside and see what the weather is like and where we would like to go. Of course, we knew exactly what we could see and do but there was no plan to start off with other than ‘take it one day at a time.’

Honda XR150 at the border with the fence and china in the background
Honda XR150 at the border with the fence and china in the background

Total Distance

We ended up taking the route shown in the Google Map below and had a total of 6 days touring. This clocked in at around 950km of riding for the whole trip. Our longest day was 200km and the shortest, in fact most days, was 140km. The decision to hit the Northeast Loop was largely down to the fact that a cold front was coming down from the North and it would be way too cold to be fun up in Ha Giang. 

Road Condition

The route was a mix of tarmac and trail, of which I would guess about 90% tarmac and most of that was small road, not highway. This decision was taken because we had a rider who was new to driving as well as Vietnam. It meant that we would aim for small DT road and light dirt. 

Rider Level

The route was a mix of tarmac and trail, of which I would guess about 90% tarmac and most of that was small road, not highway. This decision was taken because we had a rider who was new to driving as well as Vietnam. It meant that we would aim for small DT road and light dirt. with slight modification to the route you could either make this as trip for someone with less experience or a rider that wants some more dirt. 

Bike Choice

We decided to take the Honda XR150, because we wanted the extra power and comfort that it offered over a Honda Future. However, both bikes are easily up to the job as there was no difficult dirt other than some knarly, slippery roadworks. the future would be slightly more economical on fuel and probably better suited to one person, whereas the XR would be great for two people, largely due to the extra space. The cost difference for rental may be a consideration as the XR is double the cost of the Future, which is 10usd per day.  

Route Map

Feel free to get in touch with us to ask more about the route and road conditions. 

Day 1 - Hanoi to ba Be Lake (200km)

This was the first day and it was all about getting out of Hanoi. We had to take the main road to get out quickly but we could soon turn off onto quieter road and start to enjoy the ride. We didn’t see any other foreigners this day. You should allow around 6hrs for this trip including stops. 

Road Conditions

The first third of this trip is on main busy highway and then you turn off onto smaller local road. We decided to take even smaller road and found a few roadworks, oh well. The last part of the trip was a bit bumpy due to roadworks but the route went through some nice quite areas with good views. 

Traffic

As you would expect, it was busy and unpleasant for the 1st part, but once you turn off at Yen Do the road gets quieter. 

Accommodation

We stayed in a small family run homestay which was cheap and cheerful. The dinner was good. The toilet had hot water and was clean. The beds were comfy and warm.

Day 2 - Ba Be Lake to Bao Lac (125km)

We chose to take a meandering route along the Pac Nam road, down the main highway for a short stretch and then through the bamboo forest, past the secret cave and over to Bao Lac. It is a very quiet route and we only saw one other foreigner. It would be wise to allow around 5 hrs so that you have time to stop and admire the view. 

Road Conditions

This was 90% small back road and some of this was rough and unpaved but still very easy to drive on. We went through some very out of the way places and it was great. 

Traffic

Due to the roads being back roads, they were very quiet and there was only one or two trucks on them. We had long stretches of road without any traffic at all. 

Accommodation

We stayed in a fancy hotel that night and as you can see in the pic, it was quite nice. We went out to eat at the market and the food was excellent and cheap. 

Day 3 - Bao Lac to Quang Uyen (150km)

This route took us back down the road we had come into Bao Lac on at first but then we headed over to Xuan Truong where we took the beautiful passes and skipped along very close to China. We took a back route over to Trung Khanh and again we saw no other westerners at all. We took about 6hrs to do this route. 

Road Conditions

The only issue with the roads today was the roadworks just outside Bao Lac. They made the going a little bumpy and dusty but it was only for a few kms. Once we were through that we had quiet paved provincial road with minimal traffic. Easy going. 

Traffic

A fair few trucks to begin with due to the roadworks, but then we were on quiet road even as we came in to Quang Uyen.

Accommodation

We stayed in a local homestay very close to the market in Quang Uyen. It was old and a bit cold so we needed extra blankets. The food was good and there was plenty of hot water and clean toilets. 

Day 4 - Quang Uyen - Ban Gioc Loop (140km)

For this day we could leave our bags at the homestay and ride freely as we were doing a loop. We took the back road to the Ban Gioc Waterfall and, again, we cold see China and the border fence on large parts of our drive. After a detour to Phong Nam we headed back to our digs in Quang Uyen. This would take around 6hrs

Road Conditions

the majority of road today was tarmac apart from short stretches of road works. it was easy to drive and navigate even though we did take some alternative loops off the main road. 

Traffic

For the most part this was quiet and peaceful with very little traffic. Trung Khanh was a little busy but nothing compared to the 1st day so easy going all round. 

Accommodation

This was a loop so we ended up in the same homestay as yesterday. 

Day 5 - Quang Uyen to Bac Son (160km)

We took an out of the way route that skirted along the border with China on some newly built road. It was quiet and easy going except for a dog that chased us. Then, from That Khe we took the bumpy road down to Van Mich Bridge. We got off the bumpy road and took a detour around the mountain through some quiet villages and then sped over to Quinh Son on the main road. We passed through Tham Khoec Cave first, though. You should allow around 6hrs for this.

Road Conditions

This was all small provincial road. We skirted the border with China on some smaller roads and tried to seek out some dirt, to no avail. Everything was sealed and except for the DT224, which is bumpy as, it was easy going.

Traffic

Generally, very easy road with plenty or room for bikers and the occasional truck that came along. 

Accommodation

Another homestay tonight and a bit warmer that the two nights before due to the location and warmer weather. Very clean facilities and good food in here. 

Day 6 - Bac Son to Hanoi (160km)

The first half of today was on the great Huu Lung road which has lots of good vies and interesting things going on. We saw some locals having party for a house warming and stopped at a plywood factory to chat with the workers. Then it was main highway back to Hanoi and not nice at all. This should take about 5 hours. 

Road Conditions

This was half provincial road which was in good condition and then main highway which was not pleasant at all. 

Traffic

The first half of this is on quite peaceful DT road and there is a lot to see and take photos of. The second half is main highway and is boring and stressful. It has to be done to get back to Hanoi.

a steep winding pass down into the valley in xuan truong cao bang
a steep winding pass down into the valley in xuan truong cao bang

In A Nutshell

Overall, this was a great trip. We got to get out of the city and onto some of the smaller winding roads. We passed through small villages and empty places and got to see the locals going about their daily business in peace. 

We were blessed with the weather and didn’t see a drop of rain although we did have to endure one or two chilly nights. On top of this, our bikes performed perfectly and we had zero issues with them.  

Try this route for yourself and we can almost guarantee that you will have a fantastic time. 

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