North Vietnam in February

Discussion in 'Vietnam - Road Trip Reports' started by gjlaw, Jan 8, 2006.

  1. gjlaw

    gjlaw Member

    Well we are booked and going to do it. Two of us are going to rent bikes and tour the North for three to four weeks in February. Can anyone sugest a good route and a few highlights. Also how wet and cold is it going to be this time of year?
    We thought we`d hire Minsk bikes from Coung in Hanoi unless someone has other suggestions. Would appreciate anyones imput.

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  3. Mingh

    Mingh Active Member

    Cuong is the main man to talk to as far as the bikes are concerned. There's also a certain Mr. Hung but his reputation is not as solid as Cuong's.
    We've bought a Minsk (old model) off him for about 450 usd, and after about 4000 kilometers in north vietnam and north laos the bike is still going strong. His rentals are not in the same great shape as the ones he sells, but they are surely up to it! I know of 6 other people who rented bikes and none had issues. That includes torrential rains, water crossings and dust and mud till your eyes are full of grit.
    As Cuong will explain, minsks don't run into problems, only some work. If you look after the bike it'll pull you through the north easily. The only issue we had were overheating on the steepest (kilometers on end of 10% and more) but we're two-up plus backpacks...

    This is our tour sofar. The best bits by far were the far north east from Ha giang via Yen min and Meo Vac to Bao Lac: this outlandish scenery is a no man's land between china and Vietnam, just make sure teh officials don't scam you with 'border permits' and obligatory guides. A piece of advice: you can do this bit in one day so guesthouses won't ask for the border permit, but you can sort that out with the Meo Vac Police.
    Also there is a road under construction from Meo Vac to Bao lac. Currently it's heaps of fun, including bamboo rafts, deep river crossings, mud pools etc.. Make sure your driving skils are up to it....
    Also the stretch from Tuan Giao to Lao Chau: There are hardly any travelers in this area, and those who are there all go to Dien bien Phu. Teh shortcut is amazing, the people and landscapes are so impressive.

    Here you can find some pics of the trip (in the Sets on Laos, vietnam, Dday (meo vac) and ergens onderweg)

    In Hanoi, go to the bookshop near the post office to get the Vietnam Road book (big blue with white bridge on) It's getting a bit outdated but it's still spot on for 95% of the tracks.
    Also try to get in touch with Digby Greenhalgh of and He's often in his restaurant Highway 4 (around the corner from Cuong's) or the office of Digby has been a fantastic help. He pointed us to routes, information and
    tips we'd never get otherwise. His company runs organized tours in all of vietnam. We went on our own, but i'm sure his tours are great.

    I'll try to publish a more complete report on the tour we are doing but that'll take me a few days. If you have more specific questions just shoot.
  4. gjlaw

    gjlaw Member

    Wow - thanks for that. The photo's are excellent! The route we were thinking we would take, looks to be the same as yours.

    We are going for 4 weeks at the start of Febuary - from the dates on your photo's it looks as though you were there in January, is that right? We are aware that it can get a little cold around this time, especially up in Sapa, and we are currently trying to organise our gear for the trip. Given the weather and tempartature we thought we might be able to get away with a warm jersey, water proof pants and Jacket as well as gloves. Do you think that this sounds sufficient or are we underestimating how cool it gets? How did you find the weather for your trip? Much rain?

    We intend doing the loop around from Hanoi to Sapa and we are considering going up into the Ha Giang province also. Meo Vac to Bao lac looks like good! If we were to get a permit is it much hassle/expensive? What route did you take from Bao Lac? Could you suggest a route from Meo Vac/Bao Lac back to Hanoi?

    We intend taking 4 weeks for our trip. We plan on taking it slow and having a good look around - do you think that this sounds too short or too long?

    Lastly - we are'nt sure about motorcycle license requirements. It seems that everywhere we look there is a diiferent opinion. At the moment we are of the mind that we just won't worry about getting a Vietnamese or international drivers license. What do you think?

    Any help with any of the above would be greatly appreciated.


  5. BobS

    BobS Ol'Timer

    "At the moment we are of the mind that we just won't worry about getting a Vietnamese or international drivers license. What do you think?"

    Here is what the permit says about Vietnam:
    "Not party to 1949 Convention: International Driving Permit Honored"

    In the USA, the permit is $10. For the few dollars that it costs, why not just get it? You will probably never need it under normal circumstances, but if something happens, the more documents that you can wave at the cops, the better!!

    My only driving in Vietnam was on a rented scooter while working east of Hanoi 3 years ago. Never was asked for any documents.


    "The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right."
  6. Mingh

    Mingh Active Member

    we got our international driver's licenses made, just in case. But no one ever stopped us. The guys at Cuongs say that officials don't want to hassle tourists too much.
    The weather: we had torrential rains for a week, and wor jeans and fleece most of the ride in Vietnam. But that's december. Talk to Digby or Dan at Highway 4 in Hanoi for details on the climate. There's a limited supply of waterproofs, gloves, and even motorbike jackets in hanoi towers, not much but enough to prepare your trip...

    The road from Meo Vac to Bao lac is easy to find: just continue the road down and at some point the asphalt will stop. You'll find a bamboo raft to ferry your bike over the river, and about 5 other river crossings, before you'll end up in a village. Bao Lac is to the left, but in the village you need to go right to join the asphalt road 30k until Bao Laoc.
  7. scot harper

    scot harper Ol'Timer

    Mingh, the wandering "Minskrells", what an adventure.
    The pickies were fist class, that tree at nite looked "FAB".
    Keep'm coming

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