About Ho Chi Minh Trail
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. In addition, we also pay a visit to 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 level trip, designed for bikers or experienced riders.
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Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau (~160 km, ~6 h)
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 the traditional colourful culture of White Thai in Mai Chau. The scenery of Mai Chau is characterized by beautiful limestone mountains and colourful hill tribes that 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 downstream.
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, often engulfed by clouds 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.
In the morning we explore the mountains to the north of Mai Chau, passing H’mong and Dao hill tribe communities living as they have for centuries. In the evening we enjoy a traditional music and dancing performance.
Alternatively, we could ride to Bai Sang to see the old forgotten Highway 6 and take a boat to explore part of the biggest reservoir in North Vietnam.
Overnight in a Thai ethnicity stilt house in Poom Coong village (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 the remote backcountry, not far from the Laotian border. In the afternoon we cut eastwards towards the coast and stay overnight in the coastal city of Vinh. In fact, Vinh is close to where Ho Chi Minh was born. Overnight in Vinh.
Day 4: Vinh – Dong Hoi (~230 km, ~7 h)
We ride south along Highway 1, before heading inland towards the Laotian border. Passing the Dong Loc intersection, (main junction for supply lines during the War) which is widely regarded in Vietnamese eyes as the beginning of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Then we ride through the remote backcountry, close to the border, as the scenery steadily becomes dominated by karst limestone rock formations. Next, come 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 where local civilians and military sheltered from incessant bombing during wartime. Then we drive down to the coastal town of Dong Hoi, which was heavily shelled by US warships during the war. At a hotel overlooking the beach, we can take in some sunbathing by the beach.
Overnight in Dong Hoi.
Day 5: Dong Hoi – Khe Sanh (~150 km, ~5 h)
We strike south through foothills which were once sprayed heavily by Agent Orange towards the former DMZ. There is still much evidence of bombing on the mountainsides and from time to time we will see remnants of the original Trail. We take in the famous Hien Luong Bridge (former demarcation line between North and South Vietnam, Khe Sanh (former US Marine base), Lang Vay (former US special forces base), and the Truong Son Cemetery.
Overnight in Khe Sanh.
Day 6: Khe Sanh – Hue (~170 km, ~6 h)
In the morning we 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. Then, cruising through green back country down the steep Me Oi Pass. Finally, we ride on to the beautiful city of Hue which lies along the banks of the Perfume River.
Overnight in Hue.
Day 7: Hue (boating and walking)
No riding today, just relax and see the former capital city of Vietnam. From here, you get ready to retrace the Top Gear Vietnam Special route.
Hue is the former imperial capital of feudal Vietnam. This is a perfect place to relax after our drive to date. A boat ride along the Perfume River from where you can appreciate the exuberance of this ancient imperial city. Along the river, you will visit Thien Mu Pagoda, Minh Mang, Tu Duc Tombs, etc. Otherwise, you can visit the remains of the Imperial Citadel. However, this citadel was largely destroyed during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
Overnight in Hue.
Day 8: Hue – Hoi An (~280km, ~8 h)
We head back up the Me Oi pass to A Luoi in order the rejoin the Trail. Many Ta Oi and Co Tu people will be seen tending their fields. We then skirt the Laotian border on the side of a large mountain covered in thick jungle. At the remote town of Hien, we turn off the trail and drop down the Ba Na mountain range. Then head to the World Heritage Site of Hoi An, a major trading centre in SE Asia in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 9: Hoi An (relax)
Those who wish can ride up to Non Nuoc Beach, where US marines first landed in Indochina. Otherwise, enjoy a free day to explore Hoi An on foot or by bike. With fine wining and dining (including a range of Hoi An specialties), impressive architecture, fantastic tailoring, endless shopping, and a glorious beach, there is no shortage of activities to indulge in.
Overnight in Hoi An.
Day 10: Hoi An – Kon Tum (~290 km, ~9 h)
We strike back up to the mountains. Then rejoin the Trail at Phuoc Son (also known as Kham Duc). In fact, this place is a cowboy town of Vietnam. From there we head up the towering Lo So Pass. You ride 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 on to Kon Tum.
Overnight in Kon Tum.
Day 11: Kon Tum – Buon Ma Thuot (~240 km, ~8 h)
In the morning we head south through the Central Highlands. Pass Pleiku and the Ia Drang valley battlefield, before continuing onto Buon Ma Thuot (also known as Buon Me Thuot). In this city, northern forces launched their final assault on the then Saigon. In addition, Buon Ma Thuot produces the most and best coffee products in Vietnam.
Overnight in Buon Ma Thuot.
Day 12: 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 arrive at Highway 1 some 30 km north of Nha Trang. Taking in this scenic coastal stretch past turquoise waters and scarlet fishing boats, we arrive in the bright lights of Nha Trang and its relaxing holiday options.
Overnight in Nha Trang.
Day 13: Nha Trang (relax). End of the Ho Chi Minh Trail ride.
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 our 13 days on Ho Chi Minh Trail by motorbike.
There are many more great Ho Chi Minh Trail rides on a motorbike in Vietnam. In fact, we can design any tour to cater for your needs and riding experience. Please contact us and see what we can do together.
More Motorbike Tours Of Vietnam
– One day tour around Hanoi
– Two days tour to Mai Chau valley
– Roof roads of middle North Vietnam
– North-east Vietnam
– North-west Vietnam
– Great North loop of Vietnam
– Customized motorbike tours