Bus back to Hanoi
We took a sleeping bus back to Hanoi. The bus left at 10am and we arrived 7pm. All in an old South Korean Bus ( that’s what the country code still said .kr ) in lying position.
Super amazing was the WiFi Connection during the whole ride.
In Hanoi we had to cycle 10 km to our hotel. This is definitely a weird, nice and awesome experience. We finally made our way through all the motorbikes and ended up with some well deserved beers.
Tuan Giao – Son La (640masl)
The day starts easy with around 8km flat. Then you see the road slowly climbing up. Around the first corner you see what looks like the top. We climbed it up and had some water at a small shop. It all looked like the top (at km 13) but its not always how it looks like.
The road continued climbing and at it will till km 19. Thats when you are at 1436 masl. After tgat the downhill starts … with a small climb up but the downhill till Thuan Chau (km 50).
The rest of the day is flat and easy cycling. 4 km before the end you have some smaller climbs before you head down the last km to Son La.
Total km: 83
Total hm up: 1590
Total hm down: 1560
Dien Bien – Tuan Giao (595 masl) – 77 km
Cycling out of Dien Bien was great. Loads off tribal people heading into the city/market for selling their goods. Mung Ang is 40 km away from Dien Bien. Its a very smooth uphill for around 32 km. At km 32 you are 980 masl. From here its 8 km downhill to Muong Ang. From Muong Ang its all smooth downhill going to Tuan Giao.
The last 3 km there is still some minor climbing to do. Ones you are in Tuan Gia look for Hong Ky Hotel. The room comes with a small terrace. Best is the food in nearby “Hong Ky” cafe. By fat the best food in whole Vietnam.
Muong Ang (605masl)
32 km smooth up till 980hm
Then 8 km down to Muong Ang
Total km: 77
Total up: 1196 hm
Total down: 1117 hm
Muong Lay – Muong Cha – Dien Bien (500 masl)
This will be one of the toughest days of the tour. Cycling out of Moung Lay with awesome scenery. Small villages everywhere and the first 10 km is easy cycling on flat road. The next 15 km it is going up. At km 25 you reach the top of todays tour at 1020 masl.
The next 15 km downhill to Muong Cha. Again the scenery is spectacular. Hmong villages and nice rice fields everywhere.
The next km are rolling more down than up till around km 73. Then you have the last climb of today for around 6 to7 km. At km 80 the downhill starts.
5km downhill and the rest is easy cycling into Dien Bien. At km mark 0 turn left and go over the bridge. Next street right has some hotels, guesthouses and some great food places.
Total km: 96
Total hm up: 2032
Total hm down: 1779
Dien Bien (500 masl)
Highest point: 1020 m
Phong Tho – Muong Lay (243 masl) – 78 km
This is an awesome cycling day with great scenery. The whole day you will cycle beside the river “nâm Na”. After 15km you reach Pa Tan, a nice small village with great market atmosphere. A lots of people wearing their tribal dress. If you are unlucky you might get cooked coz this is seemingly the hotest area in Vietnam. We had around 39 degrees Celsius … and it was more than enough.
At km 50 you reach Nam Kay. The real village comes around 2 km after the stone marker. From here its another 18 km to a crossing before you have the last 10 km for the day.
The road is all paved and in very good condition. In Muong Lay (close by the bridge) is a basic but good hotel. Besides the hotel is a restaurant and a super market. All you need.
There is a hotel called Nam Anh … somehow 6 km before Muong Lay. We didnt wanted to stay there coz that would at another 6 km on our long day tomorrow.
Total: 78 km
Total hm up: 1283
Total hm down: 1243
Highest point: 356 m
Muang Lay 243 masl
In Vietnam, it is most commonly smoked after a meal on a full stomach to “aid in digestion”, or along with green tea or local beer (most commonly the cheap “bia hơi”). A “hít” of thuốc lào is followed by a flood of nicotine to the bloodstream inducing strong dizziness that lasts several seconds. It should be said however that even heavy cigarette smokers have had trouble with the intense volume of smoke, the high nicotine content, and that side effects include nausea and vomiting.
The main difference between smoking thuoc lao and the use of other tobaccos is in the method of consumption, in that they are consumed with water pipe. The smoker is presented with either a bamboo pipe called ađiếu cày (English: “farmer’s pipe”) or a ceramichookah called a điếu bát. It may also occasionally be smoked in a more uncommon pipe known as a điếu ống. The pipe is filled with an appropriate amount of water and a small amount of thuoc lao is pressed into the bowl.
One then ignites the tobacco and inhales to create a body of smoke inside the pipe, before exhaling the smoke, reversing the process of air in the pipe by blowing into it to pop out the tobacco. The smoker then sharply inhales, usually tilting the pipe upwards to an almost horizontal position (but not completely, as the water would drain out the mouth).
Typically, on the streets of Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi, a small bag containing enough tobacco for 5 to 8 “hít” retails at 2500Vietnamese đồng, which is equivalent to about 15 US cents. Larger packs cost up to 20000 đồng and would be about $1.25 US Dollars. The use of thuoc lao is usually out of the bamboo pipe—the điếu cày—which can range from 10000 đồng to upwards of 50000đồng for items with extravagant carvings and other designs.
Lai Chao – Phong Tho
The stretch from Lai Chao to PhongTho is nothing really spectacular. Its 36 km with a climb in the beginning going up to 1110 masl.
The rest is going down. Scenery is not really great but this will change the next days.
We had a “free” afternoon and were hiking a bit.
After that we had a cold beer in a 2l keg !!! We never had that before but its an awesome idea coz the beer stays perfectly cold.
In the evening we tried to find some local food in the “only” restaurant in town (besides the restaurant in our hotel). Nam Anh 2 is a hotel on the main road. It was with 20 USD the most expensive hotel on our trip but there are not a lot of options. Food in the restaurant is great and the hotel itself is an old wooden house with lots of wood furnitures and a disgusting carpet 🙂
Total km: 36
total hm down: 1032
Total hm up: 415
Higgest point: 1110 masl
Phong Tho (290 masl)
Sa Pa – Tam Duong – Lai Chao (916masl)
We started the day with some rain. The first 15 km is a smooth climbing up to 2000 masl.
The scenery is spectacular with lots of waterfalls everywhere. Unfortunately we had quite some serious rain and at around 2000 m its getting quite cold. The reward started after we reached the top. A 22 km downhill was waiting for us. Still stunning scenery and as more we cycled down as less rain we got.
In Tam Duong we had our soup break. Vietnamese noodle soups with meat (or without) are super delicious and a great way to refill your batteries.
We met 2 Thai tour cyclist which were on the same way then us. After our lunch we had another 25 km to Lai Chao. The firsy 13 km smoothly uphill till 1300masl. The rest all downhill into Lai Chau. Lai Chau is a horrible big overdimensioned city with 10 (!!!) lanes on the main road. We found a hotel and a nice place to have some great fried noodles.
Tam Duong (680 masl)
Lai chao (916 masl)
Total hm up: 1679
Total hm down: 2300
total kilometer: 73 km
Highest point: 2004 masl (at km 15)
Lai chao n22.39296 e103.47406
Day 3 Lao Cai – Sa Pa (1500 masl)
We arrived early morning (5am) in Lao Cai. We had to wait coz our bikes were in the 2nd train, which arrived an hour later. After a coffee we started the biking. The first 8km is all flat and easy cycling. After that its 27 km serious uphill to Sa Pa from 150 masl up to 1500 masl. The first 20km is quite a boring scenery but after that the 1st rice terraces show up and the scenery gets nicer. I was quite shoked from Sa Pa. I was there 15 years ago and remember a nice mountain village/town with atmosphere.
Now its very big horrible city with construction everywhere and lots of Hmong women and kids “selling” or begging to sell handicrafts. Sad to see the difference compared to 15 years ago. The “old town” or “restaurant street” has still a nice atmosphere.
Thats where we ended up for having some food.
Total km: 35
Total hm up: 1662 m
Total hm down: 226m
Highest point: 1500masl Sa Pa
Sa Pa coordinates 22.3364° N, 103.8438° E
Day 2 Hanoi – Lao Cai (150 Hm)
Today we were hanging around in Hanoi. Did some minor shopping and some walks though the city and lake. We had some great food and beers. At 5pm we got our bikes. We packed them and started biking to the train station. The cycling through the city is quite caotic but all doable. No agressive driving at all. We arrived at the train station and arranged our bike transport. 4$ per bike in the night train to Lao Cai. Fair deal.
Tbe girls in charge at the train station had quite some fun bringing our bikes to the train.
Our ticket was 20 USD in a sleeping cabin good for 4.
The other 2 guys in our cabin were some danish folks. They introduced us in some card games and got upset coz wr won 🙂