White Hmong hill tribe market
White Hmong hill tribe market
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Hill-tribe jewellery
Hill-tribe jewellery
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Group shot
Group shot
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Sapa valley
Sapa valley
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Chris Wolzak from Australia

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Well, I would have written this review using my login, but apparently trip advisor does not want to send my reset password.  So anonymous it is! I did this tour with very little riding experience. Almost zero, actually, except for my Australian Learners Permit.  So obviously I wouldn't initially think of riding around Northern Vietnam as a holiday. However, I have a good friend who has previously done one of these tours and he was very keen for our group of mates to experience it.  So a couple of us went off and got our permits and headed for Hanoi in August 2016.   As is usually the case, the size of our crew slowly whittled down in the weeks leading up to the ride.  There ended up being only three of us, plus our excellent guide, Tony, and our Fonzy-cool mechanic, Long.  Out tour was ten days long, basically covering a clock-wise loop from Hanoi all the way out west, then up to the Chinese border and then back down to Hanoi. Lots of great stuff has been said in the comments here on Trip Advisor. I guess what I can add is that Northern Vietnam is astonishingly beautiful. The environment is constantly changing and in the entire ten days it did not let up.  On top of that, the Vietnamese people are wonderful.  They are patient, kind and inspirationally hardy people. So...Explore Indochina.  This is a company run by Australians and it therefore understands what we westerners are looking for. The tour was the right balance of safety, control and flexibility.  We always felt the guides, Tony and Long, knew exactly what they were doing and were looking after us well.  The tour also definitely felt like an adventure (ie. with the risks required to qualify it as a genuine adventure).  They also adjusted the route to our experience levels.  The second you throw your leg over the bike in their warehouse, to the second you say goodbye and thankyou, everything is handled well for you.  Food, fuel, accommodation, bike maintenance etc...it's all very well executed and their years of experience is obvious. The riding? Surfaces vary from main road to barely goat-tracks.  Loose surfaces, mud, rocks, landslides, flood crossings etc. Most sealed roads are potholed.  Traffic can be chaotic, but once you work out how it works, is manageable.  It DOES work because the Vietnamese are patient and considerate (we could learn a lot from them).  Expect rain and therefore slippery surfaces.  Point is, don't be a hero.  Also, get used to honking your horn... Some random logistics and thoughts.... We carried everything in our panniers.  Plan for two panniers, approximately 40cmx30cmx60cm in dimensions.   Don't overpack.  Most of us wore the same pair of pants the whole way. Plan for your stuff to get wet, consider finding some good waterproof bags to put in the panniers. When you get to your overnight stop, just take those bags out of the panniers. Bring long-sleeve shirts and sunglasses. Otherwise, you'll get burnt. Don't get burnt. Fools get burnt. Accomodation is a combination of hotels and home-stays. The home-stays are excellent as you get to meet and eat with your local hosts. This is usually communal-style sleeping and bathrooms and might be with other travellers. Bring small gifts to give to kids and hosts etc. On the whole, I would, and do, enthusiastically promote this company and this tour. Explore Indochina also do variations of the Northern tours, South Vietnam, Cambodia and also Himalaya. You have no excuses.  It's not that expensive and it will be a highly memorable trip. Make a booking right now!

 

Chris Wolzak from Australia
August, 2016

 

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