Sapa (Northwest Vietnam Loop) – 1. Introduction

As Lonely Planet Vietnam puts it, “Northwest Vietnam is a land of looming mountains, a mosaic of ethnic minorities, a region of overwhelming beauty – very much a world unto itself. Hit the Road by 4WD or motorcycle for an adventure more than a holiday – an experience that will stay with you forever.”

Indeed, the far northwest ride is the classic northern Vietnam trip, passing through wildly different landscapes, ranging from Hanoi’s flat land to Sapa’s mountain roads. The ride definitely ranks as one of my most favourites. Truth to be told, I did not prepare in advance for the ride. I arrived in Hanoi after crossing the China-Vietnam border at Pingxiang, halfway through my 6-week China and Southeast Asia vacation. My footwears were a pair of sandals and a pair of flip-flops. A light jacket was all I had for the highlands. It was approaching the raining season and I did not have any proper rain gear. Not forgetting to mention, I had never rode a motorcycle in a foreign country before.

It is times like this that I need some motivation, something to spur me on. A poem by Nadine Stair comes to mind.

If I had my life to live over, I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously. I would take more chances. I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers. I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

You see, I’m one of those people who lived sensibly and sanely, hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my moments, and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them. In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day. I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat and a parachute. If I had to do it again, I would travel lighter than I have.

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.

And so begins my first motorcycle adventure vacation.

The Sapa (Northwest Vietnam Loop) trip report is divided into six parts:

  1. Introduction (You are here)
  2. Route
  3. Motorcycle
  4. Journey, Day 1-2
  5. Journey, Day 3-4
  6. Resources

Disclaimer: This trip was taken in May 2006. The information is provided ‘as is’ with no warranties and confers no rights. Please feel free to post a comment. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Sapa (Northwest Vietnam Loop) – 1. Introduction

  1. Great report. North Vietnam is definitely one of the best places for motorcycling in Asia. You see stunning mountain landscapes and very friendly people. More than half of 54 minority groups live here.

  2. Excellent report, and really well laid out. Great info for me, who is going to do this tour in a week!

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  5. Hi again,

    I have been debating doing a motorcycling circuit in either north vietnam or north thailand. Having done both, which one would you recommend to a 40ish female rider who loves beautiful scenery and safe riding?

    Thanks for any feedback, and for your blog:-)

  6. The scenaries are comparable but North Thailand should have better infrastructure and so safer riding.

    Jan/Feb 2011 should be the dry season and looks like an excellent time for some riding. It might be a bit cold though.

  7. Hi again, I am going in to Vietnam from Kunming by Lao Cai, my plan is to go to Hanoi, buy some stuff for my family, keep looping and go into Laos and do the Lao loop north as I told you in the other message…how would you do it? I have 5 weeks…from now, I will stay in Yunnan for e weeks and then 5 in Vietnam and Laos…. maybe I can reduce Yunnan if necessary and use more time in Laos….I been before in SA pa but just back and forth from Hanoi so I missed the most of the loop….now I think would be good to so it properly, I have to fly from BKK to Europe in June 10rh so 8 weeks left…. before I was planning to fly to Indonesia but not so much time for all so I think is better to visit this properly… right?

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