The Northwest Vietnam loop takes us from Hanoi to Mai Chau, followed by Son La, Dien Bien Phu, Sapa, Lao Cai and Yen Bai before bringing us back to Hanoi. It is best to plan five to six days for the trip, so that you can ride at a reasonable pace with adequate time for sightseeing. The minimum number of days required for the trip would be three days. Personally, I spent four days for the trip.
Map of North Vietnam and route taken
Northwest Vietnam route distances (Image from MinskClub Vietnam)
The route is pretty straight forward and there are road signs and kilometer stones to guide the rider. If you do lose your way, Vietnamese will gladly point you out to the right direction. Majority of the roads are paved. The exception I can recall is the muddy stretch near Dien Bien Phu. For the whole journey, I averaged around 40km/h to 50km/h on my motorcycle. The total distance I traveled was around 1000km. Vietnamese guesthouses are available at major towns and villages along the route. Similarly for petrol, you can find them at every town and village. However, do note that distances between towns and villages can be far and it would be wise to top up whenever you can. Besides petrol stations, you should also watch out for grocery stores that sell bottled petrols.
Such sign posts can be found at most major road junctions in Vietnam.
Kilometer stones are located every kilometer and indicate the distance to the next town.