Where: Hanoi, North Vietnam
Best Season: Spring/summer, when there is less rainfall and warmer weather.
Best Sights: Varied colourful costumes of the different tribes, and Ba Be National park’s beautiful waterfalls and caves.
Remember to bring: Sunglasses and good head cover for boat journeys and relevant bike safety equipment.
Watch out for: Dehydration.
The treks journey starts with a flight to Hanoi from where we ride north towards China for a trek into the mountains and a boat ride along the beautiful lakes of Ba Be National park in time for the Spring Festival.
Highlights of the festival include:
· Boat race on the lake
· Wrestling matches
· Bull fighting
· Cow racing
· Singing and dancing
· Can throwing to find partners
· Goat chasing
· Sampling duck embryo soup: definitely an acquired taste!
This festival is celebrated by the Tay, Dao, Hmong and Nung ethnic groups. The Tay are Vietnam’s largest minority with an estimated population of 1.2million. The Dao wear highly distinctive clothing and the women often shave their eyebrows and hair and wear a giant turban. All groups migrated to the highlands of Vietnam from China.
The Spring Festival is a big event in their calendar and is celebrated by 15 – 20, 000 people, many of which have walked for days from other tribal areas to attend.
Travelling Tips for Cyclists
· Before you head off into the unknown if you want to have an easy ride make sure you are prepared. Public transport in Vietnam is patchy and unreliable so if you want to get out of the vice like grip of government tour operators and have a real adventure then it’s best to get your own wheels. And in Vietnam, two wheels are better than one. You can purchase your own set of wheels for $10 a day.
· Be wary of scams in which you are given a key for your padlock, and the rental company has a spare. They then follow you and steal the bike, which you are then liable to pay for.
· Bring your own helmet or else your holiday in Vietnam could come with a free lobotomy. Goggles and a working horn are also a must. (It is illegal to be without the latter in Vietnam).
· Make sure the agreement you sign is in English and that you rent from a reputable dealer.
· Check the bike over properly before you ride it.
· Get some practice before you arrive on your trip: Vietnam is not the place to learn how to ride a motorbike.
· Carry spare fuel unless the idea of sleeping by the side of the road appeals to you.
· Always carry a comprehensive tool kit with plenty of spares and a pump in case of punctures.
· Do not ride at night – most Vietnamese do not know how to use their headlights
· There are no ambulances in Vietnam.
· If you are planning to bike in the north the best months are September to May. During the monsoon roads and bridges are washed out making travel impossible.
· Take extra caution when turning corners: you never know what may be around them!
Ba Be National Park
Did you know?
· Ba Be National park covers 50,000 hectares of limestone tropical forest. The centre piece is the largest natural lake in Vietnam : 5 miles long and up to 100 ft deep.
· Puong cave in the park is 1000 ft long and has a river running all the way through it. It is a prime example of the fantastic limestone Karst formations that are a special feature of this area of Vietnam.
· There are several cave-dwelling communities found in the Northern hills area.
Buffalo Tours Vietnam
The treks crew did their journey with the help of Buffalo Tours. This is an expert tour operator with great, friendly tour guides.
Head Office of Buffalo Tours
94 Ma May Street
Hoan Kiem District
General enquiries: +84-4-3828-0702+84-4-3828-0702
Online bookings: +84-4-3926-3425+84-4-3926-3425
Office in London
The Old Church 89B Quicks Road
Wimbledon London SW19 1EX, UK
Ultimate adventure travel guide specialists for Vietnam
By Xanthe Apostolos