Details about North Vietnam
Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam but it's also the main entry point for exploring North Vietnam. Many travelers who want to visit different areas in north Vietnam will ultimately return to the capital.
Cycling in North Vietnam
Cycling in north Vietnam is an interesting experience. The north west offers mountainous areas and wide open valleys (Sapa, Dien Bien Phu) while the east has Ha Long Bay.
Going north is for the most relatively flat (to Lang Son) and south you will find the Ninh Binh karst mountains. In my opinion, north Vietnam is very suitable to ride bicycle.
The capital of Vietnam has many attractions. The core of the city is to be found around Hoan Kiem Lake. From here you can explore Hanoi including trips to Ho Chi Minh's (Uncle Ho) Mausoleum. Bus and railway stations are all conveniently located close to the main tourist area. The best places to stay, either upmarket or low budget is around the Hoan Kiem Lake.
Sapa and the North West of Vietnam
Take a train to Lao Cai and explore the north west. It's a beautiful thing to do. Fortunately only a limited amount of travelers continue into the north west after they visit Sapa. This means the road from Sapa to Dien Bien Phu and Son La is still relatively unspoiled. To me, this was one of the highlights of Vietnam.
For cyclists with a desire to visit Laos, the border near Dien Bien Phu is now open to foreigners and you're able to obtain a Lao visit here.
Ha Long Bay and Haiphong
One of the prime holiday destinations in Vietnam is of course Ha Long Bay. The karst limestone mountains offer the possibility to dwell a few days on a boat and explore limestone caves. It's worth to spend a little extra money and get a tour through the waters of ha Long Bay.
A day cycling from Hanoi there is an area some call "the dry version of Ha Long Bay". The karst mountains around Ninh Binh are worth exploring. There's some amazing caves and very scenic spots all around the city.
Vinh, the DMZ and the road to Lao Bao
It's a couple of days cycling, a few hours in a bus or an overnight train to Vinh and Hue. I didn't find Vinh very attractive but it was certainly a nice (though not spectacular) bikeride.
After Vinh you will come in the area where North Vietnam and South Vietnam have had serious fights including the notorious Orange Crush bombings. A tour into the DMZ is very interesting, especially if it contains a visit to the Vinh Moc tunnels, similar to the Cu Chi tunnels. They differ in how they were used. Vinh Moc was used as a shelter, as Cu Chi was used an Vietcong operation base.
The road to Lao Bao is pleasant and ends in Khe San and several km's further at the Lao border at Lao Bao.
The road to Lang Son
Travelers to China take the train to Lang Son. They hardly see anything of the area they pass. That's too bad as there are several beautiful and scenic spots on the way. Admitting there are more and better areas elsewhere but I found it worth to spend a few days cycling Pingxiang to Lang Son and Hanoi.
The road to Hue
If you come from Vinh, you will pass cities as Dong Hoi and Dong Ha. They're nothing special but pleasant enough for an overnight stop. From Dong Hoi, it's another day trip on the bicycle to Hue.
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Cycling from Hanoi to Vinh
It's not the most spectacular part of Vietnam but it's a nice bike ride of several days and there's enough to keep you busy.
North West Vietnam
Sapa, Lao Cai, Dien Bien Phu and Son La are some of the bigger and well known places in north west Vietnam