They may not capture the children who run to the roadside, posed for a high-five as we pass by. Or the old women who try to cycle faster than us, laughing and balancing small mountains of rice on their own bikes all the way. They don’t show the locals who slow their scooter-pace, only to ask where we are going and where we are from, never driving off without first volunteering to pull us the rest of the way. And of course, you can’t hear the hundreds of ‘hallos’ called out to us each day, or the fits of giggles that follow when we wave or smile back.
Unfortunately we aren’t too good at simultaneously taking photos and cycling – we’re working on it, we promise. In the meantime, here are a few images from our first few days of cycling North Vietnam. They still offer a pretty good snapshot of our surroundings in the beautiful, mountainous north.
Have you traveled through Northern Vietnam?
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Beautiful photos! This sounds like an amazing trip. I’m looking forward to following along.
Josh @ I Ran So Far Away recently posted…A Tribute to My Mentor and Hero: Dr. Donald Ungurait
Thank you! Happy to hear that you’ll be along for the ride :)
Enjoy! I still think that that part of the country & northern Vietnam (parts up in Sapa and beyond) are *the* most beautiful places we have ever been. (Though I admit we did what others have done and when we got to Ninh Binh, we hopped an overnight train to shave ~800 km off our journey. What route are you guys planning to take? If you are planning on the HCM trail all the way south, you might want to reconsider as the condition of that road is AWFUL, despite other things you might have read. So much construction and no shoulder at all!)
But please don’t worry about biking & taking photos. I just read a post the other day of someone who was doing that in South America and wound up flipping over their handlebars and smashing their face up. Not worth it! Just take a break and safely take pictures from a stationary position!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…One Year Later
Yikes! That’s all the warning we need about biking and photography. We didn’t get the chance to go to Sapa or really head any farther north than Hanoi, but after seeing how beautiful the countryside was around Hanoi I can only imagine the beauty of the far north. It’s funny you mention the overnight from Ninh Binh-we came pretty close to doing that ourselves, but decided to forge on a little longer on the bikes until the train was absolutely necessary. We keep changing our plan actually-we were going to spend most time on the HCMT, but after realizing we were never going to make it on unpaved road we switched over to H1 for a bit. Less scenic, but more efficient. We were thinking of hooking back up again with the HCMT, but now we aren’t so sure. What route did you end up taking on the scooters? Any part of the HCMT that you would recommend?
What a amazing journey you are on! Wide open roads, beautiful scenery, spectacular views, wonderful memories!!! You are seeing the side of Vietnam that seems to remain untouched!! Thanks for sharing!
I do have a question though…How many KMs do you cycle a day?
Constance recently posted…Take a Walk on the ‘Gorge’ Side: An Up, Close, and Personal Look At Taroko Gorge
Thanks Constance! It’s true, this part of Vietnam is largely untouched. We’ve seen one foreigner since we have left Hanoi, and he was a French man that called out to us while we biked by: “I am from France! I am from France!”. Haha, we’re assuming we were the first foreigners he had seen in a while too! We’ve only been cycling around 80km a day at this point. We had planned to do more, but we were met with pretty poor road conditions and a really strong headwind (what we think is from a typhoon blowing through China). It has made the cycling realllly slow going, although hopefully the wind will subside soon so we can cycle a little more. We prefer to have one really long day, then take the next day slower and have time to work :)
That’s awesome! I have enjoyed reading about your adventures in Vietnam so far! You are to be commended for undertaking such a challenging task. Remember it is not how fast you travel but the your overall enjoyment of the journey!
Constance recently posted…Accidentally Hitchhiking Taroko Gorge
oops…it should read ‘but your overall enjoyment’….I should proof-read more often! ;)
Great advice! Definitely applies to cycling!
Unfortunately I haven’t been to Vietnam (not yet) so I can only enjoy it through your eyes.
You guys rock! Keep cycling and posting your travel updates, we are loving knowing what you are up to and how you are doing. :)
Franca recently posted…Introducing – Our 1st ‘With Earphones In’ Travel Playlist for August
Thanks for the encouragement Franca! Hopefully you’ll make it to Vietnam one day- it is a beautiful country :)
Stunning photos! I love the one where the clouds are reflected in the water. To echo Steph, definitely don’t worry about taking photos while cycling. I tried in Yunnan province and fell over, scraping up my knee. An old ethnic minority woman came over to help me up and the concern on her face was so touching! Still, it wasn’t worth the risk of injury on the road. Stay safe!
Heather recently posted…The Best Meals We Ate in Budapest
That is so precious, although I’m sorry to hear about your little slip! I guess all multi-tasking while cycling is off-limits then :) We actually had our first tumble today, and it was because Dan got too close to my bike trying to hear a squeaking noise! Go figure we would manage to collide into each other!
What a fabulous experience! Have traveled to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay but definitely haven’t done anything like this cycling trip. So jealous!
James recently posted…Mother’s Day in Thailand
Thanks James! You should go for it if you ever get the opportunity. It is proving to be very rewarding so far!
I’m looking to plan a Vietnam trip over New Years with a girlfriend, just two girls on the open road is our hope. Thoughts on safety for two foreign women cycling together in Northern Vietnam? I’d prefer to do the trip on our own versus with a tour company…but is a week worth buying a bike and packing our stuff around northern Vietnam? I’m open to any input and route suggestions as well. After a week of bike touring we’d like to hope a flight to HCMC and then head to the coast for some R and R and maybe a fun cooking class.
Hey Megan- So sorry, just noticed your comment now. Are you still planning a trip? Our DIY Guide to Cycling Vietnam (Under Travel Guides) might help you, but for a quick answer, one week is definitely going to be pushing it, and a tour might be better catered to your time restraints. Feel free to send us an email if you are still planning your trip and we would be happy to help!
Hi! I’ve stumbled across your blog and now am extremely tempted to cycle across Vietnam, but I’ve got a couple of questions…
1. Did you find you were riding everyday? Or did you have rest days in between?
2. I read you hadn’t been riding much previously, but are you both quite fit already?
3. If I do this trip, I’ll likely be going off on my own. Do you think it’s safe enough to do as a solo female traveller?
Thanks again for a great read! :-)
Caitlin recently posted…Setting a Savings Goal
Hey Caitlin! So glad that we’ve tempted you to cycle Vietnam! It’s definitely an amazing experience and one that we are so glad we did when we had the chance. For your questions:
1. We had lots of rest days in between. We were still blogging and we wanted to make sure we had the time to explore each destination along the way. It took us six weeks, but without the rest days I think we could have done it in a month.
2. I like to think we were pretty fit at that point in time (definitely more fit than I am now :-P) but I wouldn’t say incredibly so. Like, we enjoy hiking and yoga and running, but we never ever go to the gym :)
3. This one is a hard one. I want to say yes, but there were some times when I was incredibly glad that Dan was there with me. Not that anything threatening ever happened, but we cycled through some crazy remote and rural places. If you stuck to the coastal highway though I don’t think you would have any problem doing it solo, but then you’ll miss out on some of the most beautiful inland views. Even if it’s not a male partner, just having someone with you might be good in case you got stranded in a rural area or something like that.
I hope that helps! Feel free to shoot us an email if you need more tips or advice :)
Also, be sure to check out our DIY Guide to Cycling Vietnam! :)
Dear Dan and Casey,
Just wanted to thank you for your inspiring blog. In a few days we are going to Vietnam and will try to cover several hundreds of kilometers :)
I will be visiting Vietnam, Sept 1, through Nov 11, 2015 ~~ (71days)
I was unsure if I would attempt to cycle “any” of Vietnam until I read about your experiences and seen your photography of this beautiful country.
I have decided; I will be bring my mountain bike, and equipment.
The flight cost of my bike will be an additional $200usd each way; I view this as a convenience worthy of the expense.
I will then see the Veitnam I really want to see.
Thanks you both for the inspiration and courage.
My husband and I are planning our second bike trip and Vietnam got on the top of my list (and one of my favorite countries so far).