Off the beaten track Vietnam

Cruising backroads
Cruising backroads

It has been some years since I wrote about an off the beaten track Vietnam. When I originally wrote about it, I had already had experience going to places that most foreigners cannot see or travel too, but now…….. I have been guiding tours off the beaten track by motorcycle for 5 years now. There are probably very few roads between Ca Mau and Phong Nga that I have not traveled on and the adventures have been many. My work motorcycle now has 125000 kilometers carrying passengers through jungles, forests, deserts, and rough mountain terrain. It has been a great time and I have met many wonderful people. For the past year or more Vietnam has been doubling the

Pagoda near Dalat
Pagoda near Dalat

major highways making some areas absolutely horrendous to travel. I avoid these roads when touring but are sometimes forced to use them, especially on to and from start and finish destinations. Over the years both my motorcycle and my body have taken a beating and because of it, I have been doing tours by car over the past 6 month or so.

Ideally, I would like to mix the two and tour by motorcycle and car together but we will see what the future brings…….. Anyway……. About “off the beaten track Vietnam”. Former post is here Former off the beaten track itinerary

When researching a tour in Vietnam many people use resources such as travel guide books, internet sites, and travel forums. Unfortunately for the off the beaten track traveler, you will find it very difficult to find accurate information as almost all information will lead you from main tourist area to

Wooden Church
Wooden Church

main tourist area. There are very few companies that can offer you such a tour due to government restrictions and they mostly design tours in venues where they can get commissions or percentage of service. That means back to the mainstream tourist areas as there is very little profit to be made going off the beaten track Vietnam. Following is an itinerary that I might suggest for those adventurers that would like to see as much as possible and include both “real Vietnam” and many of the main tourist attractions. The ultimate off the beaten track tour

Hai VanPass
Hai VanPass

I wrote about years ago is still valid but this takes a different route.  This route can be done by car or motorcycle (You riding pillion with your own personal guide). Going between destinations on your own is possible but will be an adventure in itself and probably not a pleasant one.

Arrive in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and spend 2 nights adjusting and visiting attractions. You can arrange as part of a package or do this portion on your own.

(Optional time and budget permitting) On day 3 you will tour the Mekong where you will board your own personal Sampan. For 2 nights you will cruise and explore the Mekong via smaller rivulets and canals giving you an authentic feel of the Mekong Delta away from the mainstream. You will still visit main areas of interest but away from

waterfall
waterfall

the crowds. This option is also available as an entry or exit tour to Vietnam in where the tour can connect you with the hydrofoil too or from Phnom Penh.red dune

Depart Saigon day 1        Saigon – Mui Ne

From Saigon depart via small roads and ferry working our south to Ba Ria and then to the coast passing rubber plantations and other interesting sights. We will make out way northward traveling on back roads that rarely see visitors passing fishing villages, Vietnamese La Gi resort areas and ending the day in Phan Thiet or Mui Ne for a relaxing evening.

white sand (Large)Day 2                                     Mui Ne – Dalat

In the morning we will visit the Red sand Dunes followed by the White dunes. From there we will turn inland and connect with small country roads that wind us through mountain passes and wild jungle. We will arrive on mountain plateaus and visit Pongour waterfall before finishing in Dalat for the night. The following day we will explore Dalat and spend a second night before continuing. (From here we can continue to Nha Trang if short on time)

Day 4                                     Dalat – Lak Lake

Down the mountains we will descend visiting a silk factory, Elephant waterfalls, and other sites of interest ending in the Central highlands. After a stop at a mountain fish farm operation, we will visit some M’Nong hill tribes that still live in their traditional ways. We will overnight at Lak Lake resort before continuing our adventure.

Day 5                                     Lak lake – Buon Ma Thuot

Care for a leisurly ride?
Care for a leisurly ride?

This will be a lazy day where we will meander examining the lifestyles of the minority peoples. You can start with a enjoyable Elephant ride We will understand the crop harvest of the day and visit pepper, coffee, and other agricultural areas. At lunchtime we will stop at Draynur and Dreysap waterfalls for a bit of a trek and finish in the City of Buon Ma Thuot.

Sampan
Sampan

Day 6                                     Buon Ma Thuot – Nha Trang

We will arrive in Nha Trang after descending from the Central highlands. We will stop for a walk along a beautiful lake created by a dam, visit a cocoa farm, and wander some local markets. On arrival in Nha Trang we can visit Ponagar Cham towers time permitting. You will be dropped at the hotel of your choice for the duration of your stay before the next leg of our Journey. (Option to continue to Kon Tum from Buon Ma Thuot if short on time)

Depart NhaTrang Day 1                 Nha Trang – Tuy Hoa

We will start with crossing a small wooden bridge and a visit to an incredible beautiful temple via back roads rarely seen by tourists. We will continue inland enjoying rice

Deserted beach
Deserted beach

fields and sugar cane plantations. We will then cross busy highway 1 and cruise a picturesque ocean side road passing small fishing villages, lobster and fish farms. We will also stop at a secluded beach where you can feel like the only people in the world.

Day 2                                     Tuy Hoa – Quy Nhon

After a visit to a very large Cham tower, we will drive by the post of Tuy Hoa that still keeps its small village feel. From there we will travel along a coastal highway visiting another pristine beach location. After a drive through local areas, we will cross busy highway 1 and follow a road that cuts inland through beautiful countryside. We will stop for walks and finish the day in Quy Nhon, our final beach destination.

Another quiet beach
Another quiet beach

Day 3                                     Quy Nhon – Kon Tum

From Quy Nhon, we will again head inland via route 19 which saw a lot of action during past conflicts. We will see former US firebases and stop at the Museum of Ethnology before arriving in An Khe where one of the former largest US military bases was located. We will walk down what was the main street of “Sin City” and then carry on through the Anh Khe pass into the Central highlands. We will drive through pepper plantations and beautiful countryside and arrive in Kon Tum.

Day 4                                     Kon Tum – Kham Duc

Breakfast will be followed by a visit to a wooden church built in 1913. We will examine the life of Ba Na ethnic group in their village and after we will leave Kon Tum for historic Dac To, Tan Canh where in 1972 there was a historic fierce battle at the Phoenix temporary airport on Charlie Hill. We will the landmark Vietnam-Lao- Cambodia border and journey along the historic Truong Son trail (the original Ho Chi Minh Trail which is mostly in Laos). We will cross “cau khi” (monkey bridge) and witness life in a village of M ‘nong ethnics. We will overnight at the town of Kham Duc, a place famous for gold mining and a former US air base that suffered a major defeat.

old tank
old tank

 

Day 5                                     Kham Duc – Hoi An

Following breakfast we will do some sightseeing on Truong Son trail and stop at Co Tu village to discover the matriarchal society of the K’Tu ethnic group. We will continue on Truong Son road used in 1969 as the path of underground oil supplies for the Vietnamese army. We will pass through Danang past the old American airbase and visit the Marble Mountains before ending the journey in Hoi An.  Te evening can be spent enjoying the sights of Hoi An.

in for repair
in for repair

Day 6                                     Hoi An

In the morning we will go to Hoi An’s beach area for a while before heading to the Mt Son Ruins for about lunch time when the attraction is at its quietest. We will examine some of the tradititions of the ancient Cham people and witness the destruction caused by war time bombing. After lunch you will return to Hoi An for an afternoon in old town and a good opportunity for gift shopping.

Day 7                                     Hoi An – Hue

We will depart Hoi An for Hue, the former capital of Vietnam and the seat of the Nguyen Dynasty. Our drive will take us over the Hai Van Pass to view interesting military significance and beautiful scenic vistas.We will visit King Tu Dus’s tomb. After checking into your hotel, time can be spent with a visit Dong Ba market, famous for its conical hats. Overnight in Hue

Imperial Citadel
Imperial Citadel

Day 8                                     Hue – Dong Hoi

After breakfast we will visit the Imperial Palace, former capital of Vietnam and seat of the Nguyen Dynasty. After an early lunch, we will head into the DMz witnessing some of the scars of history. Along the way we will stop at the Hien Luong Bridge and follow with a stop at the Vinh Moc tunnels. We will spend an evening in Dong Hoi and visit local attractions.

Caves
Caves

Day 9                                     Dong Hoi – Phong Nga

Our final day will have us finish in Phong Nga, an area where some of the most beautiful caves can be found along with the recently discovered Son Doong cave, the largest in the world. At this point I will have to finish the journey. It will have been quite an adventure to get to this point.

A final word.

Going this route will find you in areas where very few visitors will ever go. Keeping that in mind, lunch and bathroom stops may be a bit of a challenge at times. The route isDSC01283 (Large) safe and there is decent accommodation available in all of the overnight spots. You can attempt to do this yourself but give yourself a few extra days as there will be difficulty and confusion trying to book transport. I cannot continue with the route as my knowledge as a guide ends here. I have traveled the rest of the country a number of times but is a tourist. There are very few roads between Hue all the way down to the deep Mekong that I have not traveled and off the beaten track is what I love.

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Owee

Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

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