Quick Route – Hanoi / Mai Chau
Mai Chau is great place for an overnight trip. A weekend away is a great idea at any time. If you can make it during the week, you will find it much more peaceful.
It is possible to get to Mai Chau town very quickly. If you leave early in the morning you can be there long before lunch time. Then, you will have plenty of time to explore.
Two days and one night (2D1N) are enough. However, to really wind down, and not be too stressed by rushing to get there, we suggest 3D2N. Combining this and a trip to Pu Luong would be ideal.
You can debate which route is the fastest now, the QL6 or the Hoa Lac Highway. One thing that is certain is that the Hoa Lac Highway is less stressful. That is my choice AND Google’s.
Just inputting Ban Poom Coong / Ban Lac or Mai Chau will bring you up 3 route choices. The shortest two are feasible but the longer third seems quite out of the way. Follow Google for one of these two and you will be fine.
Here are two route suggestions that you can print out and take with you. That is, if you prefer to handle a paper copy.
Places to stop along the route.
There is no way that you will ride the whole way in one go without stopping. It is often a good idea to set a certain time limit or distance limit and agree as a group to stop at these point. On a trip like this one, the major changes of route direction are good places to stop.
This is where I would stop and have my first coffee or soft drink. It is about 40km from Hanoi and takes about 1hr to get here. This is the point where you are starting to get out of the city and onto the ‘good stuff’ not long now.
This is around 35km further on and another 45 mins or so. I would stop here at Ngoc Quynh restaurant for a bite to eat or a drink. If you are looking at making good time, then you can’t stop at the dam to look around. It is a good stop and you can have ice cream and drinks on the further side of the river. This will add a lot of time. Pass.
Alternatively, skip the town and the dam, by taking the bypass and head on up the mountain. Just on the other side of town where the bypass links back up to the main road is a small roadside café. Just by the ‘Cay Da Cham Mat’. This is a good place for a quick stop.
30km on from Ngoc Qunyh or 20km on from the café is Muong Khen. This is a sprawling lineated town that forces you to drive slowly, 40kmh, for at least 10km. At the junction here and also spread all along the roadsides are many cafes and eateries.
It is about 30km further to get to Tong Dau and there are a few small places on the way. White cliffs, near Phu Cuong, usually has a few small places open and there is the Flag Tower at Thung Khe Pass. Stopping at these places means you can get a photo and a drink as well as stretch your buttock muscles. By now they may be feeling tired.
What type of bike to use
You can use almost any kind of bike for this trip. The roads are easy to follow, and in good condition. There is no dirt track, nor should there be any landslides. However, I would suggest taking a semi automatic rather than an auto bike and not using the Honda Cub either for such a long trip.
An automatic is not the best kind of bike to use for a long trip like this. Yes, they will make the trip and they will be just as reliable as other types of bike but there are better choices.
The first thing to say is that they are less fuel efficient than other kinds of bikes. Over a long distance this will add up and whether you are worried about the cost or the environmental impact, it will make a difference. Also, these bikes tend to have smaller diameter wheels and so will not deal with potholes as well as bikes with larger wheels. Finally, many of these bikes are physically quite small and can be uncomfortable, especially if you carry a passenger.
These kinds of bikes are NOT good for driving in the hills. You will notice very few of them in the mountainous regions (not that Mai Chai is particularly mountainous). This is because you cannot use the engine as a brake and constant use of the brakes can cause them to overheat and become ineffective. NOTE: The Danang Council are considering banning automatic bikes on Son Tra for this very reason.
There are some people who say these bikes are more prone to overheating and breaking down due to this but it is really hard to tell if this is a true fact. A lot of what contributes to these factors is how you drive the bike.
These bikes are good for a trip like this where there is a long stretch of road and some hills to climb. They are more fuel efficient and run much cooler than the automatic bikes. You will have more control over the engine and be able to quickly change the speed of the bike in different circumstances. There is less to go wrong so in that sense they are more reliable, cheaper and simpler to fix.
A great example is the Honda Future, which is a 125cc semi auto bike. It has versions that are fuel injected for even better fuel economy and with front disc brakes for effective stopping. This bike is a little taller and larger than other Honda Models (Wave, RS) so it gives more room for larger people or for two people on the bike.
These bikes come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and styles. Generally, any manual bike will be able to make the trip to Mai Chau with ease. The Honda Master road bike or the Honda XR150 dirt bike, both have their advantages and disadvantages; both will make the trip quite easily.
These bikes allow you much more control over the bike and this can come in very useful in emergency situations or on tricky terrain. However, you need to be a competent driver in order to fully realize this potential. If you are not familiar with these bikes, then it might be wise to stick to the semi auto.
Rent A Bike Hanoi
This is a great place to rent a bike either to get to Mai Chai or for a short trip like this or for more long term. They have a range of Auto, Semi Auto and Manual bikes and definitely the best service in Vietnam.
Their bikes are original Honda machines and they keep them well serviced. There is no fuss and no funny business, they are really genuine so you can feel secure. Prices range from 10usd to 35usd per day, depending on which type of bike you need and the deposit is either an original passport with entry stamp, or 500USD.
Website: rentabikevn.com Email: email@example.com Tel: +84 904 392 423
They also have shops in Danang and HCMC so you can take a one way rental.
Tips for the road.
- If you are taking a semi automatic, consider saddle bags. These allow you to take your gear off the bike very easily when you need to fill up with petrol.
- Don’t drive on the CT08 road to Mai Chau. Motorbikes are not allowed on CT roads. There is usually a small side road running parallel so take that instead. The police WILL stop you.
- Don’t overload the bike. You will have to drive up, and down, some steep inclines. An overloaded bike will be more difficult to control and dangerous!!
- Book accommodation ahead and try to arrive before dark to be able to find it easily.
- Right the names of the key route locations IN VIETNAMESE, so that you can ask for directions.
If you would like to find out more about where to stay, where to eat or what to do, you can find that in the Mai Chau Route Map blog post.
Have a great trip and leave us some comments to let others know if there are any changes or if you have any questions before you go.