HO CHI MINH TRAIL MOTORCYCLE TOUR
The Ho Chi Minh Trail is a truly legendary route. Stretching from the north of Vietnam and travelling right down to what was then Saigon – now Ho Chi Minh City – in the south of the country. In reality, it’s not just one trail, but a collection of seemingly thousands of back roads and trails that scythe through the achingly beautiful landscapes of neighbouring Laos and Cambodia, passing through everything from deep valleys lined with rice paddies to dense jungles far from civilisation. It’s a truly epic route and for motorcycle riders, it’s a true bucket list motorcycle tour.
But for all the beauty of the trail as it is today, the origins of the Ho Chi Minh are far from peaceful. Between 1959 and 1975, the trail provided a vital route for the Viet Cong to transport arms and supplies to help in their resistance to the American forces during the Vietnam War. Such was the importance of the supply route to the communist forces, the US dropped over half a million tonnes of bombs onto the trail in Cambodia and a staggering three million tonnes in Laos in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to stem the flow of arms to the Vietnamese fighters.
“One of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century.”United States National Security Agency
Forty years later, the Ho Chi Minh Trail is an altogether more agreeable place to be. It still cuts through the landscape, but where there was bomb ravaged vistas, there are now mile after mile of stunning scenery, and beautiful tribal villages of friendly and welcoming people. The debris of the war has been recycled, so village huts are supported on enormous bomb casings and spent artillery shells are now pressed into use as flower planters and animal drinking troughs. This is a very special place.
RANGE OF DIFFICULTY OPTIONS
BOOK THIS TOUR!
Your 17 day motorcycle tour up the Ho Chi Minh Trail will not disappoint! Riding some of the best tracks in South Asia, you will be accompanied and supported by a team of guides, mechanics and an expedition medic at every moment. When you are not riding the bikes on the sweeping, technical and joyful tracks, you’ll stay in everything from luxury hotels with infinity pools to tents in the middle of the Mekong River. You’ll see some of the rarest dolphins in the world, take a boat trip through a cave nearly eight kilometres long (with your bike!), meet with members of remote hill tribes and swim in a blue lagoon before sinking a cool beer while watching the sunset.
Tour Key Info:
HO CHI MINH TRAIL MOTORCYCLE TOUR ITINERARY
DAY 1: WELCOME TO CAMBODIA!
For your first day in Cambodia we guarantee you’ll want to take an exciting and breathtaking tour of Phnom Penh in one of the thousands of tuk-tuks in the crazy and frenetic traffic. You can visit the bustling Russian Market and shop in the thousands of tiny shops that line the city’s street. You’ll have the chance to shoot machine guns at the firing range, and if you fancy a bit of history, take in the chilling Killing Fields Memorial or the Genocide Museum.
In the afternoon you’ll meet the full Ride Team and have a chance to see the motorcycles you will be riding for the next 2700 kilometres! We’ll give you all a full briefing on the trip ahead before enjoying some cold beers on a sunset cruise down the Mekong River.
As the sun goes down, we’ll head to a riverside restaurant for a traditional Cambodian dinner by the tranquil water before heading back to the hotel.
Accommodation will be in a quality hotel with a rooftop pool.
DAY 2: PHNOM PENH – KAMPONG CHAM | 130km
The first riding day of this Ho Chi Minh Trail motorcycle tour! After a buffet breakfast on the rooftop terrace with views over the Tonle Sap & Mekong River, we’ll jump on the bikes, start the engines leave the bustle of Phnom Penh city behind us. Crossing the mighty Mekong River on a local ferry, we’ll then head north, riding alongside the river all the way to the riverside town of Kampong Cham, where we will spend the night. We’ll ride a fantastic mix of roads, dirt roads and trails, cross a river island and finish the day by riding an incredible 800m long bridge made entirely out of bamboo before reaching our destination. After dinner, then the town offers everything from Karaoke to massage, and probably both at the same time!
Accommodation will be in an excellent, newly built riverside hotel with a rooftop bar & restaurant.
DAY 3: KAMPONG CHAM – SNOUL | 200km
The morning’s riding takes us alongside the Mekong to continue north, passing through small villages and fishing communities. We’ll then say goodbye to the Mekong for a while and cut east away from the river.
We will meet the support for a Western style picnic lunch beneath a wooden hut that overlooks rice paddies and the buffalo that graze alongside. The trails are a mix of sweeping riverside tracks, bumpy dirt roads and smooth highway through endless plantations of rubber and cashew nuts.
Accommodation will be in a small town hotel with AC.
DAY 4: SNOUL – SEN MONOROM | 150km
For the more experienced riders today we have the option of some technical off-road riding on the ‘King’s Highway’, which offers an exciting mix of open sandy trails and tighter single track trails up into the hills.
For the less experienced riders, we take a gentler but equally enjoyable route, sticking to the blacktop as we cruise the winding roads up into the mountains.
Whichever you choose, the views here are stunning – you might even catch the monkeys swinging through the trees alongside the trails and roads.
In the afternoon, the riders that have opted for the road route have the option of visiting the nearby elephant sanctuary, taking a swim in the stunning Bou Sra waterfall, chat to fellow travellers in the wonderful resort bar or maybe just chill in your hammock on your private balcony of your wooden stilted bungalow.
Accommodation will be in wooden bungalows on a hillside at a beautiful Nature Lodge. Cows & ponies will be grazing just off your front step.
DAY 5: SEN MONOROM – BANLUNG | 195km
Another exciting day with four different trail options ranging in difficulty so we can really tailor this day to suit the skill levels of the group.
From river crossings, rocky hills and winding dirt roads, to sandy tracks & trails through small villages – the possibilities are wide and varied.
Passing through the Mondulkiri province we’ll ride along parts of the infamous Death Highway! It’s a brilliant days riding that finishes us in the enchanting Ratanakiri province and an incredible hillside resort that will be our home for the next 2 nights.
Accommodation will be in a luxurious hillside bungalow resort with an infinity pool that overlooks the forests.
DAY 6: BANLUNG REST DAY
After five days on the bikes, we reckon you’ll be ready for a rest day, and faced with such a great resort, you won’t disagree. There’ll be time to go exploring, maybe relax by the swimming pool and, perhaps more pressing – get some laundry done by the incredibly efficient hotel staff – most of our riding kit tends to come back the cleanest it’s ever been!
The capital of Ratanakiri, Banlung, is home to the spectacular Yeak Laom volcanic lake, hidden in a dense tropical forest, the warm azure water is a Mecca for tourists and locals alike. You can just sit by the waters edge, but you’d be missing an experience if you don’t swim in the fantastic setting.
Once out of the water, the support crew will be on hand with snacks and cold beers to finish off the afternoon – does life get any better?
If you would rather go sightseeing, Banlung also has some great waterfalls and interesting hill tribe communities for those that wish to explore the area.
Accommodation will be in the same hillside bungalow as the night before.
DAY 7: BANLUNG – LAOS BORDER | 160km
Day seven starts with a life affirming rip along a winding dirt road to reach our first boat crossing of the day – always good fun, but not before a refreshing drink straight from a cold coconut at the local market.
We’ll then load up the bikes on our aquatic taxi and board a wooden boat and chug over to the other side of the river where the trails await.
And what incredible trails they are – a thirty-five kilometre long beauty that winds through the jungle, across rivers and passes through tiny and remote villages. We’ll need to cross another two rivers on wooden boats before reaching the end of the trail.
The final part of the days riding takes a long dirt trail back towards the Mekong River. We’ll load our bikes onto the last wooden boat of the day and in a mere fifteen minutes we’ll be ashore our own private island and campsite in the middle of the river at Preah Rumkel for a sunset barbecue by the water’s edge.
Accommodation will be in tents on our private river island.
DAY 8: LAOS BORDER – KHONG ISLAND – CHAMPASAK | 110km
Waking up on a river island, the only way to start the day is a refreshing swim – and it might well clear your head from the previous evening’s beers! After bidding a fond farewell to our river island we will scoot the boat over to a small island village for a delicious breakfast of egg-fried rice and strong Lao coffee.
We will then head back to the boat to chug out into the middle of the river to spot the incredibly rare Irrawaddy Dolphins. There are only around half a dozen left in this part of the country and a mere eighty-five left in the entire Mekong.
With the David Attenborough stuff done, it’s back to the bikes for a quick five-kilometre blat across to the Laos border. Once the paperwork has been inspected, stamped, inspected, stamped again and generally poured over by chirpy customs officials, we head north to visit the staggering Khone waterfalls – the widest set falls on the planet and an unmissable sight.
The day continues with a gentle sweeping trail up to the impressive sounding Kong Island, though fortunately no oversize gorillas are resident there. After this it’s a ferry to Mounlaphamok and then we take a dirt road along the Mekong up to Champassak town, to spend our first night in Laos at a gorgeous riverside resort.
Accommodation will be in a luxury resort with a swimming pool beside the Mekong River.
DAY 9: CHAMPASAK – ATTAPEU | 145km
After a riverside breakfast, we’ll ride north alongside the Mekong before crossing on another local ferry. We then follow a small dirt track that will lead us through Xe Pian National Park before branching off onto a series of delightfully narrow ox-cart and single-track trails that wind through thick forest. There’s plenty of creek crossings to master so you’ll need to have your wits about you to keep everything but you feet dry!
Accommodation will be in a quality guest house.
DAY 10: ATTAPEU – PAKSONG | 230km
To start the day we have a short ride out of Attapue to take a look at a huge old Russian missile, a remnant of the Vietnam War and a reminder of the harsh history of this region.
From here it’s onto some great dirt roads that climb into the hills. We’ll stop for selfies and photos at a long abandoned Russian tank rusting alongside the track before continuing along the trail, enjoying fantastic panoramic views over the forests and Xe Kaman Lake. The landscape here is stunning – it’s hard to imagine that so much conflict went on in those rolling hills.
Stopping for lunch with the locals in Chaleunxai village, in the afternoon we continue to ride upwards, climbing up to almost 1,300 meters and passing through hill tribe villages only found in the south of Laos.
After crossing a wide river on an old and battered metal barge, we continue our journey on the main road towards the Bolaven Plateau on the top of a long-extinct volcano before pressing on to our evening’s destination at a beautiful & luxurious garden resort.
Accommodation will be in a luxury resort with a pool.
DAY 11: PAKSONG – XEPON | 255km
After breakfast at the resort with coffee grown in the surrounding plantations, we head out on a dirt road to meet the people of the A-Lak tribe who are indigenous to this region and who still live a life largely unchanged over centuries.
This region is peppered with bomb craters from the Vietnam War, though with a pragmatic approach, the local people have now put them to use as fishing lakes and swimming pools for the water buffalo and small children.
The first river crossing we encounter on this day’s riding was the site of one of countless bridges targeted in American bombing raids to break the chain of supplies travelling the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Although the conflict is long gone, the bridges too are consigned to history.
It’s a tough day on the trails too, with a series of climbs, descents, creek crossings, rocky sections and sand to test the best of the rider’s ability. We ride along remains of the original roads of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as we pass through dense woodlands, small villages and valleys, finishing this epic day with a river crossing on tiny wooden boats!
Accommodation will be in a quality town hotel.
DAY 12: XEPON – TA-OY – XEPON | 230km
There’s no need to pack this morning as we ride in a loop, returning to the same hotel tonight. After breakfast we travel a short distance out of the town to visit the Laos-Vietnam War Museum. There are lots of guns, tanks, helicopters, photos, maps & videos on display here and it’s a chance to see and understand what exactly was going on in Laos during the Vietnam War.
After the history lesson, we’re straight back on the bikes and head towards the longest bamboo bridge in the country, an incredible if slightly scary construction to ride across.
The area on the other side of the water is still littered with unexploded ordinance from the war, but before you reach for the insurance documents, there’s no need to worry – we’ll be keeping to well used and completely safe routes – just maybe don’t wander off for a call of nature!
Accommodation will be in the same hotel as the previous night.
DAY 13: XEPON – NAKHAI | 240km
Today’s riding takes us on a rough and winding road to Vilabouly, home to Laos’ largest gold mining operation. From there we ride on rocky dirt tracks that take us through Hin Nam No National Park and onto an area that Ride Expeditions has unofficially Christened – ‘Swiss Cheese Valley’, though quite why you’ll have to wait and see.
Before another delicious lunch with the locals lunch there’s a river crossing on tiny wooden canoes that will test the nerve of all that cross! We finally find some smooth and fast tarmac to cruise up to our next campsite at Nam Thern Lake. The beers are on ice, the barbie is good to go and the sunset over the campfire comes for free.
Accommodation will be in tents.
DAY 14: NAKHAI – KONGLOR | 80km
After so much travel – today is a short and relaxed one, with a morning run up a winding dirt road towards the valley that forms the entrance to the Konglor Cave.
Our support vehicle meets us here for lunch so we can take off our riding kit and break out the shorts and T-shirts for the afternoon. Cruise through the vast seven and a half kilometre long cave on an individual wooden boat with your bike at your side.
On the other side it’s time for a cold drink and a chance for a swim in the deep blue lagoon. We have a short blast on the road to our evening’s stopover at a stunning riverside resort, where dinner and another roaring fire awaits.
Accommodation will be in a stunningly beautiful riverside resort.
DAY 15: KONGLOR – MUANG MOK | 260km
For today, it’s a stunning day’s ride up and down the ruggedly beautiful landscape of the Nam Kading mountain range.
The morning will be on the blacktop, but after lunch we hit the dirt tracks and travel through the remotest of villages like Hmong and Khmu that few tourists ever get to experience.
The day ends in the small town of Muang Mok perched high in the mountains that will be our home for the night.
Accommodation will be in a local guesthouse.
DAY 16: MUANG MOK – PHONSAVANH | 110km
The tour may be heading into the final days, but the scenery and trails don’t let up one jot as we follow narrow dirt trails and sweeping tracks towards Phonsavanh and if time permits, we have the chance to visit Mine Advisory Group (MAG) Information Centre to learn more about the history of the region during the Indochina War.
Accommodation will be in beautiful hilltop cottages – each equipped with open wood fires and surrounded by pine tree forest, overlooking the town of Phonsavanh.
DAY 17: PHONSAVANH – LUANG PRABANG | 195km
After a delicious breakfast in the hillside restaurant we saddle up for our final day of riding on this epic Ho Chi Minh Trail motorcycle tour. Our route snakes alongside the Nam Kham River, taking in the stunning views as we approach the World Heritage town of Luang Prabang.
After arriving at our luxury hotel there’s a chance to lose the riding kit and have a shower before heading into the fantastically vibrant town for some victory beers along side the Mekong, the same one we’ve tracked and crossed for the whole incredible seventeen days and 2700 kilometres of this epic trip. Now that’s an achievement you’ll never forget!
Accommodation will be in a luxurious hotel with a pool.
For booking requests or any other queries please fill out the form below. If you really want to pick our brains, please leave us your contact number and a good time to call and one of our adventure team will get back to you personally.
To secure a booking we require a $500 deposit per person.