The Ho Chi Minh Trail : Introduction
High adventure on the Ho Chi Minh Trail! Join us for hard riding through the scenic country roads of Vietnam's Central Highlands on the newly opened Ho Chi Minh Highway. We'll also cover Hanoi and our traditional popular stops in Hue and everyone's favorite, Hoi An.
The Central Highlands are located on the Cao Nguyen Plateau between the coast and the Annamite Mountain Range. The plateau is sparsely populated by minority groups (AKA Montangards). Sparse economic activity centers around coffee, tea, cassava, and rubber tree plantations, the lumber industry, and cattle raising (read: little traffic). Lush tropical and pine tree forests are interspersed with farmed areas. The towns here have a frontier feeling to them, still under construction, and the rural areas are populated largely by hilltribes.
Montagnard groups in the Central Highlands include the Ede (also Rhade or Raday), of Cham origin (the original inhabitants of Vietnam); the Jarai, Bahnar, Rongao, and Sedoun, also of Cham origins; and the Mnong, of Cambodian origin, also marginalized by the conquering Vietnamese. The area was constantly in the media during the American war where many major battles took place. It was the city of Ban Me Thout which fell to the North Vietnamese Army leading to the capitulation of the South in less than a few weeks and the end of the war. Some of the better books on that period are in set here, such as Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan.
People here are becoming increasingly Vietnamized and losing the battle to maintain traditional life, language, and customs. These societies used to be matriarchal, but since 1975 that has changed. We'll get the last glimpses their traditional way of life.
The weather is cooler than along the coast and we can expect breezes making the longer rides on this trip more comfortable than our traditional route along the coast. The Central Highlands portion is along lightly traveled roads, but our coastal riding will also be on newly accessible side routes away from traffic.
Ride all day,or as little as you want — support staff and buses are always nearby, but you should be a fit cyclist to get the most enjoyment out of this trip. Mileage listed in the itinerary below does not reflect the difficulty of this route. There will be long periods spent cycling over long rollers to full-blown passes. Not enough time to stop and smell the Lotus blossoms? Khong sao dao (no problem), there is a more moderate Tet tour and Highlights tour following our traditional route along the coast.
Although we'll be staying in the nicest hotels Vietnam has to offer at the beginning and end of the trip, for three nights in the middle during our pass through the Central Highlands accommodations will be Spartan, but well worth it for the picturesque rides and glimpse of Vietnam not many travelers see. .
Note: we encourage you to arrive early for an optional *3-day kayaking trip on Halong Bay, the indisputable geographic highlight of Vietnam. About two-thirds of our group makes this side trip.