Endure a white-knuckle weaving xe om and it’s natural to resign yourself against driving in Hanoi. The prospective euphoria of wind whipping your hair while soaking in the breathtaking countryside is a difficult bargaining chip against a fearful experienceWhen your friends propose a group motorbike trip and hesitation hangs on your mind, take the plunge, it’s worth it we promise!  

 

Before you head out to Hai Van Pass or Ha Giang, try these five “training wheels” trips to get ready!

Bat Trang Village

Level of Difficulty: Confident beginner 

Terrain: Flat, but with narrow dusty roads. Be wary of trucks.  

Distance: 45 minutes from the city center 

Bat Trang is the perfect afternoon escape from the city. Located just 30 minutes over the Chuong Duong bridge in Long Bien district, it’s easy to find and not overcrowded. At the main entrance try a traditional pottery wheel. Venture further into the village and browse a ceramics market offering everything from crockery to decorative pieces.  

Mostly featuring traditional Vietnamese designs, each piece is unique and has the appearance of being hand-painted. They’re inexpensive too! You can pick up souvenirs or a new tea mug with low-guilt. Don’t forget to stop  to  try some grilled taro and green bean cakes. A delicious snack offered near the market.

Hung Yen 

Level of difficulty: Confident Beginner 

Terrain: Flat, but narrow roads with trucks and fast-moving vehicles 

Distance: 1.5 hours 

Part of the Red River Delta region, Hung Yen city dates back to the 13th century.  Before the River Delta receded, it was a merchant port with ships from China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Britain and France. Hung Yen is also famous for the cape-longan, a lychee with a thin peel that was only offered to royalty in the past.  

The city also contains Pho Hien pagoda, a temple complex with over 60 sites. Visit Hien Temple where you’ll be surrounded by lush gardens, reflecting ponds, and a robust lychee tree planted in the 16th century. The pond behind the temple has hundreds of orange fish, start clapping and they’ll swim in a circle. You have to try it to believe it!  

Ninh Binh 

Level of Difficulty: Confident beginner 

Terrain: Flat  

Distance: 2 hours 

Head two hours south out of Hanoi and find yourself in a stunning mountainous region boasting caves, rivers, rice paddies, pagodas, and hiking. Tam Coc, housing all the nature attractions and pagodas, is located 20 minutes south of Ninh Binh city on flat, well-kept roads.  

Ninh Binh city doesn’t have a lot to do. There are local markets, coffee shops, hotels, and local restaurants. Head into the city after exploring and enjoy a lively atmosphere that does not have the jittery hurry of Hanoi.  

Perfume Pagoda 

Level of Difficultly: Intermediate 

Terrian: Mostly flat, near the pagoda is hilly. Leave before sunset. The roads are not well-lit at night and have a lot of trucks.  

Distance: 2 hours 

Called Chua Huong in Vietnamese, the Perfume Pagoda is a temple complex located at the center of a sacred 2000-year-old Buddhist site. At the base of limestone mountains and caves, the pagoda is abundant in natural streams and tropical greenery.   

After a two-hour ride, take the boat from My Duc to the base of the mountain. The boat ride is gorgeously scenic, passing rice fields and other tiny temples with the option to stop.  The climb to the top is steep and takes a few hours. If you’re not up for it, take the cable car. Once inside the caves, don’t forget the tradition of touching the walls for good luck! 

Ba Vi 

Level of difficulty: Intermediate 

Terrain: Mostly paved with some dirt roads. Semi-steep hills leading up the mountains. 

Distance: 2 Hours 

Located 2 hours north of Hanoi, Ba Vi National Park is a fresh air escape containing three mountain peaks, gardens, and a temple at the top. It’s a blend of tropical and rugged boasting bamboo, misty trails, sloped paths, and scenic overlooks. Hike 30 minutes up to the temple with a view of the Red River Valley, and even Hanoi on a clear day. 

During the French Colonial era, the area was a hill station and a source of medicinal plants for the Dao ethnic group. Visit the town and enjoy the local specialty: milk and yogurt.  

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