The Ho Chi Minh Trail is one of man’s greatest military achievements. It was North Vietnam’s logistic supply line designed and used during the Vietnam War. Whatever the Americans or South Vietnamese did to cut the Trail, the flow of traffic did not stop. Today the southern roads in Laos can be cycled, but long stretches of the northern routes have not been graded, making these sections unsuitable.
Our tour lasts 14 days and during this period you will cycle 900 km along its southern length starting in Hue, traveling via Laos, to end in Ho Chi Minh City. You will achieve a great personal victory as well as learn about remote war sites, marvel at stunning scenery, cross fast flowing rivers, eat amazing food, and meet many wonderful ethnic groups. This is an experience of a lifetime.
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To start this adventure of a lifetime, we collect you from Hue City, a celebrated place with royal connections and a key battle ground during the 1968 Tet Offensive. After about an hour’s transfer by private bus, you begin cycling. This is your first glimpse of the historic Ho Chi Minh Trail, now a peaceful location in the heart of the countryside and blessed with dense jungle. We head to A Luoi for an overnight in one of the most fought over areas during the war. In the distance is Hamburger Hill, a battle conducted in 1969 and depicted in the 1987 Hollywood film of the same name. A short visit can be arranged if you would like to explore the area.
Today you cycle north to the A Shau Valley, the location of a key entry point from Laos into South Vietnam which fed battles in and around Hue. This is a great way to start the day with fresh air, rural villages, and the chance to meet local people. After roughly 20km, we take you off road to Long Hill Pass to experience an area of lush dense forest, stunning vistas, and rugged mountains. Upon arriving at the summit, we break to have fresh tropical fruits and water or soft drinks. Next is a downhill cycle and along the river to A Luoi town to enjoy lunch. In the afternoon, there is a 15km cycle through picturesque scenery, before a bus transfer to Khe Sanh. No stop in in Khe Sanh is complete without a visit to the museum commemorating the famed Battle of Khe Sanh.
Relax this morning as we drive you along Route 9 to the Lao border. Here you meet our Lao team who support the next phase of your remarkable journey. Route 9 was built during the French colonial period. In 1971, it saw Operation Lam Son 719, the aim of which was to cut the Trail using South Vietnamese forces with the US providing logistics, aerial, and artillery support. You cycle to Xepon, via Ban Dong, both of which saw high levels of fighting. Yet your experience will not be that of war but of the tranquil Lao ways and the idyllic countryside. Nevertheless, you will feel a change in temperature; the saying goes – when the wind blows in Laos it burns everything in its path!
Your rest day starts by meeting a Buddhist Monk to receive a traditional Lao Blessing sealed with white cotton thread. Afterwards, we drive you to the museum at Ban Dong to view the many war artifices which have been collected from the surrounding area and learn some history of the battles in the region. For lunch, traditional Lao food will be served which comprises sticky rice and dishes that can be a bit spicy! Then off into the wilderness to visit caves used both as storage dumps and hiding areas for locals from the relentless bombing along the Trail .
After breakfast, you cycle to Ban Dong and then south into rural Laos. The forested hills and the occasional village make for a peaceful atmosphere. The first big town is Muang Nong on the banks of the Nam Se Lanong. It is from here that Route B45 of the Trail linked to A Luoi in Vietnam. During the afternoon, you cycle to Ta Oy. Along the way, enjoy seeing the occasional local farmer as well as houses built on bomb casings.
Ta Oy is the centre for the Ta Oy ethnic group in Laos. This tribe still practice animist beliefs; meaning that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Enjoy experiencing their relaxed way of life as well as an early morning walk to see beautiful rapids. Once on the road, from Ta Oy you weave through attractive mountains which are a patchwork of slash and burn farming, old forest, and both traditional and resettlement villages. While this is a remote part of the country, the Trail here saw much activity with Saravane town itself being totally destroyed. Today is tough and in the evening, you will be treated to some traditional local drink of Lao Lao to celebrate your achievement.
In the early morning light, monks from the historic Wat Kang collect food from local worshipers, which you might get a glimpse of as you start your cycle to Sekong. This new provincial region built in the 1980s is a sleepy backwater on the banks of the Sekong River. Your day through the province of Sekong will be calm and fascinating as it has a low population, but is the most ethnically diverse area in Lao, with some 14 different groups. In the evening, try some local food and Lao Hai, alcohol in a jar, where water turns into wine!
The Sekong River was an important part of the Trail. It was used to float oil drums and other supplies to strategic areas. Today is another great day of riding along the river valley to Attapeu; sandwiched between the waters of the Sekong and the Boloven Plateau. The plateau is a national biodiversity area where the best coffee in Laos is produced. There are few villages, just the occasional glimpse of the river, and vast areas of open countryside and forest.
Attapeu town is nestled on the banks of the Sekong River and from here you cycle back over the Truong Son Mountain Range into South Vietnam. This is one of the most memorable parts of the Trail. As you travel towards Vietnam, you will understand why this area is called the “Roof of Laos” – high mountain peaks, deep valleys, and vast forested panoramas. With few visitors, nature carries you through. Our Vietnamese representative welcomes you at the border. Together you transfer to Dak To, the location of a former US airbase and a number of major battles. Here you will dine with the group, reflecting back at your great Lao achievements.
After an early breakfast, we visit US Phoenix Airfield and Rocket Ridge, a giant escarpment where the US built Fire Bases including Charlie Hill, to stop the flow of traffic down the Trail. Pleiku is your next destination, which has some of the best coffee in Vietnam. As you cycle through a wide valley, surrounded by mountains, dotted with tea and coffee plantations, there will be the opportunity to visit the Jarai and Bhanar minority villages. Their communal houses, with very steep and tall roofs, are of great pride to each village because they define the regional landscape. Pleiku itself was an airbase, and in the spring of 1975, it was attacked in order to see if the US would return. If there was no action, there could be a push to take Buon Ma Thuot.
Today’s historic route is through the region that was a vital part of the 1975 Battle of Buon Ma Thuot. Soon after the battle saw the launch of the Ho Chi Minh Campaign which led to the fall of Saigon. After breakfast, you have a short transfer from the hotel to where you start cycling. From here you ride for 30km through rolling hills, coffee plantations, and small villages before turning off on to an offbeat backroad. For 25km this backroad goes through stunning rubber plantations with a backdrop of small rolling hills. The last 10km is on a beautiful rural road that eventually widens and wanders through small farms and villages. A picnic style lunch will be taken on the way. At the end of the cycling, there is a 6km transfer to the hotel in Buon Me Thuot.
We leave Buon Me Thuot by bus in the early morning, saying goodbye to the biggest coffee city in Vietnam, and heading to Gia Nghia, the location of a former US Special Forces Camp. On the way, we discover local minority village life and enjoy the views of coffee and rubber plantations. The scenery truly takes your breath away.
Today we explore an exciting part of the Trail and learn more about the American war in Vietnam. We cycle past tea, pepper, and rubber plantations and enjoy the beautiful, natural landscape including experiencing village and town life. In the evening light we will get to our destination, which again was the location of a US Special Forces Camp and saw major action in the Battle of Dong Xoai.
This is your great victory day as you cycle from Dong Xoai to Chon Thanh, the end point of Truong Son – the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We spend a little time at the monument erected at Chon Thanh crossroads to mark the end point, located in front of the People’s Committee of Chon Thanh. During a 3-hours transfer to Cu Chi tunnels, lunch is served. At Cu Chi, we learn how people fought using simple weapons and go down into the small tunnels dug by the Viet Cong. After learning the history here, we continue our driving toward Ho Chi Minh City. This is where your lifetime’s adventure concludes – congratulations. Your accommodation for the night is included in the price, our guide will accompany you.
Lao Adv Tour: Reserves the rights to change routes and planning due to road problems, expect to see some roadworks. Weather conditions can change very quickly. All rights reserved.