Riding the HCM Trail – Vinh to Phong Nha

Riding the HCM Trail from the coastal town of Vinh on the Gulf of Tonkin, to Phong Nha near the Laotian border, takes you through some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of North Vietnam.

The incredible karst limestone formations and immaculate, untouched forests of the area made the journey, without doubt, one of the defining rides of the whole trip!

Team Photo at the HCM Trail Museum in Vinh

Team Photo at the HCM Trail Museum in Vinh

Our day started with a team photo underneath a MIG jet left over from the “American War” at Vinh’s HCM Trail Museum – with everybody dressed for the wet weather that greeted us that morning.

The official start of the HCM Trail

The official start of the HCM Trail

From there we navigated the usual chaotic Vietnamese city traffic, made even more anarchic by the addition of moisture on the roads…

But soon we were enjoying beautiful country scenery again and another photo-opportunity at the official start to the Ho Chi Minh Trail at Dong Loc.

As we left the coastal rice fields behind, the path of the HCM Trail took us up in to karst country and the incredible scenery of north-central Vietnam.

The previous day’s long ride from Mai Chau to Vinh had calibrated us to the idiosyncrasies of the Urals and I think we all started to really appreciate the character of these unique bikes.

Riding the Urals through the mountain passes with the stunning karst formations all around was for me one of the most memorable parts of the whole journey.

The Urals and the  karst formations on the road to Phong Nha

The Urals and the karst formations on the road to Phong Nha

The general area is remote to say the least, the scenery was simply exceptional and there we were riding through it all on remnants of WWII technology – still going strong!

Some of the incredible scenery near Phong Nha

Some of the incredible scenery near Phong Nha

We broke the journey with a visit to the Dong Loc Intersection memorial, a part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail which was heavily bombed by the American forces during the war.

Vietnamese "Vietnam Vets" at the Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Vietnamese “Vietnam Vets” at the Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

This was quite a poignant moment for me personally as I wandered around the memorial observing “Vietnam Vets” paying their respects to those who had fallen and young friendly kids seemingly oblivious to the significance of the memorial.

Vietnamese kids at the Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Vietnamese kids at the Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

All in all a great day and exactly why I wanted to do the trip – rural Vietnam at its best, mixed with the poignant reminders of the Vietnam War and seen from the saddle of the somewhat idiosyncratic but eminently suitable Russian Ural, which took it all in its (slightly agricultural) style!

Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Dong Loc Intersection Memorial on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

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