Tom Bacocan’s disassembled
Specialized Mountain Bike
in carrier case.

Photo by Tom Barocan

I first met Tom Barocan at a bus stop in Tacoma, WA in April 2005. Tom is an accomplished international bicycle rider. He was waiting for the bus with a back pack and fairly large “suitcase”. The suitcase turned out to be Tom’s disassembled Specialized Mountain Bike. The bike had 26” wheels and was equipped with S&S Couplings so he could pack it in the carrier case.

Tom said he was headed for Hanoi, Vietnam. I had returned from a trip to Vietnam in December and tried to pass on a few tips before the bus came.

Tom planned his trip using the Lonely Planet’s “Cycling Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia”. Lonely Planet Cycling Vietnam: Laos & Cambodia (Lonely Planet Cycling Guides) Lonely Planet dubbed his route “North by North West”. The route is planned with daily legs of from 35 to 105 kilometers. Most are in the range of 60-70 kilometers. He encountered challenging hill climbs nearly everyday.

Tom’s route took him 750 kilometers (about 475 miles) from Hoa Binh to Lao Cai. Hoa Binh is about a 2 hour bus ride southwest of Hanoi. One day out of Hoa Binh is Mai Chau, site of one of the closest Montagnard or “Minority” villages west of Hanoi. A lot of Hill Tribes were encountered on his trip. The end of day 2 found him in Moc Chau.
sapa_sonla_waterwhellA “Green” irrigation system
near Son La.
This type of waterwheel
has been used for centuries.

Photo by Tom Barocan.

Day three ended at Yen Chau. Day 4 – Son La. Here are several bike repair shops. Day 5 – destination Tuan Giao, 90 km. Day 6 – Dien Bien Phu, site of the French defeat in 1954. Time wise he was over ½ way through. Maybe a break to sightsee was in order.

The next two legs were the longest, from Dien Bien Phu to Lai Chau is 100 km and Lai Chau to Tam Duong is 105 km. The scenery made it well worth it. (Road conditions??)

Sapa was the next stop. After the Tram Ton Pass – 1900 meters elevation. Sapa is one of the most popular tourist destinations in northern Vietnam. Montagnard tribes dressed in brightly colored costumes live here and attract curious travelers.

The last day found him making his way to the train depot at Lao Cai. This town is on the China border. Catching the overnight train to Hanoi ended Tom’s North by North West ride in Vietnam.

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