Only 80 km to the northwest of Hanoi, Tam Dao (meaning 3 mountains in Vietnamese) is a perfect destination to escape from the heat, noise and pollution of the capital for a day or two at weekend.
My first visit to Tam Dao was somewhat 12 years ago and I vaguely remember anything about it. Thus, my motorbike trip there recently was pretty much like a brand new visit. For travel tips (i.e hotels, restaurants, sights, etc.) please check out travelfish (English) or toidi.net (Vietnamese). These two are my favorite sites when it comes to travels in Vietnam. However, there is one thing neither of the sites mention very clearly, which is the transportation. There is no direct bus from Hanoi so you may have to catch 2 or 3 buses or a taxi in order to get there; therefore, if you have a motorbike I do suggest you make use of it. The road is smooth and very well instructed (of course a phone with GPS is still recommended) and the last 13 km is incredibly beautiful though might be tortuous for new drivers. The total drive may take you around 2.5 – 3 hours.
Tam Dao is a little tiny town situated over 1,000m above the sea level so expect cool mountainous weather and even a bit cold for motorbikers (long sleeve and a light coat is suggested). There is not much to do or see here, most of the sights are within walking distance and there is also a small night market. Food here is mostly grilled stuff (quite similar to Sapa) and you may be bored eating the same thing after 2 days, or at least I was. People here are generally nice and friendly. I stayed at a hotel called Vân Anh located to the left of the church (as seen when you arrive in the town) and the lady owner was nice enough to offer me a lower room rate after seeing me going alone.
Talking about “going alone”, Vietnam is still quite a country of group travels. Things are more expensive when you go solo because services in most places here are designed for groups. Anyway, a motorbike weekend getaway to Tam Dao is going to cost you no more than a few hundred thousands VND so it wouldn’t be a big deal.
Below are a few photos I took after a 24 hour stay in Tam Dao. Probably during the summer I’ll do more drive here to escape from the summer’s crazy heat of the concrete city.