Last updated January 2020 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle
This post was last updated 3 years ago. Please check the comments section for possible updates, or read more on my Updates & Accuracy page.
INTRODUCTION | GUIDE | MAP | RELATED POSTS
A romp through the Central Highlands, the Truong Son Dong Road is a ride to be savoured, both for scenery and for sheer riding pleasure. Many sections are brand new: in excellent condition as they pass through dense jungle, cutting dangerous passes along steep ravines, meandering, like a river of asphalt, through rolling farmland. And yet, traffic is light and the land sparsely populated, with minority towns with strange and exotic sounding names, like Ayun Pa, K’Bang, and Ea Ly. The name of the road in Vietnamese, Đường Trường Sơn Đông, has romantic connotations: literally ‘Road East of the Long Mountains’. Historical, poetic, and mystical overtones run throughout this journey: the Central Highlands has long been a place of spirits and ghosts, of myths and fairy tales, of unknown peoples and wild animals, and of war. The geographical ‘abdomen’ of the nation, control of the Central Highlands has always been strategically important: to the Vietnamese, the French, the Americans. As such, there’s a military undercurrent to this route which, at times, feels like a highway built to aid guerrilla warfare. If you haven’t ridden the Truong Son Dong Road yet, you’ve got to do it; if you have ridden the Truong Son Dong Road, you’ve got to do it again, because this road keeps getting longer, better and more spectacular with each year.
GUIDE: TRUONG SON DONG ROAD
The Truong Son Dong Road is one of the best on-road rides in Vietnam. On this page, I’ve compiled a detailed and thorough guide to riding the entire length of the Truong Son Dong Road, including an annotated map, a complete introduction to the route (with information about road conditions, weather, where to start/end, where to stay, and what to see), and a full guide with descriptions of each of the 6 sections of the Truong Son Dong Road. To get the most out of this guide, map and route, please consult the map carefully before riding each section, and read the About This Route, Guide & Map below before proceeding to the Full Guide.
The Truong Son Dong Road
- Blue line: Truong Son Dong Road
- Purple lines: connecting routes
- Black lines: roadworks & incomplete sections
View in a LARGER MAP
About this Route, Guide & Map:
Below, I’ve written a few brief paragraphs covering general details about the Truong Son Dong Road, such as road conditions, how to use the map, where to start/end, and what to see and do. Please read these short paragraphs before proceeding to my Full Guide with detailed descriptions of each of the 6 sections of the Truong Son Dong Road:
- What is the Truong Son Dong Road
- How to Use the Map
- Road Conditions
- Connecting Routes & Where to Start/End
- Where to Stay, Eat & Drink
- What to See & Do
- Weather & When to Go
What is the Truong Son Dong Road:
The Truong Son Dong Road is essentially the ‘middle way’: an attempt by the Vietnamese government to construct a major road through the middle of the southern and central highlands of Vietnam, running parallel to the country’s two other major north-south arteries, Highway QL1A along the coast to the east, and the Ho Chi Minh Road along the mountainous ‘spine’ of Vietnam to the west. The hope is that the road will open up previously poor and isolated regions, stimulating growth in agriculture, industry, tourism and trade. When it’s complete, the Truong Son Dong Road will extend over 700km between Dalat in the south and Thanh My in the north. At least 600km of this is already complete and in excellent condition. But, at the time of latest research, in February 2020, three short sections are currently still under construction and not yet open to traffic or in the final stages of being laid but still ridable. These are: Krong No River to Yang Mao, Cu Dram to M’Drak airstrip, and parts of the northern-most section between Que Binh intersection and Thanh My. I encourage readers to write updates in the Comments Section at the bottom of this guide, especially about the condition and state of progress of the these as yet unfinished sections of the road.
I’ve taken poetic license with my translation of the name, ‘The Road East of the Long Mountains’. In Vietnamese, the name Đường Trường Sơn Đông literally translates, ‘Road’ (Đường), ‘Long Mountains’ (Trường Sơn), ‘East’ (Đông). In Vietnamese, Trường Sơn is the name of the mountain range which runs along most of the western border of the country from north to south: Trường means ‘long’, Sơn means ‘mountains’ (at least, as far as my limited knowledge can tell: I’m not a scholar of Vietnamese language or history). Thus, there are more prosaic ways to translate the name, such as ‘Eastern Truong Son Road’. But, personally, I prefer the more poetic interpretation, ‘The Road East of the Long Mountains’, which I think does both the road and the landscape justice in that it evokes the mysterious and enchanting qualities of this region and this route. Either way, the Truong Son Dong Road is currently one of the greatest rides anywhere in Vietnam.
How to Use the Map:
The purpose of my map is to show all of the complete sections of the Truong Son Dong Road (the blue lines), and the incomplete sections or sections that don’t appear on Google Maps yet (the black lines), as well as the many potential connecting routes with the Truong Son Dong Road from the south, west and east (the purple lines). The only exception to this is the blue route between Dalat, Buon Ma Thuot and M’Drak, which follows roads QL27 and QL26 respectively, because the Truong Son Dong Road between Dalat and M’Drak is not yet finished, therefore it’s necessary to take this alternative route. The green motorbike icons represent road names and intersections. The black roadworks icons signal bad road conditions, while orange bed icons are accommodation options. The red pins mark villages, towns and cities, all of which have at least some food, drink, gas stations and accommodation. I have also included some sights and attractions along the route.
Because my map covers such a large area, you’ll need to zoom in on whichever section you’re focusing on in order to see it clearer. Please consult my map carefully before riding each section of the Truong Son Dong Road and check the Comments Section at the bottom of this guide for other reader’s updates. Bear in mind that some sections of the Truong Son Dong Road don’t appear on Google Maps yet, so I’ve had to draw them on manually. (For descriptions of each section of the Truong Son Dong Road see my Full Guide.)
In general, road conditions on most of the length of the Truong Son Dong Road are very good, sometimes excellent. But there are still some parts that are in the final stages of construction, and other sections that have not yet been completed. At the time of latest research (February 2020), the Truong Son Dong Road is fully complete from M’Drak in the south all the way to the end point at Thanh My in the north, all of which is perfectly ridable on any motorbike (or bicycle) with the possible exception of a short 7km section between Son Tay and Tra Giac intersection, which is still undergoing the last stages of construction, but is passable for most riders and most bike models (see the black line on my map here). The final, northern-most section of the Truong Son Dong Road, between Que Binh intersection and Thanh My, has only recently opened to two wheel traffic and may still have some patches that are a bit rough, but still ridable (see the black line on my map here).
And, in the south, the Truong Son Dong Road starts in Dalat and heads north for 65km along what I call the Pine Tree Road, all the way to the Krong No River, which forms the border between Lam Dong and Dak Lak provinces. However, there is no bridge over the river and no sign of road construction on the other side through Chu Yang Sin National Park, which will eventually link-up to the Truong Son Dong Road just south of Yang Mao (see the black line on my map here). There is also no road linking the short section from Yang Mao/Cu Dram to the ‘airstrip’ section of the Truong Son Dong Road just south M’Drak (see the black line on my map here). I’ve marked road construction and rough road sections on my map as best I can with black lines and a black roadwork icons. For other reader’s updates, see the Comments Section at the bottom of this guide.
Connecting Routes & Where to Start/End:
You can start and end this route at pretty much anywhere along the length of the Truong Son Dong Road. In my full guide and on my map, I’ve chosen to start the route from Dalat in the south, because this is where the Truong Son Dong Road will eventually lead when it’s complete, and because Dalat is a major hub in the Central Highlands. However, you can choose to start/end or link-up with the Truong Son Dong Road at multiple points along its length by using any of the east-west connecting roads marked with purple lines on my map. In this way, you don’t have to ride the entire length of the Truong Son Dong Road; rather you can join it wherever you like, and incorporate it into a wider road trip.
In particular, riders might like to join the Truong Son Dong Road from my Coast Road route, to the east, or from my Ho Chi Minh Road guide, to the west. Another option is to link-up with the Truong Son Dong Road after riding my Dak Nong Geopark Loop or my Back-Ways to Dalat routes, all of which are to the southwest. There are myriad potential ways to join the Truong Son Dong Road or to connect to it, or to use it as part of a longer road trip. For more ideas, take a look at my Related Posts. [See the Comments Section at the end of this guide for other reader’s updates]
Where to Stay, Eat & Drink:
Some sections of the Truong Son Dong Road are among the most isolated and sparsely populated in Vietnam. However, you’re never too far from the next village or town, where there’s always a place to get some food (quán cơm phở), a coffee (quán cà phê), and probably a local guest house (nhà nghỉ) for the night. On my map, I’ve marked all villages, towns and cities on the Truong Son Dong Road where you’ll find food, drink and accommodation with a red pin. In some cases, I’ve marked specific guest houses or hotels with an orange bed icon. If you’re really stuck, you can always head away from the Truong Son Dong Road on one of the connecting east-west branches (the purple lines on my map), which will take you to a bigger town, either on the coast to the east or in the mountains to the west. Gas stations are quite regular along the Truong Son Dong Road – most villages and towns have at least one. However, you should always make sure you start the day with a full tank, and don’t let it get too low before you fill-up again: if you’re a third or a quarter full and you see a gas station, use it.
What to See & Do:
The Truong Son Dong Road leads through the heart of the Central Highlands. The riding alone is enough fun to make the trip worthwhile: gliding along good, empty roads, soaring over vast agricultural plateaus, winding up and rolling down lofty mountain passes, weaving through mist-shrouded forests; eating up the miles and feeling Vietnam’s highlands wash over you. This is the thrill of riding the Truong Son Dong Road. Indeed, the road itself is an ‘attraction’: seeing it snaking through the landscape, at times so animated and agitated, that it appears to be alive. At two points, the road widens into multiple lanes and becomes an airstrip, capable of landing large aircraft: these are south of M’Drak and north of K’Bang. Both are surreal and haunting spectacles.
But there are other ‘sites’, too, many of which I’ve marked on my map. Lots of waterfalls can be reached just off the route, including a trek to K50, which is one of the most impressive and isolated falls in Vietnam, and only just beginning to attract visitors. But to get there you’ll need to arrange a trek at the Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve HQ. This part of the highlands was a major staging point for the US during the war: there are several old airbases on the route, now overgrown and inactive, thank goodness. Also, many memorials of major battles and victories dot the road.
Weather & When to Go:
Because the Truong Son Dong Road covers so much distance – passing through many provinces, over varying terrain, in different climatic regions of the country – it’s very difficult to say what the ‘best’ time of year to ride it is. In my experience of riding the Truong Son Dong Road, October to December is pretty good, especially for the southern sections of the route; but as you get further north as this time of year, it can become quite cold and grey. March to June can also be good, and the temperatures on the higher passes of the route should be warming up by then. In short, there’s no ‘best’ time to ride the Truong Son Dong Road. Whenever you go, you’ll encounter some dry, sunny spells, and some cold, wet patches. But this is part of the fun: weather is always fairly unpredictable in the highlands, and it wouldn’t be the same without a chill morning, or a misty mountain pass, or a torrential downpour in the back of beyond. Ride the Truong Son Dong Road at any time of year and you’ll almost certainly enjoy it.
THE GUIDE: Truong Son Dong Road
I’ve written this guide in 6 sections, going south to north: starting in Dalat and ending in Thanh My (see the blue line on my map). It’s also, of course, possible to ride this route from north to south, or to link-up with this route at multiple points along the way, by following any of the purple lines on my map. Each of the 6 sections is relatively short and can be comfortably completed in a day. The total distance of the blue route is roughly 770km. The duration can be as short as 3 days or as long as one week. Click a section below to read my full description. (For more details about this route, map and guide, please read my introduction.)
ROAD TRIP CONTENTS:
- SECTION 1: Dalat to Lake Lak/Buon Ma Thuot: 160/210km
- SECTION 2: Lake Lak/Buon Ma Thuot to M’Drak: 130/90km
- SECTION 3: M’Drak to Ayun Pa (via Ea Ly): 110km
- SECTION 4: Ayun Pa to K’Bang (via Dak Po): 110km
- SECTION 5: K’Bang to Son Tay (via Xa Hieu): 135km
- SECTION 6: Son Tay to Thanh My (via Tra My & Que Binh): 150km
Route: Dalat to Lake Lak/Buon Ma Thuot | Distance: 160km/210km [MAP]
Although the Truong Son Dong Road starts in Dalat and heads north into the pine forests for 65km, past the hamlet of Dung K’No and to the banks of the Krong No River (a fantastic ride on mostly perfect asphalt roads, which I like to call the Pine Tree Road), it then, however, dead-ends at the river. This is because the bridge over the river hasn’t been constructed yet, which will eventually continue, on the other side, through Chu Yang Sin National Park (see the black line), after which it will meet another short, complete section of the Truong Son Dong Road between Yang Mao and Cu Dram, before this, too, peters out again (see the black line), until the ‘airstrip road‘ just south of M’Drak. When it’s complete, you’ll be able to ride the Truong Son Dong Road from Dalat all the way north to M’Drak, but that is still at least a year or two away. So, for now, in order to get from Dalat to M’Drak, it’s necessary to take a westerly detour by combining Road QL27 to Lake Lak or Buon Ma Thuot, and then Road QL26 to M’Drak.
To do this, start by heading west out of Dalat, leaving the greenhouses, tourists, and increasingly heavy traffic of this mountain city behind. Hang a left (due southwest) on Road DT725 down the mountain to Ta Nung Village. Recently upgraded, this mountain pass zigzags through pine trees and mist to a heavily cultivated valley. Continue south through Ta Nung, perhaps stopping for a look at the impressive Elephant Waterfall and snapping a few photos of the coffee plantations at the ‘Instagram-ready’ cafes (although there are many better view points to come on this road trip), all the way down to the intersection with Road QL27. Bear right (due northwest) onto QL27 and follow it through a featureless, farmed valley, until the road begins to climb.
NOTE: some riders might be tempted to take the Pine Tree Road north of Dalat until Dung K’No hamlet and then turn left (due west) on Road DT722, which eventually meets up with Road QL27 (see the purple lines). This would be a good shortcut, but the first section west from Dung K’No (see the black line) is a very rough dirt road which should only be attempted in dry conditions if you have a suitable bike and off-road experience. If not, don’t bother: many a rider has been stranded on this road.
Continuing due north of Road QL27, two consecutive passes (the first quite slow and bumpy; the second very smooth and great for riding) take you around the western edge of the Lang Biang Plateau. It’s quite a scenic ride, with jungled mountains broken by coffee, banana and corn plantations. This is coffee country, and, depending on which season it is, the cool mountain air is either heavy with the nutty, earthy aroma of the coffee bean, or the sweet, flowery fragrance of the coffee blossom. Vietnam is currently the second largest producer of coffee in the world: cultivation of the bean is on a massive scale in this region. It provides an income to millions of Vietnamese, but it also comes at huge cost to the forests. Much of the landscape you see from Road QL27 was primary forest not long ago, but now, in some areas, there’s barely a tree left standing for all the hundreds of thousands of coffee bushes that have been planted. It’s a plundered but productive landscape as you ride northwards on QL27: up and down more mountain passes, over valleys flooded for hydroelectricity projects, past minority hamlets of wooden longhouses choked by smoke from the hearths, on an excellent, meandering, tarmac road all the way to Lake Lak.
A natural lake in a wide valley ringed by mountains, Hồ lắk (Lake Lak) has long been touted as a tourist attraction. It’s a very pretty place with a friendly little town (called Lien Son), a large ethnic minority population, and several accommodation options. But, although there’s something magical about the silence here and the pink sunsets over the placid waters, Lake Lak has yet to grow into a destination in its own right. Rather, it’s perfect for a stop on a road trip to somewhere else, as in this case. Stop early in the afternoon so as to have time to soak up the atmosphere here and choose your place to stay. Cheap guest houses with clean and simple rooms include Moi Truong and Nha Nghi Ho Lak (both around 200,000vnd a night). More expensive options are lakeside cabins at Lak Lake Resort ($25), or the new, very atmospheric, lake-view wood-and-canvas longhouses at Lak Tented Camp ($65). Good street food, including noodle soups and bánh xèo (Vietnamese savoury pancakes) can be found on the high street near the local market in the mornings and evenings. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like staying in the quiet surrounds of Lake Lake, continue on Road QL27 all the way to Buon Ma Thuot, a big, lively city thriving on the coffee industry, with lots of accommodation options for all budgets.
Route: Lake Lak/Buon Ma Thuot to M’Drak | Distance: 130km/90km [MAP]
From Buon Ma Thuot to M’Drak it’s a straight (but fairly boring) shot east on Road QL26 (90km). The road is in good condition so the riding is easy, but there are plenty of trucks and buses plying this route, because it’s a major link between the Central Highlands and the coast, and the landscape is pleasant but not spectacular.
From Lake Lak to M’Drak there are two very different options. The first is straightforward and easy: continue north from Lake Lak on Road QL27 to the outskirts of Buon Ma Thuot, then turn right (due east) onto QL26 for the 85km stretch to M’Drak. It’s simple, easy to navigate, fairly quick, and also fairly uninteresting, but it gets the job done.
The second option is more adventurous and more scenic, but also involves negotiating some rough roads and unpredictable conditions. Continue north from Lake Lak on QL27 – passed shimmering rice paddies, grazing cattle and a backdrop of mountains – until the junction with Road DT12. From here, Road DT12 (see the purple line) leads east all the way past Cu Dram (where you can make a brief, scenic detour to ride the short, complete section of the Truong Son Dong Road due south to Yang Mao and into the mountains before it dead-ends: see the blue line) until it hits QL26, about 25km south of M’Drak. However, road conditions on DT12 are unpredictable: some sections are severely potholed, some have large muddy puddles, some are under repairs, and some are fine. If it’s dry and you have time to spare, then by all means give DT12 a go; but if it’s wet and you want to get to M’Drak quickly, take the first route option on Road QL26 instead.
NOTE: although it looks like there are other, more direct routes between QL27 north of Lake Lak which join up with QL26 to M’Drak [such as Road DT9, for example], in my experience these roads are often in bad condition and not worth the risk. However, roads are constantly being upgraded and repaved in Vietnam, so perhaps conditions will have improved by the time to you ride this route.
Although the town of M’Drak isn’t really a place to linger, it has a couple of OK guest houses if you need them, including Yen Nhi (tel: 0834 405 078) with simple but clean rooms for around 200,000vnd and a friendly owner. There are plenty of food and drink options on Road QL26 as it passes through town. Just south of M’Drak there’s another dead-end section of the Truong Son Dong Road (see the blue line), which is worth the detour because it’s in perfect condition, including a surreal stretch where it widens into a giant airstrip before abruptly ending in a dirt road. This section will eventually continue south to Yang Mao (near Cu Dram) where it will meet the other dead-end section of the Truong Son Dong Road that is already complete, and that too will continue south to join the Pine Tree Road section at the Krong No River (see the black lines). But it will be a long time before this is completed.
Route: M’Drak to Ayun Pa (via Ea Ly) | Distance: 110km [MAP]
Just north of M’Drak, take a turn due northeast at an intersection on QL26. This incongruous turning marks the beginning of the central section of the Truong Son Dong Road. From this point on it will lead you across plateaus, over mountains, and through jungles for over 500km, and most of it will be deserted: a whole new road through the middle of the Central Highlands almost all to yourself. In its current state it’s about 95% complete: rideable all the way from M’Drak to Thanh My, in Quang Nam Province. This road is so new, in fact, that parts of it are not yet marked on any maps, including Google Maps (although I’m sure this will change very soon).
Ploughing north from M’Drak to the intersection with QL29, parts of this section of the Truong Son Dong Road, are made of large concrete slabs (much like the Western Ho Chi Minh Road), but other parts are smooth tarmac. It’s an undulating route, rolling up and down steep slopes covered in coffee, sugar cane, eucalyptus and rubber plantations. The riding is excellent and the scenery is very pretty as the road soars through Ea So Nature Reserve, with large stands of jungle and mountain rivers – great for a refreshing dip if the weather’s warm. Even in bad weather, it’s a thrilling stretch of road.
When you hit Road QL29, turn due east at the junction and follow it for a few minutes to Ea Ly village. Here, take a turn due north onto a road that’s only a slim white line on Google Maps, but in reality is the continuation of the Truong Son Dong Road. Switching from freshly laid asphalt to large concrete slabs, the road blazes up hillsides, across farmland, over rivers and lakes until it meets Road QL25 at the Cau Le Bac junction. Mango, cashew, and cassava plantations decorate a flat basin, surrounded on all sides by forested mountains. There’s hardly any traffic: goats, cattle, pigs, and chickens own the roads here. Minority villages, consisting of wooden plank homes raised on stilts a metre above the dirt, are scattered across the landscape. Many of the women and girls wear their colourful, highly decorative, traditional dress. Adults have handsome faces, big smiles, and their kids are playful when you stop by the roadside. But it looks like a rough, tough life here: the daily work is physically demanding and starts from a very early age: young girls carry wicker baskets full of wood on their backs; the same labour that has bent their grandmothers double.
At the Cau Le Bac junction, turn due northwest for a brief stint on Road QL25 up to the exotic sounding town of Ayun Pa. It’s a good 25km ride, including a lush, wide pass. Ayun Pa makes a convenient lunch stop (try the coffee and snacks at Green Coffee Shop), and there’s a guest house (Nha Nghi Hoang Lan; 059 3852 180) as the road enters town, if you need it. Also of interest is the old US airstrip of Cheo Reo, just west of town, which is now used by local to dry their harvest on. Otherwise, you can bypass the town altogether by bearing right before the high street along a fabulous dyke road above a sea of rice paddy.
Route: Ayun Pa to K’Bang (via Dak Po) | Distance: 110km [MAP]
Just out of Ayun Pa, take a right off QL25 heading due north on Road DT622, which is, in fact, the Truong Son Dong Road once again. After a bumpy, potholed and busy section at the beginning, the road smooths out and it’s an easy, unimpeded ride for 80km all the way to the intersection with Road QL19 at the Dak Po crossroads. Characterized by an enormous agricultural plateau, which the region is famous for, this is a relatively featureless but quick ride across a patchwork quilt of large, windswept fields, and past minority villages that either look grim and bleak in the grey highlands drizzle, or warm and attractive in the sharp light of a good highlands day. The road is arrow-straight as it crosses the wide, treeless plain, ringed by distant mountains: it feels like riding across a vast crater. A small pass leads over a forested ridge, after which the terrain is undulating, and the Truong Son Mountains – the jagged spine of Vietnam – rise tall and menacing, covered in cloud, to the north and west.
At the Dak Po crossroads, continue straight over the intersection, heading north towards K’Bang. This is a pleasant and easy stretch of road through a rolling, rural landscape dotted with red-tile-roofed farmhouses. The lower slopes are cultivated with banana, sugar cane, eucalyptus and cassava, but the higher ground is still cloaked in dark green jungle. It’s a peaceful, bright and warm valley. Traffic is light, the tarmac is freshly laid, and the riding is good as the road weaves across this agricultural landscape.
Buffalo wade through streams and bathe in muddy puddles, children play in the red dirt of dusty front yards or herd cattle, while their parents cook, clean, hoe and harvest the fields. This is a gentler version of the Central Highlands: not overly farmed or exploited on an industrial scale like some parts of the region are. But, in a country like Vietnam, where almost any crop can be cultivated, and with a rapidly increasing population and a growing economy, the pressure on land is huge, both for agriculture and for urbanization. Land is precious and must be made the most of, which, for now, means farming and building. In a few years, the forests on the high ground here will surely be replaced by crop fields. Indeed, that is one of the reasons for constructing the Truong Son Dong Road: to open up areas like this for agriculture, industry, commerce and tourism.
After 25km the Truong Son Dong Road drops into the likable town of K’Bang (which sounds like the onomatopoeia used in comic books when a superhero punches a villain: K-Bang!). A friendly place with several decent guest houses and food joints along its main street, K’Bang makes a good night stop. Hoang Long Hotel (tel: 0385 360 770) is the best place to stay in town, but Nha Nghi Ly Kinh (tel: 0963 223 244) and Nha Khach Tuan Vu (tel: 0269 3880 015) are also fine. There are several coffee shops along the main street, including Goc Pho Cafe which does a decent espresso. If you’re not staying in K’Bang, continue straight on the road as it bypasses town and heads northwards into the jungle.
Route: K’Bang to Son Tay (via Xa Hieu) | Distance: 135km [MAP]
North of K’bang is where the wilderness begins. Not 10 minutes out of town, the Truong Son Dong Road (marked on Google Maps as DT669 & DT669B) turns into concrete slabs, like a giant pack of dominoes laid on their sides on a rolling path through thick jungle. The scruffy patchwork of highland farmland fades away, as towering tropical trees close in on the road. Coffee plantations threaten the forests here – an environmental hazard made worse by the easy access which this road affords – despite government signs in the local ethnic minority dialect promoting the protection of the jungle canopy. Not long after leaving K’Bang, the road widens into a 6-lane, dead-straight, utterly deserted highway in the middle of the remote jungle. This is known as the ‘airstrip‘. Initially, I had assumed it was an old US air base, a relic of the ‘Vietnam War’. But locals tell me it’s new; just a few years old, constructed at the same time as the Truong Son Dong Road . It’s a surreal and strangely haunting sight. Apparently, parts of the U.S road network were designed in a similar fashion: with long, wide, straight sections purposely built to double as landing strips in remote areas to facilitate military and civilian aircraft in the event of war.
NOTE: remember to fill up with gas in K’Bang, because there’s precious little available on this stretch of road, or indeed, on the next. If you really do get stuck for gas, some of the local wooden homes should be able to supply you with some: just ask for xăng.
After the ‘airstrip’, all people and traffic disappear as the road plugs you deeper and deeper into a rich seam of highland forest. The riding is excellent: the road is in good condition with multiple switch-backs, long meandering stretches, and fast straights. For pure riding sensation and pleasure, it’s on a par with the passes between Thanh My and Prao on the Ho Chi Minh Road. It’s as if a Moto GP race track had been laid in the middle of the Vietnamese jungle. Stop to wash in mountain streams and gaze over the endless canopy of trees – echoing to the strange sounds of unknown animals – and enjoy the peace and absolute quiet of this place. Somewhere, deep within this jungle, is K50 Waterfall, one of the most impressive cascades in Vietnam, and only just beginning to attract visitors. Within the protected confines of the Kon Chu Rang Nature Reserve, the falls can only be accessed on foot via a long hike through the jungle, starting from the nature reserve HQ, which is down a lane off the Truong Son Dong Road. Arrangements can be made at HQ, but it’s best to organize in advance: check their website for details. There’s also accommodation available in a beautiful communal house dormitory near HQ.
Just over 80km north of K’Bang, the road meets a remote intersection with QL24 (also marked as AH132) at the Xa Hieu crossroads. Head straight on (due north) over the crossroads and continue on yet another superb section of the Truong Son Dong Road towards Son Tay. This is one of the wildest and most scenic stretches of the entire route, especially the first 10-20km after the Xa Hieu crossroads, featuring a recently completed, death-defying pass, crawling along a mountainside draped in dense jungle, high above a raging river (please read the note below). In bad weather, when visibility is sometimes less than a few feet, this can be a terrifying ride, with landslides, mudslides and rockfalls sending whole trees tumbling down the cliffs. But, in good weather, it’s an extremely beautiful section of mountain road through alpine scenery laced with pretty rivers and waterfalls. Either way, it’s important to ride carefully, and make sure you bring a jacket, because it can get chilly up on this pass.
NOTE: a few kilometres north of the Xa Hieu crossroads, there is a new and as yet unmarked detour on the Truong Son Dong Road, which deviates west of the route shown on Google Maps. See my map (on which I’ve drawn the correct route with a red line) to make sure you don’t take the wrong road, otherwise you’ll end up in a lot of construction and landslides.
Continuing north on this excellent section of road, waterfalls crash down the sides of mountains, roaring as they pass under the road. Next to one of the cascades is a bold, proud sign reading Đường Trường Sơn Đông – ‘The Road East of the Long Mountains’: a monument to this feat of engineering (and a good photo opportunity). Slowly, the road helter-skelters down the mountainside and brushes the banks of a cold river. The peaks looming in the distance become higher as the road nears the foothills of Ngoc Linh (2,598m), the highest mountain in all of central and southern Vietnam. The air is cooler here and the valleys tighter, planted with cinnamon and eucalyptus trees. It’s a beautiful ride and road conditions are very good all the way to Son Tay.
The town of Son Tay clings to the banks of a great river, tamed by a hydroelectric dam. A small, quiet place in a magical position, Son Tay is a logical night stop on the Truong Son Dong Road, especially after the long crawl through the mountains. There are a couple of nhà nghỉ (local guest houses) of which Châu Phong Diễm Châu (tel: 091 412 0145) is O.K and cheap. Rooms are simple but clean and the family are hospitable. The high-street has several cơm phở (rice and noodle) places for meals: try to find one selling mì quảng, a delicious and much-loved noodle dish, famous in this part of Central Vietnam.
Route: Son Tay to Thanh My (via Tra My & Que Binh) | Distance: 150km [MAP]
This section – the northern-most stretch of the Truong Son Dong Road – is the newest of the entire route. It’s so new that, in some places, the road doesn’t yet appear on online maps, and some sections are still in the final stages of construction. On my map, I’ve manually drawn on the sections of road that don’t yet appear on Google Maps and I’ve included roadwork icons for sections that are rough because of ongoing construction (see map). But the bottom line is that, at the time of latest update (February 2020), it’s now possible to stay on the Truong Son Dong Road from Son Tay all the way north to the end point at Thanh My. (Note: please check the comments at the bottom of this guide for any updates from other readers).
From Son Tay, head due north out of town, past large hydroelectricity dams before climbing steadily into the hills. This is another wonderful ride over mountains bursting with tropical foliage and fruits, and excellent views over valleys and villages tucked into the folds of misty mountains. However, a 7km stretch of this section of the Truong Son Dong Road is still under construction (see the black line). The condition is such that most motorbikes and most riders with at least some experience should be able to pass without any trouble, especially in dry weather. What’s more, the road conditions will improve with every week that goes by from the time of the last update of this guide (January 2020). Therefore, unless the weather is appalling, most riders can now continue north from Son Tay without too much difficulty. But, obviously, you must ride very carefully on the unmade, muddy sections. After the 7km of roadworks, the road becomes smooth, new, and wide once again, twisting through the jungles and mountains of one of the most remote parts of the Truong Son Dong Road.
The next intersection is at Tra Giac, with Road DT616. Join this road heading due north and east for several kilometres around a pretty reservoir. Then take a left turn at the Tra My intersection, heading due north over a bridge and onto another brand new section of the Truong Son Dong Road. Swirling above the reservoir, around a mountain and through a wooded agricultural valley, this perfectly-smooth, completely empty road slides through the landscape for 40km to the Que Binh intersection with Road QL14E. It’s an easy, fun, fast and enjoyable ride, but some of it isn’t on Google Maps yet (see the black line).
And so, to the final section of the Truong Son Dong Road, between the Que Binh intersection and Thanh My. At the time of latest update (February 2020), it was possible to continue north from Que Binh all the way on a brand new section of road to Thanh My, the end point of the Truong Son Dong Road. Much of this section has only recently been laid and is in great condition, but there may still be some rough patches in the final stage of construction (see the black line). Please leave a comment at the bottom of this guide if you have any new information about this section.
To extend your road trip from Thanh My, you can continue through the mountains north or south on the Ho Chi Minh Road, or head east down to Danang or Hoi An and then join the Coast Road going north or south. See Related Posts below for more suggestions.
Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free & independent. I’ve written this guide because I want to: I like this motorbike route & I want my readers to know about it. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements here
A few updates for you. We have ridden some of the route by bicycle (11/03/23 – 13/03/23).
Da Lat heading north:
We followed the Pine Tree road north. It’s very beautiful but didn’t try to see if we could pass through at the end, though there are KM markers for a village beyond where the supposed end would be.
The DT722, heading west towards Lak Lake I would say is abolutely not passable. It is rocky, muddy, and has zero paved sections for 20 km. It also starts with a steep downhill section which I think would make it difficult to get back up if you changed your mind.
The Yen Nhi guesthouse, perhaps has had a change in maangement. It was not particularly welcoming and was possibly one of the most basic guesthouses I’ve seen. The manager also insisted on keeping our passports because of the district’s rules. However, we went back onto the main road and stayed Van Long Thi Tran Nha Nghi (https://goo.gl/maps/5RTbm6sWKy3bNLRW9). It was a bit more expensive, but the 100k more seemed worthwhile and they did not insist on keeping our passports.
There’s an excellent banh bao shop to be had on the main street. They are homemade.
M’Drak to An Khe:
This was all very good. Save for the first 30 km, there were ample places to stop and buy food and drink.
We deviated slightly, taking the DT674 instead of the DT662 (the DT674 is east of thhe 662). This was a nice road along a river.
A note for the cyclists: Ca Liec A at around 138km on that route is a good place to stop for Nuoc Mia. It’s the last spot before it gets hilly and windy. Also, the lady gave us ours for free.
M’Drak to Mang Den:
This was fantastic cycling.
An Coffee in K’Bang is a good place to stop for coffee: https://goo.gl/maps/XtWb9v4mmjVqj21Y8
From K’Bang there is not much. There are a few places for petrol. 30km from K’Bang is there is a small village with a spot for drinks and nuoc mia. From this village there is nothing for the next 50km, when the DT669 intersects with the AH132. There is a small minority village a couple of KMs before the AH132 where this a tap hoa with friendly folk.
Mang Den was a good place to break up the journey. Though it was actually hard to find a place to get a bed and is more expensive than most places (most places were starting around 600k but you could probably find less if you really wanted)
Mang Den to Son Tay
We headed back up the same way to go to Son Tay. The roads there were all excellent and the scenery incredible. Again, once you turn off the AH132 there are few places to buy anything. There is a bridge around 54km on the route above and after that a small shop which had nuoc mia. There were some friendly local children here too.
Guest house wise, perhaps there’s been a change in managment again. The guest house in the main Son Tay village seemed very unkeen to house us (Nha Nghi Sinh Ha). But 2.5 km down the hill, there was a more accommodating guest house (Son Ca) (https://goo.gl/maps/CKW3TfWmLSrgyYbT9). The family were friendly and the rooms quiet and comfortable.
After this, we deviated. Went back over the hill and towards the coast.
Thanks for sharing your trip report on this route.
The KM markers you saw were most likely to Yang Mao which is where the road will eventually lead, but not until they build a bridge across the river. Yes, perhaps the environmental concerns are slowing the construction process – however, it hasn’t stopped them building roads in many other parts of the country that are environmentally sensitive 🙂
That’s interesting you think the road from Dung K’No isn’t passable. You were on bicycles so perhaps your experience was a little different from Benjamin’s in the comment below, who was on an automatic motorbike. Certainly, if it’s been raining, I wouldn’t suggest riding that route, but in dry conditions it should be OK. I suppose it’s subjective according to each rider (and their bikes).
Thanks for the updates on guest houses – yes, I’m sure some of the places I stayed at are now either out of business or there are better options available.
I’m glad you enjoyed the cycling and the scenery.
has or Tom ridden this recently, the road from dalat after the pine tree road to the TSD how much of this is unpaved? planning on cycling this tomorrow. thanks
If you’re referring to the road due west of Dung K’No over to join QL27, please see Benjamin’s comment below – it should be fine as long as it hasn’t rained recently.
I have just ridden on the TSD. I did the Pine Tree Rd bit and then after a foray to Cam Lap rejoined at M’drak up to the QL14E then heading down to Hoi An. The whole route was basically in good condition bar a few bits of damaged road and a rough potholed section a bit before the big reservoir (the bit that is the DT616 I think).
It was all very enjoyable riding. Section 3 is busier with lots of farm traffic, animals etc but I found it all interesting. From K’bang it is very remote with little traffic and relatively obstruction free so you can concentrate more on the riding itself. I deviated west to Mang Deng for accommodation. That road (the highway to Kon Tum) is insane if you want to go fast. It looks like it has just been built and is in fantastic condition and well surveyed with lots of sweeping corners.
The weather for the last day from Mang Deng to Hoi An was appalling. Basically low clouds and drizzle. At a few points I could barely see the road 20 feet in front of me due to the mist and had to crawl along.
Overall a fantastic experience. I rode the HCM Rd in 2019 from Phong Nha to Hue and in my opinion at this stage I think the TSD is more fun. I am heading north up to Hanoi on the HCM Rd now so will see if that is still my impression by the end of the trip.
The TSD felt very remote and I only saw two other foreigners on the whole trip. So it is still great for giving you a sense of adventure. If you have the experience I would recommend renting a manual bike such as an XR150 which I did this time. I normally use semi automatics but they are much more tiring and tedious on routes like this with a lot of steep hills to climb and long daily distances.
Thanks for the trip report and updates on the Truong Son Dong Road. It’s great to hear that most of the route is in acceptable condition now and that you enjoyed the ride.
We are in Dalat right now and tomorrow we will follow Benjamin’s Tracks to Buon Ma Thout.
I have one question: from Buon Ma Thout to Kon Tum in one day, should we rather take the AH17 or the Truong Son Dong Road + QL27?
Love the site!
From Buon Ma Thuot to Kon Tum the more scenic and less busy route is the Truong Son Dong Road, but it’s much longer in distance and time, so if you want to get to Kon Tum in one day, you should take the Ho Chi Minh Road (AH17) – parts of it are quite interesting and scenic, but parts are quite busy with trucks. I wrote an overview of it here.
I’m very happy to report that there has been much progress with road construction on DT722 from Đưng K’Nớ to Đạ Long, making it possible to shorten the journey north from Dalat to Dak Lak via the scenic Pine Tree Road! I rode it yesterday, January 1, 2023, on a Honda SH Mode 125cc loaded with gear and encountered no major obstacles. Except for maybe the first km from Đung K’Nớ which is a bit rocky and steep downhill, it’s an even single lane dirt track. I passed several locals, including even one small car, while traveling west. My average speed was about 20kph and it took me one hour from end to end. For riders heading towards Dak Lak this can save about an hour since it’s no longer necessary to go south to QL27. It’s also some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen in Vietnam. In rainy conditions it would still be unadvisable as with any dirt road, but in general it’s absolutely doable for most riders/bikes now!
Thanks for this update – that’s really great news and fantastic information for anyone who’s riding this route.
Perhaps the road has changed in the last few months or my tolerance for a passable road is lower, but I wouldn’t say the DT722 west of Dun K’No was particularly passable. The steep rocky section is more like 3-4km and while there are some sections of compact dirt you could drive on, much of it is quite lose. It is entirely unpaved for 20km.
Perhaps if you are experienced with such roads it will be OK, but I’d be cautious if you aren’t so confident on the bike.
But there is indeed some fantastic scenery, particularly as the sun starts to set.
Thank you for your trip report on this section of road.
I’ll pass it on to Ben, but I know that he generally sticks to paved roads (like me) and that he rode this section on an automatic bike that’s not suitable for properly rough roads. So perhaps conditions have changed a bit. And certainly it’s still wise to avoid in wet conditions.
very many thanks for the Guide! it is going to be of soo much help! i just have a few questions if you do not mind.
i am planning to go from Hoi An to Cam Ranh via this Trail… how should i approach it? is it possible to do it in 2,3 days? like:
– day 1: Hoi an to Mang Den
– day 2: Mang Den to Ayun pa
– day 3: Ayun pa to Cam Ranh
Do you think it will be possible? we are going to be travelling on Honda XR150 and willing to drive up to 5,6 hours a day!
if not possible, what alternatives would you recommend? i am asking as we willl be on a timeline, and cannot really afford to stay an extra day!
Thank you so much!
Yes, it’s possible, but it’s a lot of riding each day so you need to make sure you start at a decent time in the morning.
The main issue you might have is whether or not any sections of road are experiencing works: in particular, between Bac Tra My and Son Tay. See the previous comments for more on that.
However, with Honda XRs you should be OK even on sections of bad road. Also, if any section turns out to be impassable, you can always just take the nearest intersection and head due west to link up with the Ho Chi Minh Road (AH17) instead.
To get to Cam Ranh from Ayunpa, you’re best taking QL26 down to Nha Trang, and not going via Dalat.
I hope this helps,
I managed to pass through the “impassable” stretch of road north of Son Tay that Rick talked about. As I approached that stretch of road, I kept stopping to ask locals if there were any obstructions on the road ahead, to which they said no.
I wish I took a picture but it’s pretty much as Rick described it: a steep, muddy, and treacherous-looking construction site. I had no idea if I was going to manage to make it until I saw a local kid do it by following a little trail made by other motorbikes. It was uphill (and rainy) for me since I was headed South towards Saigon. I managed to do it but I wouldn’t recommend it to anybody that has little experience in riding. Great roads though!
Thanks for the update. That’s a shame it’s still in bad condition. I’m glad you made it OK and that the rest of the ride was good.
I found the stretch of road north of Sơn Tây about at the Quảng Ngãi/Quảng Nam border impassable on a large bike during Tết holiday 2022, and I just went back this Reunification Day holiday to check the situation out. If anything the situation is worse now, perhaps due to the heavy rains we just had. Rode south from Thạnh Mỹ to the Trà My area without incident, but on that older, high altitude stretch leading down to Sơn Tây the road appeared to have been washed out near the provincial border, and a steep, muddy treacherous-looking detour had been bulldozed. Working as a team I saw some minority folk negotiate the detour, but I’m pretty sure that my big highway cruiser all weighted down with myself and provisions wouldn’t have made it. So I high-tailed it back to Bắc Trà My.
Thanks for the update.
That’s a shame. I hope it gets cleared and fixed soon so we can all enjoy riding that section again. There are often issues with landslides after bad weather on new mountainous roads that have only recently been laid.
Yes, I’m with Viettel, so that’s good to hear. It looks like a long ride alright, but a real beauty!
Thanks a million for this incredible guide! I’m setting off tomorrow to do this route from Buon Ma Thuot up to Thanh My by bicycle. Just wondering how reliable a phone signal you had, especially on the very northern section? I’ll be as prepared as possible, but it would good to have an idea of how contactable I’ll be.
I think I had phone signal most of the way. It’ll probably depend on which network you are with – Viettel generally gets best coverage in the mountains.
Good luck – that’s a long ride on a bicycle.
We just completed the run with deviations from Phan rang,Lak lake, dak mil up ql14c border road west of BMT up and across thry Chu prong, pleiku, Kon tum, Kham duc across to que binh intersection then south down Truong song dong road back kbang NHA Trang… awesome trek, lots of dirt in sections, wrong turns, heaps of fun, some fun on 3 way border road, flat tyre on first day of tet up in mountains dak glei then night ride in rain to Kham duc.
Beautiful scenery lots of wildlife,monkeys,water buffalo, near Cambodian border highlight…xr150 two up great trip 1700 ks..
Thanks for the map very helpful vinaphone coverage most of way…
Thanks for the trip report.
Great to hear you enjoyed the ride – sounds like a big and eventful trip!
Today, February 6 2022, I was attempting to ride fron Sơn Tây to Thạnh Mỹ but subsidence some 25 km north of Sơn Tây forced me to turn back. It was at very high elevation on a winding section of the road and seemed to extend at least several hundred meters. Spry local minority people on their bikes seemed able to negotiate the deep red mud, and a dirt bike could probably do the trick. But it seemed a very clear no-go for a casual rider such as myself on a Suzuki 125 big bike.
Thanks for the road report and update.
That’s a shame you couldn’t get through. I expect it will be cleared pretty quickly though – it happens fairly often with newly constructed roads in the mountains, especially if there’s been a lot of rain. Hopefully it will be possible to ride that section again soon, on any bike.
We are setting out on the final section of the route today, leaving Bac Tra My and then picking up the HCM Road to head back to Saigon. As always, the map and section guides have been a massive help, so a big thank you from us!
A couple of suggestions for other riders. Many new places to stay have opened up and here are the ones we liked. In Ayun Pa nha nghi phuc khanh was clean, welcoming and reasonably priced. A great location too. We stopped in Mang Den for a couple of days and stayed at sum villa homestay. Beautiful place and worth the detour. Now in Bac Tra My at nha nghi cao nguyen. A basic option, but clean and reasonably priced.
Thanks again, and happy new year!
Great to hear you enjoyed the ride. I was just on the southern section of the Truong Son Dong Road today too – it was fantastic.
Thank you for the accommodation updates – really useful. I look forward to checking those places out next time I’m on the road.
I hope you have a good ride back.
Just completed the Road East of the Long Mountains journey from Da Lat to Thanh My. What a great ride, thanks for the super helpful post and inspiration. Some updates … First the entire road is in great shape and can be done on any bike. Specific issues included: the ferry is not running on your scenic purple detour between Da Lat and Lake Lak. Not sure if it’s Tet or Covid. You don’t need to back track though. The river road is fine on the Da Lat side. Route 12 from Lake Lak — a beautiful mess. I might take a pass if I were on a semi automatic or scooter. The rutted dirt sections are one thing but the construction areas are many. On a dial sport though a fun ride with some great trails. Do keep an eye on fuel past K’Bang.
I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the ride.
Thanks very much for the useful updates. That’s a shame about road DT12 – it’s been patchy for some years now, but perhaps if they’re doing repairs at the moment, it’ll be in good condition by 2023. I hope so.
If you took the purple route between Dung K’No and QL27, can you give an update about the general condition of that road – in the past, the part near Dung K’No has been very rough and not really suitable for anything but off-road bikes. What’s it like now?
I’m a Vietnamese, been following your blog for a while but this is the first content that really amazes me. Wow, very few Vietnamese people know their country the way how you know ours, such a spectacular trip and you are so adventurous to explore these sights alone, let alone on a motorbike! Goodluck and I wish you all the best being on the road.
Thank you for your kind comment.
I’m sure I don’t know Vietnam as well as Vietnamese do, but I do love exploring the country, and then trying to share the experience through this website.
Update! Ride date: 20/11/21
The entire stretch from Tra My to Thanh My is now finished construction and despite a couple of very short sections where there’s been small landslides (which were being cleared), the whole stretch is incredible.
Living in Hoi An, a few of us are planning to start in Prao and head all the way to Dalat in the spring.
Thank you for the update. That’s great news!
I hope you all enjoy your ride together and that the weather holds up for you.
Hey I have two updates on Section 1 that I rode today. I just realize now I should have read you more carefully. You said the road left of Dung K’No (DT722) is a “very rough dirt road which should only be attempted in dry conditions if you have a suitable bike and off-road experience.” Well, I went with a 300-kilogram Triumph Street Scrambler on a rainy day and that was the worst riding day of all my travels in 50+ Vietnamese provinces. It got harder and harder as it went, and it never ended – way beyond the end of your black line on the map. At some point I had to cross a river with one foot of water… The rest was a tiny serpentine crevaced dirt trail with high grades on the side of a cliff… Local riders saved my ass (I think they were Cơ Ho people), they helped me get the bike back up all the times it fell, and in the end one of them rode it instead of me… with much more mastery than me. Without them I would probably still be up there camping for the night, very thirsty and tired, and waiting rescue with no phone service! Even with a Honda Wave and a small stature like these guys I couldn’t do it I think. Very humbling experience.
Anyway, after that I found out that your purple road that joins QL27 going North actually doesn’t cross Krông Nô river. The guys are working on the early foundations of a future bridge but they told me there never was one. There was a tiny boat but lots of current, and, again, my bike is 300 kilograms without me on it.
What an adventure! But I’ve been on the other sections of that road before and I know they are fantastic. Just waiting out the storm in a BMT hotel right now. Without your blog I still wouldn’t have heard of the whole thing so thanks again for your advice. I should just read it more carefully!
Sorry for my slow reply and thank you for the updates.
Yes, attempting the cut through from Dung K’No to QL27 is a common mistake that many riders have made, including me. I’m glad you found local help to get you out of there – that’s not uncommon either 🙂
Yes, the road you’re referring to doesn’t have a bridge crossing; it’s a ferry crossing, but in general it’s fine for most motorbikes in Vietnam, although I can imagine how difficult it must have been with your 300kg one 🙂
I hope the rest of your ride was a bit smoother.
Update! June 2020
The 7km of roadworks marked in black on your map between Son Tay and the DT616 are now complete. It felt like we were almost the first people on the new road! Enjoy.
Thanks as always for the excellent blog 🙂
That’s excellent news – thank you for the useful update
It’s a fantastic road and will be great when complete though it will be a shame to lose the relative peace of the ‘pine tree road’ which is the best option for cycling on quiet roads out of Da Lat as its currently a dead end….ah well, hopefully it won’t get as busy as some of the other roads into Da Lat
Yes, it is. But I hope the Truong Son Dong Road will remain quiet for quite a while longer – at least a couple of years.
Great article. A little update in early May 2020 that there were temporary bridges built across Krong No river between Lam Dong and Dak Lak. However, the road’s still in bad condition with dirt and basalt.
Thanks for the update – that’s really interesting. So perhaps it won’t be too long until riders can connect Lam Dong and Dak Lak provinces via the Truong Son Dong Road. Exciting.
Hi Tom! First of all congrats for your page, Actually im in Nha Trang planning to go to Quy nhon. I did already this route by the coast so Im thinking to do it this time trought Mbrak and Song Hinh district reaching Quy nhon by QL19C Road, have you done this road before? Im afraid is a bad one so in this case I should do the Dong truong son road even is much longer. Thanks!!
I have only ridden bits of QL19C, not all of it. But the sections I rode were in decent condition. If you take this route, please let me know what it’s like.
But as an alternative, taking the Truong Son Dong Road from M’Drak to the intersection with QL19 is also a good ride.
Thank you for your travel tips, I read them carefully.
is the bridge north of Dung K’No already finished? does the bridge already exist or is it still under construction?
I want to start the tour from Phan Rang and drive to Danang. Maybe you can give me some good advice.
I wanted to use the road north of the bridge, but no idea what the condition of the bridge and the road north of the bridge is.
Most of the answers to your questions are in the guide on this page – please read the relevant sections to find the information you’re looking for.
If you want to join the Truong Son Dong Road north of the Dung K’No bridge (which doesn’t exist yet) then you can ride to M’Drak and follow it from there all the way to Thanh My, then take Road QL14B down into Danang. See Sections 3, 4, 5, 6 of the guide on this page.
I hope this helps,
Just arrived into da lat after driving this road from da nang and can confirm that the whole road is drivable and it is absolutely stunning! The detour route marked in red between son Tay and xa heiu is updated on google maps so after son Tay google maps works pretty great. I would note, I travelled this route alone and there are large sections of the road between Thành my and bac tra my/son Tay and xa heiu where there is NO PHONE SIGNAL, so make sure your bike is in good working order and people know you are doing this if you are going solo. I had a breakdown just after dak po and I was very lucky this didn’t happen on one of the more remote sections. This route is well on par with the route from khe san to phong nha on the HCM and is well worth doing but be prepared! Thanks for the advice on the route ??
Great to hear you enjoyed the ride and that you can confirm the northern section of the road is now open. Thanks for the updates.
Just arrived down in Hoi An. What a mess down here after the last days on that road. Completed today and can confirm – you can ride the last sections all the way to the end! After the tunnel, it is almost all the way paved – black and smooth! Before the tunnel only a few kilometers bad road.
Thanks for the update – that’s really excellent news.
what accommodation is available between Son Tay and Thanh My other than the noted Trung Nhan Hotel or do i need to do a detour into Bac Tra My?
Reason I’m askimg is, Trung Nhan Hotel is not taking foreigner bookings at the moment (i rang and asked).Starting at HoiAn the 210Km to Son Tay is to much for this old body. TIA
Yes, you can try Bac Tra My – there are a couple of local guesthouses (nhà nghỉ) there. But as for the section between the Que Binh intersection and Thanh My, I’m not sure what’s available for accommodation.
I hope this helps,
Great news. The most northern stretch between Thanh My and Que Binh intersection / road 14E is open. From the start in Thanh My till the now finished last bridge (about 30 km) the whole road in perfect condition. Only in last stretch between bridge and a tunnel a few patches waiting for it’s final tarmac layer. Especially the first 25 km asthonishing beautiful.
That’s great news! Thanks for sharing this information. I’m really looking forward to getting up there and riding that last section.
Great write-up and thanks for all the inspiration your blog provides. I am about to depart on a cycling trip from Saigon to Vinh and had planned to follow the Ho Chi Minh Road as per your blog post. However, now I read about the TSD, I think I will adapt the route to ride from Saigon to Dalat; then take the TSD to Thanh My; then onto the HCM Road West up to Pho Chau and across to Vinh. If I do this, will I be missing out on any really special bits of the HCM Road below Thanh My? Any suggestions on a perfect hybrid route—combing the best of the TSD and the HCM Road, South to North—would be much appreciated. Thanks a lot.
Yes, that’s a good idea, and probably the best combination of the Ho Chi Minh Road and the Truong Son Dong Road. However, remember to read the guide and map in this guide carefully: for example, it is not yet possible to get all the way on the final section to Thanh My.
If you ride the Truong Son Dong Road please leave a comment here with any updates on the road conditions/progress on the sections that are still undergoing some construction.
Thanks and have a good ride,
Thank you so much !
From the Lak tented camp, I just took the Alternative Route to M’Drak and then follow your indication north until QL 19 and then I went to Kon Tum where I was headed.
This has been 3 wonderful days of motorbike, thanks to you. I would have never took those roads if you haven’t mentioned them.
I’ll try to follow your links to help you next but have you considered a Patreon or Tipi account ? I would love to help that way.
Again thank you !
Thanks. It’s great to hear you enjoyed the ride.
Yes, I have thought about Patreon etc, but I’m not using it yet. For now the only way to make a contribution is through PayPal. It’s very easy to do: please find information about how to do that here – if you can, I would very much appreciate it.
Are there any good spots to camp on the section between M’Drak and Ayun Pa or even the next section for that matter. Thinking of driving between Ninh Hoa and Pleiku and using at least the M’Drak- Ayun Pa section, if we could camp then we could make the journey a bit easier.
Yes, you could potentially camp on that section of road. There are some sections that are very cultivated so they’re not so great for camping, but other sections have plenty of tree cover and low population density.
Just to let you know we traveled from Buon Ma Thuot to Nha Trang a few weeks ago taking DT9 off QL26 and then DT12 to meet it. The area is still spectacular and well worth the time if you have it although DT12 is still very very rough going and the 100KM section took 4 hours. Then if you intend to descend the mountains you won’t reach Nha Trang before nightfall meaning QL27 is pretty scary if it is raining and the bugs are attracted to the bright headlight after feeding in the fields. I’d advise anyone wanting to have a look around DT12 to set off either way very early 6-7AM. Also people should be aware of a large amount of police patrols in Dak Lak province, we passed 4 in a short space of time 2 days in a row.
Thank you for the road updates, I appreciate it.
It’s a shame that the road conditions there are still deteriorating, but nice to hear the scenery is still worth it.
Having been inspired by your blog (which i found after doing the Ha Giang Loop) i’ve booked flights out to Vietnam at the end of the month and was planning on riding up the truong son dong road from M’Drak to son tay (then on to hoi an). I’ve failed however to take into account that its Tet during this time and wondered what you thought it would be like if i were to attempt this route over the weekend before Tet in terms of roads and getting accommodation in M’drak, K’Bang and possibly Son Tay?
It should be fine as long as it’s before Tet day (which I think is 5 Feb this year). In fact, I rode this route at that time of year once and it was fine. However, the weather could be an issue – anywhere north of Nha Trang during that time can get fairly bleak weather. Just keep an eye on the forecast – Windy is a a good app for that.
I hope this helps,
thats good to know, i will have to play it by ear and see how the weather goes. Windy looks like just the app too.
As always, and to echo others, your site is an AMAZING resource for travellers, Tom!.
My son and I were originally planning to take the train from Saigon to Phan Theit and ride the coast up to Hue. However, having read some of your other articles, we’re now thinking we’ll head to Dalat from Phan Theit or Phan Rang then back to the coast and upwards towards Hue. I have a few questions for you around this plan.
1. What do you recommend as the best route from Phan Theit to Dalat? Or, is it better and just as scenic (and quicker) to head to Dalat from Phan Rang
2. Which route do you recommend from Dalat back to the coast?
3. I know the next question may be a bit harder to answer, but how long do you envision the trip to take? We’ll be on two Yamaha NVX 155s and have roughly 7-9 days to make our way from Phan Thiet to Hue. Google Maps says about 24 hours but it appears they’re not using the coast route the entire way and I have no idea what speed Google Maps uses. Guessing, our average speed will be 40 mph / 60 kph.
On a related note, I recommend you offer an avenue for folks to provide a site donation given the tremendous amount of free information you provide. Something like Qgiv, Fundly, etc. I would gladly donate some cash so you could buy a sack of coffee beans, a tank of petrol, or a case of beer!
I do have a Support Page here, where you can donate if you like, and I’d really appreciate it if you can. But I will have a look at your other donate suggestions as they sound very interesting.
With that route, bear in mind that if you’re travelling between November and February the weather between Nha Trang and Hue can be quite wet. Whereas, most areas south of Nha Trang should be nice and dry.
With 7-9 days it’s definitely a good idea to take the train from Saigon up to Phan Thiet. From Phan Thiet to Dalat and down again to the coast there are lots of options. But because you have fairly limited time, I’d suggest taking QL28B up to Dalat and then either QL20 and QL27 down to Phan Rang and linking up with the spectacular Nui Chua Coast Road (DT702) to Nha Trang, or simply taking QL27C direct from Dalat to Nha Trang. They are both good routes, but the former is more scenic because it takes the fantastic coast road, but it’s also longer.
Also, be aware of the police near Mui Ne – read the first few paragraphs of this guide to find out where they are and how to avoid them.
You can’t really trust Google Maps for routes or duration in Vietnam – it’s OK, but not really very accurate. In general, your average speed will be between 40-60 kilometres per hour, but that doesn’t take into account stops for photos, gas, coffee, food, bad weather, mishaps such as flat tyres etc.
On another note, I’d love to know how you find the Yamaha NVX 155s, because I’m considering buying one myself.
I hope this helps,
Thanks for the details, Tom. That is unfortunate news about the rain in Hue and Hoi An. I must have been looking at the wrong sites for details. Riding for hours and exploring towns in the rain do not sound like fun. Thinking now, we may have to figure out another route for our trip. Perhaps, just head south along the coast after Dalat. Does that seem like a better path?
I’ll let you know our experiences with the Yamaha. Thanks for the tip on the police, too!
Firstly, thank you for your donation – that’s very kind of you.
It’s by no means guaranteed that the weather will deteriorate north of Nha Trang, but it is a general pattern around Nov-Feb. You can use Windy to get a pretty good idea of the forecast – just open the satellite map and click the ‘rain and thunder’ option then run through a few days zoomed in on the area you’re thinking about travelling in. I’ve found it pretty accurate.
If you do decide not to push north of Dalat/Nha Trang, you can do a classic Saigon-Dalat-Coast Road loop instead. This would look something like the Tet Lunar New Year Loop. But perhaps you could work in one of the Back Roads to Dalat instead. If you take a look at those links you should be able to get an idea of what I mean.
The Coast Road back from Nha Trang to Saigon is good fun – just zoom in on the relevant sections of the map in this guide and click the motorbike icons then follow the links to my guides to those specific areas.
I hope this helps,
Thanks, Tom. I’ll have a look at those links.
First and foremost, thank you so much. You’re the man!
I’m in Kon Tum heading south on the “big one”. I need your opinion. Given the season on the central coast is not quite optimal at the moment, I was thinking about linking up with this route instead of heading to Qui Nhon. If you were me would you continue to the coast or link up with the “east of the long mountians” route. Thanks I’m advance!
I just got back from a few days riding in Central Vietnam and it didn’t stop raining once. Things should be better south of Nha Trang – a great source is Windy – just choose the ‘rain/thunder’ option on the satellite: I’ve found it very useful indeed.
So check that first, but perhaps a good idea would be to join the Road East of the Long Mountains until QL25 or QL26 and then head down to the coast from there.
I hope this helps,
Hey Tom and readers. As far as i know after talking to locals there is a new road a few km after XA HIEU Crossroads to SON TAY that may be safer than the current route. I feel I need to mention an issue with the road about 8km north after XA HIEU Crossroads. It takes a turn off the new road into the jungle with a concrete road about 3m wide over mountain peaks with cliffs each side.
Anyway on May 18th we took that route and it’s was pretty dangerous. One section of the road was gone completely and we had to make a path through rubble to cross it. The path we made was just wide enough for a bike with a sheer drop each side. This was the worst of about 7 landslides. This is about a 7km stretch that is not maintained anymore then you get back on the new road.
It is very fun if you enjoy the danger but I would advise any novice drivers to steer clear. I can send photos of the road condition if you want Tom.
Other that that 7km stretch the roads and great and the best I’ve ever been on.
Thank you for the update. That sounds a bit hairy. It would be great if you could send any images of it to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The last time I was there, there were two paths to take: one which avoided the rough section and the other which didn’t. But they obviously have a lot of trouble maintaining that section of road will all the landslides. And I think the other route to Son Tay that you’re referring to is the lower road which is also very nice.
Man what an amazing road! I’m at the end of section 2 and I can’t believe this scenery! Thank you for putting this together, there’s no way I would’ve found out otherwise.
Great to hear that! Well, as long as the weather is OK it gets even better from Section 3 🙂 Although, some of the road conditions might have changed since I was last there – please leave an update here if they have.
It was utterly amazing Tom! The area before and after Son Tay was incredible, I had to stay for the night because it was just fascinating, I had perfect weather too. The roads are in great condition save a few patches here and there, nothing too bad (except the stretch between Ayun Pa and M’Drak but that was expected and part of the fun). I haven’t checked about the road north of Son Tay but it would be great to be able to link TSD with the Ho Chi Minh Road.
🙂 Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the road updates – it’s good to know that the roads are still in decent condition. Yes, let me know about the road north from Son Tay, but I’m pretty you still can’t get all the way through yet.
We are at Quy Nhon right now and wanted to move into the mountains tomorrow following the classic route, but can not find the description in where to sleep and what to expect. The next stop on your map is Kon Tum which is too far to reach in a day. Any ideas on how not to sleep next to a factory or highway but still do the proposed loop? What is a good stop given we will follow tu ocean road until GA duc Pho?
Or should we skip this and rather do the Golden loop between Hoi An and Hue? We are unsure whether we can make it to Hue on the 9th in time and what sections we should split the mountain detour when we want to start at Ga duc Pho? Thanks for your help!
Lu Yen and Moira
Hi Lu Yen,
In that case, I would just head straight into the mountains from Quy Nhon on QL19 tomorrow, and then follow either the Truong Son Dong Road (on this page) or the Ho Chi Minh Road north.
We are at Quy Nhon right now and wanted to move into the mountains tomorrow following the classic route, but can not find the description in where to sleep and what to expect. The next stop on your map is Kon
Hi Lu Yen,
From Quy Nhon, you can either continue along the coast to Tam Quan (as the route in the Classic does), or you can go into the mountains direct from Quy Nhon on road QL19. Then you can either connect with the Truong Son Dong Road at the Dak Po crossroads (as described in section 4 of the guide on this page), or you can continue on QL19 up to Pleiku at meet the Ho Chi Minh Road going north to Kon Tun (as described in section 2 of my Ho Chi Minh Road guide).
There is no specific guide to the section of coast road from Quy Nhon to Tam Quan, but there’s a bit more information in my Coast Road guide here.
I hope this helps,
Loving the blog, unbelievably useful.
I have a quick question.
Am coming west from Tuy Hoa and want to join the Eastern Mountain Road on section 3 at Ban Hoang. Whats the QL19C Road like heading south from Tan An, and the QL29 at Khu Pho heading West to Ban Hoang? Reason being I didnt want to follow your red line to join the route at Cau Le Bac…
Glad to hear you’re finding my site useful.
I’m not sure about 19C, but QL29 was OK the last time I rode it. However, that region may have suffered landslides last November during the typhoon, but I would expect most of the damage to have been repaired by now.
If you have any updates on road conditions over the next few days, please do let me know.
The TSD is magic! Coming back to you re the roads.
The QL 19 south from Tan An to Khu Pho was great. Good surface, locals only, small villages and smiling faces.
West from Khu Pho on the QL29 also a good alternative to complete an alternative link from Tuy Hoa to section 3 of your TSD route.
Just to add, the ‘desert’ section from Dalat to Cam Ranh was superb. Empty and being resurfaced as I rode it….
Keep up the good work
Great to hear you enjoyed the Truong Son Dong Road. And thanks for the tips about QL19 & 29 – sounds great.
Thanks for this guide. I wanna try it in January. But do you think the weather will be bad? Are these areas at the same elevation as Pleiku and Kontum?
Yes, these areas are similar elevation to Pleiku/Kon Tum, but not quite as high.
I was there in January/February this year and the weather was grim, grey, wet and cold for one week and then sunny, bright and warm for the next week. So if you have more than a few days you should at least get some good weather.
I hope you enjoy it,
Hi! This map is amazing and has made me consider changing my route a bit. I am in Hoi An and heading to Kon Tum next. The next stop I really care about before Nha Trang and Da Lat is Quy Nhon. That being said, would you recommend this route or the Ho Chi Minh trail? I had planned on taking parts of your “The Big One” map but mostly staying on the trail between Hoi An and Da Lat. Does this route offer more scenic views after leaving Kon Tum? Or is it best to keep up with the trail? Thank you for your info!!!!
I would take this route instead – it’s more scenic than the section of the Ho Chi Minh Road south of Kon Tum.
Be careful on the roads, because there’s a storm passing through the region from Friday night into the weekend.
I hope this helps,
Thank you! To get to Kon Tum I see this map advises to take QL24B passing through Son Tay etc. However several other travel guides mention QL24 just south as being an extremely amazing and scenic ride. I was going to take QL24 but tend to me trusting your guides more as I can see you are very knowledgeable in routes through the country. Is there a reason you chose the northern road versus QL24? Are they just as scenic?
Thank you and we are all forever indebted!
Actually, this guide doesn’t go to Kon Tum – it follows the Truong Son Dong Road from Dalat all the way to Quang Ngai.
QL24B doesn’t go to Kon Tum: it joins up with QL24 at the Song Re River. But both roads are scenic, so it depends where you are now: if you’re in Quang Ngai city then take QL24B until it joins QL24. Or if you’re south of Quang Ngai now, just take QL24 all the way.
Note that the second half of QL24 to Kon Tum was a bit bumpy the last time I rode it.
I hope this helps,
Thank you for this invaluable guide to a wonderful new road here in Vietnam. I am now in M’drak and heading for Lak Lake tomorrow. All the way from Cau Le Bac down on TSD I saw signs or milestones posting distance to Yang Mao. Is it possible that TSD now runs as far south as Yang Mao?
Sorry for the slow reply. To the best of my knowledge the Truong Son Dong does now yet run as far as Yang Mao, despite the mile stones. About 10km south of M’Drak the new road peters out into a dirt track, and then starts again must south of Yang Mao before coming to an end in the mountains again, as described in this guide. There are still working on the road, but it will still be some time before it is finished and finally links up for the road to Dalat.
Thank you, Tom. Somehow I missed your reply to my post about the status of TSD approaching Yang Mao. Do you happen to know if the leg from Sơn Tây to Thạnh Mỹ has been completed yet? I’d imagine that would be very scenic, perhaps similar to the amazing stretch connecting Sơn Tây to K’bang.
I don’t think that stretch is finished yet. But it’s worth asking locals when you get to Son Tay because that section will surely be very scenic, as you say.
Thanks a lot, Tom. When I was in Sơn Tây last September the locals said TSD did not yet reach to Thạnh Mỹ. Google Maps now shows a stretch of TSD beginning just south of Thạnh Mỹ on the HCM Hwy but only going about 20km before dead-ending. I might go to TM and thereabouts next week to check things out. If I do, I’ll write a post about it.
Thanks, Rick. I appreciate that. Good luck.
Tom, I was just in both Thạnh Mỹ and Sơn Tây recently (i.e. around 20/2/2018). A local in Thạnh Mỹ said that the TSD stretch which will connect Thạnh Mỹ and Sơn Tây is not yet complete. A local in Sơn Tây said the same thing. She also said that eventually TSD will go through Bắc Trà My as it links Thạnh Mỹ and Sơn Tây. I’m definitely looking forward to that ride!
Thanks a lot for the update on that section of road. Yes, it certainly will be a great ride when it’s complete – can’t wait to try it.
Nice post! We are currently in Buon Ma Thuot and considering this route. How does it compare to taking the QL14C up the Cambodian border? I can’t seem to find any info on QL14C, so this route is sounding more appealing.
Yes, I would definitely recommend taking this route – it’s great. And QL14C is not as scenic or as well made, and some riders have had problems with the police in that area, because it’s a border region.
I hope you enjoy it,
This was an amazing route! Thank you so much for the guide (as well as the HCM to Da Lat guide)! Very convenient and great descriptions ^^
Best roadtrip I have done!
Thanks, it’s really great to hear that you enjoyed this route and the Dalat one.
It’s a wonderful report.
I will take this road on the way to the North in September. Sounds like a very interesting route.
Do you still have the beloved Stavros?. I will use the Nouvo 4 for the Sep. trip.
Thanks for the great infos.
That’s great, I hope you enjoy your road trip.
Yes, I still have Stavros and he’s still doing well 🙂
More proof why your website is the ultimate travel guide for independent travelers. As cyclists, this could open up a great route in the near future. Based on your info, I explored the Pine Tree road north of Dalat and was wondering what will happen with that road in the future. Of course, the concern with all this new road building in Vietnam is that the environment will suffer greatly. I guess is makes deforesting the countryside a little easier when you have better road access.
P.S. My girlfriend and I just completed a bicycle ride between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh and found your site extremely helpful. Thanks for seeking out all these off-beat locations and reporting on them.
Thanks, I hope you get a chance to ride this route in the near future. It will eventually link up with the Pine Tree Road but it will be a long time before that section is completed (I happen to be there right now).
Great to hear that you and your girlfriend have enjoyed riding around Vietnam and that some of my guides have helped you along your way.
I did section 2 (option 1) today. Until Cu Dram the road was bad but the scenery was at times very nice. At Cu Dram I turned south and followed the Truong Son Dong Road for almost 15 km. This road is not just beautiful but absolutely breathtaking. I did the same thing a few days ago from the Dalat side (The Pine Tree Road is very nice but the TSD section after that is pure heaven, I think). When these two stretches are connected you get an incredibly beautiful road.
After Cu Dram TL 12 becomes a nightmare (although the scenery is incredible) for about 30 km until you get to that village with the bridge. At the end, an old, exotic looking lady collects 5000 dong, well worth the thrill of crossing that bridge. At first, I thought it was the same bridge as the one in the picture in your article. However, looking back at my GoPro recording I notice it isn’t. But I didn’t cross another bridge! At least, not one that looks like the one above. So now I’m very curious where you took that photo.
Anyway, this was a fabulous ride and I can’t wait for the next section tomorrow. Thanks a lot!
Great to hear you enjoyed the ride.
Yes, I know what you mean about the road conditions on TL12. But I’m glad you checked out the short section of the Truong Son Dong Road south of Cu Dram – I agree, it will be a fabulous ride once it’s completed through to the Pine Tree Road and Dalat.
(The bridge in the image is near Yang Mao.)
I hope you enjoy the next section.
WOW! You’ve done it again!!! I’m still recovering from a shattered knee and not yet ready for a multi-day ride, but you have me sorely tempted to ignore the pain and the limited movement and get back on the DRZ.
This is definitely going to the top of my “once I’m healed” list.
Thanks. Sorry to hear about your knee. But once it’s healed definitely give this road trip a try – it’s great for riding, and I’m sure you’d love it.