Wednesday 11th December 2019
The Ha Giang Loop covers Northern Vietnam, a place full of roads thats wind through jaw-dropping canyons and breath taking mountain passes for miles and miles on end. Arguably being one of the most beautiful route across South East Asia, the 2-5 day motorbike journey is something that ALL intrepid travellers should experience, and, if its not on your bucket list, it NEEDS to be.
Taking you 450km up to the Northern border of Vietnam through colossal limestone mountains, lush rice paddies, majestical following rivers and kindred mountain villages, a landscape leaving you mesmerised. Staying in tiny villages in homestays run by local families, you get to experience life way from the concrete jungles and industrial civilisation.
PLUS - unlike the well known neighbouring Sapa, the Ha Giang remain a relatively well kept secret that remains hidden from the main flow of tourism, only blowing off in the last year or so. I feel lucky enough to have experienced the raw authentic Ha Giang while the the roads are still being built
If you're visiting this page wondering whether or not you should give motorbiking through the Ha Giang Loop during your trip to Vietnam a go - the answer is a resounding YES. Especially if you’re a bit of a daredevil, a rush seeker, and obsessed with finding some of the best stretches of road in the world!
And if you’re feeling a little hesitant about driving, fear not, because you can still have an epic time by booking an easy rider tour.
An 8 hour bus takes you from Hanoi to Ha Giang where we stayed at NoMadders Hostel.
Most travellers book their trips through hostels, allowing them to complete the route as a group with a guide. This is the more expensive option, as you're having to pay for a guide on top of your bike rental, but this also allows those not confident on the back of a bike to choose the 'easy rider' where they can hop on the back of a guides bike instead. A common hostel people use, and seems to be the best rated is Jasmine Hostel.
We wanted to save some money and felt confident in doing our trip solo. Hiring bikes from Jasmine Hostel, we completed the loop solo, using the home-stays we stopped at for guidance on routes to take and places to stop.
Day 1: Ha Giang to Yên Minh
Starting in Ha Giang around 11:30, meaning you can miss the police who take a break for 1.5hrs around then, you head north on the QL4C along the Bac Sum Pass where the landscape quickly becomes a limestone mountain range. At the end of the pass you'll reach the Heaven's Gate which forms part of the Global Geopark. At the top is a quirky coffee shop where you can stop off to have a look over the viewpoint with a coffee in hand.
Continuing along the road you'll come to Tam Son in the Quan Ba district. A town surrounded by forested hills where you can stop for lunch.
The afternoon continues along the QL4C towards Yên Minh, along the beautiful Mien River. Yên Minh is where we recommend setting up camp for the night. We stayed at Bongbangs Homestay. This is a great place to stay if your looking at meeting others also completing the loop! Those that book through Jasmine hostel tend to stay here making it a very social homestay. There is the option of a family dinner and you'll also be introduced to 'happy water' a local rice wine that will leave your head spinning.
Be mindful of the roads when completing this leg of the route, they are still in the process of making them meaning multiple parts the 'roads' hardly even resemble roads which can be both daunting and challenging for new riders. But don't let this put you off - I'd learnt to ride a bike 2 weeks previous!
Day 2: Yên Minh to Northern Vietnamese border to Dong Van
After a choice between a bowl of pho, eggs or pancakes for breakfast at Bongbangs, we set off along the QL4C in the direction of Dong Van.
The QL4C takes you along the Tham Ma Pass between the villages of Pho Cao and Van Cai. The whole route provides ample opportunities for photos, but stopping at the viewpoint you can take a photo of the 9 turn pass.
In the afternoon, you have a choice to head straight to Dong Van, or take a 3 hour detour to the Lung Cú Flag Tower at the most Northern point of Vietnam. If you fancy a workout, parking at the bottom carparks gives you 400 step to climb, or if your lazy like us, you can ride the bikes up to a second carpark, missing out half of the steps.
The Flag pole viewpoint gives you 360 degree view over the border into China.
The last of your journey takes you to Dong Van, one of the most 'touristic' villages along the Ha Giang. Here you can find street markets in the evening and multiple cafes and restaurants. We stayed at the Aladdin Homestay, although we were the only guests, they were very welcoming, able to do our washing overnight and again blessed us with a family dinner and breakfast that was included in the price.
Day 3: Dong Van to Meo Vac to Du Gia
Day 3 is by far the best day of the trip where you'll encounter what I'd class as arguably the most mind-blowing stretch of road in the whole of Vietnam.
From Dong Van all the way along the Ma Pi Leng Pass, the valley floor drops 1500m to form huge peaks and canyons, providing views beyond belief at every turn deep into the valley and turquoise waters below.
Not far from Dong Van, you'll come across the skywalk. Classed as one of the 'most dangerous' roads in Vietnam where the path is only 70cm wide.
The next 22km blesses you with some of the most extraordinary views in the whole of South East Asia. The ride itself is relatively short and straight forward, but the views mean most people take an hour or two to complete it. In the middle is a small coffee shop that overlooks the deep valley known as Dong Van Bar Coffee, its worth the shop to appreciate the views over a traditional Vietnamese drip coffee and to be serenaded by a live pan-pipe player.
Grabbing a bite to eat in Meo Vac for lunch, you continue south down toward Du Gia where you'll set up camp for the night. Du Gia is a relatively small rural town, so don't expect any of the Western benefits some of the other towns provide. We stayed at Du Gia Garden Homestay. The host and his wife were super super friendly!
Day 4: Du Gia back to Ha Giang
On the final day, head north towards the Quan Ba district and then south towards Ha Giang. This route has better roads than if you head South directly from here.
Getting to Ha Giang
PRO-TIP: Unless you're really pressed for time, avoid the sleeper buses and opt for the far more comfy VIP van instead.
We booked a day bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang through 12Go.asia , although the ride itself was cheap, the driver took Vietnamese driving to the next level, droving like a maniac would be an understatement, nearly killing us and multiple pedestrians on route. We were also in seats that didn't recline all the way back, which for 6 hours, is relatively uncomfortable. There are night-time sleeper options also, but check the reviews before you book!
SAFETY WARNINGS: 2019 UPDATE
In recent months there have been some reports (or rumors, at least) of increased local police presence around Ha Giang tourist areas targeting tourists who are driving motorbikes without licenses and issuing tickets and/or demanding money on the spot. We managed to avoid the police the whole trip but the hostels are good at telling people routes to take in order to avoid the police.
There have also been reports of increased numbers of motorbike-related injuries and deaths along the Ha Giang loop route amongst tourists which is the likely reason for increased police patrolling. Safety is the top priority before doing any motorbike journey, and Ha Giang is a particularly winding and risky journey. Drive safely and sober, avoid riding in inclement weather, and enjoy the ride. One night we took way too much time and too regular stops meaning we had to drive at night - also not something I would recommend.
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