A Magnificent Motorbike Tour on the Ha Giang Loop, Vietnam

Written by Nick Daniels
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After constantly hearing about the most beautiful place that Vietnam had to offer, and living in the South of Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh, I hemmed and hawed about taking the trip up north to see what the fuss was all about. 

So one day, on holiday with nothing to do, I rang up a mate and asked him what he was up to, he replied with, “I’ll be in Ha Giang in the next few days, so why not come up and join us?” 

Two days later I was in Ha Giang, riding a motorbike on the 350-kilometre-long Ha Giang Loop through steep mountain canyons and jaw-dropping mountain passes, and wondering why it had taken me so long to get here.  

Time to Move

Arriving at Noi Bai airport and probing around the airport trying to find the correct bus that is supposed to get me to Ha Giang was a journey in itself, but after 30 minutes of searching I finally found my driver and off we went to Ha Giang. Having heard such big things about this place, I thought I was going to arrive at some sort of fantasyland but when I got there, it was like I had ventured to an old barren village.

I was greeted by my friends and our tour guide from Easy Rider who goes by the name of Michael, and a warm bowl of 2-minute noodles. I was instructed to get those noodles into my belly as fast as I could as it was late afternoon and the sun was going down. We needed to move!

Day 1 – Ha Giang City – Thon Tha Village – Haven Gate – Nam Dam Village

Bags strapped to the back of the motorbikes and helmets on we began our 65-kilometre journey through the town of Ha Giang and up to through the enchanting hills toward Quan Ba. Not knowing what to expect, we drove past 9-year-olds manhandling motorbikes and trucks flying past on the petite tarred roads. Our anxiety levels were sky high. About half way to Quan Ba we stopped at a colorful hillside coffee shop known as Diem Gioi Thieu Va Ban, famous for its coconut coffee and delicious Vietnamese snacks. It was here that we got our first real feel of what we were in for. 


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The lockout from the hillside of vibrant bright green trees and giant jelly shaped mountains was an early surprise of the natural beauty that this country has to offer. It was time to start the remainder of our leg down to Quan Ba and along the way we passed through what is known as Heaven’s Gate. Pretty accurate description as the astonishing heavenly views were complimented by the golden sun rays that reflected off the mountains and valleys. Finally we made it to our first homestay of the journey and delighted to know there was a scrumptious traditional north Vietnamese feast waiting for us. We were joined by the local Vietnamese family in lots of beer drinking and laughter before heading into our mosquito netted beds for a well deserved night’s rest.


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Day 2 -Nam Dam village – Yên Minh – H’mong King Palace – Dong Van Town

Well rested and ready to rock, we washed down our traditional Vietnamese coffees (which could be used as petrol) and hit the road. We were all still buzzing about the scenes we saw yesterday and just wondered how could this get any better. Arriving in Yen Minh we stopped for our usual dish of Pho, the traditional dish of Vietnam. Having arrived quite early in Yen Minh, we decided to continue our travels and push on from there to reach our next destination. 


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Soaking up all the natives culture and the mind blowing landscapes we eventually made our way to a small ancient temple called H,Mong palace which was built in 1898 and is considered a national relic nowadays. Now that we had our fix of culture, it was time to head to Lung Cu and across the China border. Well not quite, as there were men with rifles guarding the entrance but we got close enough. This was a surreal experience climbing up to the top where the flagpole stands and looking out at the exquisite scenery. Finally we jumped back on our Honda Win’s and headed to bunker down for the night in Dong Van Town.


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Day 3 – Dong Van Town –Ma Pi Leng Pass – Sky Path – Meo Vac 

Day three was a slower start as we took the time to enjoy a family breakfast with the locals of Dong Van Town, plus the rain was coming down in buckets, but that wasn’t going to stop us. As we traveled out of Dong Van Town we were all ecstatic about what today had in store for us as we’d heard about the infamous Ma Pi Leng pass and Sky Path. Prodding along, still taken aback by every turn and corner, listening to the chugs of the engine roaring on our bikes, we had finally made it. Ma Pi Leng pass! And boy did it not disappoint. This grandeur mountain road which stretches for 20kms and sits at an altitude of 1500 metres is considered to be the most beautiful mountain range in Vietnam, and it was hard to argue against that.


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Massive limestone cliffs that surround blooming valleys and witnessing the Nho Que river in all its glory, we maneuvered our way through this exotic wonderland up onto the iconic sky path. This effortless drive felt like we were eagles soaring through the canyons below. Once arriving at the sky path we were instructed to park our bikes so we could make our way to find what is known as the most instagrammable viewpoint in Ha Giang. After the debate to see who would climb on the rock first and who wouldn’t climb at all, we finally got back down to the Ma Pi Leng coffee shop to find our bikes neatly parked, waiting for our last leg of the day. Due to the sun coming down and a shortage of time, we ended up staying in Meo Vac for the evening with loads of distance to catch up the next day.

Day 4 – Du Già Village – Lùng Tám village – Ha Giang City

Having ended our day early yesterday, we decided that we would complete the tour over five days rather than four, to give us more time to appreciate the wild north of Vietnam. The sun was beaming with joy as we set off to Du Gia where we were promised a flourishing waterfall to cool off in like a bunch of hippos in a borehole. The waterfall delivered as promised although filled with freezing cold spring water.


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Two hours later, once we had dipped and dried ourselves, Michael gathered the troops to continue the journey to Lung Tam village where we stayed the night. We proceeded on to Lung Tam Village where the roads wind like zigzags on a line graph. The mountain ranges made us realize just how small we actually were, humbling us with their sheer volume.

We arrived at Lung Tam and got to spend time with the local people looking over the bright pastel-colored rice paddies. It was starting to get late again and we knew we wouldn’t be making it back to Ha Giang so we decided to head for Nam Dam Village. Lost in the magic of the journey, we ended up taking a wrong turn and before we knew it, the sun was down. Six hours later, after a long dark drive, we finally made it back to Nam Dam village. Not an experience I recommend, but one I will treasure forever.


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Day 5 – Nam Dam – Ha Giang City

The final day arrived and our hearts were heavy as we left behind a mythical wonderland to head back to Ha Giang. With a little time left in our day, we stopped for one last coconut coffee, looking over heaven’s gate as we bid farewell to the beloved Ha Giang.

***

BeSeeingYou In: Ha Giang

Good to Know: Ha Giang is about seven hours away from Hanoi

WOW! Factor: The Ha Giang Loop is considered one of the most scenic motorbike treks in the world

Tip: Though you can complete the ride in two days, the outstanding scenery begs for lots of stops, so plan for 4-5

Author bio: Nick Daniels

Nick Daniels
Nick Daniels is a charismatic and gregarious bloke who found his knack for writing during his travels around the world. Born and raised in the heart of the midlands South Africa, Nick found himself travelling between the three major cities all his life which gave him his sense of freedom and independence. After completing a Bachelor of commerce degree under the exceptional cloth of Table Mountain in Cape Town, Nick ventured off on his first major travel experience to become an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This experience was a complete eye opener into life in SouthEast Asia and where one might say, he was bitten by the infamous “travel bug”. After two years in Vietnam, he Studied a postgraduate degree in Education through the University of Sunderland where he went on to teach English Language Arts, Social Studies and Math at two of the top tier schools in the calm chaotic city of Saigon. After being to places such as the bustling streets of Thailand, devouring the delicious cuisines in Malaysia, finding enlightenment in the skyscrapers in Singapore and the swimming in beautiful coral reefs of the Philippines, Nick decided that it was time to return to the UK enter into the exquisite world of a travel writer. Nick now finds himself in London (for now) as he looks to take on the challenge of creating his own journey as the Chief Experience Officer of BeSeeingYou.

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