IG account: @theworldthroughawanderer
The Ha Giang Loop is a popular but not so crowded route in North Vietnam, in fact this area of the country is still considered as an off beaten track because of its position. As the name says, it is a motorbike loop in the Ha Giang province, at the border with China. Staring from Ha Giang city it stretches around roughly 400km covering breathtaking mountains, windy passes and folkloristic villages.
Let’s start to say that if you ever have been in Vietnam you know about what an experience is driving a motorbike around the country and if you feel anxious about that, I understand, but not worries because you can still enjoy the feeling of an epic trip booking an easy rider (someone who will drive for you) through your hostel and just focusing about the beautiful landscape. Rather if you are one of those adrenaline seeker you’ll find plenty of it along one of the most stunning track in the world.
The time to complete the loop is at least 3/4 days if you do not want to rush around and really take the most of every single corner, I wouldn’t recommend at all to do it in less then three days as you would miss a lot and just find yourself driving all day long. At the end end of each ride, when you’ll stop you’ll be able to find plenty of homestays to rest during the night and also to have an authentic life-style experience.
Ha Giang is reachable by seater or sleeper bus from Hanoi and the journey takes around 6 hours. Once you’re in town the first thing to arrange is of course renting a motorbike, but it will be super easy as you’ll be assisted step by step by your hostel most of the time and I highly recommend to stay in Ha Giang Hill hostel during your permanence in Ha Giang. For the motorbike we paid 150.000 VND per day for a semiautomatic including two helmets, a paper map and kneepad and the hostel also allowed us to store our big luggages while we were away.
Altough the precise number of stop you will do during you trip will depend upon how much time you have available again I recommend to complete the journey at least in three or four days in order to enjoy it and especially because rushing on those roads can be extremely dangerous.
First Day: Ha Giang - Yenh Minh
Ha Giang is obviously the start point of our trip and after a good Vietnamese breakfast we are ready to head for the route that follows the QL4C road. The first ride will allow you to get confident with your motorbike, experiencing the first tight curves and will already surprise you with different landscapes, from limestone mountains to lush jungle. The first sight of this section is Haeven’s gate Pass: as the name suggest you will get an exhilarating view of what may be the heaven.
For lunch we take a break in the small village of Quan Ba where a crowd of kids welcome us with smile and huge curiosity toward two foreigners. Here we enjoy a good lunch made by fried rice with vegetables and tofu, a north Vietnamese speciality.
With our bellies full and more energy, we are ready to jump again on our motorbike and reach our first final destination for the day, Yenh Minh, where we’ll settle down for the night and get some rest.
Second day: Yenh Minh- Dong Van
Our second day will take us to Dong Van, almost at the Chinese border. Karst mountains will accompany us during the journey that will lead us to Dong Van Region, home to the Hmong tribe. Dong Van is the classical Vietnamese town, a couple of restaurants along the Main Street, several homestays and a lot of street food stalls, but the major attraction here is the Lũng Cú Flag Tower, where is possible to glimpse China and enjoy a 360 degrees view over the landscape.
Once back to Dong Van to spend the night do not forget to spend some time at the local market to watch local life going on and most important, the colourful ethnic minorities going about their business.
Third Day: Dong Van - Meo Vac
After already two days of stunning panoramas we made it to the most beautiful part of this trip, in fact from Dong Van to Meo Vac we will encounter the mind blowing Ma Pi Leng Pass, definitely the highlight of this trip. The loop already gifted us with magical view around Vietnamese mountains but this part left us speechless and so will do with you. From Đồng Văn all the way to Mã Pí Lèng Pass, the valley floor drops far below through massive peaks and canyons. The only problem may be the number of stops you feel compelled to make, as every turn is full of picture-perfect views.
Meo Vac, our final stop, it’s only 24Km away from Dong Van but amazed by the view of this canyon filled by turquoise water among the lush mountains we stopped for a while to cherish it all.
Fourth and last day: Meo Vac - Du Gia - Ha Giang
After three days of intense rides through the mountains is time to come back to Ha Giang, but first let’s have the last stop in one of the several villages along the way. Du Gia is probably the less developed place we came across this trip, but still the most authentic. Ten minutes by motorbike from the village there is a small waterfall reachable by a short trek in the fields where one can also glimpse local people working. The last day of ride, I have to admit, has been the worst of all the trip, not because of the view (but not expect anymore something like the Ma Vi Pass) but because the road was rough. Many sections are unpaved and full of holes, but driving slowly and carefully you can mange safely your way to Ha Giang.
The Ha Giang Loop has been so far the best experience I had during my trip in Vietnam, not only for the beautiful landscape but also because this part of the country is still not crazy packed by tourists. During my trips I think that the most important thing is to get in touch with locals avoiding the most travelled paths and the Ha Giang Loop allowed me to experience different minority tribal villages away from the crowd of tourists.
I can say I have discovered the real Vietnam through the high and cold country's mountains.
All the pictures are mine.
IG account: @theworldthroughawanderer