Most people travel by bus from Hanoi to Ha Giang and then rent a motorbike to ride the Ha Giang loop. But we decided to rent the motorbike directly in Hanoi and ride all the way from there! We tell you about it here.
Wednesday, January 30th. Ha Giang to Yen Minh
We were told by other riders that a few kilometers after leaving Ha Giang, the police would stop us to ask us for the international driving license. For this reason, a lot of people leave very early before the police arrives. But we have our international driving licenses so we were not bothered by that. We actually woke up a bit late, around 9.00. We saw that it was raining but that it would clear up later, so we didn’t rush
Starting the Ha Giang loop!
After breakfast, we got ready and started driving around 10:30. We were expecting that the police would stop us when we past by a police stand, but they didn’t.
The weather was cloudy but not cold at all, especially because we were expecting low temperatures and rain all the time. At some point it cleared a bit and it was really nice.
The way up to Heaven’s gate, the first view point at the beginning, was already impressive. We kept driving through the mountains of rice terraces.
A lot of times we stopped to take pictures, the landscape was so nice and we were really good on time.
When we arrived in Yen Minh, the first stop of the loop, it was around 3:00pm. We went to have some lunch, bahn mi (sandwich) and coconut.
After that, we went back to our hostel to relax and rest after these tiring days. We watch some series and go out for dinner. It was a cheat day, so we had burger and fries for dinner. We felt a bit guilty, but vietnamese cuisine doesn’t offer a lot of variety. We met at the restaurants two little kids that spoke very good English and were really interested in us. They told us a joke: what’s the difference between a snowman and a snow woman? Two snowballs. A funny dinner with those two!
Thursday, January 31st .
Yen Minh to Dong Van
The day starts sunny and we couldn’t be happier! Today is the longest part of the loop and it’s great we will see it with good sun light. First, let’s get petrol. Looks like we’re not the only ones here with a motorbike…
We start riding from Yen Minh towards Dong van, the first part we drive on a lower part of the mountains, a beautiful and comfortable road. But soon we start going up on a maze road of almost impossible curves. We could never think this small scooter could take us up there! But again, we’re not the only ones. Tourists and locals drive with this motorbikes and heavy loads on them. Funny to see all of us going up the mountains 20km/h!
The roads are getting busy!
We are on a flat road again, but it becomes busier and busier. Soon we realize it’s market day in the valley and we find ourselves stuck on a big mass of motorbikes, trucks and people. No one seems to care at all!
Again some crazy curves and we get to a nice view point where we met other tourists and rest for a while, eating some sunflower seeds “pipas”.
We were not far from Dong van and still had a lot of time, so we joined some people to check a road that leads to the Chinese border. Will we be able to cross the border? Well, sadly not for now…
A few more kilometres on another beautiful road, and we arrived in Dong van. We dropped our backpacks on the hostel and had some lunch. Now, without luggage, we rode to the “North pole”. This road was incredible, really high on the mountains. The views were stunning. When we arrived at the pole, we met Matias again, an Italian guy that we had met in a few other stops during the loop.
We climb up the pole, with a flag of Vietnam of 53sqm representing the 53 different ethnicities of the area. The views into the Vietnamese and Chinese mountains were worth another stop for “pipas”. On the way back, we stop at a point of the road that passes very close to the Chinese border. Actually, it’s possible to just walk to China! Just about 50 steps on a small hill, and we made it!
We go back to our hostel to rest, with a lot of beautiful images in mind of the landscapes that we’ve seen today.
Friday, February 1st.
Dong Van to Meo Vac
After all the long days driving, we had a room booked not far away, in Meo Vac. The drive was quite short so we were looking for other places to go during the day before heading to Meo Vac. Matias, the Italian friend who we met a few times the last days, told us about a hidden village of Thien Huong, which was just about 6km away from us. Google said around 25 minutes, so we knew the road would not be the best. We started driving but the road was even too bad.
Getting to Thien Huong, the forgotten village
So we returned and went on another road that seemed better. But all of a sudden it turns into a path made of rocks. Blanca even had to walk for half of the way while I tried to manage the bike on this tiny mountain road next to the cliffs.
At least, the views over the whole valley, river, village and everything around were beautiful. We arrived to a point were we thought it was best to park the bike and walk around to see if we could find that village. We passed by some settlements of houses where people were living a very simple life. However, that didn’t look like the forgotten village we were told about.
We drove back for a bit and we finally found the village. We could recognise it by the centenary trees at the entrance. The village was… beautiful, but nothing special. Definitely not worth that horrible ride. But we had to try! After eating some sunflower seeds (pipas) at the main “square” of the village to chill for a while, we headed to Meo Vac.
From Dong van to Meo vac
On the way, we had some local snacks at a stand by the road. Two sausages, 1 sweet patatoe and 1 corn with the best view we can dream about. The ride from Dong van to Meo vac was probably the most beautiful part of the loop. When we arrived in Meo Vac, we found some cheap bananas. The bunch of 15 for 20.000 VND (0’75€). And of course, one of our favourite things to have while travelling: a coconut!
In Meo Vac we stayed at the hostel Ong Van Meo Vac, where our old friend Adrian (@agarmen) had stayed during his travel in Vietnam a year ago. Fun to be there!
Later we met with Matias, our Italian friend. We had dinner together and then went to the field of the village where there was a show because of the lunar new year. There were traditional dances, crazy things, and some kind of flamenco dancing with terrible music. And fireworks at the end! A really fun evening watching this show.
The next day we will head towards Ha Long Bay, read here about the route we took!