This is the best Vietnam has to offer in terms of motorbiking, scenery and ethnic culture. Ride the western portion of the world-famous Ha Giang Loop through vast karst limestone mountainscapes in Vietnam's far north. Visit the waterfall at Du Gia, Ba Be lake and Tat Ma cave, and hang out with local hill tribe people on one of Vietnam's coolest motorcycle loops.
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Day 1: Ha Noi – Yen Bai
historical French battle site; ride along the Red River
We get out of Hanoi as quickly as possible so that we can spend time on the smaller roads enjoying the views and being out of the traffic. We can get off onto some of the smaller ATK roads for detours and wind our way over to the Pu Luong Valley before ending up at our secluded homestay.
Day 2: Yen Bai – Ha Giang
back roads out of Vu Linh to Luc Yen; small village of Phuong Thien
We are able to stay off the main road for part of this trip and skirt the lake up to Luc Yen. From here, we take a mix of main road and back road to get up to Ha Giang. Here we can visit a few sites in town and settle into our guesthouse to get a good rest for the next day which will be full of sightseeing.
Day 3: Ha Giang – Yen Minh
Bac Sum Pass; mountain views
We can choose to take the main route on the QL4c AKA ‘Happiness Road’ and see the main sites of Ha Giang. However, if we are not interested in sightseeing or wish to avoid the crowds, we can take smaller roads up to Yen Minh. Either way, this province will deliver great views and is filled with interesting local ethnic people simply going about their business.
Day 4: Yen Minh – Dong Van
Yen Minh pine forest
We are now in the highlands proper and whichever route we take we will see a lot of interesting things; it may be the people, the traffic, the views or the historical sites. Again, it is possible to take the main route along the 4c or wiggle through the back roads. Group discussion will lead to us deciding which suits us best, however, Sa Phin Market and the H’Mong King’s Palace are not to be missed.
Day 5: Dong Van – Du Gia
Du Gia Valley; Du Gia Waterfall; optional challenging roads
Today, we follow the inner roads and get off the ‘Loop’ on our way down to Du Gia. These roads are slightly smaller with less heavy traffic and they take us past small villages hidden away in the hills. It isn’t difficult driving but it still pays to be vigilant.
Day 6: Du Gia – Ba Be
Ba Be Lake; mountain views
This is our most difficult day. We have a long way to go on some tricky roads. Heading to Bac Me is not an issue as the road is good but once we turn off to head South we are going into very wild country which is hard to navigate and full of obstacles. A good breakfast and an early start are in order here.
Day 7: Ba Be – Bac Kan
Bac Kan back roads; Tat Ma Cave and Waterfall
This is a short and easy day so we can get up late after an evening in Ba Be and still make the trip to Bac Kan in time for tea. We take the smaller roads for adventure’s sake and will face a few challenges on route. Alternatively, we can take the B-roads and have a mellow drive into town. Bac Kan is not known for anything special so it doesn’t pay to get there too early. We can also choose to skip this portion and spend an extra recovery day in Ba Be on the lake. We may need it.
Day 8: Bac Kan – Hanoi
This is usually a straight run along the highway but we are able to take a detour on a smaller, quieter road to avoid a lot of the traffic. However, once we hit Thai Nguyen it is straight back to Hanoi no messing. The good thing is that we can get into town nice and early and be washed up ready for our farewell dinner.