Seven days riding Vietnam's most famous motorcycle loop. Take the overnight bus from Hanoi, collect your motorcycle in Ha Giang city then hit the road! Experience Yen Minh Pine Forest, the massive Ma Pi Leng mountain pass and Du Gia waterfall, skirting the Chinese border way up in Vietnam's mountainous north.
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Day 1: Ha Giang – Tam Son
Dong Van Plateau; Lung Khuy Cave
Our first riding day is not difficult at all and we can take plenty of detours to get on more rugged roads or stop off at viewpoints or sights. We also have time to stop off and chat with the locals and, if lucky, visit any local markets that are being held in the area. We start out on flat terrain but quickly ascend up onto the Ha Giang Plateau. It will be cooler up here. We stay that evening in a local homestay run by the Dao people.
Day 2: Tam Son – Yen Minh
Dong Van back roads; Yen Minh pine forest
This day takes us along the valley floor before ascending into the Yen Minh pine forest. It’s a great feeling to be surrounded by the mountains on either side. We can drive through the forest or take a newly constructed shortcut across quite barren hills. I guess the choice depends on how we are feeling after feasting the evening before. We can stay in a regular hotel or the small group of local homestays that has been developed and we can eat in the homestay or the local market for a bit of colour.
Day 3: Yen Minh – Sung La
Dong Van back roads; sneak over the Chinese border
Today we get off the main route and the tourist trail and head for the border with China. We do not cross as this is dangerous but we skirt along some hilltop paths until we can come down back to the main road. We can take the 9 turn pass and also get off the road a bit more if there is time before getting to our H’Mong run homestay.
Day 4: Sung La — Dong Van
Hmong King’s Palace; Lung Cu Flag Tower
We pass Sa Phin Market and the H’Mong King’s Palace on route to Lung Cu Flagpole, which is the northernmost point of Vietnam. The road is mountainous and winding but easy to drive. We climb to the top of the flagpole and then retrace our route around 10km as we head over to Dong Van, where we stay in a hotel for a change.
Day 5: Dong Van — Meo Vac
Ma Pi Leng Gorge; Nho Que River; small H’Mong tracks
This is either a short hop along the ‘Happiness Highway’ stopping off at some of the many interesting sights such as the Skywalk and the Ma Pi Leng Pass or a longer route through the lesser-used back roads. We stay in a small hamlet of tourist homestays run by the local H’Mong in a community-based tourism project.
Day 6: Meo Vac – Du Gia
Du Gia Valley; Du Gia Waterfall
This is our longest day so we need to be rested and ready to drive. Again, we can choose the easy tarmac route or the extremely technical mountain path route. They really are chalk and cheese. We pass through Mau Due and then on to Du Gia where we stay at a luxurious homestay serving wonderful food. It is an easy day tomorrow so perhaps let your hair down a bit.
Day 7: Du Gia – Ha Giang
Little Ma Pi Leng Canyon
We are under no pressure to make the distance today as Ha Giang is only a short way away. We can choose to lay in, explore the area or get back to Ha Giang and look around there. The first half of the route back is more scenic mountain driving but then we need to get on the main road again so it’s good to just get it done. We can eat in Ha Giang before dropping off our bikes and then getting our bus back to Hanoi.
Honda Future 125
The Honda Future is our most powerful semi-automatic motorbike, and makes for a surprisingly capable tourer.
fuel injected: easy to start and good throttle response