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Northern Hold Out
Two lakes. The Ha Giang mountains.
11 Days, 10 Nights
Ride north from Hanoi, past Thac Ba lake and up into Ha Giang for the western portion of the world-famous Ha Giang Loop. From there, skirt the mountainous Chinese border before looping back and heading south towards Ban Gioc waterfall and Ba Be lake. The lakes are great places to relax, and this tour provides a fantastic balance between high mountain roads and chill rest days.
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Day 1: Ha Noi – Thac Ba
Thac Ba Lake
We need to get out of Hanoi and this is never fun. So, we suck it up for the first half of this day and get as much distance under our belt as we can. Then we head off onto quieter roads that take us to our lakeside resort where we can swim and then relax over a home cooked meal.
Day 2: Thac Ba – Na Hang
Gam River Lake; Na Hang Nature Reserve
We head for Na Hang in preparation for our next day’s drive, however, on the way we get off the main roads and look out for any small tracks we can take. Na Hang is a small place rarely visited so you’ll be unlikely to see anyone other than the locals. Once we get to our homestay we can take a boat trip to a local waterfall if time permits.
Day 3: Na Hang – Nam Dam
Dong Van Plateau; Ha Giang
We take some cross country road today to get up to Ha Giang province.
Day 4: Nam Dam – Yen Minh
Yen Minh pine forest
This looks like a very easy ride on paper but we take a long detour and skirt the border with China just for fun. We then get back on to Happiness road and head for Yen Minh where we stay in a small enclave of homestays very much on the backpacker route so we can tell the tales.
Day 5: Yen Minh – Dong Van
Hmong King’s Palace; Lung Cu Flag Tower
We need to retrace our last 10km today and follow the Happiness road but that isn’t a problem because it’s a fun drive. We get to stop off at a few sites if we wish as this is a very scenic area. In particular we need to visit the H’Mong King’s Palace and Xa Phin Market. If there is time when we get in to Dong Van a visit to the Don Cao Fortress for the view over the town.
Day 6: Dong Van – Meo Vac
Ma Pi Leng Gorge; Nho Que River; small H’Mong tracks
This is another short stretch of road that has a lot to see and do on it so we take it slow and choose what we want to see. The scenery is beautiful but treacherous so keep your eyes wide open and watch out for the steep drops off the side of the mountain. Again, rather than stay in the main town we overnight in a small family run homestay outside of town.
Day 7: Meo Vac – Bao Lac
optional challenging roads
We take the alternative route down to Bao Lac which takes us down into the Ma Pi Leng valley and across the river. We then follow the river to Bao Lac where we stay in the centre of town. If we are lucky there will be a lot of action in the market as a many colourfully dressed ethnic people often turn up here to buy and sell goods. We can choose between and homestay of hotel and this will depend on how much we wish for a hot shower and air con.
Day 8: Bao Lac – Cao Bang
14 Level Pass; Nong Thong Town; Secret Cave
This is a good drive on some quiet roads and we have the choice of the easy route and the difficult one. Our decision will depend partly on the weather conditions but there is a chance of taking some great roads to get to Cao Bang the back way. If not, the road over the pass is scenic enough and fun to drive. We can set up base in Cao Bang for two nights if we wish, which will give us ample time to visit Ban Gioc Waterfall and the surrounding sites. Or we can make it quick and head for Ba Be the next day.