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Solo Motorbiking Vietnam, Part 2: Started the Ha Giang Loop!


Day 4: Getting the bikes :motorcycle:

When I booked the bus to Ha Giang, I booked made sure to book the VIP bus, because I heard that for tall people like me (6’2”/188cm), the normal buses can be very tight. I was so glad that I did! The VIP bus came with a fully lie down bed, a massage chair, and a private chamber. I was still too tall when I laid down straight, but putting myself on a bit of a diagonal and bending my legs slightly let me just barely have a decent night sleep.

They even have padding on the floor!

The bus arrived at 4am to the hostel, where rain welcomed me when I got off. I hoped that it would not be like this during the whole loop. Luckily it rained only at nighttime, and during the day it was dry and warm. Others I met on my trip were not so lucky though, so watch out! There was a bed waiting for me at the hostel, where I got some sleep until they gathered us for a debriefing at 10am.

Coming into the debriefing, I did not know what to expect on this ride. After the safety warnings, they started talking about the route. And immediately I knew this was going to be fun. Here are just some of the things they mentioned:

  • You would be driving down a road with a cliff straight down 100m (300ft) to your left and a cliff straight up the same distance on the right.
  • Watch out at the Chinese border! You could go into China for a quick second to get a picture, but as soon as you see the army, run as fast as you can back to Vietnam! They have been known to make examples of tourists and keep them in prison for 14 days, and the conditions there are not so nice.
  • There’s a nice skywalk (think something like Trolltunga) with majestic views. If you fall, you probably won’t die, but you will get some serious injuries.
  • Caves! And discovered as recently as the last decade.

What a ride I was in for. And lucky for me, I booked the four day trip instead of the shorter three day option, and the guides said that the last day was the best. I was ready for a lot of fun.

This is the route we took, approximately. Source:

In total, we were a group of about 12 people, including our guide, whose name was Rosie. Most of us chose to get our own bike, but there was also the option of going for an EasyRider (jumping on the back seat while somebody else drives), in case somebody didn’t want to drive.

I rode a motorbike before, so I opted to go for a 125cc manual Suzuki, but most of the others went for a semi automatic 110cc motorbike. The reason why the bikes were relatively small was because the authorities banned anything above 150cc from being rented.

My partner for the next four days.

I was really excited at this point, because I have not ridden a motorbike in 4 years, and actually being on one for this long made me feel the joy I felt long before. We strapped our bags to the back, said goodbye to the hostel, and we were off!

…for only two minutes, before we were stopped by the traffic police! They took us to the side of the road and asked to see our licenses. Some of the others didn’t have their International Drivers Permit (IDP) on hand, and this is actually required if you want to drive in Vietnam (Tigit Motorbikes has a great article on the laws behind the IDP). We were actually not sure what was going to happen to us at this point. Was the whole tour going to be stopped, and were only the legal drivers allowed to continue? Luckily, somebody from the hotel came, talked to the police, said a few words, and we got our licenses back. We were ready to go again!

What exactly did they check? They just had the licenses in a pile until somebody from the hotel came :joy:

…for only ten minutes! We had to stop again, because somebody fell off their bike. Luckily, it wasn’t a serious injury, they ended up being fine, and we were on the road to the actual loop. I hoped that this fall would be the one and only that I saw on the trip, but unfortunately, that wouldn’t be the case…

Recommendation: I went with Jasmine Tours, which organized my whole tour. If you want to have a great ride with a fun group, this is a great company to go with.

Before we continue, I think that given what I saw not only during Ha Giang, but as well as my whole trip regarding safety, I want to address a few of my concerns in the next blog post.