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Solo Motorbiking Vietnam, Part 3: The Ha Giang Tour :mountain:


Day 4: Continuing to Yen Minh

Our approximate route for the first day. Source:

After we got out of Ha Giang, the real fun began! We went as a pack weaving around the hairpins of the mountain roads. It was a lot of fun taking them, especially with the relatively weak Suzuki, as it felt like you can use it to its full ability. This is when we stopped at our first point of interest, two hills that look like… Well, you can imagine it yourself.

I swear I don't want to make this whole blog about promiscuous natural formations :joy:.

We stopped for lunch, where we were greeted with a family dinner. This would become a regular occurrence during this trip. How it works is that the whole group is given a bunch of bowls filled with separate dishes, and we are supposed to put the food on our plates by ourselves. I really liked this style of eating, because it felt like we got to know each other very well when we were passing the bowls around and sitting at the table together.

There's options for everyone here!

We continued riding further after lunch through some smaller villages. There were so many kids we passed that were all so excited to wave and say hi to us! I don’t know how often they see tourists coming around on motorbikes, but it was really cool being treated like we were celebrities.

A nice view along the way.

Another thing that surprised me during our ride was the amount of corn everywhere. It felt like back in Illinois! I expected there to be rice fields everywhere carved into the mountains, but I guess that this is easier to grow here, since you don’t need to have a flat area for the water.

It's like I never left home.

Our next stop was a cave that was discovered less than 10 years ago. But in order to get there, we had to park somewhere and walk about 15 minutes uphill in hot and humid weather!

At least it was refreshing in the cave.

We continued riding until we reached Yen Minh, where we made our first stop at Bong Bang Homestay, where I would get a taste of how the homestay culture would look like. First, we were shuffled into our dorm room where we would get very comfortable sleeping in beds real close to one other.

It's a sleepover!

We would have another family dinner today. Since we were done with driving for the day, it was time to have some drinks as well! However, we weren’t going to have beer or anything. We were getting happy water! No, it’s not like the one in Thailand. It’s more like a Vietnamese moonshine, or a homemade rice wine.

Before one drinks anything, you have to say cheers, right? But we’re in Vietnam, so we have to learn how to say it in Vietnamese! I learned this really quickly, through repeated practice throughout the night. It goes một, hai, ba, dô, followed by Hai, ba, dô!, with a final Uống! This roughly translates to One, two, three, cheers! Two, three, cheers! Drink!

We tried to do this all in unison, all of us screaming at the top of our lungs after Rosie said each part. The excitement in all of our voices could be felt; we had an amazing day driving and a great time socializing that seemingly all came together when we cheered each other.

We finished off the night chatting and having a good time before heading off to sleep, ready for what the next day will bring us.

Day 5: No Chinese Border, but a beautiful pass by Meo Vac instead

The plan for today. Source:

We woke up this morning with a group breakfast, and then got started with riding for the day. We had to get the cars out Rush Hour style due to the way that we parked the bikes before. Here, I learned how to do a kickstand turn, which would prove to be useful during the rest of my trip.

We got out, and we started riding north. At the first stop, I asked when we were going to see the Chinese border (that was the plan at least). To my disappointment, I found out that we were not going to stop there, due to the Chinese army doing increased military training. This was actually quite sad for me because I was really looking forward to it.

Beside me, there were kids selling us flowers.

We rode for the most part of the day, stopping for coffee, seeing temples, and going to the sky walk. I actually didn’t go on it because I was scared I would slip due to my tractionless shoes, but it looked like a lot of fun.

The skywalk is beside me to the right.

But the biggest highlight of driving this day was how majestic the views were. I have never seen valleys so deep, and riding through them felt like something out of a movie or something because of how unreal it was. This had to have been one of the most beautiful places that I have ever driven through in my entire life.

I think the road cutting through the mountain is really beautiful.

We got to the homestay in Meo Vac at 3 PM, which was a bit early to end the day. Here, we got word that we would be going for a swim. It would only be 5 kilometers (3 miles) away, so I thought that I didn’t need to wear my long pants and that I could just take my swimming stuff to not change there.

This turned out to be a bad idea. This road was the bumpiest road that we had been on the whole ride so far. Even though it was short, I felt like this was the easiest place to fall due to the sheer amount of potholes.

Along the way, our guide stopped for what looked like a quick drink of water (because the valley was still so far down!), but it turned out, we had to walk the rest of the way to the boat! This was no easy walk; it was a solid 15 minute steep descent. And on the way back… We prepared ourselves, and made it to the boat which would take us to a swimming spot.

Our drop-off point height was somewhere halfway between here and the river.

We passed through a beautiful river formation (seen above) to go to our swimming destination. Up until now, the water that I’ve seen was, for the most part, quite polluted, so I was skeptical about finding a place to swim. Here, it was nice and clean! It was a great way to cool off from the sweltering heat at the bottom of the valley.

This river itself was a bit dirty, but the tributaries were clean!

As we were called to go back to the boat, we had almost forgotten that we had to go back up to get to our bikes. However, the reality started to manifest itself into existence. Soon, we were back were we started, just at the very bottom. I was prepared for a grueling ascent, but since it was only for 15 minutes, and I drank plenty of water, it ended up being alright.

We ended off the night with a very nice dinner and socializing like yesterday, and also a bit of karaoke with another group that was there for a business off-site.

By the way, one thing that I started to really notice that was starting to hinder the experience was the size of the group. Being with 12 people, there were times where we wanted to ride, but if there was a problem with even one person in the group, we all had to wait. Luckily, we were going to split up in two groups tomorrow, and then after this tour ends, I would be all on my own!

Recommendation: Meo Vac Clay House, the homestay we stayed tonight. Newly renovated and beautiful!

Day 6: Du Gia, a town surrounded by beautiful rice fields

The plan for today. I would end up at a small village called Du Gia. Source:

This day was rougher on me than previous days. We woke up and got going, and the roads were in worse condition than the previous days. I thought that this would actually be a lot of fun, but I was wrong. We would end up going slower, having to navigate around all of the potholes on roads that were practically falling apart.

It was even worse when we hit construction. Here, the road turned into dirt, and I had to ride very slowly, using my legs not to fall.

Shouldn't they have closed down the road?

On top of that, this really made my butt hurt, a lot. When we got to our lunch spot, I could not wait to finally stand up!

We couldn't relax here for too long, because a truck was coming that would slow the whole group down!

However, this isn’t to say that the day was bad at all. In fact, there were more excited kids than usual waving hi to us, and the roads that were nice were narrower, making them more fun to drive on.

We had lunch, and then we separated into two groups: the three day group, and the four day group. I stayed along with the four day.

I heard that this part was the best. And it turned out to be good right as we broke off, because we had the smaller group, and this means we could go faster as we did not have to wait for so many people.

But what really made it the best was the scenery from where we split to Du Gia. Driving through the rice fields carved into the side of the mountain with the winding roads was something that I have never done before.


I thought that the drive the day before was the best I ever had, but I think that this day beat it 10 times over.

My face says it all.

After finally making it over the mountain pass, we made it to the village of Du Gia. We arrived to the homestay early (around 3pm), and our guide told us that we would see a waterfall! We dropped off our stuff, and on the way back to the bikes, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful, ripe rice shoots.

When's harvesting season here?

Anyways, you thought that the ride to swim yesterday was bad? This one was 10x worse. The concrete road ended at some point, and all we were left with was a rocky trail! I only had shorts and flip-flops on here; I really had to watch myself so that I didn’t get burned by the exhaust. Luckily, we made it there fine, but let’s say we took our time to make sure that we didn’t fall, especially through a river crossing, which we only learned about once we got to it!

The waterfall was beautiful. There were multiple cliff jumps you could do, one from about 4 meters (13ft) up, another from 10 meters (33ft), and a final one from 13 meters (43ft)! I was only brave enough to jump from 4 meters, but there were several locals and tourists jumping from 10 meters! The only one brave enough to do the 13 meter jump was Rosie, and even he was hesitant about it.

It was nice here, but we left when it got more crowded.

After the refreshing waterfall, we made it back to our homestay, where I noticed that the rice was being harvested! A friend of mine told me back in Switzerland that I should try my hand at harvesting rice if I get the chance. Seeing it in front of me, I had to ask them if I could try, since I would not know when I would get the chance to try this again. The workers agreed to let me try my hand at it. I harvested crops before, but this was like nothing I’ve done before.

If you’re not familiar with how rice is grown, they grow it in paddies, where the rice shoots come up from the mud. This means that the ground is not a solid surface, and you sink in as soon as you step into it.

And I went in very deep. Sickle in hand, I started doing what the others were doing, which was leaning down and cutting the shoots close to the base. I was slow at first, but then I got the hang of doing it pretty quickly, cutting the rice and putting it into piles so that it could be fed into a machine that separated the grains from the rest of the plant.

I helped for 30 minutes, and these are the lessons I learned:

  • I am way too tall and heavy for this. I keep on sinking way too far into the mud, and my feet had barely any space to move around the shoots.
  • The Vietnamese Hats are not just for show; they really help block out the direct sun.
  • Doing it for this short time for the first time ever might be nice, but this would be a difficult job to do for the whole day, especially for my body type. I think I would break my back by the end of the first full day.

I helped harvest the far right section.

I thanked the workers for letting me help. After dinner, we had entertainment from the loud karaoke next door before we headed off to sleep.

Day 7: Ha Giang Night Bus

The plan for today. Source:

Today was the last day of the tour. We went back on the road we took to get to Du Gia. I thought that this wasn’t going to be as exciting going back on the same road, but riding on the motorbike, you don’t see what’s behind you, so we actually saw a whole different set of scenery than we did yesterday. Plus, the road itself was still as awesome as the day before.

I didn't think of turning my head back during this route yesterday because it looked so nice in front of me!

Along the way back, we drove up another large, formidable mountain pass. This is where I should mention that, at least for the others driving the scooters, we filled up the gas every day, as their tanks aren’t large enough to drive even for a whole two days most of the time. However, this morning, we didn’t get any, because the gas station was out of power!

Looking from the top of the mountain pass.

This is when one of the others said that their gas tank was quite low and they weren’t sure if they could make it to the next town. I’m sure Rosie had good judgement when he said we were going to be fine, but still I would feel uneasy if my meter read empty and the next station was who knows how far away! We would end up just barely making it, with only a little bit to spare.

Our third to final stop of the whole trip was a shop that sold hemp products, including clothing. We even got to see how the products were made!

Nice jacket, but too expensive for me.

We ended up having lunch at the same place as the first day, where we met a group that was just starting the trip. We chatted with them, and I think that we made them really hyped for the journey ahead.

Getting back on the bike, Rosie told us that our final stop would be a river where we could swim. Honestly, I didn’t want to get into the water again, because I was already in it so much recently. But after the ride in the hot valley, I was so sweaty that when we got there, the only logical choice was to jump in.

There, we met a bunch of locals having a picnic, who were more than excited to start a conversation with us! One of the teenagers there (who spoke better English) cordially invited one person from our group to their house for the night. They had to unfortunately decline, because they had a bus to catch that night. I wonder what would happen if he said yes.

So refreshing!

We left the swimming spot and finally made it back to where we started, about 500 kilometers (300 miles) later. Feeling nasty from wearing the same shirt three days in a row, I immediately took a shower, changed, and even brushed my teeth before heading out for dinner with people from the group. I relaxed afterwards, waiting for my night bus to take me back to Hanoi.

I think that the Ha Giang Loop was an amazing way to prepare me for the drive to Ho Chi Minh City. I learned how people drive in Vietnam and what I needed to watch out for. On top of all, I went with a really cool group and I had a lot of fun! The group riding would be one of the things that I would end up missing the most on my solo trip south. Sure, I could socialize at the hostels, but there is something special about riding with others. I think that the Ha Giang Loop was one of the best things I did in Vietnam, not only because it prepared me for my solo ride, but also because of how much fun it was.

Was the last part the best? Hands down YES. If you have the chance to go on the four day tour instead of the three, do it. You will get less people, and the drive is the most beautiful.

But now it was time to go back to Hanoi and get my motorbike! Keep reading to see how my solo motorbike ride would start.