We planned to do the Ha Giang motorbike loop in Northern Vietnam after seeing some amazing pictures on the gram. Photos give you a great idea of what a place looks like, but we had no idea how unbelievable the views would be in person!
We spent some time in Hanoi before making our way up to Sapa where we had a few days getting familiar with some of the awesome views there, before taking a grueling 9 hour bus ride up to Ha Giang. Thankfully the bus stopped right outside our accommodation – Anh Anh Guest House, which for only $13AUD per night this place was absolutely ideal. The staff provided us with detailed information on the Ha Giang motorbike loop, they had modern motorbikes and scooters to rent, and they safely looked after our luggage whilst we were away.
Tips: We chose to take a 135cc automatic bike as we weren’t experienced on manual motorbikes and it made riding through the difficult terrain of Ha Giang a lot easier. We paid just VND200k ($12AUD) per day for the first two days, then VND150k ($9AUD) for extra days after that.
You have a few options when planning the Ha Giang Loop, you can either do a short loop or stretch it out for as long as you like. We decided to do the short loop in 3 days and 2 nights, going from Ha Giang City to Yen Minh, Dong Van, Lung Cu (Flag Pole), Meo Vac via the Ma Pi Leng Pass, then back to Ha Giang City via Yen Minh. A total of 350 kilometers.
Here’s our itinerary, we hope it helps with planning your Ha Giang Motorbike Loop experience…
The weather was meant to be nice all day so we weren’t in a rush to set off. We had our complimentary breakfast at Anh Anh Guest House, packed a couple of small bags and set off by 11am to get to Tam Son in time for lunch. It took us 1 hour and 40 minutes to ride the 50 km stretch to Tam Son, with a few refreshment/photo stops along the way. With the bike, we also got motorcycle led light kits which we planned to attach to our bikes by dawn. You’ll know when you reach this town as it’s the main food stop between Ha Giang and Yen Minh.
Tip: You may hear rumors of needing a permit to travel the Ha Giang Motorbike Loop, however our hosts at Anh Anh Guest House advised us that it is a scam to get money from tourists. They said that if on the rare occasion we did get pulled over by police, to just pretend we don’t speak English and give them their number and they’d sort it out. Though please do your own research if you plan to travel on a different route to us.
After lunch, we started the next 50km strech to Yen Minh, where we intended to stay for the first night. The final 30 minutes of this leg had the most spectacular scenery; the sun came out as we drove through the forests and the smell of wood chips brought back a European feel for me. The landscape kept getting better the further we rode so when we arrived in Yen Minh at around 3:30pm, we were pumped to keep going. So after a longer coffee break we set off to Dong Van at 5pm planning to arrive before dark.
The sights here will honestly take your breath away. It was incredible to see the landscape changing the deeper we went into the Ha Giang Province.
We eventually arrived in Dong Van at 7pm and checked into Xuan Thu Guest House, which is definitely the place to stay here as it has an awesome bar and restaurant downstairs where fellow travelers hang out. I would recommend pre-booking this place due to its popularity and cheap rates.
We chilled at Xuan Thu Guest House for the night with a couple of beers and chatted with other travelers who were doing the same route. It is definitely worth getting here on the first day to make the journey over the next 2 days a lot easier.
Action Cameras at the ready….
We had a solid nights’ sleep and woke to the revving engines of all the travelers preparing their bikes for the next part of the loop! We enjoyed a filling breakfast next door and just as we were about to set off North to see the famous Flagpole that borders Vietnam and China, it started to hammer down with rain…change of plans!
Lucky we hadn’t already left as there wouldn’t have been any cover from the rain for at least a couple of hours so the riders who left before us would most definitely have got drenched. We waited for the rain to settle and it wasn’t until 4pm that we saw an opportunity to do the “short” 1 hour drive north to the Flagpole and back again. We thought we had more than enough time to do this before nightfall, but we had no idea how challenging the journey that lay ahead of us would become. We did not anticipate the state of the roads after 8 hours of heavy rain. The windy mountain road to get to Lung Cu was extremely difficult to ride with many pot holes, piles of debris and wet mud on the narrow roads. This slowed us down a lot and even doubled our time to reach the Flagpole to almost 2 hours one way!
We climbed the 600+ steps to reach the famous Flagpole as quick as we could since we knew nightfall was only 1-2 hours away. Obviously couldn’t resist the picture opportunities though, and we naively though we’d still make it back in time before dark.
The drive back was smoother as we already knew where the main damage on the roads were…that’s until it started raining, which slowed us down again. The sun started creeping behind the mountains and that’s when we realised the lights on our bike didn’t work! This made the next hour super challenging and dangerous as we only had 5-10m vision on the pot-hole filled, wet mountain roads. Eventually it became pitch black so we had to rely on the good ol’ iPhone torch to get us back through the mountains to civilisation. Quite a dangerous situation to be in and ridiculously cold, though thankfully we ended up getting back in tact.
Knowing now how challenging the Ha Giang roads are to ride on in the rain, we probably would recommend to skip the Flagpole on your journey if the weather isn’t ideal. Looking back, seeing the flagpole wasn’t worth the effort nor the risk, but the challenges we faced that day make for a hell of an good story!
Tip: If you’re doing any kinds of adventure sports including riding a motorbike during your travels, remember to get travel insurance. We use and recommend World Nomads simply because they are the most trusted travel insurance site for travellers and offer the best cover for what we need. Get a free quote here.
Plenty of lessons you can learn from our experience if you plan to ride the Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam. But another big one is to check that the headlights work on your mororbike, even if you don’t expect to be riding in the dark.
The weather was set to be dry and sunny throughout Ha Giang Province all day on day 3, yes! We had better spirits on this day and we definitely needed it, as the plan for the day was to cover the rest of the Ha Giang Loop. 5 hours in total, not including stops.
The first leg, from Dong Van to Meo Vac is known to be the most popular leg of the Ha Giang Loop, and it surely did not disapoint.
After a 90 minute ride we arrived in Meo Vac by 11am, where we re-energised with coffee and noodles to prepare for the next part of the loop back to Yen Minh.
Tip: From Meo Vac, some riders choose to drive South instead to complete the loop straight back to Ha Giang. But since we really enjoyed the scenery from Day 1 between Yen Minh and Ha Giang, we decided to go West to see it again.
We’re very glad we did it this way as the weather was perfect to capture some stunning photos for memories.
Heading back we felt a huge feeling of accomplishment and aliveness…
…and eventually arrived back at Anh Anh Guest House in Ha Giang by 6pm. What a journey!
I’d like to mention again that this ride can be dangerous. If you’re not experienced on a bike or scooter (in Asia) then I would strongly recommend you practice and gain experience before taking this on. You will be faced with many challenges on the road such as lorries, pot holes, aggressive drivers, grit on the roads, and sharp turns. It is important that you can handle yourself well before considering this trip.
In saying that, this was definitely one of the most EPIC adventures we had on this trip through South East Asia, if not from the last 4 years of travelling. Comprising of danger, adrenaline, spectacular scenery, this ‘off the beaten path’ journey could no doubt be one of your highlights too.
Was this post fun to read or informative in preparing for your trip? Or have you completed the Ha Giang Loop before? Leave us a comment below…
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