Ninth stop: Ha Giang Loop
After a long night bus journey from Cat Ba Island via Haiphong we finally arrived in Ha Giang at 5 in the morning. Since we didn’t book the beds in advance everything was booked out at the QT Hostel and ended up sleeping on the floor in QT motorbike rental’s garage!
I’m really glad that I decided not to buy a motorbike and ride all the way up north by myself. I met some people they were tired of driving every day around 125 Miles even if they don’t feel like driving at all.
For now, it was time to start the real motorbike adventure in Vietnam and explore the beauty of northern part.
The Ha Giang squad (Nina, Nisha, Zorro, Nils and me) was ready to take off. First stop Dong Van. The first day was really nice to get the taste of what to expect the next few days. The second day was one of the best days. We drove the famous part of this loop, so called Ma Pi Leng Pass. What a great experience and sick views. You really have to see this amazing landscape by yourself – no words can describe it! A lot of Backpackers do just a three day tour for different reasons. We decided to do the “big” loop, which also includes the Ban Gioc Waterfall, the Ba Be Lake and on the way back the village Du Gia.
1st Ha Giang to Dong Van (98,6 Miles)
2nd Dong Van to Bao Lac (66,67 Miles)
3rd Bao Lac to Quang Uyen (110 Miles)
4th Quang Uyen via Ban Gioc waterfall to Cao Bang (98,7 Miles)
5th Cao Bang to Ba Be Lake (96,55 Miles)
6th Ba Ba Lake to Na Phong (89,98 Miles)
7th Na Phong via Du Gia to Ha Giang (125,86)
We killed 686,36 Miles in 8 days with just one rest day at Ba Be Lake and one Road that, which was called “Don’t bike this road” and you exactly know why this road is called like this once you drove the road ? #bestbridgecrossingwithamotorbike
Tenth stop: Sa Pa
En route by bus to Sapa and I was staggered to see Oz (from Israel) same person I met in El Nido, was sitting in the same bus as I was. It was so good to see him again. On our way to Sa Pa we met Anne and Sanne (from the Netherlands).
We decided to stay with the old vietnamese lady whom we randomly met on the Ha Giang loop while capturing some nice views on our camera. She told us that her family has a homestay right in the middle of rice terraces in Sapa. No brainier we contacted Mama Gia and she picked us (Oz, Anne and Sanne, Nils, Nisha and me) up from the bus station. From the bus station there was a 20 minutes cab ride to the start of rice terraces. Thereafter we had to walk for another hour to get into the village. It was an amazing place to feel the freedom and peace. The family dinner and breakfast was amazing! If you want to have the experience to live for a few days with locals right in the middle of the rice terraces of Sa Pa then go to Mama Gia’s place. I loved it and enjoyed it!
After 31 days in Vietnam it was time to head to Laos.
Last stop: border crossing at checkpoint Tay Trang
We took a night bus from Sa Pa to Dien Biên to cross the border. If you’re unlucky like I was, you’ll be stuck at this checkpoint only if you’ve an e-visa. E-visa checkin and checkout are not permitted on this boarder. Long story short, Nisha crossed the border because she had a normal visa. Nils stuck at the border for 5 hours, since he’d forgotten to show his e-visa letter to the immigration officer on arrival. What he realised at Dien Bien boarders was his visa had already been expired on the 19th of May, but he still made it through. Finally me myself 😀 and I had to take the very next bus back to Dien Biên to catch a night bus at 4pm to Vinh City and cross the border via Nam Can. I was supposed to be leaving the country on 2nd. However I arrived in Vinh City on 3rd of June at 7:30am. Upon arriving in Vinh City I realized that there is only one bus leaving daily at 6am. So there was no way to cross the border on 3rd. Some luck at the end, an old Vietnamese guy saw that I’m desperate and so glad he could speak English. He took me to his place and offered me to sleep there and have lunch and dinner with his family. He also arranged the bus for me and got in touch with a friend at the border so that I don’t get into any trouble being an overstayer. Next day I started my 22 hours bus journey at 6am, to try and cross the border to Laos for the second time. This time everything went smooth without any trouble. I didn’t had to pay for the 2 days overstay in Vietnam and the on arrival visa for Laos was at this checkpoint even cheaper and I didn’t have to pay the extra fees. All in all I was really blessed and happy that it happened this way – everything happens for a reason I guess 😉
Go and explore Vietnam by yourself it’s an amazing country. I recommend to travel from south to north because it will get better and better the further you travel to north. And spend at least half of your time in the north of Vietnam and do the Ha Giang Loop, if you are not afraid of riding a motorbike or scooter. Even if you can’t or don’t want to drive by yourself, still do it by hiring an easy rider (guide), but don’t miss this beauty of Vietnam.
At some point I’ll come back and drive all the way from south to north with my own motorbike and I definitely need to stop in Phong Nha to do trekking in the world’s biggest Cave, the Son Doong Cave (you have to book it in advance, normally it’s booked out for over a year in advance).