Travelling Ha Giang: Explore Highlands in Northern Vietnam Part 2

View from one of the highest points in the loop (between Meo Vac and Du Gia)

My first time in Ha Giang Loop was in December 2018 and second time in April 2019. Below are the details of the routes I did for my two trips. 

First Trip (3 nights, December 2018)

Route summary: Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Yen Minh – Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac – Yen Minh – Quan Ba – Ha Giang

Total distance: 354km

Day 1. I took the morning VIP bus from Hanoi and arrived in Ha Giang after 1pm. I stayed in the city overnight. 

Day 2. Route: Ha Giang – Quan Ba & Heaven’s Gate – Yen Minh – Dong Van. The total distance is 147km and took 10 hours including coffee and lunch breaks. I probably took longer than others as I was driving slowly (average of 20km/h).

Day 3. Route: Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac – Yen Minh – Quan Ba. The total distance is 144km and took 9 hours. The weather was horrible on this day – very foggy that I could only see few metres ahead, raining quite a lot and some roads were very bumpy.

Day 4. Route: Quan Ba – Ha Giang. The last day was only 63km long, so I took many breaks in between. Then I took a sleeping bus back to Hanoi at 9pm from Ha Giang city. 

looking back at the road I drove down

 

Second Trip (2 nights, April 2019)

Route summary: Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Yen Minh – Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac – Du Gia – Quan Ba- Ha Giang

Total distance: 332km

Day 1. Route: Ha Giang – Quan Ba & Heaven’s Gate – Yen Minh – Dong Van. Total distance is 128km and duration was 8 hours including all breaks.

I arrived in Ha Giang at 4AM this time and took a short nap at a hostel before driving to the loop. This day’s route was the same as my first trip except that I drove the shortcut from Quan Ba to Yen Minh.  After about 15km from Quan Ba Heaven’s Gate, you’ll join a road beside the river and see that there are two different roads to Yen Minh – 41km and 22.6km. The longer road is passing by the river, where you can enjoy the river view and the other route is slightly steeper and has different set of sceneries to enjoy. The shorter route is still under construction process and is not yet updated on Google Map, but don’t worry, you’ll still get to Yen Minh.  

View from the longer route to Yen Minh
View from the shorter route to Yen Minh

Day 2. Route: Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac – Du Gia. The total distance was 97km and took 7.5 hours with many breaks for photos as the views were the best this day. There is a Tham Luong Waterfall only about 3km away from Du Gia town and it was perfect to go for a swim after a long day driving under the hot Sun! The road to the waterfall is quite tough, so be very careful when you drive. 

Ma Pi Leng Viewpoint - My favourite view!
Tham Luong Waterfall near Du Gia

Day 3. Route: Du Gia – Quan Ba – Ha Giang. The total distance was 107km and took 6 hours. The roads between Du Gia and Lung Tam town (a few kilometres before joining the nice and big road QL4C) were the toughest of all. You’ll meet a forked road somewhere between Du Gia and Lung Tam without any sign. I asked a local passing by and he said both would lead to Quan Ba, so I took the right fork (picture below). 

Both forks would lead you to the road to Quan Ba
A fairytale village

Road Conditions

Here’s my personal perspective of levels of difficulties of the roads in Ha Giang Loop. 

Ha Giang – Quan Ba (QL4C) 
Easy – Probably the best and easiest of all.

Quan Ba – Yen Minh (QL4C) 
Medium – Lots of steep up and down the hills.
Medium to hard – On the shorter route to Yen Minh
Shorter route to Yen Minh - Beware of construction
Dong Van – Ma Pi Leng Pass – Meo Vac (QL4C)
Medium to hard – Partly bumpy roads
Meo Vac – Yen Minh (DT182 & DT176)
Medium to hard – Partly bumpy roads
 
Meo Vac – Du Gia (DT182 & DT176)
Medium to hard – Partly bumpy roads
 
Du Gia – Quan Ba (DT176 & DT181)
Hard – Steep and the most bumpy roads 
Typical road between Du Gia and Lung Tam

Driving in the loop can be a challenge for many of us and especially for those who are not or less experienced with driving. Once you’re in the loop, most of the roads are narrow for two cars to pass at the same time and sides of the roads are mostly broken, making it even more difficult when a big truck or a car is passing by (and they drive fast!). 

It is always the best to be extra cautious and drive at a speed you can control. The views are stunning and you’ll be tempted to steal a glance while you’re driving. But always put the priority on concentrating on driving and take as many breaks as you’d like to take pictures and enjoy the breathtaking views of Ha Giang. 

 

For general information and tips on preparation for your Ha Giang motorbike trip, check my previous post here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. If I can’t driver do you have suggestion?

    1. Hey Ann, you can hire an easy-rider to drive you around the loop. The price of hiring a driver is 700,000VND per day. Check out my Ha Giang Part 1 post for other general information.

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