Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Hà Giang Loop

My injured ankle continued to keep me from trekking to ethnic tribal villages in the mountains of Southeast Asia, but I found another way to get to those parts of northern Vietnam: on the back of a motorcycle! Tour operator Authentic Ha Giang helps visitors who don’t have strong riding skills to team up with their professional “Easy Riders.” Together with my riding partner and our group leader, 24-year-old “Johnny,” I joined a few friendly tourists from around the world for 3 days, making our way on the winding roads and paths of the “Hà Giang Loop.”

Hà Giang Province is Vietnam’s northernmost province, bordering China, and is considered the country’s “final frontier.” We passed many ethnic villages, but at a speed that made it impossible to have any personal interaction with local people, as I had on my hiking treks. To compensate, however, I was able to see so much more of the incredible landscape than I would have been able to see on foot, so I really didn’t mind at all.

The trip started with a 5-hour overnight ride on a sleeper bus from the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi to the city of Hà Giang. I didn’t sleep that well, but it sure beat staying up all night sitting on an ordinary bus.

In the morning, we met our Easy Riders from Authentic Ha Giang, and studied the posted maps of the territory through which we would pass.

As the oldest guest in our group, I was paired with Johnny, who was also our group leader and had the most powerful bike. He did an excellent job, and I felt very safe throughout our ride.

The days comprised long drives between numerous rest stops and vistas from which we could see valleys below and mountains beyond. Our time was spent largely in the Dong Van UNESCO Global Geopark, and the signage in English helped me understand what we were seeing around us.

Tham Ma Pass

At the top of Tham Ma Pass, we spent some time amongst many other visitors and a few Hmong children who were selling their dried flower arrangements, braiding long hair, and playing Jianzi (an Asian game similar to Hacky Sack). The children were playful and friendly (as children usually are) but so different than those I had met atop Big Mountain in Laos on my Luang Prabang Trek. Exposure does affect behavior…

Tu San Canyon

Ma Pi Leng Pass

Meo Vac

Du Gia Waterfall

Yen Minh

Quan Ba

Hà Giang Loop (via motorcycle) Stats
Distance: 303km / 188mi
Elev Gain: 13,035m / 42,766ft
Time: 21 hours
Steps: N/A

Author: Chris

Until 2019, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Namibia focused on Community Economic Development. Before that, I was a high-tech executive, small business owner, consultant and business broker.

2 thoughts on “Southeast Asia 2023 – Vietnam: Hà Giang Loop”

  1. Beautiful, Chris! The old saying, ‘When God closes a door, God opens a window’ seems to apply. Your injured ankle has provided a new vista on the world for you, and vicariously, for us-this time via motorcycle.
    Question- I’m a bit thick- I don’t understand in your stats, the ‘Elevation Gain: 42,000 feet’
    Could you explain that for me?
    Thanks for another enlightening post, Chris!

    1. Hi, Mark, and thanks again for following and your comments! The elevation gain stat is a sum of all the ascents during a trip. E.g., if you go up a 1000’ mountain and back down, your elevation gain is 1000’. If you go up and down that same mountain, then continue up and down another 500’ hill, your elevation gain is 1500’. In this case, we rode the motorcycles up and down a lot – 42,000’ in 4 days – so much more than what I’m used to on foot.

      My AllTrails app tracks only ascents. Some apps track both ascents and descents, which would be helpful to truly understand what my knees are experiencing on mutiday journeys, some of which have more down than up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.