I’m about to share my full travel details to Vietnam’s hidden gem. This is a detailed Ha Giang itinerary to see this fascinating place in five magical days.
Everyone talks about Sapa and its beautiful nature, but not many know the beauty of Ha Giang.
Ha Giang is Vietnam’s most northern province known as Vietnam’s final frontier. It is one of the fascinating places in Vietnam. This remote and mysterious province is a showcase of incredible mountain landscapes, limestone walls, roaring rivers, smiling people and hundreds of kids.
Ha Giang has been forgotten in time, and just recently it has been slowly becoming popular among tourists. So, if you want to travel back in time, pack your stuff and arrive as soon as possible – before tourism leaves its scars. We spent five days on our motorbikes and completed a loop of more than 400 km.
It can be challenging to plan a trip independently to Ha Giang. Yet anything is WAY better than to explore Ha Giang on a soulless and rushed organised tour together with dozens of other travellers.
Arriving and renting a bike in Ha Giang
To get to Ha Giang, we took a night bus from Hai Phong which cost us 250,000 vnđ, and it took almost 11 hours. We arrived in Ha Giang around 5 am, and since we knew we wanted to rent a bike from QT shop, we asked the bus driver to take us to QT hostel. As a customer, you get a free bed to rest in after the long journey. What a deal!
In the morning people from the hostel took us to the bike shop to choose our bikes. Prices start at 200.000VND per day for semi-automatic Honda Blade up to 900,000 vnđ for a dirt bike Honda XR. We picked our favourite Honda Blade and took off. Semi-automatic bikes are the best for the loop as you have more control over the demanding conditions of the mountain roads. They gave us a detailed map of the loop, plus a ton of useful information and recommendations for along the way. Plus they showed us, how to control semi-automatic bikes as we were used to riding automatic bikes.
Officially, foreign travellers require a permit (300,000vnđ [$14]) to visit this area. However, I asked the guide, and he told me it is not needed if I follow his route. During the whole trip, I wasn’t asked to show the permit on any occasion. It’s best to check with hotel staff in Ha Giang on the current requirements before you set out on the loop.
Day 1 Ha Giang to Du Gia Village – 109km
Travelling north about 30km out of Hà Giang town on road QL4C, we reached the gate of the Geopark (the area was designated a UNESCO Global Geo-Park – only the second in Southeast Asia – in 2011), and we entered a beautiful mountain pass with a poetic name the Heaven’s Gate Pass. Because of the typhoon, the weather was kind of rainy, but the mountains were misty, and I loved that!
After driving through Heaven’s Gate Pass we got into Quan Ba District and the town of Tam Son, surrounded by spectacular mountains and dozens of limestone ‘molehills’. Near the top of the pass, we found an information centre with a coffee shop, where we parked our bikes and climb the steps behind the café up to a small viewpoint to have a look at Fairy Bosom. Fairy Bosom is a unique landscape with two symmetrical, smooth hills. They are so charming and balanced that locals started calling them Fairy Bosom and its name dates back to ancient times and it is associated with many legends.
In Tam Son town we had a simple lunch. Since it was rainy, and we were cold and hungry (we didn’t have breakfast), we ordered Pho Bo and fried chicken rice in one of the small restaurants on the main road. Full and happy we left Tam Son and started looking for a bridge to cross Yen Minh river to continue via DT181 road to Du Gia village.
On the way to Du Gia village, we saw many small communities surrounded by rice terraces. I felt like I’m travelling back in time. In these days, can you still imagine waking up with light, working the whole day to grow your food and take care of your animals to provide you with eggs, milk, and meat? In the meanwhile, your kids walk a few kilometres (4-10km) to school (if they are lucky) or help around the household. Bigger kids take care of the small ones. Small kids were not wearing trousers, so they can pee or poo when they need to.
Old people work hard here – they probably work until they die. Houses designed in a way that animals and people live together in one house (animals on the ground floor and people live above them). Often you meet girls and women – from as young as 7 to as old as 80 – carrying heavy loads of hay, dry grass, and crops over their backs. The bodies of the older women have been permanently distorted, so that their backs are almost at right angles to their legs, even when walking unburdened.
I admire these people so much, and I’m somewhat envious of that connection they have with the animals and nature. It seems difficult to live that way, especially for us who are spoiled by living in the cities. But they all were smiling and happy. An unbelievable and eye-opening experience!
The road to Du Gia was a bit adventurous with bits of road missing due to landslides. People filled these missing bits with big rocks to not drive on mud. However, the rocks were tricky as well. The sun set, and the clouds were low (or we were high), and we still had about an hour of the ride ahead of us. Luckily, the road was pretty new, so we really enjoyed this ride among cloudy mountains! It was so magical. I didn’t have my camera ready, so at least I captured it with my phone.
Finally, we arrived at Du Gia village and found our QT Du Gia homestay. The owner offered us to join their family dinner, and since few guests didn’t show up, we ate so much. The food was so good, and it cost us only 100.000VND ($4) per person. The accommodation was also really nice and cheap. One night was 70.000VND ($3) per person.