Asia,  Destinations,  Travel Diary,  Vietnam

4 days on the Ha Giang Loop (Easy Rider edition)

This is one of the things that everyone says you MUST do, and honestly— I agree. If you have the time/money/physical health to go on a multi-day motorcycle tour of northern Vietnam: do it!

It was the most fun thing I did in Vietnam and it’s a highlight of my year.

Safari Hostel Ha Giang Loop Tour

I booked my 4 day/3 night easy rider tour package through Safari Hostel, which included the bus from Hanoi and back, and extra night at the hostel. I went with Safari under recommendation from a traveler friend, and I’m glad I did as they have small groups of under 12 people and less of a party vibe than some other places. In fact, nearly my whole group was closer to their mid-30s than anything else.

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What to pack for the Ha Giang Loop

  • Phone leash: Don’t worry about your phone falling from your hand while riding! Put it on a phone leash and keep it safe.
  • Sunscreen/sunglasses: Sun protection is important!
  • Neck gaiter or face mask: The road can get dusty and this’ll keep you more comfortable, plus you can use it as a small scarf when it gets cold. Buff brand neck gaiters are good quality and last forever. Get either their merino wool one or the CoolNet UV style.
  • Decent phone charger: You won’t exactly have time to charge your phone on breaks, so this will be handy while on the road. I swear by the MyCharge Adventure line because they’re waterproof and rugged, though they do tend to be heavy.
  • One pair of warm clothes (at least): It can get cold on the mountain! Bring a set of warm layers (long trousers, a light sweater or jacket, long-sleeve shirt) to layer.
  • Close-toed shoes and extra socks: Dirt won’t fly up your toes if you have sneakers on, and if your socks get wet (or stinky) it’s nice to have a backup pair. Bring one pair of socks for each day on the road and one extra for emergencies.
  • Cash: You’ll need it for snacks, souvenirs, and to tip your driver at the end of the tour.
  • Small snacks if you don’t want to buy anything at the coffee shops.
  • Medicine, particularly something like Ibuprofen or Panadol/Acetaminophen. A small first aid kit would work well.

Rain gear is provided, you won’t need to bring your own. I did bring my raincoat, but more for an extra layer of warmth.

Ha Giang Loop tour tips for first timers

Riding the bike isn’t easy if you’ve never done it before. I didn’t feel comfortable until maybe day 3, honestly.

My best tip is to sit balanced on the bike, with your feet flat on the foot pegs, and put your hands on your knees. Use your thighs/knees to grip the bike. This is the most comfortable position and you can still use one hand to take photos and one to balance.

You can also grab the luggage rack behind you– something I often did when we went on bad roads and kept slipping around on the bike– but you should try to balance behind your driver so you don’t pull a muscle.

Ha Giang Loop Tour – Easy Rider Experience

Getting to Ha Giang from Hanoi

I booked a transfer from Hanoi to Ha Giang through the Safari Hostel, and splurged on a VIP cabin bus. These are fabulous buses: you can lay down flat in a private cabin, with air conditioning! That said, I didn’t want to do the overnight bus because it gets to Ha Giang at something like 2:00 am.

The original itinerary is: get to Ha Giang, check into the hostel and sleep for a few hours, then get back up and do the tour. That sounded horrible to me, and since it’s not like I’m short on time I decided to just do a day bus and spend a full night at the hostel.

My bus experience was…interesting! I got picked up down the street from the Musketeers Guesthouse by a passenger van, which was full of backpackers. The van took us to one of the bus stations outside of the main part of Hanoi, where we transferred to a large bus. The first bus I got on was NOT a VIP cabin bus, but a regular sleeper bus.

An hour into the ride, we stopped at a rest area and the bus driver and the assistant took me up to the front of the bus. Turns out we were meeting up with the ACTUAL VIP cabin bus and I was transferring over! Yay!

Once on the real VIP bus, I settled in (with my 27l backpack by my side, as always) and watched the scenery go by until we got to Ha Giang right before 7:00 pm, for a total riding time of 7 hours.

Day 1: Ha Giang to Yen Minh

Staying at the hostel means you get free breakfast! Also, they have luggage storage in a secured locker, so it’s recommended to leave your big backpack there and only take what you need for your tour. I took out my extra stuff and put it in a tote bag, then took my backpack with its stripped-down packing list.

I took flip flips, trail runners (worn on the bike), three shirts, a long-sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, a night dress, three pairs of underwear, two pairs of socks, a rain coat, a merino wool sweater, a neck gaiter, sunglasses/sunscreen/etc., and sun sleeves. In my purse was a phone charger, my phone cords, Kindle Oasis, miscellaneous medicines, and a phone leash.

Originally I was worried about getting sunburnt, but then it rained for half the time anyway. I’m glad I brought the cold-weather layers because it got chilly once we were up on the mountain!

Our first stop was at a viewpoint with a coffee shop, aptly called “Coffee View.” It took just about an hour to get there, and lemme tell you– the first day is the worst if you’ve never been on a motorcycle for longer than a quick Grab Bike ride! Having the opportunity to stretch was wonderful, and the view was nice as well.

This set the pace for the rest of the tour. In general, we stopped every hour or so either at a viewpoint, a major sight, or lunch/evening homestay. I thought that was a good way to do it, as we never got too tired from riding (or the drivers from driving) for long hours at a time.

We then went to Quan Ba Heaven Gate. Getting up there meant going on a steep, switchback trail that scared the life outta me. But once we got up there, the view was totally worth it!

Quan Ba Pass is the true start of the Ha Giang Loop, and a good introduction as to what to expect on the rest of the tour.

After Quan Ba Heaven Gate was lunch, which was served family style our entire trip. We always had a selection of at least two meats, plus vegetables and rice. We also often got french fries, which I loved!

Our group spent this time getting to know each other a bit, as we were going to be together for the next few days. About half of us were on the 3 day tour, and the rest were on the 4 day tour. We had people from France, Germany, New Zealand, the UK and USA!

After lunch, we then went to Lung Khuy Cave, which to be honest looked much like every other cave I’ve ever seen in this part of the world. Not to be disaffected or whatever, but to non-cave enthusiasts they honestly all kinda look the same. 😛

However, there was a Geocache right outside the exit, so I grabbed that and then relaxed while waiting for the others to come out.

Our tour group and drivers!

Another hour on the road and we got to a viewpoint with a coffee shop. The viewpoint stops were always filled with other tour groups, but it never felt overcrowded. I think we were just half an hour ahead of a huge tour group (Jasmine Hostel), as we often saw them pull in behind us as we were about to leave.

Finally, we did a long push of 45 minutes and got to our first homestay, Little Nho Homestay.

The sleeping arrangements were a bit of a shock– thick mattresses on the floor, in a co-ed room– with privacy curtains or anything. Plus we shared the room with two other tour groups that showed up, so it was quite full. Luckily, the mattresses were very comfortable, and I slept well that night.

That night we had dinner, provided by the homestay. It was Vietnamese food with a Western bent (see: French fries), all of which was delicious. Then the drivers started passing out the happy water (rice wine) and the fun really began!

Our nightly happy water adventure with our drivers!

Shortly after dinner they broke out the karaoke machine, but I toddled off to bed and slept like the dead.

Day 2: Yen Minh to Dong Van

Breakfast was bright and early– but not TOO early, possibly because half the group was sleeping off happy water headaches. Honestly, I did NOT like the breakfast here because the coffee was truly disgusting (rare in Vietnam).

After breakfast, we took off to our first stop, a viewpoint (but no coffee shop!). On Google Maps it’s called “Dốc Thẩm Mã” (plus code: 559V+QW Đồng Văn District, Ha Giang, Vietnam) and it’s very beautiful.

An hour’s ride took us up to Dinh Vua Mèo, a baroque French villa built in 1921 and fairly well-preserved. We wandered around looking at stuff and I grabbed another Geocache behind the main building.

One downside of our tour was our drivers didn’t speak a lot of English, so we didn’t get many explanations of what we were looking at. However, there were English-language placards in most places, so that helped.

By this point it was really getting overcast, and our drivers had us change into waterproof clothes. They were very diligent about having us swap into rain gear when needed, even tying plastic bags around our shoes when our plastic booties got tore up later in the trip.

Lunch was very similar to the day before, with a selection of meat, rice, noodles, and veg. We also had a cabbage soup, which helped since it was getting fairly cold out.

After lunch, we went to Ma Pi Leng Skywalk, a hiking trail which lead to great views. We totally weren’t expecting to hike over a kilometer, and honestly I struggled getting up and down the trail. Jelly legs after two days of motorbike, I suppose!

Quick stop at Ma Pi Leng Pass viewpoint, where we could look down and see our next destination: the Du lịch Hẻm Tu Sản marina where we boarded a sightseeing boat to check out the Mỏm đá Tu Sản. It was raining quite a bit at this point, but it was still very pretty. Next to us was the Jasmine tour group on their own boat, which blasted music as they floated down the river.

By this point it had been a long day, half of it in the rain, and we were all exhausted. However, we still had a ways to go until we got to our homestay for the night, Honey Homestay Đồng Văn. After one quick viewpoint stop, we made it to the homestay right before night fell.

Dinner perked us all up, and of course our favorite dinner drink: happy water! This one tasted different than the first night’s happy water, and I much preferred it…or else I was just used to the taste after who knows how many cups of it.

The drivers tried to do another round of shots, where they toast every person individually and everyone drinks– with 10 people in our group, that’s a lot of drinking! Most of the others begged out of it, but I somehow got a taste for the happy water and managed to keep drinking. Then again, I was doing half-full glasses at a time rather than full ones. ;P

Once again there was karaoke, and once again I heard very loud, enthusiastic Germans singing 99 Luftballoons as I tried to get to sleep.

At least two people in our group were getting sick at this point, whether from the rain or from something else. Because we were in a more rural area, it can be hard to find pharmacies to stop at, so I recommend bringing a selection of medicine with you— including cold and flu medicine if possible.

Day 3: Dong Van to Yen Minh

This was the rainiest day, where we spent nearly the whole time in our rain gear. Luckily it wasn’t a heavy downpour, but mostly just a soft drizzle. Still, the fog was intense! I feel bad for the people who started their tours on this day, as the viewpoints were no doubt 95% fogged over.

Our group in front of the Lung Cu Flag Point.

Lung Cu Flag Point, our first major stop, was totally fogged over. Normally you’d be able to climb to the top and see over into China, but with the weather the way it was there was absolutely nothing to see. Still, I doggedly went up the tower anyway so at least I can say I did it!

The Moon Surface and view over towards the Plateau

Our next major stop was Dong Van Plateau and the “Moon Surface” spot, where a rock formation has formed that looks a little like, well, the moon’s surface. Makes for interesting photos but it’s a little dangerous in the rain, especially if you’re wearing rain booties like we were. There’s also a horrible toilet here if you have an emergency.

Lunch was miserable, the worst one we had all tour– and the owner’s father tried to get the two men in our group drunk. The less said about it, the better.

Our group split after lunch. 🙁 The three day tourers headed back to the hostel, and the four day tourers (including me) kept going. We got down to just four people plus our drivers, so it was a VERY small group that continued onward!

Of course, our next stop was MOUNTAIN Coffee viewpoint, where there’s a cafe and a nice viewpoint. Lots of fog still, but it had settled further down into the valleys and honestly looked pretty cool from high up.

We stayed there for a while and then leisurely made our way to our homestay for the night, Mun’s Homestay.

The bed situation was the weirdest one yet, where three mattresses fit into a small room. It looks kinda like one big bed, honestly!

Dinner was VERY good though, with crispy chicken and french fries (my favorite!) and other stuff on platters. Yum!

I went to bed (relatively) early again, and slept so deeply I didn’t even hear my roommates come in.

Day 4: Yen Minh to Ha Giang

Unfortunately, I woke up to wet socks and shoes. It was so damp that nothing dried overnight, and so I had to wear my wet stuff all day. Yuck!

We left very late in the day, as we only had a small amount of things to see and a short ride back to Safari Hostel at the end. Rather than pack everything up, we went on a short jaunt to Thâm Luông Waterfall.

Ideally, you go up to the waterfall and jump in. In reality, the line to the waterfall was so crowded (on narrow paths) that I noped out of there and went back to the coffee shop area. My driver bought be a drip coffee and we watched some other tour drivers play Chinese chess.

We went back to the homestay, and those that jumped into the waterfall took showers and got changed into dry clothes. Then we all packed up and went to our next stop, the Lung Tam Linen Cooperative.

The Lung Tam Linen Cooperative is a local-run fabric making/weaving/dying/etc. place where you can take a free tour and see them make linen in the local style. Our tour driver leader told us how they do each step, and it was really neat seeing how they did it!

There’s of course a shop at the end of the tour, and I bought some small souvenirs. They had everything from clothing to pillows to purses, so be sure to bring cash if you want to buy something.

Luckily it stopped raining at some point so we took off our rain gear– only to put it back on again later. Eventually the rain kept away for the rest of the day, and our drivers tossed our rain gear on a trash pile at one of the viewpoints.

We stopped for lunch, which was much better than the day before. It was so weird only having four people eating together, rather than the large group from the day before. Kind of a bittersweet feeling.

Our last stop was a viewpoint: Cát Lý Camping (with a coffee shop). We spent quite a bit of time here, and the Jasmine group showed up at some point which made it feel like a full house. But it’s a beautiful view from high up on a platform, as always.

That viewpoint is only half an hour from the hostel, so we rode back fairly quickly and arrived in the afternoon. The rest of my tour group was heading out that night on overnight buses, but I booked a stay at the hostel so I could take a day bus back to Hanoi the next day.

In the end my wet socks from the day before still smelled so much that I had no hope of reviving them, so I tossed them. My shoes were also on their last legs at this point so I tossed those, too. I went down to one pair of socks and only sandals, but luckily it’s warm nearly everywhere in Southeast Asia so I didn’t really need them for the rest of my trip.

Ha Giang Loop: final thoughts

Going as an “easy rider” meant I didn’t have to drive or plan anything— luckily! It took some adjusting to get used to being on the back of a small motorcycle, but after the first day it got much easier. Most of the roads were in good condition, though there were a few places with landslides (since cleaned up) or heavy damage (very bumpy). The bumpy roads made me nervous, but we had really good drivers who navigated them expertly.

My driver was so considerate and kind, and in fact the whole crew of drivers were friendly and fun. Only our leader spoke English, but we got by with Google Translate wen needed.

I truly enjoyed my time on the Loop, even with 2.5 days of heavy rain! It was one of the most fun things I’ve done on my trip this year, and I highly recommend it!

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Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...


  • Becky T

    Great info! My husband and I are planning to do the loop in Sept 2024. We will be traveling with our closed toe Keen sandals with socks, no runners. I guess our feet will be wet, regardless. 😊

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