I am QT – I wish to personally welcome you to Ha Giang
Hi, my name is Quang Tan or more known simply as QT.
I have worked as a professional motorbike tour guide around the whole of Vietnam for many years. I truly love my beautiful country but most so the spectacular Ha Giang province. Since opening up this business on October 24, 2015 my team and I have served many foreign and domestic customers that have given us great reviews on Tripadvisor or Google. Most of these reviews conclude their trip in Ha Giang as the ‘best experience in Vietnam’, ‘wished we had had more days for Ha Giang’, ‘best thing on our South-east Asian trip’. The beautiful scenery and the heart warming hospitality of the people of Ha Giang are beyond what words or pictures can capture. I will try my utmost to be the best gateway to discover Ha Giang. I have close to 200 bikes in my fleet and many various types of models for you to choose among and I also run QT Hostel in Ha Giang town (also where I and my family live). Besides bike rentals, we also organize tours both on motorbikes and on cars. Your decision to come to Ha Giang will never be regretted, and I look forward to hearing from you soon. Below follows some answers to the most common questions and facts customers ask for:
Hà Giang – Province and provincial capital
Hà Giang is situated some 320 km north of Hanoi. The only way of transport to Ha Giang is by bus or car and takes about 5,5 to 7 hours. It is the furthest northern province of Vietnam and is surrounded by a mountainous geography. The province shares a 270 km long border with Yunnan province of southern China and is often called the final frontier of Vietnam. The province is home to as many as 23 ethnic minorities such as the Kinh, the H’Mông, the Tày, the Dao, the Nùng, and the Lô Lô.
Hà Giang Province has an estimated population of 700,000 people and has a total land area of 7,945.8 square kilometers (3,067.9 sq mi). It is one of the least populated provinces in Vietnam.
The northern part of the province has many limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. Most of the spectacular scenery is placed north of Hà Giang town. Specifically, the road between Dong Van and Mèo Vạc, through the Ma Pi Leng Pass is quite mind-blowing and spectacular.
How to get to and from Hà Giang?
From Hanoi go to Mỹ Đình bus station (some 10 km, 6 miles west of Hoàn Kiem Lake), where you will find day buses leaving from 5.30 am till 13.30 with close to hourly departures. The night buses begin departing from 18.00 till 21.00. Both the day and night buses are sleeper buses (with no toilets inside). The bus journey takes roughly 6 ½ hours (a bit longer on day-buses due to more traffic) with one mid-way stop. Note that the night buses arrive Hà Giang very early, but most bus companies let customer stay on-board and continue sleeping till dawn arrives.
The return buses to Hanoi depart with similar intervals as from Hanoi. From Hà Giang you can also get direct night buses to Ninh Bình, Ha Long, Hai Phong (to connect to Cat Ba Island) QT will be more than happy to help you with bookings from Hà Giang if you have rented or toured with us. For Sa Pa, Lào Cai, Cao Bang and a few other smaller towns, there are only local day buses to connect with.
A few other facts/tips to know about buses and tickets:
- We are aware that there are at least two internet sites offering booking of buses (they are not bus companies) and charge a commission and only advertise for a very limited number of companies.
- Ordinary bus ticket is VND 200,000 on all buses to and from Ha Giang/Hanoi.
- While logistically very easy for me to assist customers with bookings from Ha Giang I try to ‘stay away’ from involvement in booking to Ha Giang. With more than 150 customers passing through my garage and hostel on any given week I simply do not have the capacity.
- Many are asking a Vietnamese to call and do the booking (bus customer do not have to pay in advance with a confirmed booking you pay the conductor on the bus, so if you find a helpful person also take their name as the seats likely will be in his/her name) or get assistant from hostel/hotel or any small travel agent (then likely you have to pay a small commission).
- Normally, except on holidays, there should be no big issue to get tickets on arrival to My Dinh bus station (Bến xe Mỹ Đình) in Hanoi. Figure out where the buses to Ha Giang departs (normally parking 46) and ask first departing bus for a seat (between 18.30 and 21.00 for most night buses or 5.30 till noon for most day buses). If anyone ask for ticket on the way to find out the bus, just state that it is on the bus. (You normally pay the bus conductor ½ hour into the journey)
Need for permit in northern Hà Giang
Hà Giang is sadly the last place in Vietnam where foreigners are required to obtain a permit – on account of the perceived sensitivity of the border with China. These permits are required to travel on the road north from Tam Son to Dong Van and Meo Vac. Nevertheless, QT or your hotel are happy to assist you to get this provincial ‘admission permit’ (Dong Van Geopark permit). It cost VND 230,000 (approx. US$ 11 per person). That said, there might be means around it and we will tell you more about that on arrival to Ha Giang.
What is the best season for rides in northern Vietnam?
There is really no best season for a motorbike ride. Each season has its unique characteristics and advantages, as well as, a range of local festivals. Summer runs from April into October with the months of June and July being the hottest. The cool and dry season starts from the end of November to early March. Expect December into mid-March to offer fairly chilly rides up on the mountains so bring warm clothes in that period. We often get the question if it is likely to rain. Yes, it is likely to rain on any day in any place in Vietnam – that is why this country is so green and lush. However, weather up in the mountains is very changeable and it, like the views, can shift from valley to valley.
Is traffic crazy in Vietnam?
Yes, in the big cities the traffic is hectic; however, in Hà Giang you are far from the busy cities and will enjoy roads with little or no traffic. However, mountain roads have their own hazards to watch out for. There can be mud slides, sharp bends, pothole, and steep terrain that one must be cautious of. Honking your horn and maintaining a sensible speed (especially in rainy weather) is the best way to a safe ride. Despite all these hazards, many of the roads in Hà Giang have been repaved in the last few years and most of the ride should be smooth. If you have no or little experience riding a motorcycle, we do wish to alert you that these roads are the most challenging you can attempt in Vietnam. At QT Motorbikes and Tours we do offer free training and practice till you are confident. That said, prior practice is highly advised or better book (in advance) on of our trusted and experienced guide or drivers to take you out on your adventure.
Why QT Motorbikes and Tours does not rent fully automatic bikes
Many of you may feel more comfortable riding a fully automatic bike; however, we decided not provide these because riding down steep hills without engine brake is simply very unsafe. If you have experience riding on a fully automatic bike, it is not too hard to master a semi-automatic bike. For free we let our customers have up to a full one-hour training and practice before setting off on your adventure, but please see our caution in previous paragraph.
Going two on one bike? Worthy facts to take note of
For most ‘normal sized’ people all our bikes can take two persons. Of course, the bigger the bike and engine you have, the more power and suspension to make the ride more enjoyable.
Now, please be strongly advised that going two on one bike should only be an option for very experienced drivers. It should not be seen as a budget matter to save a little money on the expense of risk and security of both driver and passenger. The roads of Ha Giang are not flat and easy driven as roads around Da Nang, Mekong Delta, etc. so ‘a little experience’ in such circumstances might not be the experience you need here in the mountains. We will not prevent or stop people who wish to go two on one. The decision and responsibility are fully yours.
If going two on one these are extracts from the American Motorcycle Safety Foundation that is worth your reading:
- You need to be experienced in the motorcycle’s operation and have a safety-oriented attitude before taking on the added responsibility of carrying a passenger.
- Passengers should be considered as a second “active” rider so they can help ensure that safety and procedural operations are correctly followed.
- A passenger will affect the handling characteristics of a motorcycle due to the extra weight and independent motion. Braking procedures may be affected. Braking sooner and/or with greater pressure may be required.
- More weight over the rear tire may increase the usefulness and stopping power of the rear brake, especially in quick stop situations and riding on downhill will cause braking distance to increase compared to a flat surface.
- Extra caution is called for in a corner because of the extra weight. Cornering clearances may be affected and more time and space will be needed for passing.
- Be ready to counter the effects of side-winds and avoid extreme speeds and dramatic lean angles
- Be ready for a passenger “bump” with their helmet or with their whole body sliding forward during hard braking.
- Have the passenger mount after the motorcycle’s stand is raised and the motorcycle is securely braced. Hold the front brake lever if the surface isn’t level.
Ensure passengers follow safety procedures:
- Hold driver’s waist or hips, or motorcycle’s passenger hand-holds.
- Keep feet on footrests at all times, including while stopped.
- When in a corner, look over the driver’s shoulder in the direction of the corner.
- Avoid turning around or making sudden moves that might affect operation (extremely important when going downhill)
- If crossing an obstacle, stand on the pegs with the knees slightly bent and allow the legs to absorb the shock upon impact.
On a paid tour what expenses are not covered?
We cover everything except your private travel insurance, tips, souvenirs, telephone calls, snacks, and alcohol.
Should I tip or should I not?
Tipping is commonly seen as an action showing the tipper’s courtesy and appreciation towards another who has conducted a service towards them
Tipping is not customary in Vietnam though it is highly appreciated. In fact, tipping is not a habit among Vietnamese, unless going for massage or upscale restaurants. Our advice is however that you should tip to reward good service, polite/friendly/professional service, or service that exceeds your expectations. Be this in your homestay, hotel, restaurant or for your massage it will always be welcomed.
Tipping tour guides is much appreciated. Being a tour guide means having to stay far from their family and friends for a long time and working no matter what the weather is. Tour guides also play a big role in making a tour successful and they may become a good friend of yours during your journey. So, if the adventure you experienced is truly awesome, you can let the guides know by giving them a tip of around USD 10-15 per day or around 10% of your tour-cost.
Do I need a local motorbike license?
A motorbike license from your home-country is valid if you have it translated into an International Driving License. As our customer we will not make any check on the validity of your license; however, you should understand that it is your responsibility to comply with Vietnam traffic laws. While most foreigners are unlikely to be stopped by the police you may still get into problems if involved in an accident. We are aware that many tourists in Vietnam travel without valid motorcycle driving license. Our advice is, therefore, ensure you have a travel insurance that covers you in the event of an accident or consider taking the seat behind one of our guides/drivers.
“The traveler sees what he sees,
the tourist sees what he has come to see”
What to carry for my trip?
First, if your trip starts and ends in Hà Giang you are welcome to store any excess luggage in our secure storage during your trip. Free of charge
The following are items you may consider bringing with you:
-Sturdy footwear/riding boots – never think of riding a motorbike in flip-flops or sandals
-Your personal medication/first aid kit
-Mosquito repellent & sunscreen
-Flip-flops or some other light shoes for evenings
-Clothing adjusted to the season. Rain coat in all season. Remember the winter months up the mountains (especially evenings) can be quite chilly and the summer months really humid. Clothing can easily be bought in Vietnam, but you may find larger sizes difficult.
-Your various chargers and “must have” gadgets
-Emergency contact numbers
-Basic toiletries and a small towel
-Small water-proof bag(s) for documents, camera etc. when it rains
-Helmets and other protective gear. Though we provide a helmet, we may not have the right size for you.
If I have an accident what do I do?
If you are unfortunate to have an accident hopefully you are on a trip with one of our guides who will be able to translate and help you. If not, you can call our office and we will do our best to assist and resolve the situation and/or give you directions to nearest clinic/hospital, mechanical workshop. We do have a 24/7 hotline where we can assist you and help with translation service.
Hopefully you will also do like most our customers and go with our optional bike damage insurance. With it you will be covered for all and any damage to your bike if you are unfortunate to go down with it, but maybe more important it would also cover transport of you and the bike back to Ha Giang city would you be injured in such way you can’t continue drive, or the bike is so damaged that it can not locally be repaired. This insurance starts at VND 100,000 for the smaller bikes up to 300,000 for our ‘big’ bikes.
“Safety doesn’t happen by accident”
wear your helmet and drive responsible
If I have problems with the bike?
Our bikes are new and well maintained so you probably won`t experience any problems. If there is a mechanical problem by any chance, there are many motorbike workshops in most little villages. You can always contact QT, to explain the problems to the local mechanic.
Where to get petrol/gasoline?
Just 300m from QT Motorbikes and Tours you can find the first petrol station. Thereafter you will find petrol stations in all towns on your journey. On the map we will provide you with we have also marked out all places. In small villages you may also find small family shops that sell petrol in on local pumps. Keep in mind that petrol is more expensive in smaller villages and the one in bottles not always pure, so try to avoid buying bottled petrol.
What is the quality of hotel and food on a tour?
When travelling the countryside and northern mountains of Vietnam you are not likely to find any Western cuisine.
When in remote areas, quality and availability of food may vary. If you are concerned about food safety you may stock some snacks and pre-packaged/processed food when passing a town.
Accommodation should not be a problem. Hotels or Nhà Nghỉ (motels/guest house) are generally cheap, clean, and well-equipped. In rural Vietnam there is also the option to do a Homestay, which is staying and eating with a local family in their home. This option is a very good way to see and live the local life of the people in Vietnam. The facilities are for obvious reason much simpler than hotel or hostel.
If you travel on your own QT will help with bookings and give contacts and ideas for your stay along the way. When staying in Hà Giang town we recommend you to stay with QT and his family at QT Hostel.
tp. and tt. and ATM?
Hà Giang province is subdivided into 11 district-level sub-divisions: 10 districts: Bắc Mê, Bắc Quang, Đồng Văn, Hoàng Su Phì, Mèo Vạc, Quản Bạ, Quảng Bình, Vị Xuyên, Xín Mần, Yên Minh, and 1 provincial city: Hà Giang (capital). On maps you will see tp. and tt. before town names. tp. = provincial capital and tt. = district capital.
Tam Sơn (on road signs and maps often named Quản Bạ), Yên Minh, Đồng Văn, and Mèo Vạc are the towns that you are most likely to pass or make a stop at when travelling in Hà Giang. At each of these towns there are ATM cash points.
Dong Van Karst Plateau Global Geopark
Dong Van rocky highland Geopark was promoted as the 77th member of the UNESCO Global Geopark Network on 3/10/2010. It became the first global Geopark in Viet Nam, the second in Southeast Asia. It covers major parts of north Hà Giang province. The karst plateau is created from 80 percent limestone and you can find many fossils from 400 – 600 million years ago. Its average elevation is 1400 -1600 meters above sea level. The area is inhabited by 17 different ethnic groups, that all have distinctive cultures fostered over the centuries.
The plateau has one of the most spectacular scenery in Vietnam. Many of QT customers who have traveled around South-East Asia claim it to be their most memorable part of travel ever done.
What to do around Hà Giang town?
If you have time to hang around town, there are quite a few things you can do around Hà Giang. At QT we are happy to give you ideas about day-tours or short one-night trips. You can visit one of the many villages in the area . Stay at a homestay in one of the thatched stilt houses that make up the villages and eat and learn to know about daily life in the village. There are many options for trekking routes, and many different waterfalls and rivers to go swimming in. You can also visit the Hà Giang Provincial Museum and learn more about the province minority groups.
During rainy season, you can visit Lake Noong (17km from Ha Giang) by raft; while in dry season, the water is so shallow that you can hardly find any water. This natural lake has a total area of over 20ha in dry season and 80ha in rainy season. It is surrounded by mountains and primitive forests. The lake’s water surface reflects the light from the moon and sun, resulting in a majestic silver gloss. The locals calls this phenomenon as the forest’s “eye”.
What to do on the classic loop of north Hà Giang?
Travelling north about 28km out of Hà Giang town on road QL4C, you will reach the gate of the Geopark. Then you will enter the Heaven’s Gate Pass, 3 km south of Tam Sơn town. Before reaching down to the town you will see the famed Quan Ba Twin Mountain or Fairy Bosom twin conical hills. Legend has it that a fairy, after a sad love affair, left her breast on earth which turned into the twin mountains. According to the legend, the milk from her breast created a suitable climate for fruits and vegetable to flourish. The tears of the fairy created a stream of water, now known as Mien River.
Around 10 km outside the town you have the Lung Khuy cave which is located at Lung Khuy village, Quan Ba commune. The cave is the biggest on the plateau and around 300 in length with many magnificent stalactites. There is a one-kilometer walk up to the cave from a local house where you can park your bike.
The next town you will pass is Yên Minh, 53 km (33 miles) from Tam Sơn. On the way, you will ride beside the Lô River, with mountains on both sides. 30 km (18 miles) from Yên Minh you have the H’Mong King Palace which was built by Vuong Chinh Duc, a H’Mong rich and powerful man in the 19th century. During the French colonization, Ha Giang was a kingdom of opium. H’Mong people in the region made their living by growing and selling opium to the Chinese. Taking a left at the junction will lead you to the Lũng Cú flagpole after some 25 km (15 miles). This monument comprises of a tower on top of a large conical hill surrounded by rice paddies and small villages. Lũng Cú mount is known as “a high forehead of the motherland” which marks the northern most point of our country. From top of the tower, you can see the whole spectacular landscape of Northern Vietnam and also on a clear day you may even be able to see China.
Đồng Văn is the most northern town in Vietnam. Above Đồng Văn town is Fort Pu Lo, an old French fort built during the 1890`s. East of Đồng Văn you will reach the spectacular Ma Pi Leng Pass (the horse nose). You don`t want to miss the Sunday flea markets at Đồng Văn and Mèo Vạc. The markets sells many authentic goods and local luxuries that can only be bought up here.