I am QT – I wish to personally welcome you to Ha Giang
Hi my name is Quang Tan or more known as simply QT.
I have for many years worked as a professional motorbike tour guide around the whole of Vietnam. I truly love my beautiful country. There are many places you as a visitor will hope to see. As you are already reading this you have begun to discover the gem of places to visit. It is not only me stating this, read a sample of the many reviews of my business on TripAdvisor or Google Map. Every other review conclude with ‘best we did in Vietnam’, ‘wished we had had more days for Ha Giang’, ‘best thing on our South-east Asian trip’. The scenery, beauty and its people of Ha Giang is beyond what words can describe or a pictures can capture. It has to be lived to be taken in. I try my utmost to give you the best gateway to discover Ha Giang. I have a lot of motorbikes of various types, I run a hostel in Ha Giang town (also where I and my family live) and do besides rentals organised tours both on motorbikes and in cars. Please, read on, get tempted and lured on – your decision to come to Ha Giang will never be regretted. I will look forward to hear from you soon with your booking and and announcement when you will come to what still is one of the best kept secrets of Vietnam.
Hà Giang – Province and provincial capital
Hà Giang is both the name of the province and the provincial capital and is situated some 320 km north of Hanoi. Around 6,5 hours by bus, principally the only way of arrival and departing the province. It is the furthest most northern province sitting at the top of Vietnam with a very mountainous topography. The province shares a 270 km long border with Yunnan province of southern China and often called the final frontier of Vietnam. The province is the home of many ethnic minorities such as Kinh, H’Mông, Tày, Dao,Nùng, and Lô Lô.
The population of Hà Giang Province is estimated to be a bit above 700,000 over a total land area of 7,945.8 square kilometers (3,067.9 sq mi). Hence, it is also one of the least populated provinces in Vietnam.
Particular the northern part of the province has impressive limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. North of Hà Giang town you find some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. While the trip between Yên Minh and Đồng Văn, and then across the Ma Pi Leng Pass (one of highest passes in Vietnam) to Mèo Vạc is quite mind-blowing, there are other areas with as fabulous landscapes that we at QT will reveal only to our customers.
The two highest peaks are Tây Côn Lĩnh (2419 m) and the Kiều Liêu Ti (2,402 m). The topography also makes agriculture constrained causing it to be one of the poorer regions. More than 14 local languages are spoken around the province.
How to get to and from Hà Giang?
From Hanoi the bus station with most buses is Mỹ Đình (some 10 km, 6 miles west of Hoàn Kiếm Lake) where you find day buses leaving from 4.30 am till 13.30 with close to hourly departures. The night buses begin departing from 18.00 till 21.30. Both the day and night buses are sleeping couches (with no toilets inside). The bus journey takes roughly 6 ½ hours 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.
Your hostel/hotel in Hanoi can help you book tickets. If you arrive yourself to the bus station without ticket stay clear of touts (who sadly will do their best to cheat you for fares) and pay only by the ticket counter or if taken to the bus and being assigned a seat do not pay before departure. The bus conductor will take up bus fare some time into the journey. The price should be VND 200,000 (approx. US$9) except peak season.
Please also note that there are direct buses to and from Halong Bay or Cat Ba (Hai Phong) to Ha Giang.
Need for permit in northern Hà Giang
Hà Giang is sadly the last place in Vietnam where foreigners are required to obtain a permit – apparently on account of the perceived sensitivity of the border with China. These permits are required to travel on the road north from Tam Son to Dong Van and Meo Vac. Nevertheless, QT or your hotel are happy to assist you to get this provincial ‘admission permit’ (Dong Van Geopark permit). It cost VND 230,000 (approx. US$ 11 per person)
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 passing rain might be expected. The cooler period is from end November to early March and is often also the drier period.
Is the Vietnamese traffic as crazy as I hear?
Yes, in the big cities the traffic is hectic to put it mildly. However, in Hà Giang and most of northern Vietnam you are far from the buzzing city madness and will enjoy roads with little traffic and experiencing no congestion. However, mountain roads have their own hazards and charms. Many of the roads in Hà Giang have in the last few years seen quite some upgrading and is not as bad as someone experienced travelling here in the past. Mud slides, sharp bends, the occasional pothole, steepness up and down the mountains still beg the attention, honking your horn and a sensible speed (especially in rainy weather). If you have not driven motor bikes before, Hà Giang might not be the place to start and we would advise to hire a local driver/guide and enjoy sitting pillion behind an experienced driver. That said, we train complete beginners every week.
Why QT Motorbikes and Tours does not rent fully automatic bikes
Many might have rented fully automatic bikes elsewhere in Vietnam. We have decided to not provide these. Simply for your safety. Climbing hills up and down is really not the safest way to travel on a motorbike if you are inexperienced. If you are experienced on fully automatic bikes it not too hard to master a semi-automatic bike. For a nominal fee of US$5 we let our customer have a full one-hour training and practice before setting off on your adventure.
On a paid tour what expenses are not covered?
We cover everything except your private travel insurance, tips, souvenirs, telephone calls, snacks and alcohol.
Do I need a local motorbike license?
You probably do. A motorbike license from your home-country is not valid here. Obtaining a local license is a time-consuming affair. To pass the written test you also need to be fluent in Vietnamese. As our customer we will not vet you. However, you should understand that it is you who need to comply with Vietnam traffic laws and other laws. While most foreigners are unlikely to be stopped by police you may still get into problem if involved in an accident. Many tourists in Vietnam travel without a local driving license. Our advice is therefore, ensure you have a travel insurance that cover you in the event of an accident and do consider taking the seat behind one of our guides/driver.
“The traveler sees what he sees,
the tourist sees what he has come to see”
What to carry for my trip?
First of all, if your trip starts and ends in Hà Giang you are welcome to store any excess luggage in our office 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, please
Your personal medication/first aid kit
Mosquito repellent & sunscreen
Flip-flops or some other light shoes for evenings
Clothing adjusted to season. Rain coat in all season. Remember the winter months up the mountains (especially evenings) can be quite chilly and the summer months really hot. Clothing is easily available in Vietnam, but you may have a challenge to find larger seizes in both clothes and shoes.
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 helmet, nothing will fit you as well and be as trusted, as the one at home, so when possible bring with 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 both be able to translate and help you through. If not, call our office from where we will do our best to assist and resolve the situation. Worth knowing is that in Vietnam it is expected for the bigger of the vehicles involved in an accident to pay. For example, a vehicle driver will pay a cyclist, a driver will pay the motorcycle driver, etc. In case you disagree with the other party we or the other party will call police and they will resolve the issue.
“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 should hopefully not experience any problems. If you would still need a mechanic, there are motorbike workshops in most little villages. Contact QT as you still might need someone to translate and have your problem explained.
Where to get petrol?
Just 300m from QT Motorbikes and Tours you find the first petrol station to fill up. Thereafter you will find petrol stations in all towns on your journey. In small villages you may also small family petrol stations. Hence, you are unlikely to have any issue with petrol.
What is the quality of hotel and food on a tour?
When travelling the countryside and northern mountains of Vietnam you are, besides in a few cities, not likely to find Western cuisine.
When in remote areas, quality and availability may vary and if you are concerned about food safety you may stock some snacks and pre-packaged/processed food when passing a town. No shortage of choices here in Vietnam.
Accommodation should not worry you. Hotels or Nhà Nghỉ (motels/guest house) are generally and in all price-ranges, clean and well-equipped. In rural Vietnam there is also the option to do a Homestay, which in simple terms is staying and eating with a local family that avails accommodation in their home. Please note that Homestay marked facilities in the towns are often more like a hostel or hotel. This option is a very good way to see and meet the life of the people around 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 obviously 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 official 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 the north of Hà Giang province. The karst plateau is created by at least 80 percent limestone and many fossils of ancient creatures 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, who have distinctive cultures that have been fostered over the centuries.
The plateau is one of the most spectacular and magic place to travel around 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 shorter or longer time, there is quite a few things you can do around Hà Giang town. At QT we are happy to give you ideas about day-tours or short one-night trips. Visit to one of the many villages in the area with their surrounding rice paddies. 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. Many options for trekking, swimming in one of the different waterfalls or hop on an ordinary bicycle and find your way around. You might wish to visit the temple, the Hà Giang Provincial Museum and learn more about the province minority groups.
17 km from Hà Giang Town you have the interesting Lake Noong. In rainy season, you can visit Lake Noong by raft or float; while in dry season, the water is so shallow that you can hardly find any water. Going through forests towards the lake you pass terraced fields and hamlets of the Tay, Mong and Dao people, and the lake lays at foot of Noong Mountain. This natural lake has a total area of water surface of over 20ha in dry season and 80ha in rainy season. It is surrounded by mountains and primitive forests. Under the sun or on moonlit nights, the lake’s water surface is twinkling and seems to be silver-inlaid. Therefore, the locals called it the forest’s “eye”.
What to do on the classic loop of north Hà Giang?
Travelling out of Hà Giang town, on road QL4C, to the north you will after some 28 km (17 miles) reach the gate of the Geopark before reaching up the the Heaven’s Gate Pass, 3 km south of Tam Sơn town, which is situated 49 km (30 miles) from Hà Giang in Quản Bạ. Before reaching down to the town you will see the famed Quan Ba Twin Mountain or Fairy Bosom twin conical hills. The legend has it that a fairy after a sad love affair left her breast on earth which turned into twin mountains. According to the legend, the milk from her breast creates the cool climate, and gives fruits and vegetable its delicious flavors. Tears of the fairy turned into Mien River, embracing the silvers of land behind the legendary gate.
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 magnificent stalactites and shapes. There is a one kilometer walk up to the cave from a local house where you will park your bike.
Next town you will pass is Yên Minh 53 km (33 miles) from Tam Sơn. On the way you will drive along the lovely Lô River, with mountains on either side before getting through a mountain pine forest. 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 19th century, the house is located in Sa Phin valley. In the French time, Ha Giang was the kingdom of opium, H’Mong people in the region made their living by growing opium and Vuong Chinh Duc earned a lot of silver money by selling opium to the Chinese across the border. You have a junction where you by taking left will reach 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 likened as “a high forehead of the motherland” which marks the extreme North of our country. From its top, visitors can see the whole of the beautiful and spectacular landscape and on a clear day into China. From Lũng Cú to Đồng Văn it is 24 km (15 miles).