This article will go through pros and cons of 5 ways to explore Ha Giang. My name is Quyet. I am one of the English-speaking guides in the QT Team, and I’d like to give you a local insight about this matter!
Doing the Ha Giang Loop by motorbike is said to be the best way, but bicycling, hiking, and going by car or bus are some other very pleasant ways to see this area. In this article, I want to point out the means to explore Ha Giang, one of the most magnificent areas in Vietnam, and possibly the whole world. Because not riding a bike doesn’t have to mean missing this gem!
The Ha Giang Loop by Motorcycle
The ideal way? If you like adventure, riding your bike through the twisting, winding roads is the perfect way to explore the loop and give you an incredible life experience. If you have less experience or lack confidence in riding a motorbike, riding pillion (on the back of a bike) is another great alternative. Then you can leisurely enjoy the beautiful scenery without any worries.
Of course, it can be a bit frightening when it rains or when the roads are under construction. Sometimes, on a particularly steep slope or meeting a crazy huge truck it may make you a bit scared. You may find yourself asking; “Oh my God, What should I do?? What am I gonna do?”. While you may have these moments, with a bike you have the flexibility to stop whenever you want and enjoy the view when you like. You control every single moment in your trip.
Not sure about your riding skills? Check out Am I Skilled Enough To Ride The Ha Giang Loop?… and if you’re still hesitant, this article [How Hard Is Riding The Ha Giang Loop?] might also help!
Nevertheless, you must consider how you’ll handle the rain, cold and hot weather, and your bag. Lastly, your bum may not be happy after the trip… You possibly will need an herbal bath or a good massage to make it back to normal condition!
But of course, the adventure pays off! Overall, I think motorbiking is the most rewarding among the 5 ways to explore Ha Giang.
The Ha Giang Loop by Car
Exploring the area in a car has certain advantages. It keeps you out of the rain and gives your bum a bit of a rest. Also, it makes it easier for you to carry your bags and talk to friends and family. It’s definitely the most comfy way to ride along! But while all that is great, it’s also truth you’re stuck inside while the beauty is outside.
On the other hand, this is a more expensive way to travel, compared to a motorbike. In fact, if you’re less than four persons sharing the expense, the difference in the price can be huge. But the biggest downside, I believe, is that you cannot feel the open air or indulge in the smell of rice fields, peach blossom, and someone preparing a meal. That is the smell of local life, the smell of the north.
The Ha Giang Loop by Bus
If you really want to do the loop and you refuse the idea of riding a bike or getting a car, another way is to catch a local bus. Honestly, that is not a great idea if you asked me. While the bus might sound nice and cheap, it’s crowded and it smells like chicken… so I would definitely not recommend this mean of transport. However, if you just want to go to a particular town, try some food, check in and go back, you can try it. It can actually be a very interesting experience! But completing the full loop by bus can be hard and very time-consuming.
Finally, I have to warn that exploring Ha Giang by bus, you’re not able to stop and see all amazing views and sites along the way. And do not expect much of local bus services nor drivers’ attitude!
The Ha Giang Loop by Bicycle
Riding a bike is a wonderful way to work out, protect the environment and reduce fossil fuels. But truth is, with a bicycle, the mindset is you go for the exercise rather than for the enjoying the view. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time and can be very exhausting on these steep mountains. Sometimes I see people cycling when I ride my motorbike, and it’s like they’re not moving at all when they go uphill. At that moment, I feel kind of sorry for them with their sweating… they look like “boiled lobsters”! So bear in mind you have to be fit a trained to consider this option.
Also, be aware that there is no professional agency based in Ha Giang offering suitable bikes for this mode of travel. So it seems this could work as a well planned trip, possibly with your own equipment… pros only!
The Ha Giang Loop by Foot
I love hiking, especially walking through beautiful landscapes, seeing the lively life of local people, and breathing the fresh air. And you feel “La vie en rose”. But I have to say: it’s even more tiring than bicycling. The full Ha Giang loop is approximately 400 km. Therefore, among the 5 ways to explore Ha Giang, this one might be the wildest. If you are crazy enough or just love to exercise, you may want to set out a month for this trek.
That said, there’s no harm to include some shorter 2-3 hours of hiking along the way. With or without a guide, there are plenty of paths and quite small roads to investigate.
To sum up, riding a motorbike along Ha Giang is definitely a breath-taking experience, and one that is hard to match when opting for other means of transport. There is definitely no better way to explore the area, be it driving your own bike or riding pillion, if you’re not an experienced rider. However, if you have good reasons to choose another mean of transport, Ha Giang offers different options. And of course, you can always combine these means to explore further.