In this article, I want to share with you my 6 reasons to do the Ha Giang loop. Because, SPOILER ALERT it’s essential that you make time to do it if you come to Vietnam. Very especially if you already plan to be anywhere north of Hoi-An.
The Ha Giang loop is easily one of the best things you can do in Vietnam, let alone in Southeast Asia. This breathtaking motorbike route features mesmerising switchbacks, a culturally diverse populous and some of the best views in the world.
Not sure if it’s worth going “that far north” for? Unsure if you have enough time? Here are my 6 reasons to do the Ha Giang loop. Let’s see if they help you make up your mind:
1. It features some of the best motorbiking roads in the world
The Ha Giang loop boasts landscapes that will leave you breathless thanks to some of the best motorbiking roads in the world. In Southeast Asia, getting around via motorbike is the norm. And the locals of northern Vietnam enjoy some of the best roads imaginable. There’s nothing like the experience of riding a motorbike through the switchbacks and twists of these unique roads!
The landscape and terrain provide a great place for learning and perfecting your motorbike skills. And if you’re already an experienced rider, you’ll appreciate the joy of the routes even more. Once you’ve done the Ha Giang loop you will find it easy (and possibly mundane) to motorbike anywhere else! There are not many countries that can offer this unique experience.
If you’re worried about your motorbike skills, read Am I skilled enough to ride the Ha Giang loop?
On the other hand, riding a motorbike here gives you the luxury of being able to stop and park pretty much whenever and wherever you like. There are lots of homes and places you can park your bike safely (some will keep an eye on your bike for roughly 5000 Dong) while you stretch your legs by hiking up one of the karsts or refreshing yourself in a river or under one of the waterfalls. This possibility also allows you time to admire the views and catch your breath.
The Ha Giang loop is undoubtedly the most unique and special ride you’ll have during your time in Vietnam. It’s one of those “you need to see it to believe it” experiences. Anyone can tell you how incredible it is, and you can look at as many photos and videos as you like. But you need to experience it for yourself to truly understand the majesty.
2. You can tune into nature’s frequency
During the loop, you’ll experience a variety of different landscapes and geological forms. You’ll cross through staggering rice fields, luscious forests, imposing rocky cliff faces, rolling green hills and beautiful mountain valleys, to name a few.
The photos you see will only give you a glimpse of what it’s really like. You must see and feel it for yourself to understand why it’s regarded as the final frontier in adventure tourism in Vietnam. The views can stretch out for miles in some places, and in others the surrounding mountains make you feel like you’re in a natural amphitheatre.
The diversity of the loop and the beauty of the stunning natural surroundings will leave you in constant awe. Driving or riding on the back of a motorbike is certainly the best way to experience the landscape. Seeing it from inside a car or van just doesn’t compare.
3. It’s an authentic Vietnamese experience
While the natural aspect is absolutely breathtaking, there is nothing quite like winding down at the end of the day at an authentic Vietnamese homestay. There are a variety of welcoming home stays along the loop. There, you can eat with the locals, enjoy the Vietnamese way of life and get a good night’s sleep in traditionally constructed wooden houses.
This is often people’s favorite part of the loop. Because you have a chance to come together with other bike tour adventurers and trade experiences and stories for new inspirations and ideas. You’ll also get to enjoy an authentic dinner with the family of the homestay, where you will indulge in their homemade food and corn wine. In English, we say “Cheers!”, in Spanish, “¡Salud!” and in Vietnam it’s customary to say “Một hai ba dzô!” when raising a glass of happy water. Get used to it… you’ll be hearing it a lot!
4. There’s a wide variety of cultural and historical aspects
In Sà Phìn, roughly 18km west of Dong Van, lies the mansion of the Vuong Family, also known as the “Opium palace”. The solid H’Mong fortification was built during the French colonial rule for Vương Chính Đức in the early 1900’s. It shows a Chinese influenced architectural style and has retained many of its original features to this day.
In Lung Tam village, you’ll find the “Lung Tam Flax Cooperative”. Vàng Thị Mai created it in 2001, and it’s had an immensely positive impact on the lives of the local H’Mong people in Ha Giang since then. Vàng Thị Mai was named in the top 50 of Forbes Vietnam’s most influential women in 2017. Why? Well, due to her pioneering role in bringing H’Mong brocade products to both the domestic and international markets. Working with local H’Mong women, she has created an economically sustainable cooperative. This project aims to develop and maintain traditional values and skills of the region’s people.
Possibly one of the most unique experiences of the loop is that you’ll encounter the local people who call the remote mountain villages home. The H’Mông, Tày and Dao, to name a few, live here. They’re friendly & kind, always offering smiles and waves while you pass through their village.
If you want to know more about this, you can read Info & tips about ethnic minority groups in Ha Giang, Vietnam.
If you take a guide, oftentimes they’ll show you what the tribe is all about. This interesting cultural and educational excursion can often be the best part of your trip.
5. The food
Having grown up in London, my pallet had experienced food from all over the world before I’d even left the country. But one of my favourites was always Vietnamese food. I’ve always been a big fan of Phở, Bánh mì and Nem, three go-to Vietnamese foods. But during my journey around the loop, I realised there’s much more to the nation’s cuisine than I had first thought.
On my first night while doing the loop, I arrived at one of the home-stays called “Ly Quoc Thang”, in Quản Bạ. There, they invited me to take a seat at a table laden for dinner. And so they brought homemade Nem Rán (Spring rolls), Cơm (Rice), Thịt Lợn Rán (Fried pork), Măng (Bamboo shoots), Đậu xanh (Green beans) and đậu phụ (Tofu). The food is typically much milder than in southern Vietnam, but equally as flavourful. If you feel you need an extra kick of heat, you can always request some Tương ớt (Chili sauce)!
Each of the homestays I went to had the same high level of food on offer. And it’s all cooked under their own roofs and made freshly for guests everyday. Aside from the warm welcome, this is one of the main reasons I’d highly recommend staying at a homestay.
6. Nobody ever regrets this experience
Boasting staggering natural beauty, unique cultural immersion and delicious food – The experience is truly like no other. Whether you are going for 3 days or 10, it promises to leave a lasting impression on you as one of the highlights of your trip to Vietnam.
As popularity among travellers grows, you’re bound to meet more and more people who will tell you the same thing about their time here: “This was the best thing I’ve done in Southeast Asia, and possibly my life”.
“We loved it and we’re definitely coming back” is a very common response when people are asked “How was your ride?”. It’s extremely rare that you’ll meet anyone who’s not enjoyed their time on the loop. It’s sure to be a life changing experience that you won’t forget.
You can read some of the hundreds of Trip Advisor reviews on QT Motorbikes & Tours to see if I’m lying about people’s amazing experiences!