The End of the road, Ha Giang
Raph is this going to be possible? We have over 12 hours of riding today, more than 200 kilometres and the worst roads to tackle. As we looked at one another we knew it wouldn't be easy, but we both said "lets do this." and it was settled.
The Royal loop would take me to the edge of China and Vietnam once more, this time, it was separated by the fourth biggest waterfall in the world.
Leaving Meo Vac in the dust, we sped off into the rugged terrain, the sun baking our skin as the skies open up to blue. The road continuously changed between perfect tarmac to gravel and mud. Making riding conditions slower than expected. Our focus was to cover as much ground as possible today, which left little time for sight seeing. Pushing the boundaries of how far our bodies could ride.
The further into the day the skies began to change and before to long the rain began to pour down, forcing us to go full poncho. Droplets whipping our faces we pushed on, frustration began to creep in, tired minds want nothing more than to rest. As the rain worsened we were forced to stop, grab a snack and wait it out.
After an hour I had enough, all I wanted to do was get to our destination, Cao bang, before I broke. I told Raph to get on his bike, Vahna, and off we went back into the rain. I knew it would thin soon, and after ten minutes, blue skies began to break through and our minds began to ease.
The final stage before Cao Bang was my favourite, the roads turned to mud with huge pot holes, filled with water. You had no idea how deep they were, too much throttle and you were out of control. Mud was going everywhere, old ladies were yelling at us for over taking them and before I knew it, Raph was once again on the floor, bike down screaming at me to hold up, he dropped Vahna four times, poor bike.
Arriving in Cao Bang, we pulled into our homestay, Primrose and were instantly greeted with open arms. The owner even took our shoes and washed the mud off them for us, what an angel. After a few beers and a wonder around town I was out cold. The forth biggest waterfall was waiting for us in the morning.
The next morning, I loaded my belly with some Bahn Me, caffeinated my brain and organised the possy. We had a crew of five today, two Kiwis, one Canadian, one Spaniard and myself.
180km of road were all that was left, and what great roads they were. Extremely wide and in excellent condition. I was so excited I could barely control my throttle hand, I was moving as fast as I could. After three days of sitting at an average of 40kms, the moment you see some open road you cant help but get excited.
Arriving at Ban Gioc Waterfall, was like seeing a movie you have been watching for weeks come to life in front of your eyes.
The sound of this beast trembled the ground, the spray whipped at you from some distance as I sat and took it all in. Unfortunately the waters were brown due to the wet season, but the water flow more than made up for it.
The further I stepped away the more I realised how large this waterfall actually was. This beast has a drop of 30 meters and is split into three separate falls, split by rocks and trees. The thunderous sound of the crashing water can be heard from afar.
There is a hidden location, about 200 metres from the fall entrance where you can take in the view of the entire falls and the surrounding mountain scape that surrounds it. It is called, Chua Phat Tich, Buddist temple. There was no one there, only my companions and I witnessing the view that put my mind at ease and humbled me. As I stood out looking over the landscape I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction, completing this ride was something I didn't know I could do.
Start in Ha Giang, go and see Zoom at bong hostel and get all the info you need. She will provide you with maps, plenty of different rout options, bike rental (if you need one) and help you out with whatever else you may want to know. The bikes here are all serviced and in great condition, they will let you test ride them all and choose the one you like.
Depending on the season, your attire will vary. Always take a weather proof jacket, it gets cold later in the days.
Take a rain poncho to cover your bike and yourself. Last thing you want to be doing is pulling over or riding in the rain all day.
Have a rain cover for your bag, your poncho will only be able to provide so much protection, keep your bag weather proofed.
Leave whatever you don't need behind, last thing you want is too much weight on the back, and driving through a storm is not the place for a laptop.
Take google translate with you, most people in the north don't speak the best English. You can have some funny conversations using google translate but it really helps.
Don't ride at night, the locals don't use there headlights most of the time and it makes conditions very dangerous.
Service your bike every 400kms they need it.
If you can fit in a few extra days, do it. A day off the bike can be vital. It also gives you more time to wonder around and explore. It took me six days from Ha Giang to Ban Gioc and back, every day riding.
Your homestay will usually have the best food for dinner, joining the family dinners will give you some real authentic flavours.
My final say.
The Ha Giang loop, for me, was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had in my lifetime. The thrill and freedom of the open road, the incredible landscapes and the everyday challenges make this one my personal favourites from Vietnam. If you are a motorbike enthusiast, a photographer or anyone who would like to see some of the most diverse landscapes in the world, look no further than the Ha Giang loop. It will continuously surprise you and give you something you have never experienced before.
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