Ha Giang Loop with Flipside Hostel (now Flipside Adventures Vietnam)
Original Travel Date: March 1-5th, 2020 (pre-pandemic)
Leaving Thailand was one of the hardest decision, but I was ready for my next adventure. I was about to embark on a 3-week Vietnam adventure. My first stop was Hanoi, Vietnam, where I decided to go on a 5-day Ha Giang Loop motor scooter adventure with Flipside Hostel.
I left the morning of my flight to get to the airport. This was one of the most difficult car rides to date as I wasn’t alone. My volleyball coach, Kru B, 11 of my players and our team mom drove me all the way to Chiang Mai for one final goodbye. Let’s just say, I cried the ENTIRE way through immigration, customs, and spent the hour before my flight balling my eyes out.
Flying, for me, was the easiest and honestly the cheapest route. A bus would have taken over 24 hours and likely not save me anything. As I was living in northern Thailand, I flew Chiang Mai to Hanoi on Vietnam on AirAsia for 1930.00 THB, roughly $60 USD. This did include a checked bag. The flight only lasted 1.5 hours and arrived just before 3pm.
I actually flew in a day before I was set to leave on the Ha Giang Loop Flipside tour. This meant, I got an entire night + day to explore Hanoi before leaving. My first night, I ended up meeting a few other hostel mates going on the Ha Giang loop. We went for dinner, then went out to a local disco before calling it a night.
The next day, I explored the city, gathered a few extra necessities (I was not prepared for the cold) and finally got to eat my first Bahn Mi Vietnamese sandwich!
Flipside Hostel (Closed)
Back in 2020, Hostelworld.com made the decision to stay at Flipside Hostel very easy. The reviews were off the chart filled with positive reviews. The location was in the heart of Hanoi and walking distance to many of the major attractions. (Nexy Hostel is roughly near where Flipside was located, which is an amazing location.
Another reason I decided on Flipside Hostel for not only my first night stay, but ultimately my Ha Giang Loop tour, was the reviews. I had spent a few weeks prior to this trip in the researching blackhole of “Ha Giang Loop tours from Hanoi.” One place kept popping up…Flipside Hostel True North Adventure.
Having a hostel + tour combo made the idea of leaving my large 65L backpack behind and traveling only with a small bag filled with the necessities of 5 days, an easy decision. Especially since I was traveling with my computer and camera gear. Another benefit of using a hostel tour vs. planning on your own, is simply the ease of planning. I love planning, don’t get me wrong. But this route wasn’t one I was going to tackle on my own.
Additionally, before leaving, they gave me the options:
- drive yourself- cheaper
- pay for a driver- more expensive (roughly $250 including tip)
One perk of choosing a tour package is everything- bike rental, hotels, and food- is included. Drinks, snacks, and of course, alcohol is separate.
Disclaimer: Unfortunately, Flipside Hostel has permanently closed it doors due to COVID-19 virus. However, they do continue to run their Ha Giang Loop tours through Flipside Adventures Vietnam.
Ha Giang Loop Day 1 & 2
Before being the adventure, one must get from Hanoi to Ha Giang, which is simply an overnight sleeper bus. This wasn’t too difficult, but definitely does not provide the best sleep. Honking occurs constantly and throughout the night, plus the lights shining in, resulting in little to no sleep. (Oh the joys of backpacking.)
We arrived at our starting point around 4:30am with a scheduled starting time of 7am. Thankfully, this allowed everyone on the tour time to shower (if preferred), a nap (on a hard surface), and/or time to repack and change. It was slightly raining, so I just chose to relax and repack.
Our drivers slowly began arriving and each person on the tour was paired with a driver or given a bike. Then we were off.
We only drove about an hour before we made our first stop – BREAKFAST. It was finally time to try my first, true, authentic Pho and it was everything as good as I hoped. It was a prefect breakfast for a rainy day.
We continued our way north and slowly began our climb up the mountains. It wasn’t much longer before we made our next stop – Cóm Bình Dân Coffee. This was mostly to check in with our solo drivers and make sure all the bikes were running smoothly.
Heaven Gate Coffee was our 3rd stop in the morning and it was finally time for my first Vietnamese coffee. It was delicious and it came with a stunning view filled with the windy roads of the Ha Giang region.
After another 2 hours, it was finally time for lunch. We ate at a local restaurant – Nông Van Lam- in Tam Son-Quan Ba town. It was filled with a mix of fried foods (french fries included), stir fry tofu and leafy greens, and a roast pork stir fry. It was very delicious and much needed.
We continued on for another 2 hours through a bumpy shortcut of dirt roads and through small villages along the base of a mountain before arriving at another rest stop. By this point, it’s already 1:12pm and we’ve only gone 77km with a ride time of 3 hours and 14 minutes. I started learning that pitstops really are to allow your butt a break and that this was anything but a rush.
We road for another 2 hours before arriving at our night one destination – Nhà Nghi Cao Nguyên Motel – located in Yen Minh. The town is very quiet but it felt good to shower and change into more comfortable clothes. Once everyone had changed and settled into the hotel, we all met for dinner and proceded to enjoy beers at the bar next door.
I should mention, growing up with a dad who drives motorcycle taught me that wearing jeans is a necessity, so that’s what I wore. I also packed rain pants, 3 jackets, gloves, and a scarf as I did this in March and it was cold.
Ha Giang Loop Day 3
We took off from Yen Minh around 7:30am and headed north to our homestay. As we were climbing, today’s ride got a little more chilly and was full of fog, which didn’t take away from the beauty. We rode this morning for about 2-3 hours before stopping at Diem Dung Chan pit stop and homestay.
This is where the “fun” begins. We were about 1 hour a 50 minutes into our 2 hour ride for lunch, when it started torrentially down pouring. It was far from light and many of us, myself included became SOAKING wet. Thank goodness, we were just around the bend to our lunch destination in Thanh Phuong when this happened. It allowed us to wait out the storm and not have to drive in heavy rainfall.
Duong Hanh Phuc Mountain Pass
After lunch, it was finally time to begin our ride through the beautiful mountain pass, Dong Van. We spent several hours making pitstops along the road that cuts through the mountains to enjoy the scenery. This mountain range was recognized as Vietnam’s first UNESCO Global Geopark, which covers 2,345km2 of 4 northern districts in Ha Giang. The four northern regions include: Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, and Meo Vac.
This region is home to 17 ethnic minority groups, a world of biodiversity, and easily accessible through 4 discovery routes. If you have the time, I would highly recommend exploring this region more thoroughly.
Homestay in Dong Van
It was another 2 hours of driving through the mountains before arriving at our destination – Quang Dung Com Lau Home Stay in Dong Van. This tour was absolutely stunning and surrounded by granite cliffs in all directions.
After a quick briefing from our tour guide, myself and 3 tour mates went for a small stroll through the village, exploring the local market, checking out the shops, before ultimately ending up as a local cafe.
It was at this coffee shop where I decided it was finally time to taste the Vietnamese famous “Egg Coffee.” Don’t worry, it was far more delicious that it sounds and I actually, quiet enjoyed it.
The night was a night full of food, drinks (more than needed TBH), and massages. Yes, massages, as apparently it is the thing to do in Dong Van. Honestly, as much fun at it was at the time, I wish I would have had the power to say no. Wasn’t totally worth the money.
After we left the massage place, it was back to the homestay, where the entire tour slept in one massive loft.
Ha Giang Loop Day 4
We left early the next day and began making our way towards the China border. Unfortunately as this was at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the closest we could get was about 4km away from the China-Vietnam border. Both countries were becoming more and more protective of their villagers and ethnic tribes, who were at significantly higher risk.
We drove through the windy, mountain roads for about 50 km before beginning to make our way down the mountain. This is where my ride becomes entertaining.
FIRST, the back tire of my bike pops NO WHERE NEAR a village. My driver and I were also the very last bike of the group. Thank goodness, the drive in front of us noticed we were gone. He came back to check on us, and I ultimately needed to jump on his bike. Mind you, he also had a tour mate, which made 3 of us on the bike. It was SO uncomfortable and thankfully, only lasted about 20/30 minutes . Once we made it back to Yen Minh, my driver was back with a new tire and we continued on our way.
THEN, with only 30 km left, my driver’s front tire spun out from underneath us resulting us to fall and slid a little ways down the slippery, wet road. He felt so guilty and I could tell he was more worried about me than the bike, but nothing was broken. I had a few EPIC bruises and a HUGE contusion on my right leg, but could have been worse.
We finally arrived back to our starting point right before nightfall. It provided a few hours to gather our thoughts, talk about our trip, and review some stats.
- Day 1: 116 km
- Day 2: 68 km
- Day 3: 160 km (longest day on the bike)
- Total: 358 km
Ha Giang Loop Day 5
We left Ha Giang on another night bus and made our way back to Hanoi. We arrived at the bus station around 4am, got to Flipside at 5am, and I slept until 8am. It was at this time, I made my way to my next hostel for another full day in Hanoi.
Check out my Youtube videos of the Ha Giang Loop from March 2020
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