My Motorbike Is Not For Sale…YET! (Part 12 – Ha Giang Pass)

My Motorbike Is Not For Sale…YET! (Part 12)

Ryan and I woke up in the morning feeling accomplished after our trip to the Ban Gioc Waterfall the day before.  It was time to go pick up his motorcycle and see if the mechanic was able to fix it while we were gone. Wooohoo!! His bike was primed and ready to hit the road again. Practicing my patience paid off and Ryan’s bike could handle higher speeds again.

If you’re coming to visit Vietnam and you’re looking for something to do this next part should be the absolute number one thing on your agenda.  Driving a motorcycle from Cao Bang to Ha Giang or vice versa.  It was hands down the most incredible drive of the entire trip.  Nothing can hold a candle to it and I don’t think any photos can do it justice.  Forget Halong Bay, forget Ninh Binh, forget Sa Pa, forget the Cu Chi tunnels, forget Hanoi, forget Imperial City (Hue), forget the war musuems, forget the markets, forget the street food, forget Phong Nha, and forget 5,000 dong beers.  I mean do that stuff if you have time, but it is no doubt in my mind that every adventurist should drive this pass before they commit to do anything else.   

One of the views from our drive.

One of the views from our drive.

The only mistake we made was completing the loop from Cao Bang to Ha Giang in one day.  We should have made it a two-day trip.  My jaw was worn out at the end of the day from being being gaped wide-open while staring at the views.  Absolutely do not take the short cut route when you look at a map.  If you use Google Maps turn on “avoid highways” and stay on the northern loop close to China for most of the route.  As a heads up this is not a drive for the faint of heart because it is a technical drive on a motorcycle.  You need to be prepared to go extremely slow for portions if you are an inexperienced rider.  Even an experienced rider will be well below the normal driving speed on this pass.

One of the unmarked dirt roads we took on the very Northern tip of Vietnam!

One of the unmarked dirt roads we took on the very Northern tip of Vietnam!

Ryan’s bike was handling the climbs and downhills with ease.  We were stopping a lot for photos and then towards the end of the day we were racing against a storm that had been chasing us for a couple hours. We thought we avoided it, but then the road turned us back into the storm with 45km (1hr 20 minutes) to go. The first rain caught us.

One of the many bridges in this area that helps villagers cross the river with goods and crops.

One of the many bridges in this area that helps villagers cross the river with goods and crops.

We would have been able to beat sunset if the weather didn’t change, but the clouds that rolled in brought dark upon us sooner than expected.  Our last 30km were spent in the pitch black with pouring rain, heavy winds, lightning, and thunder.  The road was sketchy, but the consensus was we had to go on because there was no shelter for us to stop at. “Slow and steady” wins the race became our motto.  If we hit a pothole we couldn’t see then the only choice was to hold on and hope we didn’t end up face planting into the road. Or worse go flying off a cliff to a movie worthy death. 

Favorite view of the whole trip, but we were running behind from pit stops and I had to snap this with my iPhone5 because my camera was put away at this point. Ugh I'm still upset about not having my Sony A7ii ready! We had no clue this was coming as it followed a 270 degree turn around the edge of a mountain.

Favorite view of the whole trip, but we were running behind from pit stops and I had to snap this with my iPhone5 because my camera was put away at this point. Ugh I'm still upset about not having my Sony A7ii ready! We had no clue this was coming as it followed a 270 degree turn around the edge of a mountain.

This was a bad situation to get ourselves in.  It would have been a better situation if we got caught in China the day before without a visa.  The rain wasn’t letting up and we were averaging 15kmh (10mph).  Finally, the road got a little better and the potholes were few and far between. Street lights lit up the road and gave us some visibility for the last 5km into the town of Ha Giang.

The most beautiful sunset before a storm rolled in and almost made this my last sunset ever!

The most beautiful sunset before a storm rolled in and almost made this my last sunset ever!

There has never been a better bowl of pho then that night when we got into Ha Giang.  We were cold, wet and emotionally drained after the last two and half hours.  It was like a come down from a weekend bender partying with your friends. So many highs in the morning and breathtaking views.  Followed by thoughts of we might get blown off a cliff in a nasty thunderstorm at night. The pho lady could see the look of ghosts in our faces and delivered a beer before we could order one.  The nerves were settling and we gathered ourselves before getting back on the bikes and finding our hotel.

Ha Giang in short was one of the friendliest towns I’ve ever been.  We spent an extra night here to get rest after surviving the rigorous thunderstorm that tried to put us in the newspaper under the headline, “Idiots plummet to death driving through monsoon conditions in Northern Vietnam.” The person who stuck out the most though was a 10-year old boy who ended up being the best bartender in all of Vietnam.  He had a genuine interest in knowing everything about Ryan and myself, but also being sure to share his family’s story with us too.  We juggled a soccer ball with him in the “bar” (more of a few plastic Vietnamese style chairs and tables) and shared some good laughs.

Best bartender and beer pourer in all of Vietnam. Hiding in a tiny beer garden in Ha Giang!

Best bartender and beer pourer in all of Vietnam. Hiding in a tiny beer garden in Ha Giang!

Ryan and I were both hoping the drive toward Sapa from here would be just as beautiful.  We followed along the Lô River for most of the morning.  The views were nice, but they weren’t quite as stunning as the day before.  I feel like a spoiled brat for being let down because the drive was still beautiful.  The drive was fairly short this day and we arrived into Pho Rang in the late afternoon. 

Here are some photos shot on my Sony A7ii.

Here are some more photos that I had to shoot on my iPhone5.