An amazing experience of trekking Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang

In a nice day after many hard day of devoting for works, I decided to pack my pack for a trekking Hoang Su Phi in the Northern most province of Ha Giang. I did not know what would be seen on the tour, but think of the vast terraced rice fields in yellow of matured grains, I was immediately excited. And the tour is a truly memorable experience in my…

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The fantastic view of Hoang Su Phi - Ha Giang

In a nice day after many hard day of devoting for works, I decided to pack my pack for a trekking Hoang Su Phi in the Northern most province of Ha Giang. I did not know what would be seen on the tour, but think of the vast terraced rice fields in yellow of matured grains, I was immediately excited. And the tour is a truly memorable experience in my life.

It was my very first journey to the Northwest region where I just heard about from books or media and imagined I will be there one day. The trip was really amazing which give me the chance to travel between the majestic nature; to directly see the remote rural village with struggle life of the rustic ethnic people as well as their diverse and special cultural identities; to be proud of ourselves after getting over and look back at the passing route with winding and struggling roads along the hills and mountains; and to be afraid of travelling in a dark night without electricity on the road with one side of mountain and the other side of abysses.

Trekking Hoang Su Phi is an ideal chance to admire clue sky, white cloud and yellow sun
Trekking Hoang Su Phi is an ideal chance to admire clue sky, white cloud and yellow sun

We departed from Hanoi at around 6 am and traveled directly to Vinh Yen where we had breakfast on a food shop on the road side. We then quickly kept moving to Viet Quang after passing the distance of 260 km. On the way, we faced with lots of pretty landscapes, especially the section passing Thung Khe Pass. It was regret that it was too dark to take any photos.

The next morning, our route was Viet Quang – Thong Nguyen – Hoang Su Phi – Xin Man Border Gate – Lung Phin – Ban Gia – Ta Cu Ty T conjunction – back to Xin Man with the total length of around 120 km. There are some sections of road that are really difficult to travel, but in compensation, the gorgeous views on the two road sides did make us forget all about the difficulties. We had stops after travelling for a distance to take a rest and take photos and to utter the compliments for the majestic and nice landscapes seen.

We took a rest and then continued the tour at around 2 pm. When the dark came and the moon appeared, we were all excited to stop and turned off all the lights of motorbikes and lay down on the street and on grass to admire the moon. It was an amazing experience to enjoy the full moon in a quiet space on a high mountain.

The busy meeting of a fair market in Hoang Su Phi
The busy meeting of a fair market in Hoang Su Phi

We then kept moving until 8 am but still not reached Xin Man. It turned out that we got lost and almost reached the border gate. In a dark and cold night, the surrounding areas are just high mountains and mountains. We then had no choice but travel back for nearly 30 km with our empty stomachs. Driving on a little bridge above the vast and deep abyss in such a cold and dark night make us all afraid.

Finally, we arrived at Pa Co Town and were moved to tear after passing a long and terrified journey. We saw some lights of human being with the sound of karaoke singing, of dog that made us hilarious with our hands raise up to  cheer.

After being full of foods, we played card and then have a tight sleep as being quite tired. The next morning, we got up early to visit the village fair in Pa Co. The market is excited with colorful items. It is quite surprising that Western visitors also come to visit this remote mountainous market. I tried on the special dish of the locals called Thang Co with quite a strange taste which costs 70,000 VND. It was interesting experience to sit at the market, enjoy a special dish and watch for the local daily life with the ways they having meals, doing their business and leading their lives.

Ethnic childrens cross the rice-fields to go to school everyday
Ethnic children cross the rice-fields to go to school everyday

For many scenes that I thought I can only witness on TV, it was amazing that I can personally see and touch and feel. At almost midday, we got on bus to travel to Bac Ha on the road which is quite difficult to travel. Travel on the road at mountain sides, we can see whole view of Pa Co from above. We then traveled through the villages with lots of peach and plum trees.

It shall be amazing to come here in spring when the peach and plum flowers are in bloom coated the space with pink and white colors. The local children on the roadside were all surprised when seeing us driving motorbikes passing them. The road is challenging with one side of mountain and one side of abyss. The little winding dirt trail is really difficult to move as it is by no mean smooth.

We kept moving and arrived in Bac Ha. The surrounding landscapes remain majestic and beautiful that make us all surprised. I thought that I just stay in the little city of Hanoi without travelling to other regions, how can we see such a lot of gorgeous landscapes and get to know those new and interesting things about the life of the local ethnic groups.

Bac Ha - the famous traditional minority market in Northern Vietnam
Bac Ha – the famous traditional minority market in Northern Vietnam

The unique thing that made me disappointed for this time coming to Bac Ha is the market as it seems to be changed a lot. It is lack of the local ethnic identities. There are so many Kinh people doing business here due to the development of tourism in the region. Of course, there remain some typical performances made by the local ethnic people including the way of cutting meat. Around 4 or 5 large pieces of meat are putting together at many places at the market. The game is that you need to cut all of them in 1 cut. The winner shall get those meat back home and the losers who cannot get thing done in 1 cut need to pay some money for playing the game. The space was exciting with the acclaims of both locals and visitors.

The afternoon came, we left Bac Ha for Lao Cai in order not to miss the night train to Hanoi. We arrived at the station 15 minutes before the train starts. We booked ticket and quickly had 2 bowls of rice within 10 minutes so that we can have a sleep on the train. We did have a sleep on the train and arrived in Hanoi in the early morning next day. It was the end of an interesting and memorable tour.

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13 thoughts on “An amazing experience of trekking Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang

  1. I have 7 full days (not including travel) to spend in the far north at the beginning of May before I need to return to Hanoi and would like some itinerary advice. I would like to do the typical Ha Giang loop by motorbike plus either some side trips or trekking. I was thinking of 4 days for the main loop which then gives me 3 more days to play with. Thanks!

    1. Personally I love Sapa District but as you only have seven days I would concentrate on Ha Giang Province.Why not keep the bike for seven days? You might consider picking up the bike in Lao Cai City, attending a morning market in Bac Ha District ( there are five held during the week) and then head Xin Man, Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang City and on towards Dong Van. Also bear in mind that May is a bit too early for rice field activity in Hoang Su Phi, the district’s main draw. Although you very well might get to see some tilling and terrace preparations.

  2. Thanks for your reply! I hadn’t considered getting a bike in Lao Cai but looking at logistics I will struggle to get back to Lao Cai driving in the days I have. I was aware it wasn’t the best time for the rice terraces but thought it would still be a good area to explore – am I wrong in thinking this and should just leave Bac Ha/HSP for another visit and concentrate on Dong Van areas etc? Looking at the weather forecast it appears (fingers crossed!) to be mostly sunny with some cloud/ odd shower for the dates I have available.

  3. Other questions: Is it worth staying somewhere closer to Sa Phin instead of Yen Minh on Day 2 for ease in visiting the market the following morning? If so any suggestions? Has anyone got an update on the condition of the shorter road between Bac Ha and Xin Man? Is it okay to drive?

  4. Project unfeasible because you have to bring back the scooter where you rented it ! I have been in the Ha Giang region 6 times, for at least 6 days each + at least 8 times in Bac Ha and 10 in Sapa. Therefore, I recommend the night bus Hanoi-Ha Giang, scooter rental in HG

  5. Hi, Thanks for your reponse. I will be coming on a night bus from Haiphong, since I am currently on Cat Ba. I know I will need to return the bike to Ha Giang which is why in all options I listed I have factored in needing to return there before going on to Hanoi. If I drive myself I am assuming it is possible to drive Bac Ha > HG in one day via the highway in order to return the bike on time – is this feasible? Re: taking the bus – is there a direct bus between Ha Giang and Bac Ha or will I need to change and if so where?

  6. Okay, understood, moto rental in Ha Giang City.
    A very long day of driving which I don’t think is practical as the market starts at dawn and finishes at noon. I prefer to get there by 06:30 before it gets too crowded with locals and tourists. Best to arrive in Bac Ha the day before the market and spend the night. Having been to Bac Ha at least nine times I too can recommend
    I believe that there is a direct bus between the two towns. You can certainty take a bus from HGC to Lao Cai City and then on to Bac Ha. There is at least one bus a day that travels from Ha Giang City to Vinh Quang (Hoang Su Phi) and I believe that it continues on to Xi Man and Bac Ha. Either way that leg of your journey will consume the better part of a day as bus travel in that region is super slow.
    Safe travels 🙂

    1. Thanks again for your advice. I was definitely planning on arriving in Bac Ha the night before the market either way – I will look into the hotel you suggested for further information. If I drive I was planning on getting up early to visit the market in the morning before heading back to Ha Giang the same day. However, if you think this isn’t do-able I will return the bike first and go via bus.

  7. Guided or unguided ! Ha Giang is a big booming town, not at all a trekking area ! The trekking is around Quang Ba, Yen Minh and Dong Van. Or maybe you know something that I ignore after 6 trips in the area ! We will be delighted to read your suggestions.

  8. Bac Ha-Ha Giang is at least a 6-hour drive, so you are going to have a long day if you do market + BH-HG. Long passes if you go through Hoang Su Phi and Xin Man, and a bad portion if you go through Viet Quang (Bac Quang) and Pho Rang. I would not do it !

  9. Okay, thanks. Think I will skip driving Xin Man/HSP this trip and just spend an extra day around Dong Van and maybe somewhere else on the loop. Then take the bus to Bac Ha for the market and onto Hanoi from there. Thanks both for your help!

    1. Starting from the center of Ha Giang City walk 5.5 km up (northwest) highway QL2. On the western side of the highway, you will find Thon Tha village, I believe the area is known as Phuong Do. You can easily trek (AKA walk) up into the hills above and get some nice views of the farmer’s fields that line the highway. There is supposed to be a waterfall in these same hills but I was unable to find it. There are at least two or three homestays in the area and one could easily spend a day trekking (AKA walking) in the surrounding countryside.

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