We arrived in Hanoi city and had planned to do a couple of days checking out the city, doing a bicycle tour that a friend of mine had recommended (thanks Baz), and then head to one of the main attractions of Vietnam, Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, as soon as we arrived in Hanoi, the weather was horrible for the activities and sights we had wanted to see and do, and backpackers that we had spoken to that had seen Ha Long Bay said it wasn’t as good as they had thought because the fog had ruined it and they ended up drinking every night. So we just took a couple of days to chill out and get some sleep.
Everyone usually goes to a place called Sapa from Hanoi. It’s in the country and is known for its beautiful scenery, but word on the grapevine is that it’s flooded with backpackers and the locals set up lots of tours for them. If you haven’t realised yet, we don’t necessarily like doing the tourist stuff, unless it’s been highly recommended to us by friends.
Whilst chilling out for those couple of days in Hanoi, we found a place in Northern Vietnam that most backpackers haven’t heard about. It’s called Ha Giang, known for its underrated scenery. Boo ya! We caught a bus the next day that took 6 hours. Luckily, we met this one cool dude from California on the bus who was meeting his Aussie mate in Ha Giang, who was a school teacher. We hopped off the bus when the Californian dude got off and hoped we’d be able to find somewhere to stay. The Aussie bloke was there when we all arrived and he was kind enough to point us the right direction for a guest house. If it wasn’t for him we would have probably slept on the street as it was pitch black, no street lights, and nothing seemed to be open.
The next day we had a nice sleep in, got some Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) for breakfast then had organised some bikes for our 3 day tour of the far north of Vietnam. We both upgraded our bikes compared to the previous ones we have rented. Eb got a faster scooter that was semi-automatic and I got a proper motorbike this time. We also got a map from the place that we rented the bikes from and the owner mapped out the best route for us to take. We were well prepared.
Day 1 was so awesome. We left at 9:00am and set off on our 148km bike ride from Ha Giang to Dong Van. The scenery was mind blowing. If you’ve read our previous blog posts on the Hai Van Pass and the Phong Nha national park, this scenery as compared to those places was one notch ahead of them. Soaring up the mountains, cruising down through valleys, riding next to rivers, through small villages, waving to locals as we drove passed, while on our much more improved bikes, it was jaw dropping, seriously. I wish you all could have been there to experience it with us. We had one minor mishap on our ride today. EB had a fall. Because I was so excited with my upgraded bike, I was ahead testing my motorbikes handles and speed, and I wasn’t aware that EB had fallen off. Usually we always travel together (I swear I’m a good boyfriend), and I show EB which paths she should take and at what speed. But she became a lot better and confident and let me ride ahead every now and then. But this time I rode ahead and pulled to the side of the road to wait for EB, I noticed it took her longer than usual to catch up. I initially thought she had pulled over because I had seen some local kids on the side of the road and I thought she would have taken photos and spoken with them. I turned the bike around to see where she was and when I caught up to her, I saw that her bike was on the ground and she was standing next to it, with those local kids looking at her. I rushed to her aid and was so glad that it was only minor, but also feeling terrible for riding ahead. She had gone a bit too quick on this corner that had loose gravel which made her lose control. She had a grazed elbow, hip, and had a cut on her knee. I’m so grateful that it was only a minor accident! Luckily, EB was fit to continue on riding (such a trooper) and the bike had no major damage, just a few scratches. We rode to the next village to have a drink and to recuperate.
After that we rode together all the way to Dong van, arriving around 5:30pm. We checked into a guesthouse, got some Pho Bo, and are now relaxing for day 2. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about being on a motorbike. The feeling of being in control and getting that air on your face, witnessing this crazy scenery. It gives you a sense of freedom. To experience this with my girl, is second to none.
Stay tuned for Day 2.