Trip Report - Bac Ha and Ha Giang
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Nov 7, 2013 6:45 AM Last Post By: injera_grandee
Dec 8, 2012 2:53 AM
I caught the night train to Lao Cai on Sunday night and then a public bus up to Bac Ha on the Monday morning. There must have been at least 15-20 mini-vans and some large coaches waiting at the train station to take all the tourists up to Sapa. There was nothing going to Bac Ha immediately, but I got a seat on a public bus within half an hour or so.
Its always a nicefeeling when you are heading in the opposite direction to 99% of the other tourists!
I really liked it in Bac Ha and I spent 7 days there from Monday to Sunday, taking various day trips away from the town to surrounding areas.
I hired a car and driver with another traveller, on the Tuesday, and went to the Coc Ly market, about 1.5hrs from Bac Ha along good quality paved, but windy roads.
Wednesday and Thursday I hired a guide and did some trekking in the countryside around Bac Ha, with an overnight homestay. We walked about 20km on the first day and 10km on the second. We were mostly walking along narrow trails used by local people and their animals and we didn't see any other tourists throughout the two days.
We visited about 7-8 small flower hmong villages, the majority of which could only be reached on foot. The people were very friendly and welcoming and it was obvious that they only have fairly infrequent contact with foreigners. It was a vastly different experience to trekking in the heavily touristed areas around Sapa, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Friday was mainly just a rest day, although I did some walking through some of the Tay villages around the outskirts of Bac Ha. Stopping by numerous houses to say hello and enjoying their hospitality and endless cups of tea. Everyone was extremely friendly and they seemed to be just as curious of me as I was of them.
I visited a couple of nursery schools around Bac Ha and the teachers and pupils were very happy for me to come into the classroom and say hello. If you like meeting little kids, this is a really nice experience.
On Saturday morning I went to the Can Cau market. I caught a local bus that passed through Bac Ha at about 8.30am. The journey was spectacular in itself up over the mountains and it took about 40 mins to reach Can Cau. The return bus left Can Cau at about 12.00pm heading back to Bac Ha. Can Cau is set in a lovely green valley with terraced fields along the slopes. Its a really nice setting.
Sunday is the day of the main market in Bac Ha and I went along from about 7.00am - 9.00am. I wanted to visit the sunday market in Lung Phin also and I was able to catch the bus there as it passed through Bac Ha at about 9.30am. Lung Phin is on the same road to Can Cau, up over the mountains and takes about 20 mins to reach.
I had a good look around the smaller, but interesting Lung Phin market and managed to jump on a bus than came along at about 12.00pm heading back to Bac Ha.
I enjoyed each of the four markets in the region and they are all worth going to, although I probably liked Lung Phin the most. Its a small local market and there were definitely no other foreigners there. The locals seemed quite amazed to see me.
to be cont'd..
Dec 8, 2012 2:55 AM
I wanted to travel from Bac Ha to Ha Giang province and on to Dong Van and Meo Vac. I was able to arrange a car with a driver and guide to take that route, departing from Bac Ha, over a period of four days. Due to the wet season rains, it was decided that we take a 2wd vehicle (Mercedes Sprinter van) and instead of driving north via Xin Man, we would stick to paved roads and take the southern route to Ha Giang via Bac Ngam, Quang Bing and Bac Quang.
It was a very scenic full day drive from Bac Ha to Ha Giang. There are a lot of ethnic Tay villages along the road side and we made a number of stops to meet the local people. I had never really looked at this part of Vietnam on a map, but it is one of the most beautiful areas I've visited in the country.
One particular coffee stop was quite memorable. The daughter at the family owned cafe was dressed rather seductively and the sign on the wall advertised her "services", with a price for "bed rental" and then "price per hour". I asked the driver and guide if they would like to wait for an hour while I experienced what she had to offer, but they advised they would prefer to push on towards Ha Giang (amid hysterical laughter)!!
We stayed overnight at a basic hotel along the main road in Ha Giang. It was the hardest bed I've ever slept on but it wasn't a bad deal for $10.
The following day we drove from Ha Giang to Dong Van via Quan Ba pass and Yen Minh. The mountain scenery throughout the day was spectacular and easily the best I've seen anywhere in south-east asia. There were a lot of local people going about their daily life along the roadside - threshing rice, drying corn etc, so we made lots of stops to say hello and take photos.
Dong Van was a fairly uninteresting town, but the rice fields around the edges of town were quite spectacular and made for some nice photos.
I had developed a bit of a chest infection, so the morning of the third day was spent taking some easy walks around Dong Van before driving over to Meo Vac in the afternoon.
The drive from Dong Van to Meo Vac along the Mai Pi Leng pass is the one that everyone talks about and yes, it is pretty spectacular. But even more so than the scenery, its the local people that you meet along the way that really leave the most lasting impressions.
The fourth day we left Meo Vac and slowly headed back to Ha Giang. Similar to the first day, we passed a lot of beautiful villages, driving through little river valleys, it was green and lush everywhere and just beautiful countryside to travel through.
Back in Ha Giang, after checking three hotels along the main strip, we finally found one with a soft enough bed!
Early the following morning I boarded a public bus for the 7 hour trip back to Hanoi.
I didn't see any other foreigners in the four days in Ha Giang province other than a couple of Chinese guys on motorbikes. Its an area that is still well off the main tourist trail and worth checking out if you get the chance.
NB. For the trip from Bac Ha to Ha Giang, I made the arrangements with Mr Nghe in Bac Ha. The price was $150 per day for four days (total $600) which included the car, driver, english speaking guide and fuel. We paid for our own accomodation ($10-15 per night) and shared the cost of meals. The car and driver had to return from Ha Giang to Lao Cai and the guide to Bac Ha, so this was obviously built into the price.
I have no idea how this price compares to other tourism operators, bit it seemed like the best option at the time, so I ran with it.
I found the cost of guides, trekking and transport etc to be considerably higher in Bac Ha than in Sapa, but its not really surprising giving that there are about 100x less tourists and virtually no competition. There were virtually no tourists at all in Bac Ha through the week and only a handful turned up on Friday and Saturday for the weekend markets. Locals said that was the same pattern every week of the year.
Dec 8, 2012 9:50 AM
Dec 8, 2012 10:59 AM
Dec 10, 2012 2:34 AM
Dec 10, 2012 2:38 AM
I'm sorry, I don't know the name of the hotel, other than to say it was on the main road through the town - it had a red neon sign out the front and it was next to a childrens clothing shop that was owned by the same people as the hotel. I didn't check any of the listings in the LP guide, but it is probably worth taking a punt on one of those.
Dec 10, 2012 6:55 AM
Dec 13, 2012 12:17 AM
Jan 14, 2013 1:43 AM
In Ha Giang did you need to get police permission do drive to DOng Van & Meo Vac?
If so, where do you have to go to get it?
Jan 14, 2013 2:50 AM
9Yes, we got a permit once we arrived at the hotel in Dong Van. I didn't have to do anything personally, I just gave my passport to my guide and he and the owner of the hotel went and sorted it out at the police office. There were no checkpoints along the road anywhere where we had to show the permit though.
I think in the past, you had to get the permit before leaving Ha Giang city, but currently it is okay to get it once you arrive in Dong Van.
Jan 14, 2013 1:12 PM
10We intend also traveling next Mars to Ha Giang, Meo Vac, Dong Van. Do you think it's also possible to find a car with driver in Ha Giang or Meo Vac and a guide for translation English to the language of the Minority? Or should we go first to Sapa or Bac Ha (I was there some years ago) to organize a tour to east of Ha Giang? Did your guide speak the language of the Minority People? We like to make some trekking around Meo Vac and other nice regions around because last time we made some great trekking around Sapa and now we like to go more in the east (Meo Vac...).
Do you think it's possible to find in Sapa/Bac Ha (or even in Ha Giang or where else?) other people to join us for share costs of driver and guide?
Thank you for answering soon! Antoinette
Jan 14, 2013 10:57 PM
Mar 24, 2013 3:14 AM
12I'll arrive to Lao Cai on Satuday (in early October) and would like to head directly to Bac Ha and from there to Can Cau market and visit another village afternoon returning to Bac Ha. On Sunday visiting both Bac Ha and Lung Phin market. Initially I had an idea of taking a returning tour bus to Sapa spending Monday in and around Sapa before taking the night train back to Hanoi.
Would make more sense skipping Sapa totally and maybe take a 1.5 day trekking around Bac Ha with a homestay in some of the villages instead ? Any suggestions ? Would I miss something not visiting Sapa at all ?
Mar 25, 2013 11:21 PM
I would still try to go to Sapa if possible. If you have enough time it would be worth spending two days and two nights in both Sapa and Bac Ha, and October will be the perfect time of year to be there.
The area around Sapa is much more mountainous that Bac Ha and the views are more spectacular.
I would strongly suggest trying to visit as they are both enjoyable in different ways
Mar 26, 2013 3:21 PM
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