10 Reasons to Do the Ha Giang Motobike Loop

1. You can get from Hanoi to Ha Giang on an $8 overnight bus.

The bus leaves from My Dinh bus station in the morning and in the evening. The ride takes 8 hours, so opting for the sleeper bus is a good way to pass the time. However, they drop you off at 3 in the morning so you'll either have to stay awake until you can catch a local bus, or grab a cheap motel room if you can find one.

 

2. You can do the loop in 3 days and be back to Hanoi in no time.

The loop can be extended/shortened depending on how much time you have to complete it. The minimum time it should take is at least 3 days - 3 full days of riding. Our route was:

Day 1 - Ha Giang to Hung Ngai (near Dong Van) - this was our longest day.

Day 2 - Hung Ngai up to Lung Cu in the morning, then back-tracked down to Du Gia.

Day 3 - Du Gia to Ha Giang to finish the loop - some roads aren't safe depending on their seasonal conditions, so a longer route could potentially be better.

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3. Renting a bike only costs $10 per day from QT Motors!

QT is absolutely amazing. They have great prices and lots of options for motorbikes. The owner briefs all customers individually, explaining the hazards and challenges of doing a motorbike road trip. QT also provides a clear map of the area with updated route conditions, plus a list of recommended food and accommodation stops! 

QT also has an efficient roadside assistance team. My bike fell victim to a nail in the road only 20k into our trip, and they sent someone out immediately to change the tire. All included in the insurance! 

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4. The landscapes are breathtaking...

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5. You’ll drive through authentic Vietnamese villages.

The Ha Giang Loop continually rises and falls between mountain passes and river valleys. Sometimes you get to ride along a ridge-line or through a pine grove, but you can always rely on descending into a valley with gorgeous terraced fields and homely villages.

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Kids will scream and wave at you, hoping for a honk of your horn in return. Even along the mountain passes you'll see locals carrying crops in baskets, or a cheery cowherd herding his cows. 

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6. Staying in home stays is really, really fun!

Home stays are a much more intimate way to experience local life! They're owned by families who convert some of the rooms to house guests, with one big common room for everyone to hang out. Most home stays make family meals so everyone can eat together, so it's also a great way to try local food! 

Ma Le Homestay is 10 minutes north off the main loop towards Lung Cu, and it was the BEST experience ever! We didn't arrive until after dark, but our hosts rushed us in and filled us with home-cooked food and rice wine - granny drank me under the table. Plus, the guest room we stayed in had our own fire pit! Careful not to smoke out the whole house though...

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Du Gia Guest House (Du Gia Homestay) is another great place to stop for a night. Du Gia Guest House started as a local family hosting bikers on their way around the loop, but they became so popular that QT Motors helped fund a second location! Still run by the same family, but now there are two Du Gia Homestays. They're right on a beautiful river, and they have awesome backpacker vibes! A lot of people like to stay more than one night in Du Gia to explore the nearby areas if you're not rushing to get through the loop.

 

7. You can go to the northernmost town in Vietnam and look across China!

If you venture off the loop and head up to Lung Cu, there's a giant tower with the iconic red Vietnamese flag waving at China. There are a lot of stairs, but it's totally epic to stand in Vietnam looking into southern China.

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8. You can sneak into China… or just look at it extremely legally from Vietnam.

I'm not the one who told you, but there's a spot on the border that you can grab a China selfie. ..

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9. It's a great way to get the "Vietnam Motorcycle Experience."

A lot of travelers opt to travel the entire length of Vietnam on a motorcycle. For obvious reasons, this isn't everyone's choice. But if you're still itching for a taste of the biker life, spending a few days on the Ha Giang Loop will give it to you without having to commit to a cross-country road trip.

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10. You look like a total badass.

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North Island, New Zealand Road Trip

Highlighting alternative routes for the ultimate vehicle-based experience.

 

Why Road Trip?

It’s just fun. Plus, New Zealand’s tourism industry is modeled around the assumption that most tourists are getting around via car rental. Most attractions are pretty far apart, and buses don’t run very frequently. The country is too small (only 5 million people!) to invest in an extensive and inexpensive transportation system to connect two islands with insanely varying terrain. As such, car rentals are the most reasonable and reliable method of transport. 

New Zealand is world renowned for its breath-taking landscapes and plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities. So we brought camping gear, and bookmarked tons of secret spots for camping. (They’re not actually very secret. There’s a great app called CamperMate that shows you all the local camping options on a map.) Having a car just makes it easier for us to explore some of the more remote treasures. Plus, camping helps us save money on accommodation. which in turn helps fund the cost of the car! Full circle!

The Department of Conservation, mainly referred to as DOC (as in, waddup doc!), is absolutely phenomenal here in New Zealand. Most areas have an i-Site and/or DOC visitor centre dedicated to helping tourists plan their visit around the local area. So many pamphlets. So many maps. So much support. 

 

Renting a Car

There are plenty of options to choose from when it comes to rental cars and campervans. JUCY is the most popular - and iconic - choice here in New Zealand. They make a whole line of vehicle options, including the infamous purple and green campercan. A lot of people opt for campervans because they’re well equipped and easy to maintain here in NZ, but being that we already have an outstanding backpacking tent and two mediocre sleeping bags, we chose to downsize to the “el cheapo” option. For 40 days, this little cherry hyundai would be home.

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Unfortunately, you can’t get around the fact that you constantly need to buy gas. It takes 91 unleaded, which isn’t cheap compared to prices in the States, but luckily el cheapo’s are relatively fuel efficient. Much more efficient than a campervan would be.

Also it’s weird, but you pay for gas after you pump it. We learned that the awkward way our first time at the pump. Apparently they “trust people” here. Also it’s called petrol, not gas.

 

Driving on the Other Side of the Road

It’s not actually that weird. It really only takes a day or two to get used to. As always, never drive distracted, and it’s totally fine. At first, turning is the trickiest part. Roundabouts, too. While they’re super efficient for traffic control and emission reduction, they’re definitely less straightforward than a 4-way intersection.

Only complaint: windshield wipers. Every time we go for the blinkers, our wipers start wiping. RIGHT HAND for indicating, not the left. 

 

Our Route

Most people go the most direct route from Auckland to Wellington, stopping in Waitomo, Hamilton, Matamata, Rotorua, Taupo, Tongariro, and finally Wellington. That’s pretty much the most basic way to go through the North Island, hitting some of its top attractions.

However, we took a very different route, expanding out to other regions of the North Island and cruising roads less travelled. We started in Auckland, and immediately shot north to the Bay of Islands, where we stayed at a friend’s place in Russell. Then we revisited Auckland briefly before heading down to EcoQuest on the Firth of Thames, and around to the Coromandel Peninsula where we stopped along Hahei Beach and the town of Coromandel. Afterwards, we wandered around Waikato, Matamata, Tauranga/Maunganui, and Rotorua. After that, our plans got a little jumbled, but we headed down past Wai-o-tapu to Taupo, and then back up to Ohope to take the East Coast Road to Gisborne and Napier. Finally, we took route 2 through the mountains to the North Island’s southernmost city, Wellington.

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If you’re wondering why we doubled back from Taupo, read this post.

 

Road to Russell

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Dome Forest trail, off SH1 leaving Auckland

Dome Forest trail, off SH1 leaving Auckland

Rockman trail, off SH 1 leaving Auckland

Rockman trail, off SH 1 leaving Auckland

Kauri Grove Trail, Russell Whakapara Road

Kauri Grove Trail, Russell Whakapara Road

 

Coromandel Peninsula - the 309 Road and the Pacific Coast Highway

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Waiau Falls, the 309 Road

Waiau Falls, the 309 Road

Stuart and the Pigs, the 309 Road

Stuart and the Pigs, the 309 Road

Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway

Pohutukawa trees along the Pacific Coast Highway

Pohutukawa trees along the Pacific Coast Highway

 

Southern Waikato

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Limestone rocks poking out of farm hillsides in Southern Waikato

Limestone rocks poking out of farm hillsides in Southern Waikato

Surprise rainbow over the farms along the Waikato River

Surprise rainbow over the farms along the Waikato River

Rainbow over the limestone rocks

Rainbow over the limestone rocks

 

East Coast Road (Tauranga-Gisborne-Napier)

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The East Coast Road climbs and falls through the mountains right up against the ocean

The East Coast Road climbs and falls through the mountains right up against the ocean

Blue and purple rivers wander out to the ocean under the overpasses of the highway

Blue and purple rivers wander out to the ocean under the overpasses of the highway

The East Coast is known for the "old time" feel, where townspeople still ride horses from place to place

The East Coast is known for the "old time" feel, where townspeople still ride horses from place to place

Churches dot the coastline

Churches dot the coastline

 

And of course, no matter where you go:

Sheep

Sheep

 

 

 

Love It or Leave It

Well, we’re not quite sure if we figured it out, but here’s what we’ve got:

Solving the Climate Crisis

What does New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia, India, the Mediterranean, and Northern Europe all have in common? Not their climates. 

To solve this problem, we have set up a very particular solution - with the help of our loved ones back home (thanks moms!). Aside from what we brought on flight NZ 5 (pictured below), we additionally packed three more boxes of clothes/gear to be shipped to locations along our path. First, a box of tropical wear will be shipped to us for muggy Southeast Asia. Second, a box of dresses and sandals will be shipped to us for the sunny Mediterranean. Lastly, a box of sweaters and socks will be shipped to us for wintry northern Europe. With each box, we will swap out what will no longer be needed for the next leg of the trip — i.e. that Patagonia nano puff will not be needed in Southeast Asia. 

But until those swaps happen, enjoy a peak into our 70L packs:

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

Kim’s magenta Gregory Amber 70L (left) & MJ’s Egyptian blue Gregory Deva 70L (right).

 

The Overflow Part

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Kim:

  • Lo & Sons camera bag

  • Lewis N Clark day pack - compacts down into teeny pouch

  • Generic black purse

  • Nat Geo baseball cap

MJ:

  • Osprey Talon 33L day pack

  • Generic grey purse

  • New York Yankees baseball cap - to rep the home state

 

The Gear Part

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Kim:

  • First Aid Kit - ace bandages, neosporin, band-aids, aquaphor, various meds, dramamine so as MJ does not puke on boats, etc.

  • Outdoor Master ground tarp

  • Screen cleaner rag

  • Camping utensils

  • Luggage scale - we’re looking at you, budget flights

  • Black Diamond headlamp

  • Build & Fitness pack towel

  • Collapsable coffee mug

  • Collapsable water bottle

  • Sea to Summit UltraLight sleeping mat

  • Bandanas x2

  • Sleeping bag in a Sea to Summit stuff sac

  • Cocoon Mummy Liner (silk)

  • Eno double hammock and straps

  • MAPS!

MJ:

 

The Please-Don't-Steal-These Part

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Kim:

  • BUBM electronics organizer - assorted cords and accessories

  • Nintendo DS - Pokemon is a religion for me (see toiletries below)

  • Bose bluetooth noise-cancelling headphones - f*ck you airplane turbines

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit and float accessory

  • iPhone camera attachment

  • Canon EOS Rebel T2i

  • Canon EFS 18-55mm lens

  • Canon EFS 18-200mm lens

  • Apple earbuds x2

  • MPOW rugged portable speaker

  • Divoom portable speaker - yes, we need two

  • Skyroam - useful portable wifi and service generator (look it up if you’re interested)

  • RAV Power iSmart battery pack

  • Matador camera case

  • Assorted chargers and car charger

  • Universal outlet converter

  • Flexible tripod

  • Apple MacBook Pro

  • iPhone 6S

MJ:

  • Bose noise-cancelling headphones - thank you Mama Walker

  • POWERADD solar battery pack

  • MatadorUp camera case

  • Altura padded camera lens case

  • Canon EFS 55-250mm lens

  • Canon EFS 24mm "pancake" lens

  • Canon EOS 80D - represented by the empty space

  • Commander hand strap for camera

  • TIMEX Expedition analog watch

  • NZ outlet converter

  • Apple earbuds

  • Extra camera battery and charger

  • A/V camera battery car charger - we are road tripping after all

  • FitBit Flex 2 - ask me about it, I will rave for hours

  • Port converter - honestly Apple, you’re getting on my nerves

  • ZOOP dive computer

  • GoPro Hero 4 with underwater housing unit

  • Phone charger - sticker on it to distinguish my own from the 50 other ones in a hostel

  • Micro SD card reader

  • Extra SD card

  • SD card reader

  • iPhone 6S

  • Seagate external hard drive - I’m taking A LOT of photos

  • Apple MacBook 12” in gold - I know, it’s super cute :)

 

The Bulky Part

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Fun fact: Kim & MJ are the same size shoe… HOW CONVENIENT.

Kim:

  • Mime et Moi black leather sandals with two pairs of heel attachments - because I couldn’t bring just one pair of heels..

  • Columbia lightweight rain jacket

  • Timberland boots

  • Pink Tevas - we don’t have to talk about how cute they are, but we can

  • Croc sandals (they’re cool, okay)

  • Patagonia fleece - SUCH a classic

MJ:

 

The Hard Part

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Socks, underwear, and bras not pictured. Obviously we brought them. And yes, they’re sexy. Sometimes they match. We’re on the road, but we’re still single.

Kim:

  • Sun hat

  • Black v-neck wool sweater

  • Patagonia hat - it’s MJ’s. She loves Patagonia. Ask her about it.

  • Gloves

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2

  • Short sleeve purple dress

  • Romper

  • T-shirts x6

  • Tank tops x3

  • Encircled multi-way infinity scarf

  • Black leggings x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Bikinis x2 - BEACH PICS

  • Rash guard - for diving

  • Shorts x5

MJ:

  • Black Patagonia mid-layer

  • Black cardigan

  • I <3 Pizza hat - shoutout to Picasso in Stowe, VT

  • Gloves

  • Grey infinity scarf - RIP American Apparel

  • Belts x3

  • Rash guard

  • Long-sleeve base layers x2 - one of them is Patagonia…

  • Tank tops x3

  • Lace bodysuit

  • T-shits x10

  • Dresses x3

  • Romper

  • Bikinis x2

  • Patagonia shorts x4 - I honestly didn’t mean to do that

  • Jean shorts x2

  • Blue jeans

  • Joggers

 

The Fun Part

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Kim:

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Pokemon face masks - I told you it was a religion

  • Inflatable neck pillow and eye mask

  • Mini plastic bags - I have a sand collection, it’s really cool

  • Mystical Fire color packs x2 - keepin’ it colorful

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • iPhone powered fan - #selfie game strong

  • Mini spray bottle with peppermint oil - spiders hate it, and that’s what matters here.

  • Twist ties and locks

  • Sunnies

  • Sunblock and tattoo guard

  • Journal - thanks Sarah

  • Harry Potter playing cards - I’m a Slytherin. My patronus is a hummingbird, since you asked

  • Kindle

  • Flask - thanks Dave

  • Pencils n pens

  • Business cards - gotta work bitch

  • Snazzy hair clips x2

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

MJ:

  • Sunglasses with croakies

  • Gold switchblade with roses on it - definition of a badass babe

  • Inflatable neck pillow that I forgot to use on the 12hr flight

  • Extra Ziploc bags

  • Journal

  • Doorstop

  • Purell

  • Waterproof phone bag thing

  • Leatherman Juice CS4 - literally the best thing I’ve ever owned

  • Aquatabs

  • DIY travel candle and matches

  • Pen

  • Sudoku book - I’m not a grandma, I just like to stay sharp

  • Polaroids from home <3

  • BANANAGRAMS

  • Kindle

  • Makeup bag with 50 shades of lipstick

  • Toiletries - just what you’d expect

  • Mase & a taser - fuck with me.

 

Oh, and paracord. The blue thing running down the middle.

 

The Thoughts Part

We’re guessing here. This is not a science. We had limited space, and this is how we filled it. Yeah, it’s pretty heavy - around 42.5 lbs each to be exact. But right now, we can’t imagine getting rid of any of it. Maybe we’ll change our minds after carrying them up a few mountains. We’ll keep you posted.

*           *          *

“What is the weirdest thing you brought with you?”

Kim: Pokemon face masks and Mystical Fire color packs.

MJ: BANAGRAMS.

 

 

Fun fact: between the two backpacks, we brought a whopping 17 Patagonia items. SPONSOR US PLEASE. #girlswhoexplore