Yen Minh is a little town 100km east of the province’s capital Ha Giang Town. This is usually the first stop of the Ha Giang Loop.
Located in a valley, surrounded by hills, and quite a few rice fields in and outside the town, it is actually a nice little place. The main road of the area, QL4C, is cutting through the town, and most accommodations, food places, shops and the petrol station can be found along that road. Thanks to the set up it is very easy to navigate here.
However, even though every tourist doing the loop passes through here it still feels very non-touristy. You can easily walk through he town, explore some of the side streets and see kids playing in little streams, adults playing football or volleyball just before dawn at the stadium, and you will get the usual curious look from the locals. And the locals can be very friendly here, and might invite you for a drink after you had dinner at one of the food places.
Overall, it Yen Minh has a nice feel to it – though it cannot comment against Dong Van and Meo Vac. But still perfect to enjoy an afternoon here.
Arrival / Departure
Buses arrive here from Ha Giang Town, Meo Vac and Dong Van. Though if you travel by bus it is not a place you must stop.
If you travel on a bike, you cannot miss the town when travelling on QL4C. From Ha Giang you will descend from the mountains into town. You actually get a nice view over town during the last stretch.Just follow the road to find any accommodation. I would suggest heading towards the centre of town, approximately where the stadium is on your right.
Coming from Meo Vac go straight ahead when the road you are on takes a sharp right turn – you cannot miss the main road heading west. If you come from Dong Van turn right before the road takes a sharp left turn. Again, you will not miss that main road.Following the QL4C will lead you into town. You find plenty of places at the start of the town, and you can either stay there, or head into the centre of town.
Along the main road you will find plenty of basic guesthouses and hotels. Due the amount of rooms you could easily compare prices and check out rooms before taking one. I stayed at Kim Tinh Motel located opposite of the petrol station, which offers great value for money. I also saw an interesting wooden homestay building in a little street opposite the stadium (turning left coming from Ha Giang Town). I am not sure what the price was for the room look like, but it looked interesting from the outside.
Food & Drinks
You find plenty of food places and cafes along the main road. Coming from Ha Giang there is a little cafe on a corner to your right before you reach the stadium. The place has a few tables outside. The owner is a teacher in the village, and she enjoys calling students over if tourists visit her place. She is a nice person and interesting to talk to. It is also a good place for a ca fe sua da as well as fresh Banh Mi. Unfortunately it is not open in the morning due to her job as teacher.
A nice place for watching people is in a cafe / hair salon on the corner opposite the stadium. You can get sugar cane juice or ca fe sua da to sit back and enjoy a late afternoon drink.
Maybe the nicest cafe is next to the Kim Tinh Motel – two houses to the left. Walk through the entrance and at the back of the building there are a few chairs located next to a little pond. It is very quiet here, and rather cool, and it is very nice to sit here. At night there are two karaoke rooms where the local enjoy one of their favourite activities (drinking & singing).
For dinner there are plenty of food places. Some of them seemed to target tourists – for example the one at the corner diagonal opposite of the stadium. However, these touristy ones were empty. I visited a food places a few doors next to the empty touristy restaurant, which was one of the typical Vietnamese food places with a large door as entry with plastic chairs and metal tables. Surprisingly they have English menu, and in addition of the usual noodle dishes they also served a dish that is similar of the Lao dish duck laap – duck minced meat. The dish was superb, and nice to eat something else. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the food place.
What to do
While Yen Minh has no real tourist sites you can have a nice little walk to stretch your legs. The best base is around the stadium. Turning right after passing the stadium you enter a wider street, but instead of houses you will little gardens and large rice fields. it is a nice view, and worth walk (or ride the bike) until the road narrows again and heads up a hill.
Another option is the not turning right at the stadium, but turning left. It looks like a dead-end, though the locals just ride their bikes through the little stream. Leave your bike here, and follow the path along the stream. You can see locals working, kids playing, so just your average view in rural Vietnam – without mass tourism.
And one sight not to miss happens late afternoon. Walk into the stadium and you can watch the men & boys playing football, and the girls and women playing volleyball. And they are all not bad. They find it rather funny seeing a foreigner sitting down to watch them – but it could add to the experience visiting this part of Vietnam.
Maybe after a long day on the motorbike, stretching your legs to walk around or watching the locals might be the activity you just need.