Part 3: Dong Van – Meo Vac (20km)

This is actually only a short ride, and you could be tempted saying it only takes an hour or two to get from Dong Van to Meo Vac. However, this section is probably the absolute highlight of the loop. Some will even say it is the most beautiful ride in Vietnam. The road follows some of the most impressive valleys and hills you can find in Vietnam, and the last thing you want to do is rushing here. You want to have plenty of times to stop when you want to. And trust me, with these sights you will stop often.

From Dong Van follow the main road out-of-town. After leaving town the road passes rice fields and soon enough the road starts to ascend into the mountain area. From here on it will be difficult to beat the scenery. Even reading about it nothing could have prepared me for this stunning area.

Stunning – beautiful – out of this world

Soon after reaching the highest point of the mountain, you are overlooking the surrounding area. It consists of limestone karst, valleys full of rice terraces and rivers hundreds of metres below you. This offers a stark contrast between the green of rice and grass and the dark colour rocks. After this lush green you pass some harsh looking rock formation with houses standing between them – looking slightly lost there. And the whole time the road is hugging the mountain on one side, while on the other side the slopes drop down a few hundred metres. The road is fun to ride – even though you still have to keep an eye on it to avoid potholes. And make sure you keep an eye on traffic and locals walking here carrying their heavy goods on their back. Riding over the edge is not a good idea!!!

Between the stunning landscape you will pass some lovely looking village. The houses are built amongst rocks and next to rivers, offering a nice contrast to rice fields and the otherwise harsh looking environment. Such contrast really makes this area so interesting. Here it might be a good idea to take a few stops. Just to get off the motorbike, sit down, feet hanging down off the road with drops of hundred metres or more – and just let the view sink in. These are places were you feel so small, and where you can appreciate the beauty of nature. Some might even become philosophical about it….
This is definitely not an area to rush through – it really would feel cheating.

Viewing platform from heaven….

Halfway through this section you will arrive at maybe the highlight of the trip. On the left you will see a larger house with a car park and a few vendors selling food and drinks. Inside the house is even a little food place. But the most important sections are the two viewing platforms. One next to the road, one below that platform. The view here on offer can be hardly described – except that it is stunning. On one side you can look down into a valley where a lovely blue coloured river flows. The slopes of the mountains above the river are full of rice terraces, houses and forests providing a bright colourful contrast.

On the other side there are just mountains with little gaps between so the river can get through. If you would see such view on a painting, you might call it cheesy and not realistic. But if you see it with your own eyes you cannot help to be impressed and taken away. I am not sure you could beat that view – for me it is one, if not the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Forget Sapa, forget Halong Bay or the Mekong Delta. This is the most beautiful and most impressive part of Vietnam. A stop here is for me mandatory. And take the effort to walk through the hours and down the stairs for the lower platform, you can get a very nice view from there as well.

Down the mountains to Meo Vac

After such a view it would be easy to feel disappointed what you see afterwards. But not here. The road continues winding along the mountains still offering fantastic views. Impressive rock formation hanging above the road, while locals still waving at you when passing them.

The following 5km the road is hugging the mountain before it starts to head down to the valley again. The descend looks steeper than it is, but make sure you use your brakes accordingly. Reaching the valley, the road now passes little houses and lots of rice fields, and you will soon arrive Meo Vac on the main road.

Meo Vac itself is a lovely place to stop. It is located in a valley and surrounded by hills on all sides. It offers less accommodation than Dong Van, but it still has a wider choice of hotels and guesthouses. Food places, cafes and karaoke bars are also available. Here are more details about Meo Vac.

On a Sunday the biggest market of the region takes place in Meo Vac – and it really is a good enough reason to make an attempt to be there for that day. It is not a market for tourists, but for the locals buying and selling cattle, water buffalos, rice, corn wine and other day-to-day good. It is surely fascinating to visit it – and a great opportunity experiencing local rural life while doing the Ha Giang Loop. Here are more details about the market.

Overview

Ha Giang – Yen Minh

Yen Minh – Dong Van

Dong Van – Meo Vac

Meo Vac – Ha Giang