So we decided to create this post because we had such a problem finding good information about traveling in the ha giang province. We pretty much went on this adventure thinking, let's just take the dive and hope it works out. Good news! It did.
With a little bit of hard work, you can travel through ha giang for quite cheap, without a guide, and without a motorcycle.
First off, arranging your travel permit can be quite a bit trickier than we expected. Its extremely hard to find anyone who speaks English, and no one seems to know what your talking about when you ask. there are no maps, and the address circulating around is not correct. We spent quite a few hours wandering around town until we finally found the immigration office, through lots of Google translations and gestures.
Its by the fairly unimpressive museum, with a red sign that says in English immigration office. It is on a busy side street, a few blocks from the river ( the street that is a bridge across the river connecting downtown and the main market area. )
it costs us approximately 10 a person, quick and easy.
We took bus 34 from a stop near the old quarter (5000dong) to My Dinh bus station (it's the last stop). Then asked the nearest terminal lady what bus would take us to ha giang. She got us all set up. Cau me is the bus company that bloggers recommend for getting to ha giang city and dong van, costing 100,000.
Local buses from bangkok leave around 830 pm for 120-220,000 ( depending upon seat or bed. ) This is a ridiculous bus ride, so prepare yourself for stopping and starting 10 or so different times, in a car this could be as very quick journey, yet also more expensive. You will arrive around 4:45 am, don't expect any hotels to be open, or cafes. we ended up sitting on the curb until 6 am. There should be some taxis waiting for the bus arrival. Ours called his daughter to communicate to us about the location of our hotel and the cost. It was only 40,000 dong, except he tried to ask for more later. That being said it was also a walkable distance, but alas we had no map. We probably could have slept on the bus until it was light out then ventured out on our own....if we had looked up how to get there ahead of time.
Dong van bus leaves around 6 am, 1030, 12? ( either direction). Our hotel, after some Google translations, called the bus directly and it we were picked up at the hotel. When asking how to get to the bus station, or if we could get a taxi they said " no bus station. " this isn't true, but a great example of how difficult it can be to get answers and communicate around this area at times.
From our experience, ha giang city is fairly unexciting with little to do but the locals are very friendly.
The bus ride is packed tight, don't expect a seat to yourself. On our way there, people passed around vomit bags, which lots of people used through out the trip. Fun.
In dong van, there is a ton of accommodation available, we recommend nghi home stay, near the far end of town. It's really a hotel called a home stay but the owner speaks English. Across the street there is an amazing restaurant, that is always empty that made us delicious vegetarian meals for only 30,000.
From dong van, there is a ton of trekking opportunity. All of the motorcycle routes from one village to the next can provide great hiking, including the hike towards meo vac through ma pileng pass ( MUST!)
The kids in the villages will run out screaming hello hello, and love interacting with foreigners. The people are so hospitable, and friendly ( although some are very weary initially, especially the further out of town you get). Our day treking experience was the high light of our Vietnam trip, especially a couple ridiculous nights drinking corn wine with the locals. While walking by small village, sometimes you get invited in for tea... Then comes the corn wine.
You can look at trails on Google maps. They are all gorgeous, just go get lost.
But really, the corn wine- Vietnamese moon shine, that stuff is deadly! We suggest stopping around 3 shots, but the locals will keep offering until eternity we think. For ladies, some men are occasionally a bit too much when drunk ( like everywhere. ) We felt very safe as women traveling alone there though!
if you don't want to walk, you can ask for a motorbike taxi. From dong van to meovac, it is 200,000. There is one car taxi but plan ahead or it may be booked for the day. It was about 500,000 dong for the car there and back (for a group).
Knowing Vietnamese is not necessary, but certainly helps! Knowing things like numbers, food names (veggies, rice versus noodles, pho, etc.), and "no more wine!"
For breakfast in dong van, try banh cuan. It's a rice crepe with either eggs, meat or nothing dipped in a savory soup. It's sold in this hole in the wall restaurant on the main road with the name written in blue spray paint under the window. We found it a very hearty and cheap way to start a day of hiking! 20,000 for two vegetarian plates.
And yes, go to the Sunday market. But you all already know about it, its nice for people watching.
Hope this helps people with interest in traveling in this region.
If anyone has questions, feel free to pm me directly.
recommended stay... Forever? Or 4-5 nights.
#1 melmariet has been a member since 10/4/2009. Posts: 22
Good report. You could just have waited until Dong Van and got the permit there - the hotel would probably do it for you. And yes, that home made alcohol is worth taking slow and easy. Chúc sức khỏe!
(Heading back in July for my third week up in the North East....I've been neglecting some of my other favourite places in Vietnam since discovering the Ha Giang region.)
Thanks for the report!
I know it's a bit outdated but I'm planning to go to Ha giang too and I don't want to ride a motorbike.
Like you I'm on a budget. I was thinking of doing the HG-Dong Van route on bus but a local told me I would miss out on so much if I don't hire a motorbike or get an xe om.
Did you feel like you were missing out?
I want to walk from Dong Van to Meo vac, as it is "only" 22 km and it is supposed to be the most spectacular part.
#4 fred1990 has been a member since 31/12/2015. Posts: 1