12: Hagiang Loops Days 1 & 2, Vietnam

Wednesday 24th July 2019

Days 84 and 85 of my SE Asia Trip!

The past 2 days have been filled with the biggest challenge of my trip so far – riding my own motorbike around the Hagiang loop in northern Vietnam. I woke up on day 1 with THE WORST anxiety about it and wanted to go home. But since then I’ve seen the most amazing scenery and am overwhelmed with what I’ve been able to do.

I’m at the halfway point of the 420km loop and can safely say that going completely out of my way to head back to Vietnam has been more than worth it. Branded as most people’s ‘highlight of Asia’ I can see why it’s so highly spoken of.

I had heard about it during my first visit to Vietnam but was super apprehensive as I’m not confident on a bike and didn’t want to do it alone. Since then I’d learnt how you can easily find people to do it with. There are many hostels in Hagiang that do bike rental and leave as a group in the morning.

The one I was most recommended was Jasmine Hostel. On arrival they sorted my bike rent, insurance, and a night of accommodation. Then in the morning we got breakfast and briefing before heading out to start the adventure!

My bike cost 200k (£6) a day to rent plus an extra 100k (£3) for insurance. I also paid 30k (£1) for knee and arm pads. You got your helmet for free. Each day you have to top your bike up with fuel. So far I’ve spent 50k (£2.60) each day on that!

The first day was spent travelling from Hagiang to Yen Minh. The weather wasn’t fantastic but I expected nothing less from cloudy north Vietnam in rainy season. It’s amazing to feel like you’re literally in the clouds. It’s like you’re on top of the world. The group that left from the hostel was huge. At 41 it was the largest they’d ever had.

The ride went pretty well and I gradually started to feel more comfortable on the bike. I did fall off once but to be honest that was a lot better than I expected. Along the way we stopped at lots of different view points to grab some photos, and also visited a cave.

We arrived at our accommodation for the night – Bong Bang Hostel in Yen Minh – to an amazing family dinner. And of course the incredibly disgusting happy water. I ADORE family dinners and the friendly atmosphere it creates. Another great thing in Vietnam is the ‘happy water’, their home brewed rice wine. It taste AWFUK but drinking it as a group brings everyone together, especially when you all chant ‘Một, hai, ba, vô!’

The next morning (today) I left with three others as we decided to separate from the larger group. The object of day 2 was to reach the town of Dong Van. Not long after we left the homestay in Yen Minh we made a stop at a local market.

The scenery along the drive was amazing of course. With every turn the mountains and roads were just totally breathtaking. I began to get more and more confident on my bike throughout the day, it’s just the best feeling. It was nicer to be in a smaller group today and I felt I got the chance to chat a lot more to others. And miraculously I didn’t fall once!

Today’s route took us along the Chinese border (where there was a Chinese policeman guarding it) and up to the northernmost point in Vietnam – Lung Cu flag tower. Here we got a beautiful view over into China. I find it crazy that there’s a whole other country just metres away from you!

China!!

I’m super excited for day 3 and 4 of the Hagiang loop, especially now that I feel more confident. I hate to sound so cliché but it’s definitely one of the best things I’ve done on my trip. It’s so rewarding to drive myself around, especially when I was so nervous about it in the beginning. It’s reassuring proof that I am capable of doing anything I put my mind to.

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