A mountain road at Minh Son, Bac Me
A mountain road at Minh Son, Bac Me

Tour Ha Giang by Motorcycle: Trip of Dreams Part 2

I wake up by cock crows in the early morning. The boys are preparing and about to leave for school. I get up and join Tuyen and his father for the morning tea.

 The lady is preparing breakfast which includes steamed sticky rice and chicken the dishes that I particularly love. Today is going to be another long and exciting day, so I want to leave early. The lady wants to pack the food for me to take away, but I have to decline. I just want to travel light. They are so nice people and when bidding farewell to them I think to myself that I will try to come back. Tuyen sees me off to the gate and asks me to call him before my trip back to the village next time, so he could get me their delicious traditional food.

Minh Son, Bac Me, Ha GiangMinh Son, Bac Me, Ha Giang

Leaving Ban Lan, I travel back to the riverside near Yen Phu Town for some photos of the riverine life. Not much to shoot really, given that the lighting is great. Back at the town now, the food from a roadside restaurant looks just tempting, I pull in and have some steamed rice paper rolls with mushroom filling. Then, my adventure continues with a ride up and down on a narrow road with high mountains on on side and the Gam River on the other.

At Minh Ngoc, I turn into Road No. 176 heading north. The first 10km is just horrendous as there are many trucks carrying loads of ore mined from nearby. Then the road goes uphill with virtually no traffic and with really fresh air. I feel so relieved and stop every now and again for sipping my coffee and taking photos of the landscape.

It is only when the scenery is getting more sensational, my camera turns naughty. The preview screen keeps showing an error and the photos can not be taken. I turn off and on a few times as suggested by the screen but it doesn't work. I think there may be something wrong with the card as I didn't format it this morning before taking photos as usual. So I turn on the computer and copy the photos from the card. The battery is low and the computer turns off after a minute. I'm in the middle of nowhere and there is no place for me to get power for the computer. And I do not want to pass through this area without photos. I never got any problems with this camera until now indeed.

Minh Son, Bac Me, Ha GiangMinh Son, Bac Me, Ha Giang

Thinking that it is only some problem with the card, I try to format it knowing that the photos I took in the morning including those of Tuyen's family will be gone. I do not want to move on without the camera then. Once the card is formatted, the camera could work on and off. So the problem persists but at least I can take photos sometimes. It is so annoying and so time-consuming that I decide to use my smart phone each time the camera doesn't work. That is the best that I could do under the circumstance.

For over one hour I travel on a scenic road with soaring mountains and forests to the right and valleys, rivers, ethnic communities.. to the left. The road travels northward all the way to Dong Van and it is mostly uphill. It takes me over an hour to get to the top of the mountain with superb view down the road where I came from. This area is between Minh Son Commune (Bac Me) and Du Gia Commune (Yen Minh District). It is mid day already with mild sunshine and refreshing breeze. This pattern of weather normally means a new spell of cold wind is coming soon. This indicates that the weather is wonderful today, but unpredictable tomorrow. Here in the highlands it is normally foggy and damp, in the delta it may rain for a few days.

Du Gia, Yen Minh, Ha GiangDu Gia, Yen Minh, Ha Giang

My last trip to Dong Van was the beginning of the rainy season and now it is the beginning of the coldest time of the year. There is often snow and frost in the far-northern mountains of Vietnam for a couple of weeks in the winter nowadays. I do not expect it that cold at this time though, but it is going to be just cold. I'm sure I will manage to get through fine then.

The road ahead to Du Gia settles down slightly with breathtaking view of the valleys and the mountains. Sunshine is bright today and the sky is blue. The air is dry and the temperature is so pleasant. Putting aside the problem with the camera, it is a perfect day in every sense.

Du Gia, Yen Minh, Ha GiangDu Gia, Yen Minh, Ha Giang

Descending into the valley of Du Gia, my stomach starts roaring; it is in the afternoon already. There are only a couple of restaurants in this township catering mostly to passengers who arrive on commuter buses from Bac Me and Ha Giang City. I stop at one which looks clean. There are no other guests. The menu is limited, so I ask for beef, broth of pickled vegetables, and steamed rice. That should be good for the bad road that I have to cover this afternoon...

Du Gia, Yen Minh, Ha GiangThe valley of Du Gia, Yen Minh, Ha Giang

In the early afternoon, I'm ready to get on the road again. A good part of the road ahead today is under construction as informed by the restaurant owner. I can see that clearly going out of the township. The road goes up gradually and road workers are breaking into the mountain to expand the little road. The higher I go, I could see the valley more clearly and more beautiful. In the middle of the valley, there is a cluster of houses on stilts surrounded by picturesque farms.

Du Gia, Yen Minh, Ha GiangA Tay village at Du Gia

 The road doesn't seem to stop going up. It is high mountain to the left and a deep ravine just by the right side. From above, it is a spectacular view of the mountains farther at Du Tien. There is a small road as thin as a thread running along side a stream all the way from Du Gia to Du Tien. There is no road further from Du Tien though. It is next to Cao Bang and there are no roads just yet connecting the two regions. The landscape is so breathtaking that I really want to go back to Du Gia and have a mountain biking trip around to Du Tien some day.

Road from Du Gia to Du TienRoad from Du Gia to Du Tien

Then it comes to a section of the road that construction work is yet to begin. There are a lot of sharp pieces of rock on the road surface that look so dangerous for the tires of my motorbike. It would be very bad having a flat tire here. My hands are reddened and tired gripping tightly the handlebar for too long a time. But I'm very happy with the rewards as the landscapes keep changing from stunning to sensational. It is so inspirational that I consume all my hot coffee that is supposed to have been for this whole afternoon.

Road from Du Gia to Lung HoRoad to Lung Ho from Du Gia