Ha Giang is the final frontier in northern Vietnam, an amazing landscape of limestone pinnacles and granite outcrops. The far north of the province has some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, and the trip between Yen Minh and Dong Van, and then across the Mai Pi Leng Pass to Meo Vac is quite mind-blowing. Ha Giang should be one of the most popular destinations in this region, but its proximity to the Chinese border still keeps visitor numbers at a low level.
Travel permits (US$11) are required to travel on the road north from Tam Son to Dong Van and Meo Vac, but these are simply paid directly with whichever hotel you choose to overnight in along the way.
The province is best managed with a car and driver or by motorbike. If you’re going to splurge on private transport once during your trip, this is the time to do it.
Public transport is improving and it’s relatively simple to journey by bus from Ha Giang city to Dong Van, but at the time of writing there was still no public transport from Dong Van onward to Meo Vac. However, there are buses, along the low road, between Meo Vac and Ha Giang city, so by hiring a xe om or taxi in Dong Van for the stretch to Meo Vac, it is entirely possible to do a loop back to Ha Giang city. Heading east from Meo Vac to Cao Bang continues to be a headache as there is no public transport from Meo Vac to Bao Lac.
Whichever way you tackle Ha Giang, you’ll be among only a handful of travellers to the area and will experience some of Indochina’s most jaw-dropping scenery.