Bordering China, on Vietnam’s northern frontier, Ha Giang is a province highlighted by granite mountains and limestone hills. An abundance of greenery complements the topography, clinging to the foothills, and draping the mountainous terrain from top to bottom. The gorgeous terrain also features two major rivers that follow you wherever you go. I had started my month-long journey in the country in South Vietnam, from Ho Chi Minh City. With every movement I made northward, conversations about Ha Giang leapt from rumours about its beautiful landscapes to actual experiences that travellers had. The province was one of the last, least-preferred items on my itinerary. But enough people had praised this ‘offbeat destination’ to stir up interest for me to go and see what Ha Giang was all about.
The most popular way to explore the entire province is to drive around on a motorbike and I followed suit. As an Indian, my first instinct was to relate this journey to the fabled Manali-Leh expedition that most bikers yearn for. But I soon discovered that there was far too much of a difference between the two. For starters, bikes on offer in Ha Giang are available in manual, semi-automatic and automatic (read: scooter) modes. And the highest altitude that one can get to by road is about 1500 m, reaching which can still feel like a personal feat.