I was really apprehensive about going up into the mountains on the border with China, north Vietnam. Imagination conjures up worse pictures of reality, I imagined over and over again that I’d be driving tiny paths high up a sheer cliff, with the gravel slipping out from underneath the wheel, I lost sleep over it, imagining crashing in thousands of different ways. Fears are our subconscious musing over situations that we don’t know, I knew I couldn’t miss this so I knew I needed some local help.
Mr Quyen is the motorbike tour man in Thon Tha village, he organises the motorbike tours up to Dong Van and fits your criteria to his exceptional knowledge of the roads. Thon Tha is perfectly situated just 7km from the highway that goes to Dong Van from Hagiang city.
As it turns out Soph and I came back and drove the roads by ourselves, they’re completely fine. It is well worth it because the views are seriously stunning, I can guarantee you’ll want to stop at every road high up on the side of a deep mountainous valley.
This trip was 2 nights, 3 days and included some pretty epic drives. 135km on the first day through the changing mountain scenery. The weather didn’t exactly shine on us this time around, it was cold, wet, and windy, but this only added to the mystical nature of the mountains. Wispy clouds clung to the rolling hills.
Twilight hung in the vast vistas at midday.
It cleared up a little once we reached Dong Van, Mr Quyen ensuring that we found a bed at a local home stay amid the packed out market town. The contributions of market day, the local flowers blooming, and high tourist season meant that there wasn’t a hotel room free in sight. Book ahead people! The home stays tucked away in the back street of Dong Van are very pretty and the road is beautiful and quiet, at the foot of the mountains that guard the town.
The next day we spent in and around Dong Van, going to Lung Cu (the North Pole of Vietnam) in the morning,
as is described in the name this is the northern most point in Vietnam, with China on three sides, and Vietnam back to the south. It’s an impressive big flag though isn’t it! I could see it from at least 30 km away. I had fun at the top with some Vietnamese fellow motorbike tourists.
The mountain scenery on the way to the pole was stunning, as always, but perhaps some of the best in the whole area.
In the afternoon we went to a village on the border with China. Not sure there’d be any danger from the Chinese army on this border though.
The roads to this village were pretty bad after the rains,
So when we arrived I was happy to accept a little hospitality from this man in the form of rice wine. This one was really delicate tasting, but the stuff is still really potent.
One of my favourite memories from this year is sitting at the table with him and Mr Quyen. Quyen talks a little English, Vietnamese and Thay. This guy talks H’mong, Vietnamese, and a little Chinese. I’m lagging behind by talking English and a little Chinese. We sat there drinking tea and rice wine, Quyen talked to me in English and him in Vietnamese, I talked to him in Chinese, most importantly we laughed a lot!
The kids in the village were so smiley, something i’d come to recognise is a characteristic of the whole area.
There were loads of dry stone walls in the village, it’s so funny what cultures share from the other side of the world. You’d see this in the lake district and many other rural English places.
If there’s a more spectacular border than i’d like to see it.
This is Quyen on the road back. I’ll miss this guy.
I’ll also miss seeing this every day.
The next day I had my first of two tastes of ‘Ma Pi Leng’. Simply, everyone should experience riding this road on a motorbike, it’s the closest to feeling like you’re flying that i’ve ever experienced. Without actually flying of course.
Photos don’t do it justice, you have to go. But there’ll be more on it in our driving to Dong Van post which is coming up!