This ride was a complete surprise for us and one we won’t forget in a hurry! From Hanoi, we took a bus to Cao Bang as we wanted to visit the fourth widest waterfall in the world – Ban Gioc (pronounced Ban Zoc).
After the waterfall, we headed west, en route to the Ha Giang Loop. However, instead of following the highway, we took a smaller local road that hugged the Chinese border through spectacular valleys, mesmerising rice paddies, burnt orange cornfields and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery we saw right across Vietnam!
Don’t tell the Ha Giang Loop, but we actually preferred these two days. So, whether you’re coming from the loop or heading towards it, DON’T miss this ride.
Distance & Elevation
- Only 105km, but it’s gorgeous & hilly!
- 2,370 meters of climbing
- 2,360 meters of descending
- We averaged 52km per day
- 2-3 days depending on riding style
- 1 day if you’re going fast & light
- We took 2 days, but would have liked to spend 3 days and stop over in the Xuan Trung Valley – ah hindsight!
- We suggest taking it slow and really enjoying the scenery, people & energy.
- Karst mountains
- Limestone valleys
- Rice paddies
- Corn fields
- Ethic villages
- Mountain passes
- Switchbacks that’ll make you smile like a mad person
- The most incredible valleys
- Just ride it – trust us!
- Paved for the majority
- Some sections can get quite muddy
- One section of switchbacks (heading from Can Yen) was really tough due to very loose gravel and sharp as shit rocks (be careful of pinch flats here)
- Although it’s only 105km, it’s a pretty challenging ride. We’d suggest stoking up on water and some snacks. Those back to back switchbacks will take it out of you!
An accidental heaven
We stumbled across this route by complete accident, but ever since we rode it, we’ve been telling anyone that’ll listen to us about it. We went to Cao Bang to see Ban Gioc Waterfall, but this ride was a showstopper & had to feature in our top routes!
Hugging China Highlights
The Xuan Truong Valley
Bold, jagged mountains frame a small village etched with bright green rice paddies and sunburnt cornfields. As if that wasn’t enough, can you guess the entrance and exit to this wonderland? A stunning, serpentine road whose sharp switchbacks carved into the mountainside with striking beauty.
To this day, the Xuan Truong Valley is still one of my favourite all-time rides. It’s endless switchbacks are tough, but the landscapes, atmosphere and people are more than worth it!
Can Yen Corn Fields
Coming from Cao Bang, we passed through Thong Nong forest and some beautiful scenery before reaching Can Yen.
We were there during harvest season and so all the rice paddies glistened a golden, yellow colour while the corn fields glowed like the embers of a fire, spreading their sun-kissed oranges throughout the landscape.
Deo Me Pia
Deo Me Pia is the large switchback section we mentioned in the last highlight. We climbed it (due to our direction) and it was magnificent, although pretty challenging. It’s a 15 stage switchback that winds its way up and up. We saw motorcycles struggle with their 100cc and passenger, but little by little we made our way to the top!
At the very top, you can see the magnificent switchback below you and it’s a perfect spot to get a photo of either your partner or yourself cycling this massive, impressive mountain pass.