Meo Vac, Ha Giang, Vietnam
How long to stay in Meo Vac: 1 - 2 nights
Meo Vac is a developed modern town situated in a pocket of the Karst Plateau. The city isn’t very exciting, but the setting is charming. Like Dong Van, Meo Vac is a good base for exploring the area around the Ma Pi Leng Pass. Below I also give a few recommendations to accommodations just outside of Meo Vac, closer to Ma Pi Leng.
While here, you might want to take a day to go float on the Nho Que River, then ride to the Chinese border. Additionally, there are some exciting singletrack loops through the mountains for experienced riders to explore.
Meo Vac Map
Where to stay in Meo Vac
In Meo Vac there aren’t many accommodations that I could confidently recommend. Thankfully though, arguably two of the best accomodations on the loop – operated by Little Yen- is here, making up for the slack.
Little Yen’s (not traditional) Homestay: $4 – $15, Dorm, private 2 – 4 pax
+84 94 109 33 21
lang Lô Lô, Mèo Vạc, Hà Giang, Vietnam
Little Yen’s is a favorite accommodation in all of the Ha Giang loop. Mainly, because Yen is a very kind hearted individual who cares about her guests and does everything she can to make their trip/stay the best possible. She is very knowledgeable of the area, and (in great english) she can help with any questions you have. A really cool thing about Yen, is her desire and effort to help the community, providing free english lessons for any of the local kids, and some work opportunities for older kids. On top of that, the homestay is clean, comfortable, and a good place to kick your feet up.
Little Yen’s is not a traditional homestay like those you’d find in places like Nam Dam or Du Gia, rather it is a multi story concrete building with a lounge on the ground floor and rooms throughout.
She has private rooms, as well as a mixed dorm room. All the baths are shared, but are clean, with hot water. The one caveat of Yen’s it that there isn’t much sound privacy. But, the private rooms are far from the social area, so it’s not that big of a deal.
Breakfast is included, with a few options to choose from. Every evening there is a scheduled group dinner, where Yen is open to special requests.
Meo Vac H’mong ecolodge: $5 – $24, dorm, private double/triple
+84 94 109 33 21
Pa Vi, Meo Vac, Hà Giang
Little Yen’s newly built (fall 2019), traditional style H’mong house, located in a Cultural Tourism Village outside of Meo Vac, near Ma Pi Leng Pass. Being owned and operated by Yen and her family, you can expect top notch service.
The focus of this homestay is to bring the H’mong cultural to guests, with activities such as weaving, farm work, and traditional meal cooking lessons. They also have plans to grow their own hemp and corn for future use in these activities. They also have free do-it-yourself trekking instructions so guests can explore the area on foot.
The house is beautifully decorated with traditional features and modern fixtures, like large soft mattresses on raised platforms, private bathrooms, and a modern layout. Here they have private rooms that can sleep 3, each with a private bathroom. Additionally, they have a 17 bed dorm on the top floor. Breakfast is included with the stay. And, the optional communal dinner is a vegetarian hot pot, with the choice to add meat, ranging 80k – 100k (~$3.50 – $4.30). They will also take special meal requests.
Vivi Homestay: $9 – $14, Private single, Private Double
+84 868 363 988
Pả Vi, Mèo Vạc District, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Vivi Homestay is part of a newly built (2019) cultural tourism village, modeled after the homes of the ethnic minority groups in the area. The village is situated in a small canyon outside of Meo Vac city, close to Ma Pi Leng. The homestay is beautifully decorated and very tidy. However, like other homestays, there isn’t much for sound or temperature insulation because the building is mostly built from wood.
The family running the place is very kind, and do their best to help, but don’t speak english.
The potential downside to the homestay the bathrooms are outside of the building, and the beds are quite firm. Also, during peak seasons the village may get loud and busy until the nightly noise curfew at 10:30pm.
Where to eat in Meo Vac
Mr. Hung Italian $$$ 3.5
Some good italian, especially considering it’s located in the northern mountains of vietnam! If you have a hankering for some pasta or pizza, it might do the trick.
Quyet Hang Fast Food – Milk Tea: $$
This restaurant is very unsuspecting. You wouldn’t expect some tasty western and asian food to come out of this place, but it does. Also, the menu is in english. Here you can get burgers, pizza, noodles, rice, smoothies and milk tea, just to name a few.
Thanh Phương Restaurant $$
A casual little restaurant that serves delicious vietnamese food. They don’t speak english, but they are friendly and familiar with google translate. Prices are reasonable.
May Co restaurant – Mây Cồ Quán: $$
May Co serves super tasty vietnamese food in large portions meant to be shared. Come here and order yourself a main, a veg, a soup, and a large bowl of white rice and get down on a vietnamese style dinner with a group of friends.
What to do in Meo Vac
Weekend Livestock Market
Every Sunday, locals from surrounding villages come together in Meo Vac to show and sell their animals. If you have any animal sensitivities, I recommend avoiding this market. There will be a lot of screaming pigs…
However, along with the animals, there are textiles, treats, and other items targeting the locals. Around the market you will find old men drinking their homebrewed corn and rice wines, and smoking Thuoc Lao (mixed tobacco) out of long bamboo bongs. If you approach them, they might offer you a taste of either or.
For intermediate riders - single tracks to nearby small villages:
There are a number of trails, and single tracks that snake through the Karst mountains to the west of Meo Vac. They lead to picturesque hill farm villages that grow a variety of crops. These trails can be very slick, and bumpy, and require some skills to safely navigate. The trails are best marked on Maps.Me, and are pretty straight forward to navigate. Also, the trails marked on my map loop back to DT182. If you have a few hours to explore, these are some stunning routes! See the map for further details for each route.
Boat Ride or Kayak on the Nho Que River
Boat rides and kayaks can be arranged through your accommodation in Meo Vac. If they aren’t able to help you, contact Little Yen’s through the phone number I provided above.
*Make sure to arrange your visit to the river a day ahead.*
- 1 hour boat ride through the Tu San Abyss: 150k ($6.5) per person, or 100k ($4.3) for groups larger than 4. Can fit up to 10 people.
- Kayaking: 250k ($10.80) per Kayak that seats 2 people.
If you’d like to experience the jade Nho Que river in person, this you shot.
The boat rides will take you up through the Tu San Abyss and back to the boat station. These are on local boats that are a bit noisy, and far from luxury. But it’s still fun!
To make the most out of the trip, you may want to consider the temperature, and the heavy sun during mid day, as the boats likely won’t have sun coverage. Boat trips can start as early as 7am. The boat ramp is located about 8km outside of Meo Vac. To get there you will need to drive to the parking lot located just off of the 193A, then make a 20 minute hike down to the river.
Skywalk Hiking Trail in Ma Pi Leng Pass
If you would like to take it slow and enjoy some world class views, you can hike the Skywalk Trail. The hiking trailhead starts on the west side of QL4C just before the Dong Van Bar Coffee. I have roughly marked it on the route map, but you can easily find the trail on the Maps.Me app for an additional reference.
The trail cuts into the cliffside, and climbs high up the mountain to a small pagoda, shrine and viewpoints. After the viewpoints you have the option of continuing northward until it drops down and reconnects with QL4C, or heading back down to the starting point. Continuing northward past the viewpoint the trail will take you through some small mountain villages and crops. If you decide to walk the whole trail, rather than in and out, you may want to organize a bike waiting at either end of the trail. Walking along the QL4C may not be very enjoyable during lots of traffic.
The hiking trail is well built, with handrails and artificial steps for ease and safety on some sections, and has about 300 meters of elevation gain up to the viewpoint. After the viewpoint the trail meets up with a paved single track path that leads back to the highway.
193A to Sam Pun/China
Let me start off by saying that you should have the border area permit before attempting to ride this close to the border. You might get turned around, or even fined and your bikes confiscated when taking this road. Apparently, the government doesn’t want tourists in this area. I know a few people that have successfully done it, myself included. But I know of other folks that have had their bikes confiscated while riding illegally close to the border in other areas of Ha Giang. Ride at your own risk.
This route is very beautiful, and provides a unique view of the Ma Pi Leng pass. It winds its way down to the Nho Que river, then climbs up a series of switchbacks until it reaches a small town on the Vietnam/China border. The small town of Sam Pun at the border isn’t very interesting, but the ride is fun.
The road is pretty rough. It is doable even by a beginner rider who takes it slowly. But, it isn’t very smooth in a handful of sections. If you plan to do a boat ride on the river, you can combine these two activities, making a full day of great scenery! I have marked a few nice viewpoints along the route on the map. One of them is behind a small school building. If kids are there, please don’t stop here. If you are unsure of taking this road, you will likely be fine riding down to the river and back. But again, I’m not responsible for whatever happens to you while following this guide.