[Myself and my friends] booked to go to The Ha Giang Loop in Vietnam and do the infamous three-day motorbike tour.  We were sat on the back of these rusty looking motorbikes with our tour guide driving. It’s so different than being in a car or coach or whatever, you see so much more in the open air. You’d look around and you would be surrounded by mountains and dense jungle. You can’t ever describe it unless you are there yourself, it’s a beautifully indescribable place. 

Sophie braving a photo on the cliff edge 

We would stop at various points and see the most amazing views over the mountain tops and winding roads in the distance. Our last stop of the day would always be a homestay. We would stay with a Vietnamese family in a small traditional house. It would literally be a mattress on the floor and we would all share, with a net around us to protect us from mosquitos.

An aerial view of the winding roads of the Ha Giang Loop

It gave you a taste of the proper Vietnamese rural life for a night, with traditional food and lots of rice wine to celebrate the festivities! One night a tour guide showed us all an Asian bamboo flute called a Sào and we all spent hours trying to play it.  Sometimes you’d see a casual buffalo walk past, it was all absolutely bizarre but just a part of life in the mountains.  It’s something you would never experience if you stayed in a hotel or somewhere like that.

 Above: The tour guide playing a traditional Vietnamese flute called a Sào 

We stopped at a few more places along the trek, including the most northern part of Vietnam called ‘Dragon Mountain’. We were told a mythical story about how this part of the mountain was formed. Apparently, a dragon once lived in the area and left his eyes behind, and his eyes are the mountains. We were always told stories throughout the trip which made it that much more special. 

We also stopped at the nearby Chinese border where there were some slightly dodgy makeshift fireworks going off in broad daylight. One foot over an imaginary line and we were in a completely different country. It was surreal!  

A rather windy and winding ride

There was a point when I was sat on the back of the bike with the wind blowing through my hair when I had a thought. I thought that this is a once in a lifetime experience and I will never be here ever again in my life. It’s amazing feeling so free. It’s different to a holiday. If you’re backpacking you go on tours and you fully throw yourself into it, you don’t need to worry about time or anything. You’re able to fully immerse yourself in every experience. You should also try and choose a homestay over a hotel. After all, ‘home’ is the nicest word there is when you've been away from your own for so long. You’re in the middle of nowhere and you don’t have time to think of anything else apart from the exact moment you’re living. When I was doing The Ha Giang Loop it was as if time stood still.

This is a ghostwritten piece on behalf of Sophie Johnson as told to Amber-Rose Hurst.