The Y Ty Loop: High in Vietnam’s North

Vamp, our magical Fairy Motorbike-Mother, has been flooding Caroline’s Facebook mailbox with wonderful routes and paths throughout the north of Vietnam. He said to us, “You must visit the small village of Y Ty,” and so we obliged, taking a beautiful one-day loop from our base in Lao Cai.

The drive is 171 kilometres, which is pretty epic. There are a couple of homestays in Y Ty if you want to break your trip up, but we did it in one day.

Look! A helpful map.

We drove this loop at the start of spring, therefore the haze from paddy-burning reduced the visibility and the rice fields were in a state somewhere between harvested and planted. I am positive that this area would look even more incredible near the end of rice-growing season in October. A sunny day with the endless layers of mountains and multi-coloured paddy fields carved beautifully into the landscape would probably be too much to bear. I’d be reduced to tears.

So yes, we can highly recommend this route. The roads are steep and occasionally bad, you’re not likely to see much traffic if you go on a weekday, and there were no other tourists when we drove it.

We started in the border town of Lao Cai and drove along road TL156 until reaching the town of Bản Vược. From here you can either turn left at the roundabout onto road TL158, or you can keep going straight, hugging the border of China. Either way, you’ll end up back in Bản Vược again. We took the left turn, but I think if I did it again I would keep going straight alongside the border. Most of the really stunning scenery is on the right hand side if you go this way (anti-clockwise), meaning you’ll be able to get a more unobstructed look down some of the valleys.

No matter which way you go, you’ll be seeing stuff like this:

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

This sugar man with his wonky rear wheel overtook us on a steep road.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

The bike was happy to rest at the top of this pass, and we were happy to stare at the awe-inspiring mountain. Just imagine that view without the haze!

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Wildflowers on the way up.

The actual town of Y Ty is perched high in the Nhi Cu San mountains and looks out over China. Both countries have terraced paddy fields running down to the border at the foot of the valley. It’s a relatively popular spot with Vietnamese weekenders, but it doesn’t seem to attract many foreigners – surprising given its beauty and proximity to Sapa. The standout feature of the town and surrounding mountains are the clay huts. These dwellings are built upon a foundation of stone, and wood or corrugated iron is used for the frames and roof. Clay is then compacted to make the thick, solid walls.

In the depths of winter, it can snow in the mountains – as this rather dramatic video demonstrates.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

This guy was pretty happy with himself.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

We’ve only seen these earthen huts in the far north of Vietnam. Y Ty would appear to have the largest concentration of them.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Just beyond Y Ty you will get this glimpse into China.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

As you can see, the roads teeter at the upper edge of some very deep valleys. If you fell off the road here, you’d roll all the way to China. This is probably one of the more difficult border crossings.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Horse would come to regret his meal.

Y Ty Loop, north Vietnam, motorbike

Over the river is China’s epic G8011 Expressway running from Kaiyuan to Hekou. This part of the road follows the border all the way back to Lao Cai. If you chose to take the loop anti-clockwise, the best is yet to come!

~~~

Just an ordinary train

7 thoughts on “The Y Ty Loop: High in Vietnam’s North

  1. Hi, this was very interesting, beautiful photos!!
    I’m searching info about Y Ty and especially how and where to get permission to get there, I’ll travel to Vietnam in a couple of weeks.

    cheers

    1. Hi Monica,

      Thanks for the kind words! As far as I know there is no permission required to visit Y Ty. We just drove there without any issues. Perhaps you are thinking of the permit required for Ha Giang? (although it’s kind of ‘iffy’ as to whether or not it’s actually required there – we never had to produce our permits for anybody)

      Hopefully when you travel to Y Ty a few more of the paddy fields will be a brilliant green. Best of luck on your trip, and please send us some photos if you can!

      1. Thank you very much for your answer! Of course I’ll send you photos!
        I’ll go there in a few weeks!
        Cheers

        Monica

  2. I just finished this loop today (starting from Sapa, road TL155) and I must say… wow, this was definitely one of the best rides I did so far in Vietnam (and I did the whole road from Saigon to Hanoi and most of the routes in North-West).
    Thanks for recommendation!!

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