Bac Sum Pass
This is going to be your first challenge on the loop. You will have skirted along the Lo River for some distance and gotten used to the traffic or lack of. Watch out for buffalo, farmers and children all not paying too much attention to you. After enjoying that 30km of calm flat road, you are now presented with a snake-like ribbon of road that winds its way up the hillside.
Originally, the pass was named after Bac Sum village, but now Tan Son village has been established at the foot of the pass and Bac Sum Village has been moved some 2km away. The pass begins at Ta Son Bridge and continues on for some 10km or so until you get to Quyet Tien Village.
It isn’t that much of a climb, a bit over 300m elevation change, and it isn’t that technical. You do, however, need to be wary of other vehicles. These mountain roads are full of complacent drivers that will meander all over the road or forget to brake at the right time. They can be huge, overladen trucks and you definitely don’t want to get in their way or cause them to move too quickly. It could be the last thing you do. Seriously!!
You will definitely notice a change in temperature when you get to the top and this is when you first begin to realise that you are heading into the mountains.
In Spring, the air will be chilly but a big problem. You are probably used to this kind of temperature from back home and it may be welcome after the heat of the lowlands.
In Summer, it will definitely be nice to feel the cool air. You will also find pockets of heat nestled out of the wind so you can have the best of both worlds if you wish. Autumn, and the waning sun will also create this effect and it is possible the best weather to travel in.
The Winter will be beautiful with potentially low lying cloud creating a majestic effect but it will be bitingly cold no matter where you are from.
The Bac Sum Pass was quite important to the Vietnamese resistance in their fight against the French. It was the main communication route for them and played an vital role in the fight. This is long before the Happiness Road was built and it was much more difficult to climb the slope. Standing at the top of the slope, looking back you can see how difficult the terrain would be to climb back in those days.
Bac Sum Pass is not going to be one of the highlights of your trip. It is not far enough away from Ha Giang that you would want to stop for drinks or lunch and it isn’t that difficult to drive up that you would need a rest. To be honest, you might just whizz up and over without even realising due to the excitement of being on the road in such a beautiful, rugged landscape.
However, you may want to stop if you were on the 5 Day Itinerary because you have time. Or, if the weather is spectacular you might be lucky enough to get a good photo, think rainbow, low lying cloud etc