Like all advice, if you follow it you may be good, if you don't may fortune favor you. Riders going up to Meo Vac out of Ha Giang have written here stuff like: The best bits by far were the far north east from Ha giang via Yen min and Meo Vac to Bao Lac: this outlandish scenery is a no man's land between china and Vietnam, just make sure teh officials don't scam you with 'border permits' and obligatory guides. A piece of advice: you can do this bit in one day so guesthouses won't ask for the border permit, but you can sort that out with the Meo Vac Police. Also there is a road under construction from Meo Vac to Bao lac." If you want to chance it and go, fine. From experience and recent accounts from people I know in the area, if you don't get the permit in Ha Giang you run the risk of having to pay HUGE fines in Meo Vac and not being able to stay overnight. One "smart ass" rider went without a permit and the police monitor the road up to Meo Vac just for this. He was tagged and by the use of mobile phones he was nabbed in Meo Vac and forced to go back to Ha Giang by bus and motorbike in a truck. I have had problems here but the permit procedure is the law and if you do not respect the law, they will enforce the penalty. There is little negotiation with the officer in Meo Vac - it's his #1 source of income and he seems now to be getting pleasure out of sending people out of his town in the middle of the night. Yes, riders have made it and haggled with the police but these days are over. In 2003 I was pleasantly surprised to find this officer in my hotel room looking at my stuff upon my return from dinner. He ordered me to pay about 100 USD fine and leave. Since it was raining and I didn't feel like paying, I was able over the course of several hours of negotiation to get it sorted for the standard fine of 200,000 Dong(US 12) but again, these days are over. Why is this area a permit area? It's proximity to the unsecure Chinese border is one, the minority population is the other. Meo Vac is a huge destination during the love market and the tourism board has set up rule for non-viets to visit. There are several areas in VN that are permit areas but there is no listing or signs to warn you. Areas in the north that are permit areas are: Meo Vac - Dong Van, near Ha Giang City Y Ty, near Lao Cai Simacai to Moung Khoum north of Bac Ha all areas north of Moung Te(maybe inaccurate at this point) Need more information? Check out Digby, Dan and Glenn in Hanoi at exploreindochina.com While they do tours, it's better than having to pay $13 for a spark plug when the roadside viets have you by the balls.