Ha Giang Vietnam
Ha Giang is a province in the northeast region of Vietnam, impresses visitors with its high karst plateau, steep hills, winding roads and ethnic diversity. It is ideal for outdoor activities such as trekking and camping.
Location and history
Ha Giang is a mountainous province in the North of Vietnam in which the Vietnam-China border extends more than 274km long. The province is also the source of Lo River flowing into Vietnam, contiguous to China to the north with international border gate Thanh Thuy. Southern of Ha Giang is Tuyen Quang; eastern is Cao Bang and Lao Cai to the West. Ha Giang is about 320km to the north of Hanoi, following Highway no. 2.
Ha Giang is quite a new city with only 120 years of history. Going through a lot of difficulties in term of unfavorable location and low level of infrastructure, Ha Giang is transforming from an economically underdeveloped province into a tourism locale that attracts a lot of visitors in the last few years.
Like any other Northern highlands of Vietnam, the climate here is cool in the summer and extremely cold in the winter which ones may see snow. The temperature of Ha Giang ranges from 5 – 28 Celcius degree, which is pretty ideal for tourism.
Ha Giang’s tourist attractions
Like Sapa, the most renowned attraction of Ha Giang are the many grandiose mountains. Although mountains here are not as high as Sapa’s mountains and seem not to be steep enough to challenge adventurous climbers, they stand out for extensive area of limestone with unique formation of peaky rocks.
The most famous rocky area of Ha Giang is Dong Van Rock Plateau, which is recognized by UNESCO as one of 77 geological parks in the world. Lung Cu hamlet lying inside Dong Van Rock Plateau is another indispensible destination as it marks the very northern tip of Vietnam by Lung Cu Flag Tower on Dragon Mountain.
Not only that, Ha Giang is a venue of fanciful natural caves such as Phuong Thien Cave, Chui Cave, Fairy Cave and Swallow Cave. Although all the caves offer wonderful scenery with fantastic shapes of stalactites, each one has its own story and traits. For example, legend says that fairies used to bath in Fairy Stream inside Fairy Cave which is the source of its name.
Ha Giang is also well-known for its magnificent forests in which there are more than 1,000 species of good woods, drug trees as well rare animals like tigers, peacock or pangolin.
Ha Giang’s unique culture
This mountainous province’s residents consist mainly of ethnic minorities with a major of Hmong, Tày, Yao and Nùng ethnic groups. Thanks to this ethnical diversity, nowhere can one see more fusing traditions than Ha Giang. Each of the ethnic group has its unique custom in term of wedding, worship, festivals or funeral. To illustrate, a Hmong groom can only get married only if he can rob his wife but no one know about his action to be successful pass the trial.
In Ha Giang, for tourist to see the most unique custom of the ethnic minorities, it is recommended to take a trekking tour or travel by motorbikes because there are many ethnic hamlets living separately from the mainstream society. Coming to these tribes, ones may see charms on their doors to expel demons and evil spirits. The locals are also very friendly who welcome strangers like honored guests and may treat you their special dish: Thang Co (horse meat hot-pot).
A unique spot only be seen in Ha Giang is “Khau Vai Love Market”. The market-day is held monthly only on the 26th and 27th of a Lunar Year. In there, both single and married people in different ethnic groups can come to find ones’ ideal life-partner and sharing their feeling and understanding to each other. Lunar New Year seem to be the best time to visit Ha Giang when ones can see a wide variety of traditional customs of ethnic minorities here, such as celebrating success, rain ritual, sons ritual, crossbow shooting competition, pan-pie performance or “Còn” Throwing competition.
When the best time to visit Ha Giang?
Dry season (from October to April) is the best time to travel to Ha Giang, you can enjoy the coldness and snow in December and January.
At this time, the travelers can certainly get the complete flavor of the scenic beauty. The scenery is quite pleasant and serene which relaxes your mind and soul. The magnificent mountain tops that are hidden behind the clouds and the fragrance of the wild peach flowers will influence and soothe your senses.
Sights & Activities
Ma Pi Leng Pass: The road is quite difficult but a stop in this pass will have a panoramic overview of the province. Scenery in Ma Pi Leng pass is unique with majestic and wild beauty. Looking to the north and northeast, thousands of gray mountains concatenate to the horizon. Over the Ma Pi Leng, there has a mountain with 2.000 meters height located on the ‘Happiness’ road connecting Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac town.
Quan Ba Heaven Gate: about 1,500m above sea level , this is the entrance of Dong Van Plateau. The road to Quan Ba Heaven gate is winding, twisty crossing limestone mountains. From the top of the Heaven Gate, you could look down across a large valley of unending terraced fields, displaying a charming beauty like a paradise dimly visible through the clouds.
Dong Van Plateau: Situated north of Ha Giang, near the Sino-Vietnamese border, this plateau is covered by karst mountains. Dong Van is an ideal place for trekking and mountain climbing, where grandiose mountains may challenge your spirit for real. In return, breathtaking landscapes, meetings with local ethnic minorities and learn from their life’s stories are nowhere can be found in the world.
Rice terrace of Hoang Su Phi: an upland district of Ha Giang Province, it takes around 100km by bus from the center of Ha Giang to Hoang Su Phi. recognized as National Heritage in 2012, Hoang Su Phi terraced rice fields is an ideal destination for sightseeing as well as photographers.
Hmong King Palace: located in Xa Phin Village of Dong Van District, which is around 24km away from the district’s centre. With an area of 1120 m2, this edifice was built in the early twentieth century in the form of the letter 王 (meaning “king” in English). This is not only a historical relic but also a fabulous architectural landmark of local ethnic groups. This edifice is also a destination always interested many visitors.
Lung Cu Flag Tower: Built on the top of Dragon mountain, in the district of Dong Van and modeled on the flag tower of Hanoi. Plug in the 12.9m flagstaff is a national flag with an area of 54m², representing for 54 ethnic groups of Viet Nam. At the foot tower, there is a commemorative house, where displays production tools, costumes and cultural products of the ethnic groups in Ha Giang. The staircase that leads to the summit has 389 stone steps but to reach the top of the tower, you must also climb a spiral iron staircase of 140 steps.
Pho Bang Village: peaceful and calm town, which is 117 km from Ha Giang city, Pho Bang Village is the home of Hoa and Mong ethnicities. The houses here embrace the traditional architecture. They have wooden columns and mud walls.
Dong Van Old Town: located in the middle of valley surrounded by rocks. The quarter is formed form the early 20th century, only has a few families of the H’mong, Tay and Chinese, gradually, more and more other local residents find it. The oldest house is the house of Luong family built since 1860. The common architecture here is the two-story house and yin and yang roofs. The lifestyle and daily life of ethnic people such as: Kinh, Tay, Mong, Hoa… is very impressive.
Meo Vac Town: lies snugly in a smallish valley surrounded by rocky mountain. The journey here along the spectacular Mai Pi Leng Pass, about twenty kilometers from Dong Van, is the main attraction. There are different ethnic minorities groups living in Meo Vac including the H’mong, the Kinh, Tay, Dao, etc. Most ethnic groups have maintained their culture untouched from the outside world.
Markets: The markets of Ha Giang, such as market Quan Ba, Yen Minh and particularly the Khau Vai love attracts many visitors. The Dong Van market is held every Sunday. On sale are local products made by Mong, Han, Dao, Giay and Tay ethnic people. To reach the market on time they have to leave their homes very early in the morning or even one day earlier. The Khau Vai Love Market is held only on the 26th and 27th of day of the third Lunar month. In there, both single and married people in different ethnic groups can come to find ones’ ideal life-partner and sharing their feeling and understanding to each other.
Yen Minh – Dong Van pass. Ideally would be to spend a night in Yen Minh to break the journey. There are motels and a few hotels there,a morning market with minorities, a blue nice motel near the market too with reasonables prices. Set off to Dong Van early in the morning (around 7-8am) and prepare your camera because the journey is fascinating: misty silent hills, windy roads with gorgeous high mountains and a few villages in the valleys. You can also get closer to the border checkpoint and see the old style houses which even have some Chinese writings on it.
How to get there?
Because Ha Giang’s infrastructure is still on its way of improvement, ones can only reach this destination by car or motorbikes along the High Way No. 2 to the north of Hanoi, through 3 provinces: Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho and Tuyen Quang. It’s excellent if one has a private car.