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Travel - Paradises in Ha Giang

posted Dec 6, 2011, 7:53 PM by Dong Travel Ticketing   [ updated Dec 6, 2011, 8:02 PM by Mickey Dong Hoang Thinh ]

At the end of autumn, we decided to start our journey to explore Ha Giang. We dropped by many attractions such as Dong Van, Meo Vac, Ma Pi Leng, Du Gia Mau Due, Bac Me and Hoang Su Phi. We traveled over 300 km to the Rock Plateau – Ha Giang by motorbike.

 Bat Dai Son – Rainbow meets rain  

               
The road to Quan Ba gets ever narrower. The small path along the river curves round the hillside till Pac Xum mountain pass suddenly turns from the road to climb a slope and disappear on the other side of the mountain. We drove higher and higher on the zigzag path to the mountainous land. Beautiful scene by scene, mountain by mountain and cloud by cloud.

 We were on our way to Quan Ba when a light rain impetuously came, then quickly went leaving a trail of sunshine on the street. A bright rainbow appeared on the yellow paddy field. Catching the rainbow, we drove through the rice fields that were in harvest. The aroma of rice mixed with the cool and airy ambiance of the mountainous area.

 From the height of 1,500 meters above sea level, the Quan Ban Heaven Gate, which is covered by clouds all year round, is the highest place to look at the surrounding views of Quan Ba, Can Ty and Bat Dai Son from a distance. At the mountain foot, the most crowded town in Ha Giang – Tam Son extends with a bunch of yellow paddy fields. Behind this Heaven Gate used to be the “Meo self-governing territory” including Quan Ba, Meo Vac, Dong Van and Yen Minh, located separately from the other provinces. Becaof the rough streets and unusual customs, Ha Giang has also retained many “secrets” in  recent years.

Yen Minh – Pines sing in the open sky

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   At 7 pm, a cold wind breezed through the hills. The night sky was filled with twinkling stars… We stopped at the roadside to put on some clothes becait became colder at night. Along the 50-km ride to Yen Minh, there were only a few motorbikes coming in the other direction. There was no light and sometimes we passed by a drunken H’Mong man holding a flashlight and a bottle of wine moving clumsily in the opposite direction. People talk of whizzing pine forests tens of kilometers from Yen Minh but it was too dark for me to see. However, I had the feeling of driving amongst the immense pine trees. Pouring in the senses was the redolent smell of pine resin in the breezing wind and the sound of whistling pine trees. Finally, when we were ice-cold, Yen Minh appeared.

 Yen Minh village is seated right in the provincial road with 2 to 3 guest houses. At 8 p.m, the whole village seems to sleep; there was no restaurant and all the doors were closed. It was silent. In the guesthouse, the fireplace was alight. We had a light meal of instant noodles and went to sleep.

 Pine forests in Yen Minh extend tens of kilometers through low hills. Pine trees covering the whole tranquil valley deliver the cool climate all year round. New comers to this land will have the feeling of visiting another Da Lat with immense pine forests, green grasses and little houses hidden within the mountain ranges.

 Sung La – Flowers bloom on rocks

                        
Going through Yen Minh, we made Rock Plateau. The streets here seem to be longer with innumerable mountains and valleys. From halfway down the hill, Sung La is a picture of natural peace amidst heavy rugged rocks. Roofs are quiescent in the morning sunshine with low stone walls; Sapodila trees are weighed down with fruit and firewood is fully stocked under the fireplace. On the attic floor, the yellow color of corns is mixed with the milk color of dry soybeans. The H’Mong girl weaving on the loom could not speak Vietnamese but was willing to invite me for a cool drink. The children with black eyes played under the veranda and looked up at strange guests.

H’Mong people in Sung La plant barley and mustard flowers on the high slopes and maize and rice in the lower lands of the valley. Amongst the green color of maize and rice are the lilac of barley flowers and the brilliant yellow of sunshine. In spring, this landscape brings its most spectacular view when flowers bloom throughout the rock plateau. Flower gardens alter a stark and cold nature into a picture of excellent beauty.

The sound of a pan-pipe echoes; after the low fences appear colorfully dressed girls going to early market. This day, Sung La market greeted strange visitors. After the release of “Story of Pao”, Sung La is talked about whenever someone thinks of visiting Ha Giang. In the light morning sunshine, we can hear an enchanting leaf-horn resounding from behind a rocky wall.

 One hundred year old hoin Sa Phin valley

                                   

Sa Phin valley is located amidst mountain ranges and the local people make the best of their rocky surroundings in their daily life such as for making houses, walls and many other objects. Vuong palace is seated in the middle of the valley and on a low hill. Cunninghamia trees are solemn along the three-step staircase to the palace, representing two lines of imposing sentries. The palace wall is 80cm thick and 3m tall. It is built from green stone, pine wood and burned clay that were skillfully sculpted together. People said that Vuong Chinh Duc invited a Chinese geographer to search the whole area. When he reached Sa Phin valley, he chose this land and considered it the settlement of the Tortoise God becait resembled a tortoise shell.

 Vuong palace started to become a tourist attraction in 1993, after being recognized for National Historical Heritage. Since then, it has not been used for living but rather for visiting. Vuong’s descendants live around the palace. This 80 year-old hohas lasted through many upheavals and used to be the most powerful hoin Ha Giang behind Quan Ba Heaven Gate.

 Pho Bang offers a very different feeling from Vuong palace. The wide road is quite quiet. Outside Pho Bang, visitors are surprised by stunning rose fields. On this rocky plateau, flower fields are a gentle, prominent feature for this barren land. This 100 year-old village, which is largely separated from the outside world, is mainly settled by Chinese people. Small houses are covered with corn and  children play on veranda floors. The village seems to be more tranquil in a sunny afternoon and the soil color is redolent in the sunshine. Time is expressed  through every brown wall and every lumpy door in the village that has some dozens of roofs.

 Color of Ma Le market

                                 

Ma Le market is not as big as Dong Van market or as well-known Khau Vai love market in Meo Vac and it doesn’t offer as much variety. In an autumn morning, showy colors of red, purple, yellow…scarves and clothes mix with the gray color of immense mountains and forests. Ma Le market opens every Saturday no matter the weather. Located in the North Lung Cu, Ma Le attracted us becafew tourists come here. H’Mong girls with slanting eyes in beautiful dresses gather, talk and laugh. Colorful umbrellas, eyes and dresses are constantly moving. H’Mong boys dressed in black chat ebulliently while drinking maize wine. The whole market is like a mobile flower garden, constantly moving from place to place in the morning sunlight.

 I went through the market to find the best corner for taking some beautiful photos. I tried to capture images of children’s faces naturally at ease and remembered to tie a colorful brocade scarf on my head. In the market, in addition to small shops selling necessities such as candies, instant noodles, towels or soaps, there can also be found black sesame, beans, green pea and colorful sticky rice. Some go to market by motorbike, some ride a horse and others follow their husbands. The market  bustles until 10 a.m.

 The night before we came back to Dong Van from Lung Cu, we had the opportunity to try “thang co” – a specialty at the market. Simple dishes are prepared for the early market. Sitting around the red fire and aroma of maize wine, the “thang co” man and visitors had a very lively discussion.

 A street named “Happiness”

 

                                 

Finally, we drove to Ma Phi Leng mountain pass which has been referred to as “happy street”. Ma Phi Leng literally means “horse’s nose bridge” connecting Meo Vac with Dong Van –  the two most remote villages in Ha Giang. H’Mong people built the mountain pass in the 1960s. To break rocks for making the streets, they had to hang from ropes amidst boulders and worked for 11 months.

 The pass is about 20km long with an imposing, gray mountain scenery extending endlessly. Faraway, the Nho Que river gently flows like a slim shawl. The way to the river is parallel to it until they meet at the riverbank; red soil sticks to the wheels. From this view, the street is like a long snake creeping from this mountain to another.

 We took about 2 hours to go sightseeing around here becathe nature appeared so picturesque and magnificent that we “had to” stop to take photos. In the peaceful street, there were only some young cow-herders perching high on the edge and swaying their feet. They were enticed to smile for our beautiful photos. A girl carried corns home while harmoniously making her way. The local people cannot plant vegetables and crops in this rocky mountain terrain. H’Mong people have to carry soil from remote areas and put them into small caves in the mountain, then scatter corn seed for growing. Corns grow day by day from rocky caves like the new life rising up in this ancient land. Now I understand the reason why Lo Lo, H’Mong or Dao women often wear colorful shawls and skirts. Their green and pink clothes are prominent on gray rugged rocks. Their footsteps appear throughout the highland.

 A big memorial built into the peak records the sacrifice of those who created this “happy street”, where local people grow up with rocks, live with rocks and are buried in rocks.

 Further information:

 

From Ha Noi to Ha Giang, you take about 300km to the town and turn to provincial road 4c to the remote North of the country.

 

You can travel there by motorbike or passenger cars at My Dinh station.

 

Guesthouses can be found in Tam Son – Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac at a price of VND 180,000/room.

 

Vuong Palace is about 125km from Ha Giang. The ticket is priced at VND 5,000. It opens from 8a.m to 5 p.m on weekdays.

Tam Son – Quan Ba town has outstanding twin towers. It is also the busiest in Ha Giang.

 

Yen Minh town has immense pine trees.

 

Sung la village on the way from Yen Minh to Dong Van is the main setting for “Story of Pao”.

 

Pho Bang – an ancient village that is 100 years old with many Chinese-style houses.

 

Lung Cu – in the North point of the country is about 20km from Vuong palace.

Ma Le market – about 10km from Lung Cu opens every Saturday.

Dong Van market opens every Sunday morning.

 From Ha Giang to Dong Van, you can explore many attractions in one day.

 The best time to visit Ha Giang is November during the rice harvest and March in the seasons of peach and plum blossom and radiant mustard flowers.

 

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