A misty and peaceful bend in the road at the Dong Van Plateau in Ha Giang Province
Tourism development has yet to taint the scenic charms of Vietnam’s northernmost area.
Ha Giang Province’s Dong Van District features stunning vistas of plateaus framed by jagged rocks and wistful passes through lush green mountains without the distractions of tour buses, travel groups, large hotels or anything resembling a tourist trap.
The area, 350 kilometers north of Hanoi, is characterized by limestone plateaus, karst outcroppings and hospitable people, 1,025 meters above sea level.
Dong Van Plateau’s hidden grottoes, persimmon orchards and unexploited forests dotted with multicolored orchids are a world away from anything most travelers have ever seen.
Riding in and out of dense forests above valleys and rivers is like traveling on a different planet. A few rural homes seen in the distance, sometimes 10-20 kilometers away, are the only evidence of any inhabitants. A rice terrace here and there and a lonely road or two are the only changes the terrain has sustained in thousands of years.
A trip to the pass on an early Sunday morning provides a glimpse into the lives of the Dao, H’Mong and Tay people at the Dong Van Market. The locals here make a hard living off rough terrain in the rocky highlands, using small caves and stone holes for cultivation.
Much of the soil in Dong Van is infertile and growing crops and raising livestock is no easy task. Yet the groups sell a variety of abundant local specialties such as mint honey and free-range chickens on the roadside.
An indispensible part of daily life here, the area’s jagged rocks are used to build homes, fences, mills and benches.
The result is a pastoral landscape of gorgeous stone peaking out from corn fields mixed with the bright colors of traditional clothing worn by the local women.
Ma Pi Leng Pass, located between Meo Vac Commune and Dong Van, is a 15-kilometer canyon road above the Nho Que River, which weaves its way like a silver ribbon through limestone ravines.
The pass’ peak is aptly named Cong Troi (Heaven’s Gate), and is the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of the valley below, particularly on a late afternoon when you can see a beautiful sunset overlooking the river. (Reported by Thuy Nhien)