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Ha Giang - Vietnam's final frontier


Ha Giang is situated on Vietnam’s furthest northern domain. It has a vast variety of cultures and a one-of-a-kind geographical makeup. The mountainous spaces with colossal limestone peaks have a 270 km border in common with China (which is not too far off). It also is where the border crossing in Thanh Thuy is located. This distant-yet-gorgeous place is one of the few remaining spots in Vietnam that warrants a visa from visitors in order to travel there, but don’t be concerned – it’s fairly inexpensive and simple to buy one. While growing in popularity with vacationers, this fantastic place is somewhat off the main roads, and as such, not everyone is aware of it. People who visit the “Final Frontier of Vietnam” get to see firsthand breathtaking karst mountain views, vibrant markets, blankets of flowers, and distinct minority communities.

Ha Giang has a tempestuous history of being invaded by French and Chinese colonials, not unlike Vietnam. The amazing mountain region rests peacefully in place in the modern era. These days, it is a habitat for ethnic minority communities like the Pu Peo, Lo Lo, Giay Ethnic People, Nung, H’mong, and Tay, all of which have their own interesting cultures.

Ha Giang is the ideal location to visit either on foot or by bike as you climb the mystifying surroundings fastened the mountainsides. During your trek, you will get to see unparalleled outlooks of the impressive border area up close and personal.

Nho Que river - View from Ma Pi Leng Pass
Nho Que river - View from Ma Pi Leng Pass

See & Do

The Ha Giang Museum is worth visiting on your initial stop on this gorgeous and distinct northern region. It is near the Ha Giang permit center, who can offer you details about the territory and the various ethnic minorities residing there. It encompasses several fascinating pieces and displays custom-made, conventional attire worn by ethnic minority community members. It also has historical artifacts that have been unveiled in archaeological expeditions. The museum will tickle your curiosity as you explore this isolated location in Vietnam.

The Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark is one of the primary attractions in this northern territory. Established across 2,346 km2 of rocky valleys and mountains, the amazing landscape is where several ethnic minority communities reside in. It also gives visitors a broad understanding of the location’s history with fossils that are 500 to 600 years old. The stone forests transition into real forests as the mountain slopes point towards the sky. The mountains trailing the flat, long plateaus are sharp, but look cushioned by clouds surrounding the peaks. The most ideal period to travel here is during the spring, as this is when you can see blooming bright yellow kale (cai) flowers and modest pink peach flowers. Their beautiful tones diverge with the vibrant green forest and crisp grey stones.

Quan Ba Mountain – Quan Ba Heaven Gate

Hidden in the Sa Phin valley village, surrounded by isles of soaring trees and embedded into a stone wall, lies the elegant Vuong Palace. Constructed in 1914 for the H’mong king, Vuong Chinh Duc, this structure stands tall even after American and French wars. The enormous palace hosts detailed poppy carvings that are representative of the opium that once originated from here. You’ll get a sense of the lifestyle of the wealthy H’mong king as you walk through sumptuously designed rooms, allowing you to visualize the abundance of valuable items that were held in rooms underground.

One of the most optimal approaches to experiencing the astonishing views of Ha Giang is through a road trip using either a 4×4 or a motorcycle. The highland roads will reveal elegant, flawless, natural sights of this border area. An accessible route to Meo Bac is from Dong Van through the Mai Pi Leng Pass. This curved road looks acutely alighted on the edge of the faltering mountains. The thin, long path enters the rice paddies’ tumbling plateaus. Driving through this marvelous pass – between the imposing mountains – you will feel 2’ tall surrounded by the enormity of nature. Afterward, you will have unparalleled views of the glassy and bending Nho Que river that curves between a pair of mountain range sides.

Ma Pi Leng Pass – The most dangerous pass in Vietnam

Also worth taking is a road trip through Quan Ba Ha Giang, which looks out onto the Red Dao village. The perspective from this incredible height stretches over the Karst Geopark with the mountains declining into the background, as well as the plateau’s patchwork in the foreground.

During your trip through these mystifying mountain roads, you will no doubt be mesmerized by the breathtaking aesthetics of rice paddies chiseled into the rising mountains. The most optimal spot to see this view is in the Hoang Su Phi area where small, dispersed villages are dependent on rice agriculture to live. The outpouring paddies of this secluded territory are the most impressive ones in all of Vietnam. Encompassed on both sides by waterfalls of green that begin in the sky and trickle gracefully from the mountains, you will be overwhelmed by the vastness of nature. This is an ideal example of how people can connect with nature to make something alluring. This far-off space, which most visitors are unaware of, is also the ideal area to meet natives residing within ethnic minority communities. The territory is where the Nung, Red Dao, and H’mong ethnic groups live, all of which have their own cultures and traditions. You will learn about their heritage and discover things about rice farming you never knew as you tour this incredible place. You can also remain with one of the native families and experience their compassion and neighborliness.

Lung Cu Flag Tower – Vietnam North Point

The Lung Cu Flag Tower is another area with sensational views of Ha Giang. This tower – shaped like an octagon – is situated on top of a mountain with green carpeting and a large Vietnamese flapping flag. This representative of national pride differentiates Vietnam’s northernmost point. You will have an amazing panoramic perspective of Ha Giang’s gorgeously maintained countryside if you climb the tower.

Culture & Arts

One of the most ideal times to become one with the land’s culture is on Sunday at the marketplace. This is where you will be introduced to natives from the neighboring ethnic minority communities. You will be able to browse items for sale and participate in the week’s social gatherings. One of the busiest places is the Dong Van Sunday Market, which opens on Sunday mornings. From sunrise, as the sun begins to break atop the mountains, locals from the neighboring territories will be preparing themselves and their products for the market. You will see people dressed in their best clothing, particularly the young ladies who show their enthusiasm for this social gathering wearing fabulous dresses. As the women enter in their fantastic attire, the stalls are established and prepared for a day of commerce. The men take a seat to share rice wine and consume breakfast. The stalls are stocked high with vibrant conventional attire, custom-made incense, and piles of fresh vegetables and fruits. In addition to the attendees, there are also plenty of animals who come to the market. You will notice chicken broods, caged birds, hefty buffalos, and romping pigs.

|Read more: The “lui” markets, unique market in Ha Giang

Meo Vac Cattle Market is also a special place to shop. It is situated on the other side of the impressive Ma Pi Leng Pass. This market offers you the opportunity to check out the H’mong culture and interact with locals. At this place, you will be exposed to their conventional attire; the men are dressed in basic black clothing, the women are groomed in stunning embroidery and various colored head scarfs. Most of the villagers bring their best animals either to display or sell. The sound of chatting and bartering in the market is paired with a melody of children having fun and animals making noise.

Dong Van Sunday Market

Festivals & Events

The lunar calendar’s first 90 days feature various festivals throughout Asia. This is the start of the new year, and every year starts with the horticulture of new rice crops. There are also several ceremonies to offer gratitude to the gods. Every individual ethnic minority community has their own unique interpretation of the Spring Festival with special, vibrant ceremonies held throughout the territory.

One very unique and extraordinary festival takes place in the yearly Khau Vai Love Market, which allures attendees from each ethnic community in the vicinity. In comparison to many markets, this is not an event where goods are bought and sold. It is a bittersweet chance for separated partners to interact and discus memories without any negativity or judgment from either party. For several residents in Ha Giang’s ethnic minority communities, marriage is based on more than just love, it also factors in practical and cultural aspects. This system leads to several prohibited relationships, and as such, the love market is a method of acknowledging these connections. The festival’s theme is based on the heartbreaking, forbidden coupling of a boy and girl, each from differing tribes. After much battling between tribes, the couple opted to end their romance, but unbeknownst to everyone, they still met up on the 26th day of the 3rd lunar month each year. At this event, you will see many people dressed in their best clothing in search of former lovers in hopes of reminiscing about the good times shared. Regardless of how large the crowd is, the environment is poignant and affectionate. Today’s generation anticipates this outing as they prepare themselves to meet a potential partner. They modernize the festival by using mobile devices to set up such meets.

Daily life of H’mong ethnic

The Pa Then Fire Dance Festival is another exciting yearly event in Ha Giang. Hosted during October and November of the lunar calendar in Bac Quang, this is a traditional event of the Pa Then ethnic minority community. Rituals and ceremonies are conducted to say a prayer for happiness, healthiness, and good fortune to the fire god. From there, the village’s male habitants display their courage as they perform astounding leaping dances on top of flaming fire. The lack of fear exhibited by these men stimulates admiration from the villagers. The women are dressed in conventional attire and show vocal support for the men, applauding their bravery.

Due to the agricultural way of life for most of Ha Giang’s communities, there are plenty of festivals that pray for healthy crops. A rain festival is held by the Lo Lo ethnic minority community every March during a drought. The festival patrons present offerings to the parents of the universe in exchange for beneficial weather. Each villager unites with the rest of the crowd dressed in conventional, vibrant attire, and every household contributes in some way. Attendees play cultural instruments, namely two-stringed fiddles and bronze drums. The village mystic encourages ancestral souls to participate in the ceremony. Once the ceremony ends, there is an entertaining celebration where patrons can consume tasty food as they interact with one another, play traditional games, and dance to folk music.

Food & Drink

A popular dish from this mountainous area is Thang Co, a fragrant and spicy soup served at market stalls to hordes of buyers sitting atop tiny benches. Created with buffalo, cow, or horse meat, this dish utilizes all edible animal parts. The steam’s aroma will waft from large pans and drift through the chilly air, filling the market with the smell of cardamom and lemongrass. This steamy, spicy soup will stuff you with comfort and warmth on a blistering winter afternoon.

Staying warm is feasible when consuming Au Tau, which is Ha Giang’s variation of a traditional gruel dish (this version is moderately bitter, flavor-wise). Glutinous rice is integrated with several spices, pig trotters, and Au Tu to produce a warming, special dish representative of the area. People find nourishment with it at nighttime – this delicious dish is believed to fight off health issues that arise because of the cold weather.

Another trademark dish of this northern province is five-color sticky rice. You will find this meal at just about every market, and it tastes as good as it looks. Sticky rice is dyed after being cooked with five natural colors (including tree leaves and turmeric). The vibrantly-dyed rice comes in contrasting tones before being carefully displayed. The various arrangements are believed to be representative of the planet’s yin/yang, as well as to provide insight into the cultural perspectives of philosophy.

A great-tasting snack to grab during your visit through the extravagant mountains is Trung Cuon. This nutritious Ha Giang snack is comprised of a rolled egg into brittle rice paper before being steamed. The soft roll is dipped in a unique sauce.

To complement the extraordinary Ha Giang dishes, there are drinks that are only found in this region. In addition to the intoxicating and rich rice wine, another popular beverage here is Thanh Van corn wine. Produced with corn locally grown, the natives have designed a filtration system that reduces toxins for cleaner consumption. You will discover this area-favorite drink at markets as people drink it to warm up after working all day (you will often spot natives commiserating over a cup of corn wine).

A H'mong Greeting - Happy Water

Recommended Ha Giang Tours

Our private Ha Giang Tours will take you off the beaten track. With personal service & high quality, you will have a lifetime experience...
Classic Tour

Highlights of Ha Giang

4 Days

This tour  offers you the highlights of the region driving along the main road, visiting typical places that can not be missed when visiting the province. The tour is type of driving one, most of your time is spent in the car for driving from A to B but we will do our best to give you good paces so that you won’t feel tiring of doing the tour activities.

Trekking Ha Giang
Trekking/Hiking Tours

Trekking Ha Giang

5 Days 4 Nights

This trip will take you to the most impressive region of Vietnam, and over five days you will discover colorful local markets of the various ethnic minority communities, trek through the soaring mountains and experience the dizzying mountain passes of Dong Van and Ma Pi Leng.

Off-the-beaten-track Tour

Ha Giang – The Final Frontier

6 Days 5 Nights

This tour takes you to the most stupendous region of Vietnam: Ha Giang, the markets of ethnic people, the mountains of the Black H’mong of Dong Van and the Ma Pi Leng Pass, to the spectacular Ban Gioc waterfall, through another very spectacular mountain road.

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