For once in a while, probably the most frequently provoked questions is: “Why do you travel?” In all those answers such as “because I love traveling”, “because I want to explore all the new lands”, or “because I want to conquer as many places as possible”, the probable core reason for all those sayings can be pressed down into only one single word: Curiosity. We all perceive well ourselves that human being’s curiosity is infinitive and compared as if it is a deep well without the bottom. And for that reason, it is somehow regarded as a reason, a cause, or even a kind of inspirational source triggers, for example, the “wanderlust” that has been talked-about by people here and there. And of course, curiosity is only provoked when it is surrounded by what we usually call “the unknowns” or you know, “secrets”. Therefore, this time’s journey will be full of the unexpected and secrets only! If you have been curious enough, follow us to travel to Northern Vietnam to lower down the curtain of secrets of one of the top must-go destinations here in Northern Vietnam – Đồng Văn Karst Plateau.
5. Must-visit destinations in Dong Van
One of the best parts is finally here. Guess what you will find at Đồng Văn Karst Plateau? Of course the best of the best adventurous and dangerous destinations for backpackers in the North! Beforehand, there are a few things that you should really know about Đồng Văn. First of all, Đồng Văn is the first, also the only destination in Vietnam recognized by the UNESCO in 2010 as Global Geopark. This is truly a prestigious title since it is the only in Vietnam and the second one in the whole of Southeast Asia. Hence, if you love geographic, Đồng Văn will be a super great place for you to explore with 80% of the topography covered in limestone and many other secrets, which will be revealed in the next part.
The first destination on our list is Vương’s Palace. This is actually the old residence of a great Mèo King built around early 20th century. Specially structured in Geomancy architecture, the place is filled with the breath of original Asian style state-of-art. Therefore, it was once honored as one of the most spectacular constructions of Vietnam. The legend surrounding this building was actually mentioned in the previous post about Northern Vietnam. If you cannot recall, we can go through that again.
The palace from above
About 100 years ago, there was this person called Vương Đức Chính, which was an “entrepreneur” who made trades with the Chinese, for specific, trading poppy as the youngsters nowadays usually call “drugs” or the ingredient of drugs. And by successfully trade with the Chinese, our so-called “neighbor”, he got very rich and people throned him to be their King. After his enthronement, he came to find an architect in our neighbor’s land, who was an authority on Geomancy architecture kind to be his counselor in building his future house that we still see these days. Generally speaking, the house gives the first impression of a turtle’s back with layers of grey roofings. The full house includes a total of two floors and more than 60 compartments or rooms, 64 to be exact with the outside main path covered the lush greenery of cunninghamia just because the King loved this kind of tree. And of course, such a huge house would cost dozens of coins, total 150.000 silver coins were on their way to the builders’ pockets so you can imagine the luxury of living in such house!
A small corner of the palace
Of course, these are what we heard from the locals, the truth may be it or may not but the story of Đức Chính King is more historical related so you can count on what has just been told. Actually, now you can still find many pictures of Đức Chính King and his family inside the house. They say that the King had three wives but in most pictures, you will find that there are only the King and his two wives – the First and the Third Lady. The Second Lady rarely or never appeared in the family group photos because they say that she could not bear a son for the family and for that reason, she was taken for granted and regarded as an “Outlander”.
The main entrance of the palace
Dong Van Old Street
The second destination in the journey is Đồng Văn Old Street. The nearly one-kilometer street was formed about a century back in the past with the significance and domination of Northern tribal architecture exposed through the stone floor, or yin-yang roofing and walls. The street until now remains about more than 40 old houses with the age ranges from 100 to over 300, in which the house of Lương is claimed to be the most ancient. In fact, the place is somehow slightly affected by French architecture of 1920. The street is especially gorgeous on festivals such as Midfall when it is vividly lit with hundreds of floating red lanterns for sale and for decoration, and the food is also served alongside with beautiful dances, laughter, and music. Such a feast of vision!
Whole view of the market
One feature that pre-eminence in Đồng Văn Old Street is Đồng Văn Market, which we have suggested in our previous post. This is a very special market that is only gathered once a week. As the beginning of this post has mentioned, the special market gathers every Sunday and so does Đồng Văn Market. If there is any word to use, we would not choose “market” to describe Đồng Văn because it is more like a complex, or intersection of culture where you can encounter all kinds of people and all kinds of tribes from Tày, Nùng to Dao, Hmong, etc. Because vehicles are very limited in the mountainous areas such as Đồng Văn and many people also cannot afford one so there are people who travel at 3:00 am from their house just to get to the market in time. Therefore, if you ever drop by the market, please buy them something as a support for their consistent spirit!
Beauty created by the stone walls
Tham Ma Slope
The next destination will surely blow your mind! Actually, it has also mentioned in the all-inclusive pack about Hà Giang. The destination mentioned is the renowned Thẩm Mã Slope or Thẩm Mã Mountain Pass. Since Hà Giang is contiguous with China, these destinations, more or less, are affected mostly by Chinese culture, even in the languages. According to Chinese transcription, “Mã” means horse, so the name “Thẩm Mã” has much to deal with legend about horses.
The legendary Tham Ma Slope
In the past, the locals used to have their horses carry the goods from the bottom of the slope to the top. After making through all the way, if the horses are still strong and healthy, the locals would keep raising them to carry the goods for them, and of course, the rest, which could not make it through would be left behind. Not only relating to the legendary midst of the horses, Thẩm Mã is also wholeheartedly praised by most tourists as a smooth and elegance silk embracing the rough and crocked silhouette of the mountains. In your journey to conquer the mighty Đồng Văn, Thẩm Mã Slope is regarded as the first important entrance to the location. After crossing the slope, you will be welcomed by the beautiful land Phố Cáo.
The beauty of Tham Ma at night
Lung Cu Flag Tower
If you have come to Vietnam, you must know the famous Lũng Cú Flag Tower – one of the most significant starting point of the country, stating our territory. Most people until now still bear the conception that Lũng Cú Flag Tower is a point marking the Northern end of Vietnam. As we explained in the previous post, the actual Northern end of our country lies about 300 kilometers away to the North of Lũng Cú Flag Tower, near the middle of the beautiful Nho Quế River.
Lung Cu Flag Tower
There is also a little reminder if you tend you get to the flag tower. In case you do not want to waste your time by climbing up all the road to get to the top of the tower, which can be time-consuming, it is advisory that you drive your motorbike straight to the point where you must take the stairs as the last resort. Since motorbike is allowed here, this can also save you some energy.
Sung La Commune
One of the intriguing places we would like to take you to is Sủng Là Commune, a gorgeous land lying in a small corner of Đồng Văn. On the way from Yên Minh to Đồng Văn, Sủng Là will reveal itself before your eyes and takes all your attention. The place is probably regarded as the most beautiful commune in the whole Đồng Văn Karst Plateau. Despite being hidden among the crooked lines of mountains and slopes, Sủng Là still exposes its brilliant beauty as a tremendous place of the lush of greenery and the rarely found tranquility.
Sung La valley in the everlasting green
Sủng Là Commune is just a small part of the great valley of Sủng Là. Sủng Là Valley is indeed something that easily draws the attention of all tourists at the first sight. From April to October, the valley seems to be covered in the evergreen color of trees and forests. This everlasting scene just ends until November comes and the triangle flower queen spreads its dress of gorgeous pink and white covering on the whole existence of Sủng Là Valley. Catching this sight will absolutely be a chance of a lifetime.
6. Fund Facts and Mysteries about Dong Van
Well, finally the main part of the whole post. This is just the most special one to read and explore. As we have mentioned above, Đồng Văn is truly the place of dozens of secrets and crazy stuff going around from the ice age till this very moment! If you are obsessed with strange things such as Aliens, the mysterious circles on the meadows or cool culture facts, this is definitely something you must read!
The first thing we are gonna tell you about is Tà Lèo. If you guys have been to Japan or heard on the Internet or television, you will see there are a few stores on the street sides without the seller and you can freely take anything that you want, even the whole store! Of course, with one condition, you have got to pay for it. Well, maybe you will not but we are sure that you do not want to live in guilty! So back to the main point, there is also something similar in Đồng Văn that they call “Tà Lèo Culture”. This Tà Lèo is actually just a flat and round thingy made of vines or bamboo strings. When you come to Đồng Văn, sometimes you will see a motorbike without its owner on the street side but no one even cares to steal it! This is just insanely strange!
Interesting life in Dong Van
Actually, this is just Tà Lèo Culture that we have just said. Meanwhile, the owner can be wandering somewhere, having some fun and flying high somewhere, no one would even care about his motorbike, which is standing lonely on the street side. Well, everything can be solved with just one Tà Lèo. Tà Lèo is used as a mark for your own “territory”. This comparison may be slightly hilarious but it is just like when animals leave a mark on their thing to claim to others that “this is my stuff so don’t you dare touch it!”, or the fact that some girls or some guys mark on their lovers by “hicky”. Once a person sees the Tà Lèo, they will know that this is owned by someone else and they will not take it!
Lining up to buy groceries in the past
Actually, this is quite similar to Vietnam’s culture in the war or post-war. During the invasion of the colonists and at the early stage of the country’s reconstruction after the war, people had to use a thing called “tem phiếu” (stamp) to buy things. And sometimes it took them the whole day just to buy some meat because the line was too long. However, they did not want to waste their time because they also had to do other things, so they put a brick at where they used to stand to claim: “This is my spot”. Until now, there is still a joke among Vietnamese about it called “đặt gạch” (putting the brick) when they want to claim the spot or they will simply leave a “dot” at the comment of a post they want to read but do not have time to so they can be notified about it later.
Odd numbers are lucky
Well, this is actually a very cool thing. Do you remember when you were young, kids used to ask one another question like “what is your lucky number”? Usually, you will have the tendency to choose the number that you like or has some relevance to your birthday or special events of your life. In Vietnam, there are also some myths about “the lucky 7” or “the lucky 9” or 6 and 8 are good. Mostly because Vietnam is affected by China. More or less, we had been dominated for more than 1000 years by China so this is quite normal actually. Back to the track, if many people regard odd numbers are unlucky then they will have to think again when coming to Hà Giang because Hà Giang people just simply love the numbers! As a result, you will see people here build their houses with 3 to 5 floors or odd-numbered compartments. Even relating to the Tà Lèo above, when Đồng Văn people go out for a hunt, they will usually bring odd-numbered Tà Lèo with them for luck. We do not know why odd numbers are so important to them because it is a long time culture. So if you have a crush on a girl in Đồng Văn for example, remember to avoid giving her something with even numbers!
There is something very interesting if you come to Hà Giang, specifically Hmong Village, you will see many houses with a huge stone fence surrounding them. At first sight, it looks quite like some old Korean houses, right? Just do not mix up that they do not have bricks to build a wall. You must know that to build this fence, Hmong people have to use their bare hands, put the bricks one by one on one another in order for them not to fall down without using any cement! Oh, it is no different from building the ancient Egypt Pyramid! And these walls are built by the man in the family, which means the husband. These stone walls are regarded as the eternal evidence of love and carrying of a man for his family.
A stone wall is being built
Reading to this part, many people will have a question like “how can you compare a stone wall to a man’s affection?” Well, actually, we can! First of all, the wall is built with bare hands with cement, just rocks and stones solely. Moreover, the man must go to the mountain, pick the stones himself, brings them to the house, fixing their shapes and put them together. The whole work takes months, even years to complete so he must be very patient. The more beautiful the wall is, the bigger the love! From the picture, you can see that the wall looks like a force field protecting the house. In another way of understanding, it can be referred to as the big arms of the man holding and protecting his family. Very meaningful, isn’t it?
Mysterious circles on the stones
This last one is actually what give us all the goosebumps! There have got to be something weird going around this place. It is rumored, not rumored but now if you go to Đồng Văn Karst Plateau, you will see the truth right before your eyes! So basically, there are many stones with super creepy and mysterious circles on them. This reminds of the mysterious circles on the meadows of England discovered back in the past.
The spectacular topography of Dong Van
People say that on a snowy day in 2013, at a vonfram mount, the first stone with the weird sign was discovered in Hố Quán Phìn Commune, just 10 kilometers away to the South of Vietnam-China border. Right here near the top of the mount, they discovered the five stones with these weird signs lying among other big stones emerging on the ground surface. However, the distance between every two stones is not equal, ranging from 5 – 15 meters and they all have different shapes and sizes. There were a total of more than 100 different signs and drawings on the stone surface, each has its own significance. These drawings were created by using metal objects or tools to carve on the stones. Probably because the tools were plain with no modern technique, these were all created by hands and therefore, the shapes are also not equal or 100% alike. Most of the signs have a very high symbolic meaning that has yet to be discovered or is understudied by the most professional geologists and archaeologists. Those drawings can be circles, spirals, sin-types, rectangles, and triangles with parallel stripes. The rest is unidentified shapes.
Mysterious drawings on Dong Van’s stone
The question raised is if there any mystery around these things. To reveal the truth, many people have directly go to Đồng Văn to interview the locals about this but there is still no clue. Most locals believe these drawing are created by the human from the sky who notify about their existence on Earth by marking on the stones. Well, that can be one way of thinking! The journey to Đồng Văn may end here but it leaves so many questions and who knows, maybe you will be the one who writes the next chapter of the story!