What you need to know about the Northern pole of Vietnam (part 2)
Continue on your journey to the faraway Northern endpoint of the S-country, this time, you will explore more than you could ever imagine. Moreover, on the way, the true beauties of the holy land will slowly reveal their colors in each of your footsteps.
1. When to travel the Northern Pole?
In fact, as mentioned in the first part of this topic, you can travel the place in whichever seasons and time that you like, because Hà Giang City, in particular, and the North, in general, are always blooming their dazzling beauty all around the year. Nevertheless, in case you still want to have a “taste” of the all beauties at their “ripe” time, then travel to the Northern pole in these particular months.
Spring is always the beginning of everything. You will then find yourself in the middle of the just-in-time period when all creatures of the North are at their growth and being reborn. Such a beautiful fascination to be admired and praised. When the season has finally made its way to the small town, you will find that never in your previous stages of life have you seen such dear, such plain, modest but heart-warming scenes in a faraway country. Farmers take their cattle to the field; the infinitive yellow of ripe corns covers the surrounding, waiting to be harvested and juicy meat is hung over the firing stove. Every separated activity is put in a sole frame but strangely harmonizing to create such a masterpiece of both nature and human.
September is another harvesting season when villagers eagerly make their way to the fields to bring grains and a happy and full year of another successful season back their home. If you drive around small villages or commune at this time, you will keep being amazed by these unworldly beauties as if the Sun is dressing up the Earth with its sparkling golden coat.
The Triangle Flower Kingdom
October and November are indeed the months of the Triangle Flower Kingdom when millions of little white and pink blossoms bloom in every corner of the place, creating a sight that is unspoken, indescribable and beyond our mind and bare eyes. Coming around this time, you can also experience the unique features of a triangle flower festival, which attracts hundreds of other tourists to the North.
A family in the winter of Ha Giang
December is also a worthwhile time to visit the province. As a Northern mountainous area, Hà Giang bears many similarities to Sapa in the cold season. What can be better than sitting around the warm firing stove, having some corn wine, watching the snow while listening to such old stories told by the village’s old man?
2. Preparation for the ride
Preparation is always an important part of a ride, especially when you are in another country and decide to travel on your own. For any backpacker, these are the things you should remember when traveling to Hà Giang:
If you go by motorbike, remember to bring along your driving license. While driving, keep in mind to go the route for motorbikes that is listed above or you will easily be caught.
You should also bring along some lumbers, sweaters or warm clothes to Hà Giang because it rains all around the year despite any season.
You can also bring some stationeries, clothes, and foods to Hà Giang to give them to small children at the place because they very need these, especially when the winter comes since they do not have much winter wears and condition to go to school.
3. Where to go?
Ha Giang City
As the heart of the province, Hà Giang City holds many delightful wonders to offer. The city is like a quaver in a symphony of all pauses and white notes. Here at Hà Giang, you find both the peace and the adventure. Let us look at places you can wander around in the city.
The Forbidden Mountain
Located in Hà Giang City and running along the crocked Mã Tim Slope, Cấm Sơn Mountain from above looks as if a mighty king of the jungle standing tall with extremely erect cliffs feeling like its pointy thorns. From the Forbidden Mountain, what you will see is the vision of the whole city minimized in your eyesight. The sensation is especially magical at night when the darkness falls on the city and leaves it with thousands of floating lights from the window of each house.
The Forbidden Mountain at day
On the mount of the mountain lies a “sky well” of which the depth is indescribable. As a historical fact, around 1875, there was a terrifying fight between the two armies of “the yellow flag” of Hoàng Sùng Anh and “the white flag” of the local tribes. At the end of the war, the yellow flag lost its pre-eminence, had to run to the mount of Cấm Sơn as a last resort, and was surrounded by our army. In the end, the yellow flag killed themselves by jumping to the deep “sky well” for the lack of foods and supplies. It is all still a legendary fight to be proud of until this present and still, we also mourn the death of the once time mighty “yellow flag” army.
Ha Giang City at night from Cam Son’s View
Lying to the North of Hà Giang Province and being contiguous with Yunnan Province of China to the West, Quản Bạ is a very well known suburban district for its notorious Heaven’s Gate, the crowded Quyết Tiến Market, and other gorgeous beauties.
Quan Ba’s Heaven Gate
Located 1500 meters above the sea level, Quản Bạ’s Heaven Gate is truly a wonder of nature. If Sapa has its Heaven Gate then in Hà Giang, the Gate bears a different impression in the mind of tourists. Not at all bizarre or dazzling, Quản Bạ’s Heaven Gate brings much the sensation of a breathtaking yet tranquil destination where both human’s soul and nature harmonize in one frame.
The Heaven Gate is actually the first entrance of your journey to Đồng Văn Rock Highland. It is also said that sometime around 1939, people built big wooden doors behind the Gate and since then, a whole world of Mèo Tribe has been created and it is now, still their one and only Kingdom – the one behind the gate of heaven.
The land of the Heaven Gate
Tam Son’s Fairy Mountain
Hà Giang has a great range of beauties, both in the scenery and its people, especially the youthful gorgeous girls. Lying on Highway 4C, the Fairy Mountain is definitely an interesting destination that you want to visit during your trip. It is rumored as a fold story in the region that Tam Sơn’s Fairy Mountain holds the great secret of an old legend of a love story between a goddess and a mundane man.
The Fairy Mountain
It is said once upon a time, there is a mundane man who is a member of the Mông Tribe. There will be nothing much to talk about this guy if he is not a handsome one with some talents in using the instrument called Jew’s harp of the Mông. And it is for this beautiful and sweet sound of his harp that the Peach Blossom fairy from the sky comes to the normal world to see him and before long, they both fall in love with each other. After sweet days and nights spent together, they finally have a child – a beautiful little boy. However, their happiness does not last long when the fairy’s father, who is also the King of the sky, finds out their love affair. The fairy then is forced to come back to her world, leaving behind the pitiful husband and the little child. Not accepting the truth, she begs the king to return to the mundane world but of course, she is rejected in all ways. Feeling hopeless, she then finally sends her breast to the world to her child so he can have her milk.
The time passes by and her breast become the mountain, and her tears become the gorgeous Miện River. As people say, thanks to her breast and tears, the season is always good around the year with beautiful flowers bloom their gorgeousness such as peach, pear, and plum. The young girls in the region are also taken in the eyes of all other men when they are as beautiful as the Peach Fairy with the plum lips, the sparkling eyes, and an unforgettably attractive smile.
Quyet Tien Market
Quyết Tiến is one of the most popular and crowded markets in Hà Giang Province. Quyết Tiến is the main one in Quản Bạ and for that reason, most people only shops at this market because it provides them with anything that they may need for their daily life.
The market at the foot of the Heaven Gate
Situated beneath the brilliant Heaven Gate, in a small commune called Quyết Tiến, there is this market named after its commune, where fills with wonderful treats and the breath of the local life. Every week, there is just one market gathering on Saturday morning near the Highway 4C. At the first sight, Quyết Tiến may seem as many other markets around Hà Giang Province; however, we believe that each place has its own uniqueness to be admired, so take your time at Quyết Tiến Market, have a bowl of sticky rice and check out the beautiful tribal dresses.
Just like Quản Bạ, Yên Minh is also a suburban district of Hà Giang Province, which consists of 16 communes. Yên Minh is contiguous with Quản Bạ to the West, Đồng Văn to the Northeast, Mèo Vạc to the East and Bắc Mê to the South.
Yên Minh’s Pine Forest gives out an unforgettable feeling of some stories of the Norwegian that we have been told, where is surrounded by the mysterious midst and numerous of old folks and legends. Lying 100 kilometers to the Northeast of Hà Giang City, the journey to explore the pine forest starts from Na Khê Commune to the faraway Yên Minh Town. There is nothing much to say about Yên Minh because its beauty is hardly describable and only when coming there, can you feel that symphony of nature sounding amongst the infinitive tree lines of the North.
The pine forest from another angle
Bach Dich Market
Running along Highway 4C, you will encounter Na Khê Commune’s area sooner or late. When you see the sign, you should head to Bạch Đích Commune, this is where you need to be. If there is only one market gathering in Quản Bạ then there are up to three markets in Yên Minh area including Bản Muồng, Mốc 358 and the central commune market.
Moc 358 Market gathering
Usually, most people will think that the central commune market will be the main one among the three. However, the most well-known is actually Mốc 358 or also known as Mốc 9 near Bạch Đích Border Gate, contiguous with the border of China. Established since 2007, the market has been there for almost 11 years and every day, the gathering still takes place from 6:00 to 12:00.
Đồng Văn is another location in the suburban district complex of Hà Giang, which includes Quản Bạ, Yên Minh, and Mèo Vạc. The suburban district is currently inhabited by around 60 thousands tribal members and comprises two main towns: Đồng Văn and Phó Bảng.
Amongst all suburban districts in Hà Giang, Đồng Văn is probably the most in favor for a great range of beauties and heritages of which Đồng Văn Rock Highland has earned its reputation for such a long time. In addition, many other popular destinations are also taken in the eyes of many visitors as for both historical and geographical significance.
Tham Ma Slope
Hà Giang has many intriguing legends and the story of Thẩm Mã Slope is one of them. Since Hà Giang is contiguous with China, so 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.
It is said that 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, would be left behind. Not only relates to the legendary midst of the horses, Thẩm Mã is also wholeheartedly praised by most tourists as a smooth and elegance embracing the rough and crocked silhouette of the shape 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.
Dong Van Rock Highland
With the total land area of more than 2.000 meters square and the total height of 1.600 meters, Đồng Văn Rock Highland is truly a heritage of nature claimed and nominated by the UNESCO as the Global Geographical Park. This is also the only prestigious title in Vietnam and the second one of all Asia.
The heavenly beauty of Dong Van Rock Highland
In Đồng Văn, many archeologists have also found a numerous number of fossils mainly including bones and remains of historical creatures with the age between 400 – 600 years old. The weather in Đồng Văn Rock Highland is also very unpredictable and unfixed. Particularly, from April to September, the area is covered in a heavy rain of the rainy season while from October to April, there is a serious sign of drought in the area due to the lack of water resource.
The rock highland is currently the shelter of more than 250,000 tribal members including the renowned Mèo Tribe with the notorious Mèo King’s Palace. In addition, the rock highland in Đồng Văn also holds a great number of legends and midst which are still in the processed of researching and exploring by the academic scholars around the world.
Sung La Valley
On the way from Yên Minh to Đồng Văn, you will somehow encounter this beautiful commune with the name Sủng Là. Sủng Là is probably regarded as the most beautiful commune in the whole Đồng Văn Rock Highland area. Lying 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.
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 the November comes when the triangle flower queen spreads its dress of gorgeous pink and white covering on the whole existence in Sủng Là Valley. Catching this sight will absolutely be a chance of a lifetime.
Mèo King’s Palace is definitely one destination that you cannot skip on your way exploring the fertile land of Hà Giang. As written above, these Northern tribes always hide a little bit of something behind those brick walls that seem to be normal. There can be legends, there can be some folks or even everlasting myths that until now, we still do not know much about all those stories except through the words of the locals. Mèo King’s Palace is one of those stories but it has a tendency to more historical relatedness.
In the past, about 100 years ago, there used to be a man called Vương Chính Đức, who lived on growing and selling poppy to the Chinese across the border. Before long, thanks to the success in his poppy trading activity with the Chinese, he became rich and this finally led to his coming to the throne and being praised as the Mèo King Vương Đức Chính.
From the rooftop of the mansion
Not long after his enthronement, he went to his neighbor – the Chinese to find a man specializing in the art of Geomancy to help him build his palace. After looking through all the proper land, the King decided to situate his palace at a prominent land in Sà Phìn Valley. At the first sight, the land bears resemblance to a turtle-shell for its structure. Around the area, the King also planted many cunninghamia trees with a view to beautifying his living space.
The palace, more likely a mansion, was built in 8 years with 2 floors and 64 compartments in total, and this cost the King more than 150,000 silver coins for the whole building expense. The design and the general structure of the mansion are refined and brilliant. Only when coming there can you feel significantly the architectural art of the mansion.
Lung Cu Flag Tower
As we have mentioned in the first part, if you want to conquer the Northern endpoint of Vietnam, Lũng Cú Flag Tower should be your first save point but not the last. Most people are used to bearing the conception that Lũng Cú Flag Tower is a point marking the end of the North of Vietnam. However, as we explain in the previous post, the actual Northern end of our country lies about 300 kilometers more to the North of Lũng Cú Flag Tower, lying 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 way 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.
Dong Van Market
Đồng Văn Market is an old one lying near Đồng Văn Old Street, which bears the architectural mark of the French around 1920. Just like Quản Bạ’s Quyết Tiến Market, Đồng Văn Market has only one market gathering at every Sunday. Some people even have to leave their house in the early morning like 3:00, crossing mountains and slopes just to make it to the market.
The crowded Dong Van Market
Đồng Văn Market is a very special one. Sometimes it feels like this is not a market anymore but more like a place where a variety of people coming from numerous different tribes such as Tày, Nùng, Dao, and so on come to meet and make acquaintance. Đồng Văn Market is such a colorful “festival” with all the best and the most amazing things created by its intersection of cultures. Despite all other features, Đồng Văn Market still manages to do well its function as a market providing with various goods, mostly produces to its people.
Mèo Vạc is also a suburban district established in the 60s of the 20th century alongside with many others such as Đồng Văn and Yên Minh. Mèo Vạc is not just an ordinary place but an extreme dear companion to its people. In the border conflict between Vietnam and China from 1979 – 1990, many Sơn Vĩ Commune’s people volunteered to stay in the district to fight against the enemy and gave supplies to Vietnamese soldiers in the war.
Ma Pi Leng
If you want to have loads of super fantastic pictures, you must drop by Mã Pì Lèng Mountain Pass. The road’s name is actually based on a tribal language called Quan Hỏa, which literally means “the bridge of a horse’s nose”. The literal meaning seems to bear not so much resemblance to the usual image of Mã Pì Lèng. However, the figurative sense has made it much clearer when emphasizing the danger and the extreme terror caused by the twisted and crocked mountain pass.
Many images and scenes have been used to describe this terrifying pathway when even the strongest horse must leave its life behind making to the top of the way. There are also many midsts around the mountain pass such as its name must be Máo Pì Lèng, which means “the bridge of a cat’s nose” or the road is not as dangerous as it may seem and people just exaggerate by adding more midsts to the story.
Nho Que River runs in between
From the geographic view, Mã Pí Lèng, which owns the height of 2000 meters above the sea level, is a part of Đồng Văn Rock Highland. The mountain pass is truly a great complex of stone types from limestones, silica with more than 400-year-old fossils, and many cracks created by the erosion of time. All these factors also add up to the place’s danger and it is not known whenever a rock or a cliff can fall down on your way. What is more spectacular is the way the beautiful Nho Quế River runs through Mã Pì Lèng as if a stroke of thunder cuts the soil in half, dividing it into two parts of two different countries. In addition, Đồng Văn Highland and Mã Pì Lèng are together praised as “The statue of geology” by many scholars around the world.
Khau Vai Love Market
Not only does Sapa have love market, but Hà Giang also does. Khâu Vai Love Market also creates the renowned reputation in the area. Actually, love market is like a trend, a cultural characteristic of the Northern Vietnam for the need of enhancing love life as well as adding up a little bit of the bittersweet in the daily life of the locals.
The crowded atmosphere of Khau Vai Love Market
Unlike other love market gatherings, Khâu Vai is more like a festival where high cultural values and respect for one another are the first priority. Khâu Vai Love Market is held on 26th March of the Lunar Calendar. It is not exaggerating at all when saying Khâu Vai is the bridge bringing happiness and reminiscence to all people participating in the festival. Usually, single ladies and gentlemen are the main targets of the festival when they mainly come to not only to find a lover but also to share their own life’s stories and open one another’s heart.
During Khau Vai Festival
However, Khâu Vai has created a great and positive effect on all the people in the area when they all come to join in the shared joy of their community, regardless of age and background. Even married couples join the festival to find something refreshing wind for themselves. Of course, there has been no fight of jealousy occurring during the festival time because as a rule, they can do anything they want until the 27th when the festival finally ends. During the gathering, respect to one another is highly rated and maintained to create the most comfortable atmosphere for all participants.
Hoang Su Phi
Hoàng Su Phì is now inhabited by 12 different tribes, of which Nùng and Dao are the majority. Unlike other suburban districts, Hoàng Su Phì is still in the process of developing, so there are still many difficulties and obstacles, especially in the people’s life. Most locals in the area live on growing snow Shan tea trees and Zingiberaceae. Despite life is hard, they are still happy and contented with it.
Phin Ho Village
Phìn Hồ Village is famous for its tradition of growing snow Shan tea trees. When the season comes, people will collect the tea leaves and process them to make dry leaves used in Northern traditional tea. This is also a very well-known product of Phìn Hồ that brings it to the map of Vietnamese famous traditional tea.
Phin Ho’s women are collecting tea leaves
Hoang Su Phi Terrace Fields
Hoàng Su Phì Terrace Fields are indeed a spectacular and worth-remembering sight that creates the own name of the town. Splendid and indescribable, the gorgeous terrace fields draw the attention of whoever comes to this land for the first time. Especially when the harvesting season comes, the fields are all covered in the brilliant color of the golden grains, sparkling and blinking under the warm light of the sun. This is truly a scene that can only be found in Vietnam’s mountainous areas as Hà Giang.