Ha Giang Vietnam, The Place of the H’mong, Karst Formations, & INCREDIBLE Views

north vietnam ha giang

Remembering my trip to Ha Giang Vietnam brings back evocative memories. Amazing scenery with towering karst formations, winding valleys, and terraces of rice paddies. Beautiful friendly people, children that were bursting with excitement to talk to us. Delicious food, with crispy fried pork and their ‘Morning Glory’ water spinach fried in garlic every day.

To Bac Ha Market, To Market….

We hopped on our motorbikes and our guide took us to a market, not far from Bac Ha. Bursting with life, this is the place to buy puppies, ducklings, buffalo, meat, vegetables, clothing… anything you can imagine, it was here. This area is known for the local tribes and they are recognisable by their traditional outfits. While some people wore Western-style clothing, there were still many local women wearing somewhat traditional clothing.

ha giang vietnam market
Buffalo fights, complete with gambling on the winners
bac ha market
Some of the traditional ethnic wear of Vietnam. Flower H’mong and others
ha giang vietnam duckling sales
Duckling sales
ha giang vietnam market
Butchery counter, open air, meats mixed, sitting on the bench…

 Đồng Văn to Mèo Vạc, Ma Pi Leng Pass

This is one of the most incredible road journeys I have ever taken. We left Bac Ha in a 4WD with a driver and an English-speaking guide. I would recommend you do take a vehicle and a driver to fully explore the area. It means you have opportunities to stop and take photos (which you will want to do at every turn), and explore at your leisure. If you arrange through Mr. Dong in Bac Ha, it’s pretty cheap.

We drove to Ha Giang, then through Dong Van to Meo Vac. It requires a few days, and you will take more photos of rice than you ever thought possible. There is so much to see along the way. Fields of aromatic hemp, which the locals turn into long strips of fabric which is pasted to the roadsides to dry. Beautiful fields of rice, golden heads nodding in the breeze, ripe to be picked. Small villages with simple lives lived in traditional ways. Rice mills are powered by water.  The water comes from the river and flows into the bucket end which is filled. The water gets heavy, tips the end down, suddenly lighter in comes back up and at the other end of the see-saw, it suddenly drops and the pounder drops onto the rice in the container (see photo below).

Along the way, there are some tourist attractions. There’s the Ha Giang palace, a beautiful but crumbling structure built by Vuong Chinh Duc (1865 – 1947). There’s Lung Cam Cultural & Tourist Village in Sung La Valley, where a very important Vietnamese movie was filmed in a century-old house. But as much as the attractions were nice (and pretty much deserted, certainly no other tourists), it was the daily life around us that was amazing.

ha giang vietnam palace
H’mong King’s Palace in Ha Giang, built using money made from the opium trade
ha giang vietnam fairy bosoms
This is the point overlooking the Fairy Bosoms, which are to the right. I like how the town winds through the hills.
ha giang vietnam rice mill
This water-powered contraption is a rice mill.
ha giang vietnam rice paddies
Rice Paddies, lush and green
ha giang vietnam rice planting
Planting rice- back-breaking work in the full sun – these people are incredibly hard-working
ha giang vietnam ducks
Jemima Puddle-Duck (or, dinner)
ha giang vietnam ma pi leng pass
The view of Ma Pi Leng Pass

Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark

ha giang vietnam dong van karst geopark
Dong Van Karst Plateau Geopark
ha giang vietnam mountain passes
You often see farmers, perched on these steep hillsides, planting corn on every available space, precarious and uncomfortable.
ha giang vietnam karst formation hills
Amazing scenery in Dong van Karst Geopark

Along the way, we travelled through Dong Van Karst Geopark. These formations were made when the soft calcium exterior of the landscape was slowly eroded away, leaving rock forests and amazing alien landscapes. Fossils in the area have been dated back to  540 million years ago, so it’s been around a long time. I don’t think there’s much more I can add here because I think the photos say it all. I loved Ha Giang North Vietnam, and can’t wait to go back and explore more.

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