The article is originally from Mr Nguyen Thanh Hai in Vietnamese and translated into English by Phillip Duong.
Located in the Northeastern of Vietnam, the area includes 9 provinces, in which Bac Giang, Lang Son and Quang Ninh are the three most developed provinces.
In the early of 2013, we drove past 6 provinces of the Northeast including Phu Tho, Tuyen Quang, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Bac Kan and Thai Nguyen. We first got to Tuyen Quang – Ha Giang – Dong Van – Ban Gioc waterfall and Ba Be pond from Ha Noi. The total length of this route is approximately 1,300km and it took us more than a week to travel around the this.
October 2018 – I got an opportunity to get back to the route, but in the other way around: Ba Be pond – Bac Gioc waterfall – Dong Van – Ha Giang – Tuyen Quang.
The sceneries have been changed a bit. Most attractions still remain unchanged. Nonetheless, my feelings for the sceneries are a bit different between the past and present, which made me write this.
Phu Tho and Tuyen Quang are the two provinces located in the transition of valley and mountain areas. Palm trees, green tea fields, and Lo river were going along the road. The more we went, the more narrow the road is. It seems like a prediction to us that there would be a higher mountain and even a long stream.
Meeting the Pa Then (a small ethnic group in Vietnam), they have been living in Tan Quang ward, Bac Quang district, Tuyen Quang province. The bride looked beautiful in their traditional costume. The mother-in-law looked happy too.
This is the second time we had lunch at a local restaurant named “Nha Hang Com Dan Toc” in the center of Ha Giang. I still remember my confusion in the last 5 years, when the restaurant owner and even the customers told us better not to drive ourselves, but hire locals to help us out. The route from here to Dong Van is very tricky and dangerous for newcomers. However, we decided to ignore it due to our excitement about the upcoming adventure.
The first milestone is in Ha Giang, which is about 320km away from Ha Noi, is written in 4 languages: Vietnamese, English, French, and Chinese. This is a rest stop for many tourists, in order to get ready for heading to the other attractions. In the morning, it was a bit chaotic since there were too many tourists hanging out. Finally, I have got some photos here.
Quan Ba gate, where creates too many kinds of promotions to city residents. The rest stop was still here, but there were fewer tourists. The new rest stop was a bit further (3km), which has a more friendly-pedestrian way and a better view.
March – 2013, we stopped at Can Ty Ward, Quan Ba District for a rest. In October – 2018, we spent much more time for taking memorable photos again. Seating in the car, watching two sides of the road, and scanning the map for directions, I realised that the sceneries were changed a lot. Trees a greener due to the rainy season and there were more houses. We stopped the car and walked for a few hundred meters and take photos with a stream. The two photos below are in both 2013 and 2018. The sceneries are about the same, but one is in the dry season, another is in the rainy one.
I recall the time when there was a woman who waved at us just to ask for some lollies. It took us a while to understand what she wanted to. We had no lollies, so I decided to give her some of our cake bought in Phu Tho.
Stopping by Bac Sum, Minh Tan ward, Vi Xuyen district. There was a vacancy on the mountain peak where we can contemplate the beautiful down there. Apart from us, there was another young girl and a toddler having ice-cream. Since we both looked innocent, she decided to break the ice. She told us that she travelled all the way to here by motorbike (about 90km). She also mentioned that she accidentally met her ex-boyfriend on the way. I have some of their photos too, but better not post it here.
Coming to Dong Van, it was more difficult to travel and drive around, since the roads were very narrow and the cliff was very tricky to pass by. There was a crowd in front of us and that was a car accident. As you can see from the photo how bad it was. The driver was explaining about the problem. I wonder how this could happen.
That could be because he lost his concentration of driving and the path was ways too tricky or the car was even too new for him to get used to. The cliff is also very challenging.
Dusk is coming when we arrived at Dong Van. Fortunately, we found a vacant room at Cao Nguyen Da hotel.
October – 2018, I decided to come back to Dong Van and saw many things had changed. There were plenty of hotels and it was very hustle and bustle.
We have been to many places in the Northeast of Vietnam and each place gave us different emotions.
Dong Van market – Ha Giang province
Dong Van market is located in the middle of the town. On the trading days, tourists can see many locals wearing Northern-traditional and colourful costumes.
Lung Cu flag pole – Dong Van, Ha Giang
From Dong Van to Lung Cu peak is about 26km. This flag pole is approximately 3.3km to the tips of Northern Vietnam. Climbing up to the peak, there was a balcony, where you can enjoy the beautiful sceneries from above.
Dinh Vua Meo – Dong Van, Ha Giang province.
The roads between Lung Cu and Dinh Vua Meo is a bit tricky, which takes about 2 hours of driving (45km). There was a house of Vuong family members, who are Meo (a small ethnic group in Vietnam). The house is located right next to the mountain, which is just about a few hundred meters from the territory borders, has been being a border security place for many years. This place has become an attraction for tourists these days.
Ma Pi Leng – Dong Van, Ha Giang province.
Out of the town, about a few km, we met Ma Pi Leng, which is one of the most renowned cols in the world. Comparing to Pha Din (Dien Bien), O Quy Ho (Lao Cai) and Khau Pha (Yen Bai), Ma Pi Leng is the most gorgeous and risky. It requires the driver to be very skilful, in order to get over it.
Ban Gioc waterfall – Cao Bang province.
It is about 30km from Dong Van to Ban Gioc waterfall. This could take up to 1 day of driving. The attraction created many kinds of emotions. In 2013, I just stopped by for a few hours. In 2018, I stayed over in a hotel, which is just 500m from the waterfall. Que Son river is the border of the two countries which are Vietnam and China. Hopping on a boat and going to the middle of the river bank, so as to listen to the water flow sound and take some photos. I was about 2,065km from home at that moment.
Ba Be pond – Bac Kan province.
From Ban Gioc waterfall to Ha Noi, it roughly takes 8 hours of driving. Tourists tend to get some rest at Ba Be pond and even stay overnight. Visiting and contemplating the biggest pond in Vietnam, sleeping in the cottage of locals, watching local activities and shows at night, dancing and drinking local wine are the very best things of the journey.
Thanh Chuong village – Son Son, Ha Noi.
Located right next to Noi Bai International Airport, the owner of the village is Mr Thanh Chuong, who is an artist, marvellously designed and made this place become a museum. It looks like a lively picture of the countryside, community and history of Northern Vietnam.
End of the memorable Northeast of Vietnam trip.