- What To Do in Ha Giang Vietnam
- What To Do in Ha Giang Vietnam
What To Do in Ha Giang Vietnam
Unsurprisingly, for most of us, there are always so many places to go, but so little time. Let’s not forget the financial limitations once in a while – if not all the time! Saving up for the occasional trips is necessary to go out, see the world, learn something different, and sample different cultures. All while unwinding and getting some much-needed time away from the hustle and bustle.
I love traveling to locations untainted by infrastructure and technology. Don’t get me wrong; I value technology that enables quick communication and assistance in crucial situations. Other times, some days and weeks away from all the noise and the chaos is all the therapy you need to get back on track.
In comes Ha Giang, a province in Vietnam. I came across this serene region while searching for remote places to visit for my extended leave. Unlike many tourist destinations I’d gone to throughout my life (I travel a lot), Ha Giang was the one place that had me feeling unsatisfied by the time my stay was over. I simply needed more days to see as much as I could.
Ha Giang Vietnam
Seated on the Lo river and located in the northern part of Vietnam, Ha Giang is a notable province – mainly due to the fantastic scenery the region has to offer. Infrastructure came slow to this area, and that is possibly a good thing. Communities in Ha Giang have retained most of their lifestyles and cultures, making the location seem untainted by the outside world.
Truthfully, in the past years, Ha Giang was rarely featured in Vietnam itineraries for travel destinations. Now, this remote and majestic province is starting to garner attention from many tourists. The diverse ethnic tribes, fantastic landscapes and rivers, and the serenity among the locals are some of the few reasons you shouldn’t hesitate to make Ha Giang your next travel destination.
Years ago, not many would have considered Ha Giang the ultimate travel destination, but the interest grows gradually. I am glad to be one of the few to experience the wonders nature offers in here, and you can too if you wish. Over 80% of the Ha Giang communities stick to their traditional lifestyles, unlike other developing Vietnam cities.
My experience was more than I bargained for; I had loads of fun in the process. The landscapes and the scenery were unlike any I have ever encountered before. I am very active, and I managed to squeeze in as many activities as I could with the four days I had. When my time in Ha Giang was over, I knew I was going to find some more time to go back for some more!
A few tips when going to Ha Giang:
- Get the necessary vaccination shots
- Plan with more than four days, so you have enough time to unwind and immerse yourself in the activities
- Carry enough cash and convert it to the local currency when you arrive
- Don’t forget to carry essentials like a first aid kit and personal medication, waterproof covers, sturdy footwear, torch, sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and a raincoat – just in case
- Carry decent-looking clothes; the local people are decent folk
How To Go To Ha Giang
Ha Giang is about 400 km from the capital city, Hanoi. You can travel from Hanoi to Ha Giang via bus in the early morning hours or at night. The journey takes at least seven hours, and there’s a midway stop for your washroom needs. Some of the Hanoi bus companies offer online booking and bus ticket payments online.
Also, you could travel by train then by bus from Hanoi. Since there are no trains in Ha Giang, the train takes its passengers from Hanoi to Lao Cai. Tourists interested in Bac Ha and Sapa town, often take this train; you may meet other travelers on their way to the Bac Ha ethnic market. You can then take a bus with the locals to Ha Giang for the remaining distance.
Should you find yourself in Sapa, Bac Ha, Hai Phong, and Dong Van towns, you can get to Ha Giang via bus. You could get an updated timetable at the hotel you are staying. If you aren’t in a rush, you could enjoy the beauty surrounding the towns, the markets, or rent a motorbike if you are on your own.
If you aren’t in Hanoi, there are bus stations in other areas to take you to Ha Giang – only changes involved may be the bus fares and the travel hours. That said, the best way to confirm these charges and direction is in your hotel or hostel. Reserving the bus tickets from these points is better. If not, you can ask your hosts for some guidance about travel routes and charges when uncertain.
Like you would do in any new region, buy your tickets at the ticket counter or as instructed. Some buses have conductors who collect the bus fares along the way. So, observe and only pay depending on the situation.
Which are the Best Travel Seasons in Ha Giang?
Most travel destinations are often best during the dry season – you get to do as much sightseeing as you’d like. September, and the months all the way to April are the best to visit Ha Giang. December, January, and February may be cold.
The rainy season starts from June to September, and it is best to avoid the mountainous regions in these months due to possible landslides. Either way, the weather changes rapidly around the mountains. For safety precautions, always confirm the best times to travel from expert guides in Ha Giang or the province and town you decide to make your stop.
Where To Stay in Ha Giang
Unless you have relatives you can visit in Ha Giang; there are guesthouses, hotels, hostels, and homestays available. Most accommodations are pleasantly affordable. Due to the growing number of tourist visits to the region, you can book accommodation online depending on the packages of your choice, and proximity to the sights you wish to view.
You should maintain common courtesy wherever you go, mainly since this is a serene and rural province. Avoid being rowdy and noisy, shopping in too much plastic and hard-to-dispose items, littering, giving money and sweets to children or buying things from small children. If you’re planning on interacting with the locals for a significant period, you could learn some of the habits and practices that may be considered offensive from your hosts, and places you may need to avoid.
What To Do in Ha Giang Vietnam
Ha Giang is a large province, and there are so many ethnic communities, towns, and markets to visit. Free up four to seven days to have enough time to do all the sightseeing you can squeeze within that time! If you have a motorbike or other fast means of travel, it will help put that time to good use because most towns have quite some distance between them.
To access the more remote areas, you need a permit from Ha Giang authorities. Getting it first thing when you get to Ha Giang is probably the best idea. You can pay for one at the Immigration Office in Ha Giang town or the Meo Vac police station. Have enough money with you to pay for entry fees in most of the attraction sites.
As you can see, if you are looking for what to do in Ha Giang, three days may not be enough to do much. That said, here are some of the places you must visit when you get to Ha Giang:
Quan Ba Heaven’s Gate
About 50 km north of Ha Giang town is the Dong Van geological park, and the gateway to this park is the Quan Ba Heaven’s gate. Hundreds of years ago, the Hmong kingdom lived behind the gate. Four districts in that kingdom were Quan Ba, Meo Vac, Dong Van, and Yen Minh.
After the French invaded Vietnam, they built a massive wooden door in 1939 to separate this region from Ha Giang and the rest of the towns. The door had an impressive 150cm thickness but, currently, it no longer exists. After climbing a few dozen steps to the peak, you’ll find a sign in Vietnamese and English signaling the Quan Ba Heaven Gate.
Standing at this peak point, the view ahead will astound you. The Dong Van plateau, the valleys, the mountains, and the clouds make the experience heavenly. The residents do a great job at maintaining the sanctity that this beautiful park seems to hold.
Fairy Mountain (Twin Mountains)
Heaven’s Gate isn’t the only site the Quan Ba district provides. From the high point at Heaven’s Gate, you can see mountains, hills, and rice terraces. Among those are the Twin Mountains that are round-shaped, and likened to breasts, and the residents narrated an ancient tale regarding how the name came around.
According to the tale, there was a young and handsome man in the Hmong community who was skilled at playing the flute. One day, while playing the flute, the sound attracted a fairy who had come down from the heavens. Eventually, they fell in love, got married, and bore a son.
Unfortunately, the King of Heaven asked the fairy to go back home when he found her missing in the palace. The fairy loved her son so much, and decided to leave her breasts on earth to feed her son before she went; thus the name Fairy Mountain or Twin Mountains. The locals still believe the milk from the Twin Mountains provide the favorable weather and plenty of crops for the land.
- Ma Pi Leng Pass
Fun fact: Ma Pi Leng stands for “Horse nose” in the local Hmong Language, and it refers to the winding mountain slopes on the Happy road linking Ha Giang to Meo Vac and Don Van. The trail winds through the cliffs and passes the Ma Pi Leng summit that is at a 2,000-meter altitude. You can find a stone tablet at the top detailing the construction of the road.
Initially, the road could accommodate cars, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. With time, it got too narrow for vehicles traveling in opposite directions, and dangerous due to the sharp bends. Though it isn’t too long, it is considered the most difficult in North Vietnam.
Danger aside, the sharp contrast between the blue skies and the dark and beautiful mountains will amaze any tourist. The panoramic view when you’re looking out over the cliffs, the landscapes at the bottom, and the thin Nho Que river make it worth the travel.
Hoang Su Phi Terraces
Are you interested in the much more remote and untainted spots in Ha Giang? Don’t forget to mark Hoan Su Phi as one of the destinations. There are about eleven different groups in this village, and you may not find as many services as you would in other slightly urbanized towns.
Since Hoang Su Phi is an estimated 70 km from Ha Giang town, it ranks in what to do in Ha Giang in 2 days – factoring in the winding roads and the time to take in the sites. Once you book a hotel or decide on a homestay, you can go through the vast rice terraces, which are a significant tourist attraction. You can also immerse yourself in the rich culture you will find here.
Bac Me Camp Site
For history enthusiasts, this a must-have experience. Bac Me is slightly over 60 km from Ha Giang, and in the Ca Bang Municipality. This quiet town is to the left of the Gam River and attracts multiple tourists with its cultural and historical attractions.
According to history, the old Bac Me prison was once a military base for the French before they later turned it into a prison for the revolutionaries in the late 1930s. Though previously surrounded by stone walls, most of the old jail is in ruins now. Nowadays, it serves as a glimpse into the past, and also as a beautiful place to view the mountains and the Gam river – given that the site stands at the mountainsides.
Alongside the wondrous view that the river offers as it snakes its way through hills and the mountainous region, the banks, fields, and trees it meets on its journey are a piece of art. There’s even a specific slope most visitors go to take magnificent pictures of Bac Me town. It helps further that the journey in this location is constant with the sceneries; you quickly forget the bumpy roads.
Khau Vai love market
Festival lovers have something for them as well – but this festival happens only once a year. The Khau Vai love market (also called Phong Luu market) in Meo Vac district, Khau Vai village has been around for years but only opens once every year for unconcluded reunions and love affairs. Many people of diverse ethnicities in north Vietnam travel from close and far to get to the market in time for the festivities.
The love market began after the end of a sad love story. A young couple from two tribes fell in love, but due to the irreconcilable differences between the two tribes, the lovers had to part. However, they vowed to always meet once in a year at the Khau Vai peak on the lunar in March.
Since then, the locals gather in the market on the same day – some even starting their travel in the night before the big day. Young and old people alike meet, sing, dance, eat, and drink in merriment once the festivities begin. The vibrant culture, the cuisines, and joy in the air make this activity rank high in what to see Ha Giang Vietnam for the villagers and tourists alike.
Both the French and the Chinese influenced northern Vietnam – especially at the China-Vietnam border to the north. Centuries back, the Hmong people arrived from China and occupied a significant section of North Vietnam. The Nguyen dynasty came with the rule of a King – Vuong Chinh Duc – for the Hmong tribes.
With the recognition from the French, the Hmong palace was built in Sa Phin valley, over 100 km from Ha Giang town. The Hmong people made a living out of growing opium, and King Vuong Chinh Duc earned a lot of silver selling the drug to the Chinese across the border. In three months, the palace was built; surrounded by dense Sa Moc trees.
Since the King ruled the four districts past the Quan Ba Heaven’s Gate, you can dub this activity 4 days Ha Giang Vietnam; there is a lot of distance to cover, and so many sceneries and sites to see along the way. Heaven’s Gate and the Hmong Palace are just two of the sights!
If you’re interested in sightseeing much closer to Ha Giang town, this massive freshwater lake is about 25 km to the south of the city. The lake is so deep, that when then the dry season hits, you can see the trees that grow in the lake! Since some locals catch shrimp and fish in Noong lake, you can enquire on the boats available to a trip on the lake or find a few fish yourself.
The Ha Giang provincial museum is also in town. Considering its proximity to where you can get your travel permit, you can make a short stop there before heading to your hotel. The stop can help you take in surroundings and have a good feel of what Ha Giang is all about.
Lung Cu Flag Tower
Haven’t had enough of dizzying sites and high peaks? Aim for the Lung Cu Tower as your next destination, or along your journey if you are passing nearby. Located in the Dong Van district of the Ha Giang province, this tower is 30 meters tall. Get this; it is atop the Lung Cu peak!
Though it was initially made to signify the most northern point in Vietnam, the northernmost point is found about three kilometers further, and on the China-Vietnam border. The view from the top will merely leave you dumbfounded. Not only do you see the Nho Que river, but you also take in the Ma Pi Leng pass, rice fields, Lo Lo houses, and nature that goes far into China.
Remember this though; you have a lot of steps to climb! To get to the summit, you have to climb 389 stone steps, and 140 more spiral iron steps are waiting for you to get to the top of the tower. Make sure you carry enough money for the entry charges to the tower.
United Triangular Circuit
The rice plantations aren’t the only stunning views you get to see. From October running through to December, the “triangular” flowering season is on, and it is stunning. Couple the full bloom against the green and some of the rocky mountains and you can watch the sights all day long.
If you know how to ride a motorbike, then you’re in luck. You can rent out one, or more with your friends, and through the fields. If you prefer to walk, you can do that too and enjoy the peace, beauty, and divine air that is nothing like an environment filled with smoke from all the vehicle exhausts.
You may have noticed that a lot of these destinations are in the four districts past the Heaven’s Gate pass. Quan Ba, Dong Van, Meo Vac, and Yen Minh are the four districts in Ha Giang with the highest concentrations of the Hmong tribes. They originated from China. Still, other tribes live amongst them.
The Mong culture is vibrant, and the Vietnamese government still encourages the preservation of this culture while promoting tourism in the districts. Part of conservation includes restoring Mong architectural work, maintaining the traditions, culture, and villages, and creating programs for musical instructions, instruments, and training based on Mong ethnicity.
As a tourist, you can look forward to more than the annual Khau Vai love market. There are dance and music festivals in Dong Van district, cloth and weaving exhibitions, and cultural exchanges. You will have so much to see, do, buy, and talk about after this Ha Giang Vietnam experience.
As with any new places you travel to, maintain proper etiquette, follow the rules, and don’t forget to have much fun as you possibly can!