How to travel to Dong Van for your best experience
Dong Van Travel Guide – What to do, when to visit, and more…
Heading toward but wonder how to travel to Dong Van for your best experience? Save your time by reading our article for a complete guide on the best things to do, the best foods to eat, and the best way to get to Ha Giang, if you are expecting a perfect trip to the legendary destination of Northern Vietnam.
About 320km away from the capital Hanoi, located on the height of 1,500m above sea level, the mysterious Dong Van is famous for the picturesque scene of the vast pink buckwheat flower covering the entire stone plateau, which spans over most of the four provinces of Ha Giang where Mong, Tay and Hoa… enthic groups inhibit.
The geographical characteristics of Dong Van Plateau are just as dramatic as it can get with sheer mountain cliffs running to the horizon. Interestingly, one of the mysterious things in Dong Van Rock Plateau is the scripts found on many rocks – ancient letters but until now, the meanings to these letters are left unknown. In December of 2010, at last, this was recognized by UNESCO and became a wonderful heritage of the world.
Yet, Dong Van offers a breathtaking vista, a true serenity escape, and the priceless chance to engage in the lives of tribal people. All makes it a worthwhile discovery despite the dangers.
With the scenery of verdant forests, granite mountains, quiet farming villages, and heavenly views in every direction, Dong Van is like an illustration of how nature can flourish when unsullied. Let’s see some favorite tourist activities that may relieve your hunger for exploring.
Climb Quan Ba Twin Mountain – The gate to the Heaven
Located about 46 km north of Ha Giang town, which is considered as Da Lat of the north, Quan Ba is the scenic district with spectacular mountains, poetic valleys, winding roads as well as the unique local culture.
Amid the rolling mountains and terraced fields, it is outstanding by two mountains of which a strange round shape looks like the sleeping fairy’s full breasts called Quan Ba Twin Mountain, which surprise visitors at the magnificent beauty of the Creator.
Quan Ba Twin Mountains are a lovely sight to behold from the road. The two round-shaped green hills lying side by side in the middle of the rice field will surely catch your eyes because of its charming appearance.
Right near the Twin Mountains lies the Heaven Gate which is on a height of 1,500m above sea level, offering breathtaking views of the valley below. It’s such a wonderful experience to take in such scenery during your trip. To reach the Heaven Gate, you have to climb up a few dozen more steps to the highest peak which is the most ideal place to get a panoramic view of the Dong Van plateau, looking backward downhill and the zigzag road weaving between clouds and mountains.
Quan Ba Twin Mountain is a beautiful symbol of Dong Van Highland, which is the crystalline beauty of nature and tectonic. With this value, the mountain is recognized as the national scenic spot by the Ministry of Culture Sport and Tourism Vietnam.
Conquer the daring Ma Pi Leng Pass
Ma Pi Leng means literally “Horse’s nose bridge”, describing the look of its shape. This 20mk-length pass has such high steep that makes horses stop breathing when climbing, but is a dream to drive down for brave adventurous travelers. It winds its way past shapely karst mountains, through tiny villages and allows for some outstanding views of the green Vietnamese countryside. This pass is also the only place to fully view the probably deepest chasm of Southeast Asia, through which the green poetic Nho Que river runs.
Riding on this pass, you’ll be amazed by the immense scenery of majestic and wild beauty. Along the way, there are almost vertical farms on the mountainside, thousands of gray mountains concatenate to the horizon and abyss underneath. Having long been ranked by locals, Ma Pi Leng is among the top 4 passes in Vietnam which are both beautiful and dangerous.
Reach Lung Cu flagpole – The first stroke that drawing Vietnam’s map
Being known as “a high forehead of the motherland”, which marks the extreme North of the country, Lung Cu is an interesting place for those who love to learn history because it’s where the sacred flagpole is placed on the highest ground. From a distance, Lung Cu is a spectacular sight with the view dominated by giant boulders and the national flag flying above Dragon Mountain, all set to the backdrop of magnificent forests. The flagpole has become an iconic tourist attraction of Ha Giang since it inspires a deep sense of pride in Vietnamese.
The route to the northernmost Lung Cu flagpole from Ha Giang’s center takes over the distance of 1.5 kilometers, then overcoming 389 stone steps and climbing more 140 spiral stairs right at the flagpole’s heart. Sounds quite challenging, right? But the views on the top will reward your effort. From its top, visitors can see the whole of the beautiful and spectacular landscape under, like a watercolor painting with paddy fields and earthen-walled houses dot the sumptuous panorama.
Stay at Sung La village – Where the flowers bloom on rock
From Yen Minh to Dong Van town, to Pho Bang fork, to where the pretty pass embraces a beautiful green valley, it is Sung La valley – “a rose” of stone plateau.
Sung La is like a peaceful and beautiful nature painting, located amid rugged mountains which is a totally dark color, and the strong houses with its ancient roofs by time. The H’mong in Sung La is planting a triangular and flowering plant on the uphill. But growing corn, rice in the land where the flat and bottom of the valley. You will have the chance to see the green of the corn, rice, purple flowers of triangular flowers and yellow sunshine is the dark blue of the forest.
Spring is also the most beautiful season of this land as the flowers bloom throughout the high plateau. The fields of flowers make the natural scene which is harsh, cold and turned into a beautiful picture.
Stroll at Dong Van Ancient Town
This must be very enjoyable and exciting when wandering in the old town to explore the culture, cuisine and traditions of the highland people. Dong Van Ancient Street is nearly one-kilometer long that was formed nearly a century ago, with the typical architectural features of more than 40 houses being 100-300 years old, presenting yin and yang symbols found in roofs and tiles with stone floors. On every full-moon night, the street is colorfully lightened with red lanterns of various sizes. It also serves food and has other cultural activities in those days.
Visit Mansion of the Wang – The gem in the forest
As the oldest structure of Dong Van Ancient Town, started building in 1019 and totally completed 10 years later, with a total cost reaching to 150,000 silver coins (equivalent to 150 billion VND recently), the Wang’s mansion looks beautifully surrounded by pine trees, which has been originally preserved after the rise and fall of history, under sun and rain, so it brings with itself a fascinating historical story.
On the tortoiseshell-shape-hilltop with the rows of pine trees rising strongly, there is a house shaping Wang superbly growing as a print among blue space. This huge mansion is surrounded by high ancient green trees. Through long-time and history, this Wang mansion still keeps its mysterious and beautiful nature. Visiting this precious mansion, you can find many treasures of the Wang family. Stable woods used includes great stories to tell, which stay still during times and ages. You can ask your local tour guide for Wang family history to listen to their stories and immerse themselves with nature.
Visit Dong Van Sunday Market
Dong Van Sunday Market sits by massive terraced fields and the H’ mong royal palace. In a place where there are no malls, the Dong Van Sunday market is an important event for the locals to trade and to hang out as well. People come from miles away carrying goods on their backs to sell while wearing colorful dresses. You can easily spot them out with colorful, well-patterned handwoven dresses that represent their own ethnicity. It is a busy, lively market that can give you so many insights about the life of local people.
You may feel free to emerge in their unique folk tunes, tales, and watch their rural lifestyle that may as be just the same as hundreds of years ago.
In the sweet scene of rice wine diffused in the air, you can try horse meat (a traditional dish of the H’ mong, practice bargaining for a piece of hand-woven fabrics or sort out different ethnic groups by their costumes. The market starts from 5 am to 10 am, you’d better set your wakeup call early so as not to miss the authentic experience.
For first-comers, there may be a number of concerns of how many days to go, how many stops to make in Dong Van. From a tourist’s perspective, we suggest an itinerary of 2D1N for you to discover the best of Dong Van within permitted time.
Day 1: Quan Ba – Dong Van Ancient Town
AM: Head toward Quan Ba district early to witness the marvelous Twin Mountain and Heaven Gate. Enjoy a coffee time at the peak when taking a break after a long hike.
PM: Aim to Dong Van Ancient Town to visit the Wang Mansion and have a walk around. Stay for a night in town.
Day 2: Lung Cu – Sung La Village
AM: Have a light breakfast then aim for Lung Cu mountain. Enjoy cool fresh air, capture giant fields of buckwheat flowers scene underneath and see over China land after conquering the Lung Cu peak.
PM: Visit Sung La Village to get to know the H’mong culture and practice. Enjoy special foods and conversation with locals before finishing the journey of 2 days in Dong Van.
If you are a vetaren backpacker, please feel free to manage the trip on your own and alter it when needed, else, we recommend you join a tour organized by a professional company that can free you from hassles and keep you safe throughout the journey.
Not only famous for gorgeous landscapes, but also for food specialties is Ha Giang. Food which is made of natural ingredients with a distinctive cooking method is, without a doubt, the thing that enthralls tourists charmingly in Ha Giang.
Au Tau Porridge, also known as bitter porridge, is a specialty of Ha Giang, which can be found everywhere from Ha Giang City to Dong Van plateau. A bowl of Au Tau has literally everything in it from all flavors of Au Tau and spice leaves to the balance of rice, herbs, and meat…. This dish is also a medicine to cure sickness and cold.
Thang Co Dish, originally a traditional food of H’mong people, has become a common food among ethnic groups in the region. Thang Co’s main ingredient is horse meat. All parts of the horse are put in a big pan and fried. Men often eat Thang Co with wine while women eat the dish with Com Nam (rice balls) or men (ground maize).
Thang Den is a popular sweet soup dessert in Dong Van and Meo Vac when served hot can warm your body up in the cold night on the highland’s town. The small white balls made of glutinous rice are soaked in sweet syrup, topped with peanuts, sesame and coconut slices. This soup sure smells good.
Dried buffalo meat is famous over northwest Vietnam, not only in Ha Giang. This dish is a specialty of Black Thai people. The buffalo meat will be marinated then hung on the wooden bars on top of the kitchen’s fire. The smell of charcoal remains with the flavors of peppers, ginger and Mac Khen – a kind of forest pepper in northwest Vietnam.
Buckwheat flowers food-made are overall Ha Giang’s specialty. Buckwheat is known not only for its beauty but also for its tastiness. Tam Giac Mach flower is also used to make wine, cookies and soft cake….
Stuffed pancakes in Dong Van are soft, full of onion and grind meat. Using your chopsticks and taking a taste of this, you can feel warm inside your body.
The ideal time to visit Dong Van plateau is in fall (from September to November). As the weather is not as cold as the winter, and less likely to rain than summer months. Also, from October to November is the blooming season of buckwheat flower, a unique flower of the northern mountain area of Vietnam.
You can witness its beauty everywhere, in hills, stepped-rice fields, or in around makeshift local houses. If you can not make it in fall, then winter is the second-best choice as you may catch snows, which is very rare over Vietnam. Even if you don’t catch snow, the province is beautiful in winter as thick mist floats around the hills and makes you feel like you’re in a whole different world.
On the other hand, summer months coincide with the monsoon season, with risks of landslides and slippery roads. However, it doesn’t mean Dong Van looks bad during this time, while the terraced rice fields in Ha Giang are flooded in water as farmers are irrigating making them turn rich vibrant green in a poetic scenery.
Geographically, Ha Giang was never an easy destination to travel, however, there are still available transportation that will help you to reach there, and you may find your best way to get to Ha Giang among them.
By bus: A cheap and comfortable way to get to Dong Van, Ha Giang from Hanoi is by night bus, which may take you around 7 – 9 hours of driving. There are several leaving Hanoi’s northern terminal every evening and the cheapest ones cost you less than $10. The buses have fully-reclining berths which make it easy to sleep.
By private car: The most convenient way to reach Dong Van probably is by private car. In Hanoi, you will easily find travel agents who can help you book a private driver to take you to Dong Van. Especially, if you’re traveling with a group of friends, this can be a fun and cost-effective solution. Going with a driver also adds flexibility as you can stop anytime you want, whether it’s for a photo or to try some food along the way. The cost starts from $100 and variable.
By motorbike: If you love adventure, head to Dong Van on your own motorbike. The 300-kilometer ride will take you the better part of a day, especially if you want to make a few stops along the way.
To be safe, always ride with a helmet. It’s the law and it’s important since you’re probably unfamiliar with the rather creative driving style in Vietnam. When you’re ready to go, start your trip early in the morning to make the most of daylight. This is important as some mountain roads are poorly illuminated and you wouldn’t want to drive in the dark on winding roads you don’t know well.
Throughout this article, we wish you to have an idea of how to travel to Dong Van for your best experience. As the professional agent and love-to-travel-around-Vietnam team, we are proud of Dong Van and expect you to be happy the most while visiting here. If you have a question, please feel free to let us know. We always commit our best to make it your once-in-a-lifetime journey.