Ha Giang

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Northern Vietnam : Ha Giang
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Ha Giang is a province in the northeast region of Vietnam, impresses visitors with its high karst plateau, steep hills, winding roads and ethnic diversity. It is ideal for outdoor activities such as trekking and camping.

Understand[edit]

Map of districts in Hagiang
Lolo ethnic women in traditional custom

The province of Ha Giang is located in the far north of Vietnam, surrounded by Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai and Yen Bai, and contains Vietnam's northernmost point. It shares a long border with the south of China. There are 10 districts including Bac Quang, Quang Binh, Xin Man, Hoang Su Phi, Vi Xuyen, Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Bac Me and 1 city (Ha Giang city).

Ethnic minorities[edit]

Ha Giang consists of various ethnic minorities (Chechens, Tay, Hmong, Dao, Nung, Cao Lan, Hoa, Lo Lo, etc). They can be distinguished by their clothing.

Climate[edit]

The climate is divided into two distinct seasons: rainy and dry season. Depending on the altitude, climate will change. The province is good to visit throughout the year. September to November and March to May are when the temperature is most pleasurable, in their mid 20's. The summer months can be quite rainy and in lower altitudes humid, expect more than 30 degrees. December and a bit into February the temperature falls, especially in the mountains so carry some good clothing. There are years when snow has been falling over Ha Giang.

October and November is peak season for local Vietnamese tourists. It is the time when the buckwheat is flowering and expect that hotels, hostels and motorbike rentals can be very busy. It is a very good idea to book your stay and activities in advance during these months.

Get in[edit]

My Dinh bus station

Ha Giang town, where most tourist will start exploring the province, is located 320 km from Hanoi. Most tourist take the bus to Ha Giang. From Hanoi the bus station with most buses is Mỹ Đình (some 10 km, 6 miles west of Hoàn Kiếm Lake) where you find day buses leaving from 5.30 am till 12.30 with close to hourly departures. The better way you can go to Cat Ba Express office at 37b Nguyễn Hữu Huân street (Hanoi old quarter - near by egg coffe) they can help to call the local bus include transfer to the meeting point which you do not need to worry how to call taxi or taxi may going around... The night buses begin departing from 18.00 till 21.30. Both the day and night buses are sleeping couches (with no toilets inside). The bus journey takes roughly 6 ½ hours with one mid-way stop. Note that the night buses arrive Hà Giang very early, but most bus companies let customer stay on-board and continue sleeping till dawn arrives.

Cat Ba Express also is great choice for how to get to Cat Ba from Ha Noi; Ninh Binh. You can see them on catbaexpress.com, mail: [email protected]; +84976951999 whatsapp. see cat ba express on Tripadvisor https://www.tripadvisor.co.nz/Attraction_Review-g293924-d12529983-Reviews-Cat_Ba_Express-Hanoi.html

Your hostel/hotel in Hanoi can often help you book tickets. If you arrive yourself to the bus station without ticket stay clear of touts (who sadly will do their best to cheat you for fares) and pay only by the ticket counter or if taken to the bus and being assigned a seat do not pay before departure. The bus conductor will take up bus fare some time into the journey. The price should be VND 200,000 (approx. US$9) except peak season.

Return to Hanoi departs with similar intervals/times as from Hanoi.

From Sa Pa you need to first get a bus to Lào Cai. From Lào Cai there are only two daily local buses connecting to Ha Giang. One at 6.00 am and another at 11.00 am. The same timing for the opposite direction. From Lao Cai it is taking up to 7 hours to reach Ha Giang town.

Hà Giang is sadly the last place in Vietnam where foreigners are required to obtain a permit to travel. These permits are required to travel on the road north from Tam Son to Dong Van and Meo Vac. Your hotel or hostel will be happy to assist you to get this provincial ‘admission permit’ (Dong Van Geopark permit). It cost VND 230,000 (approx. US$ 11 per person)

Get around[edit]

There is possibility to explore the province by local buses or by renting car with a driver. However, most tourist is probably doing the discovery of Ha Giang province by motorbike. There are a number of motorbike rental agencies in Ha Giang Town. As the province is getting more and more people discovering the province it can be good to book in advance, particular in October and November when the province also see the peak of local tourists.

Most travelers go on a loop of most northern Ha Giang (Tam Son, Yen Minh, Dong Van, Meo Vac, Lung Cu …). Note that the roads are tarmacked almost throughout, but they are narrow, winding, going steep both up and down and with potholes here and there and hence quite demanding to drive. For a motorbike tour try to allocate at least 3 days.

Many areas is also good for trekking.

See[edit][add listing]

Ma Pi Leng Pass

Ma Pi Leng Pass: The road is quite difficult but a stop in this pass will have a panoramic overview of the province. Scenery in Ma Pi Leng pass is unique with majestic and wild beauty. Looking to the north and northeast, thousands of gray mountains concatenate to the horizon. Over the Ma Pi Leng, there has a mountain with 2.000 meters height located on the 'Happiness' road connecting Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac town.

Quan Ba Heaven Gate: about 1,500m above sea level , this is the entrance of Dong Van Plateau. The road to Quan Ba Heaven gate is winding, twisty crossing limestone mountains. From the top of the Heaven Gate, you could look down across a large valley of unending terraced fields, displaying a charming beauty like a paradise dimly visible through the clouds.

Twin Mountain

Dong Van Plateau: Situated north of Ha Giang, near the Sino-Vietnamese border, this plateau is covered by karst mountains. Dong Van is an ideal place for trekking and mountain climbing, where grandiose mountains may challenge your spirit for real. In return, breathtaking landscapes, meetings with local ethnic minorities and learn from their life’s stories are nowhere can be found in the world.

Rice terrace of Hoang Su Phi: an upland district of Ha Giang Province, it takes around 100km by bus from the center of Ha Giang to Hoang Su Phi. recognized as National Heritage in 2012, Hoang Su Phi terraced rice fields is an ideal destination for sightseeing as well as photographers.

Hmong King Palace: located in Xa Phin Village of Dong Van District, which is around 24km away from the district’s centre. With an area of 1120 m2, this edifice was built in the early twentieth century in the form of the letter 王 (meaning "king" in English). This is not only a historical relic but also a fabulous architectural landmark of local ethnic groups. This edifice is also a destination always interested many visitors.

Lung Cu Flag Tower: Built on the top of Dragon mountain, in the district of Dong Van and modeled on the flag tower of Hanoi. Plug in the 12.9m flagstaff is a national flag with an area of 54m², representing for 54 ethnic groups of Viet Nam. At the foot tower, there is a commemorative house, where displays production tools, costumes and cultural products of the ethnic groups in Ha Giang. The staircase that leads to the summit has 389 stone steps but to reach the top of the tower, you must also climb a spiral iron staircase of 140 steps.

Pho Bang Village: peaceful and calm town, which is 117 km from Ha Giang city, Pho Bang Village is the home of Hoa and Mong ethnicities. The houses here embrace the traditional architecture. They have wooden columns and mud walls.

Dong Van Old Town: located in the middle of valley surrounded by rocks. The quarter is formed form the early 20th century, only has a few families of the H’mong, Tay and Chinese, gradually, more and more other local residents find it. The oldest house is the house of Luong family built since 1860. The common architecture here is the two-story house and yin and yang roofs. The lifestyle and daily life of ethnic people such as: Kinh, Tay, Mong, Hoa... is very impressive.

Dong Van Market

Meo Vac Town: lies snugly in a smallish valley surrounded by rocky mountain. The journey here along the spectacular Mai Pi Leng Pass, about twenty kilometers from Dong Van, is the main attraction. There are different ethnic minorities groups living in Meo Vac including the H’mong, the Kinh, Tay, Dao, etc. Most ethnic groups have maintained their culture untouched from the outside world.

Peaceful Yen Minh

Markets: The markets of Ha Giang, such as market Quan Ba, Yen Minh and particularly the Khau Vai love attracts many visitors. The Dong Van market is held every Sunday. On sale are local products made by Mong, Han, Dao, Giay and Tay ethnic people. To reach the market on time they have to leave their homes very early in the morning or even one day earlier. The Khau Vai Love Market is held only on the 26th and 27th of day of the third Lunar month. In there, both single and married people in different ethnic groups can come to find ones’ ideal life-partner and sharing their feeling and understanding to each other.

Yen Minh - Dong Van pass. Ideally would be to spend a night in Yen Minh to break the journey. There are motels and a few hotels there,a morning market with minorities, a blue nice motel near the market too with reasonables prices. Set off to Dong Van early in the morning (around 7-8am) and prepare your camera because the journey is fascinating: misty silent hills, windy roads with gorgeous high mountains and a few villages in the valleys. You can also get closer to the border checkpoint and see the old style houses which even have some Chinese writings on it.

Do[edit][add listing]

Crossing roads that mender through stunning mountains, see with your own eyes the villages of ethnic minorities tucked in hillsides or lost in the valleys.

Markets are also ideal places for those who want to experience local life and culture of ethnic minorities.

  • QT Motorbikes and Tours, Lâm Đồng- Phương Thiện -Hà Giang town ((200 meters from Ha Giang bus station and on Google Map)), +84 (0)975 278 711 or +84 (0)165 506 96 96. Open from 3 am to 9 pm. Contact website: QT Motorbikes and Tours. If you ask QT he will tell that the only way to discover the beautiful Ha Giang province is on a motorbike. Whether you want to rent and drive on your own or hire both drivers and English speaking guides QT is there for you. With one of the biggest fleets of well maintained bikes in Ha Giag QT will not only rent you the bike but freely give advice on roads and stays along the way. Always good to book your bikes in advance so call QT or send him a mail on [email protected] QT also run a hostel near the rental shop and the bus station.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Thang Den
Banh cuon Trung (Steamed Rice Rolls with Egg

Thang Den (glutinous rice cake)

Thang Den is a popular dish in the province of Ha Giang. It looks like Banh troi in Hanoi, also made of glutinous rice flour. Flour will be kneaded into sphere shapes and boiled in a hot pot of water. This dish is served with sugar and ginger soup. Toppings combine with some sesame and peanuts. Suitable for cold nights in the winter.

Au Tau porridge (Cháo Ấu Tẩu)

Wandering in the town of Ha Giang in the winter, you can easily find a small restaurant and taste the Au Tau porridge. This dish is a combination of deliciousness: the tasty scent of sticky rice mixed with glutinous rice harvested from golden terrace of Ha Giang; the nutty flavor of simmered water caltrop with pig’s trotters; and the taste of herbal leaves; and the moreish taste of ground meat. Au Tau porridge is available in Ha Giang all seasons however only sold in the evening.

Dried pork or buffalo meat

You can enjoy dried pork or buffalo meat in many places in Ha Giang. It is special food in the meals of Black Thai. This meat is usually made from muscle of buffaloes and cows freely on the northwest mountains. With the dried buffalo, the flavor of smoke is almost intact. This dish can be served with corn alcohol.

Steamed Rice Rolls

Steamed Rice Rolls is a dish from northern Vietnam. Bánh cuốn are made from rice flour batter, poured out on a flat plate and steamed then rolled up and stuffed with filling. But there is a special type of steamed rice rolls which has become a specialty of Ha Giang, a mountainous province in the northeast of the country: steamed rice rolls with egg. Weather in Ha Giang is cool all year round, so it is a nice treat for both locals and visitors when seeing vendors offering hot steamed rice rolls early in the morning when fog still hangs in the air.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

There are several hotels ranking from 2-3 stars in the city of Ha Giang. There are also plenty of cheap hotels around the bus station for around VND 200,000 to 250,000 for a private double room.

  • Huong Tra Hotel (2-stars hotel), Km17, Vi Xuyen, Ha Giang (17 km far away from Ha Giang city in the South; if you go by bus, you can tell the bus driver to let you get off at this place), +84983260795 (). Contact website: Huong Tra Hotel. There are fluent English speaking receptionist and staffs. The hotel have 45 rooms with hot shower, air conditioning, cable TV, free wifi, swimming pool, motorbikes for renting, eating place, bar, billiards, table tennis, gardens. They also offer tours to Dong Van - Meo Vac, Hoang Su Phi, Xin Man, Quan Ba, minority villages, local markets, caves, waterfalls by car or motorbikes, trekking to tea village with local people, give free travelling advice if you'd like to do the trip by yourself, free drinking tea. Price from $11 to $20.  edit.
  • Anh Anh Motel, Hamlet 01, Cau me Village, Phuong Thien Commune (50 metres from Ha Giang new bus station), (). Clean rooms, friendly staff with limited English. Convenient location if you're just passing through Ha Giang by bus. Around VND 200,000 for private double room.  edit

The homestays (cottages) are increasingly popular where tourists can participate in daily activities of the villagers such as eating, sleeping, and even working.

  • Thon Tha is 6km from Ha Giang city centre. This is one of the cultural villages of the Tay minority people in Ha Giang province. The houses are built out of wood and are on pillars. They are surrounded by terraced rices fields, hills of palm trees, buffalo, cows, fish ponds, ducks... All together this forms a beautiful picture-perfect paradise-like view. Here tourists can overnight with a Tay family at the homestay of Mr. Cay - centre of the village, or the homestay of Mr. Quyen... Tourists can contact this phone number to book for a homestay in Thon Tha: + 84988555690 Contact website: Vietnam Travel

If you arrive early in the morning (4am), just walk away from the bus station and get a few hours sleep in the nearest motels. It won't cost you a lot, and at least you'll get a decent rest before starting the journey.

  • QT Hostel, 15A1 Nguyễn Trãi Street (200 m from Ha Giang bus station), +84 (0)165 506 96 96 or +84 (0)975 278 711 (). Contact website: QT Hostel.20 bed family run hostel divided into three dorms. On the ground-floor lives the QT family and it is possible to join them for dinners for a very reasonable cost and very tasty meal. QT also has one of the largest motorbike rental and tour companies in Ha Giang. Both the motorbike/tour shop and hostel is conveniently located just 200 meters from where the buses from Hanoi and Lao Cai will drop you. QT and his staff speaks good English and will help you and answer any question or issue you may have in Ha Giang. Night: VND 150,000 with breakfast.  edit
  • Tho Homestay, Tho Homestay, Khuôn Lùng, Xín Mần District, Ha Giang, Vietnam (about 100 Km from Ha Giang city centre. If you come from Hanoi, take a bus to Ha Giang and leave in Viet Quang. Contact Trung (he's the owner, he's super friendly and helpful), he's going to contact the local bus to pick you there and bring you to his homestay.), +84 167 4535268, [1]. This is the most authentic cultural village of the Tay minority people in Ha Giang province. The traditional house is wooden made and is on pillars. On the first floor there's a wooden table where normally the family invites you to eat(the food comes from their own farm. On the 2nd floor there's the room with traditional bamboo floor. It's surrounded by the farm, animals (roosters, buffalos and birds), palm trees, and close by you find beautiful rice terraces and water falls which you can visit guided by the family. The owner was tour guide before so he's really experienced and good english speaker. To have this really beautiful local and authentic paradise experience interested just have to contact the Tho Homestay (+84 167 4535268 - Trung) VND 115000 (inc. breakfast).  edit

While on the motorbike loop, you will most likely spend a night in the traditional village of Du Già, gifted with wonderful surroundings. In town you will find a few options to take a good rest.

  • QT Du Già Guest House, 195B Street (South bank of the river, about 100m from the main road (176)), +84 (0)975 278 711 (). Contact website: QT Du Già Guest House. 14 bed (single and double) dorm room in an old traditional house, each equipped with curtains for privacy, fan for comfort and mosquito net for peace of mind. During your stay in Du Già you can enjoy great swimming points, take a moment to fish or share a homemade dinner (with corn wine filling your glasses) with the lovely team (VND 100,000 per pers). Night: VND 120,000 with breakfast.  edit

Ha Giang Tourist Information[edit]

Country: Vietnam

Region: Northeast

City: Ha Giang

Area total: 7 914,9 km²

Population: 771 200 (2013)

Website: http://hagiang.gov.vn/

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