A Little Nomad's Traveling Diary

I am not a writer. I am just the person who is addicted to travels and has passion for capturing every single piece of traveling memories in words

[Ha Giang] – a mountain of stories

It is sort of unilateral comparison, I know, but I do love Ha Giang much more than Sapa. So will you, I promise!


Here are what I get from that 4-day-and-3-night trip:

–         The most idea time to visit is April – June and September – Octoter. I went there this month which is November. It is still beautiful, however we almost missed the chance to see “Tam giac mach”, a kind of typical flower of this reason. “Tam giac” means “Triangle”, “mach” means “Wheat”. It is given that name because it is wheat and its grains are triangle-shaped. Luckily, we had a tour guide who is a local resident, he took us to the only place we could see “tam giac mach” at that time.

–         Ha Giang would be an amazing trip if you don’t get carsick. Don’t neglect this issue. Because the mountainous roads there are not only dangerous (we were on a car driving near the edge all the time. It is the only way to travel around the villages there) but also get you easily dizzy or even vomit!!! The roads are exactly in zig-zag shapes where you never know what awaits you ahead. Seriously!

(We stopped in Cam temple at Tuyen Quang province)

(We stopped in Cam temple at Tuyen Quang province)

1.Where is Ha Giang?

Ha Giang is in the northwest of Vietnam. Whereas many people crowd to Sapa, not many tourists know about Ha Giang, a place really worth visiting. Ha Giang city, the city of Ha Giang province, is located about 320 km from Hanoi. To get into the mountainous villages where different ethnic groups stay, you have to travel approximately 200km more. It is believed that there are more than 20 distinct ethnic groups living in Ha Giang.

(The old lady sells in front of Mau temple. Its name means "The temple of the mother of the forest"

(The old lady sells in front of Mau temple. Its name means “The temple of the mother of the forest”

Vietnamese young people usually travel here through two ways:

–         By motorbike (Everything is up to you, so yeah! I am not really keen on it, though. It’s a bit tired to drive all the time in such roads!)

–         By car and by motorbike. (Starting from Hanoi, tourists sleep in bus to Ha Giang through the night and get there at dawn. Getting off at Ha Giang city, they rent a motorbike to travel around. It is much recommended!)

There has yet been a train route leading there.

From Hanoi to Ha Giang, you will travel through Vinh Phuc, Viet Tri, Tuyen Quang.

(in Tuyen Quang)

(in Tuyen Quang)

2. What to see?

There will be no “What to do” section in this post, since it seems that Ha Giang offers us nothing to do but a legion of things to see. The landscapes vary a lot. I should not say anything but will let the pictures present themselves.

I will not have a “Where to eat and where to buy souvenirs” here. Since traveling there seems to a bit cheaper than in Hanoi 😀 Much better, you can buy fresh fruit at such a reasonable price. People visiting this region always buy some oranges and apples as gifts for their families or friends. We could also buy some handmade weaved products. Just 2.5 US $ for one scarp. Is it cheap? 😀

(The welcoming gate:))

(The welcoming gate:))




Be careful with the name of one tourist attraction here: Mã Pì Lèng mountain pass. It must be written “Mã Pì Lèng”, never should be written “Mã Pí Lèng”. Because “Mã Pì Lèng” means the nose of horse, whereas “Mã Pí Lèng” means the productive organ of female horse.





DSCF4072 DSCF4096


Places to visit:

– Mã Pì Lèng mountain pass.

– Cổng Trời Quản Bạ (The gate to the heaven)

– Hmong old house (where the movie “The story of Pao” was filmed)

– Lũng Cú (North Pole)

– Mèo King Vương Chính Đức’s house

– Mèo Vạc market

– Đồng Văn old quarter

3. What to tell?

I noted down quite lots of stories about Ha Giang and some customs of people there.

–         About funeral

It’s never easy to hold a funeral there. The families always have to prepare lashing of big meals to invite the neighbors to come. Therefore, not all the families could afford a funeral even though the dead already die. There is another way to tackle this problem. The families will bury the persons without any funeral and will hold one when they have enough money.

(Ma Pi Leng mountain pass"

(Ma Pi Leng mountain pass”

–         Welcoming

When visiting the villages there, look carefully at the gate or door of each house. Most of the local people are friendly and hospitable even though they don’t speak your languages (even mine). However, if you see a fresh twig in front of their gate or door, remember not to come in. Because it is a signal showing that they are not welcoming you, that they are forbearing from the strangers.


–         Khau Vai love market

If love market takes place every weekend in Sapa, it is held yearly in Ha Giang. That makes it much more than special. It roots from an old story which can be also called a fairy tale. This is not only for the young people seeking for love but especially for the ex-lovers who did love one another in the past but could not get to be together. You can experience this special market at the night of 26 March and the early morning of 27 March every year (Note: This date is according to Lunar Calendar though)

(Meo King's house)

(Meo King’s house)

–         4C National road

This is the road that I mentioned already, that connects the remote mountainous villages in Ha Giang. It’s another name is “Hạnh phúc”, meaning “Happiness”. Because a lot of people did take part in a volunteer campaign splitting the mountains in order to construct this road there. After the road was built, residents in such villages can travel easier, they can get electricity, they can have water, they can have more facilities…. That somehow means they are happier. The residents of Ha Giang always are grateful to President Ho Chi Minh for this.

(Children are helping their mothers to take seeds from "Tam giac mach" flowers.

(Children are helping their mothers to take seeds from “Tam giac mach” flowers.

–         “Chợ lùi” (Chợ=market, lùi=step backwards)

It is the name of a village market there which is held in different days each week. We can know it in advance though. Like what? For example: In the first week of November: people go to the market on Sunday. In the second week: people go shopping on Saturday. In the third week: market day is Friday… Then Thursday, Wednesday,…

(The North Pole of Vietnam!!!!!)

(The North Pole of Vietnam!!!!!)

–         “Mèo vạc”

It is the name of a remote town in Ha Giang. “Mèo” is the name of an ethnic group there. “Vạc” means “a pan”. Because “Mèo” ethnic people live in a pan-shaped valley, that town where they live is called “Mèo Vạc”. It literally means “Mèo” people live in a pan.


–         Hmong Ethnic group

This ethnic group prefers to live at the high. The authority tries to persuade them to move down, near the roads because it will be easier for them to go to hospital or for the children to go to school or even for the adults to take water. The authority even gave them some rice and food as rewards for households who agree to move down. They take it, get off the hight. However, after eating all the food out, they climb up and… go back to what they call “normal”

DSCF3996To note:

– People live there at such a poor condition, especially the children. You could bring some candies for them. Don’t give them money. Firstly, it spoils the children. Secondly, they have few places to buy or use money so it would be better if you could give them some things to eat.

– The local people are naturally nice and friendly. But more and more tourists come to their places and make them think about commercialization in which they ask money from the tourists. Just be careful on this issue.

– It is really hard to find a person who can speak English fluently there. So try to get a Vietnamese person to go with you. Even though I am Vietnamese, I can not talk with most of people there who come from other ethnic groups with other languages. Vietnamese language is taught at schools there, but not many of them attend class though.

I think I forget something that I have not written here yet. AAAA, I have to try to remember them soonnnn. But you could go and experience by yourselves. It will never make you disappointed, I can promise 🙂


2 comments on “[Ha Giang] – a mountain of stories

  1. Fei xD~
    Tháng Mười Một 30, 2013

    Looks very beautiful Cay! Is it traditional vietnamese clothings they are using?

    The funeral part reminds me of Sumba in Indonesia. The difference is in Sumba they just wrapped the dead bodies with cloths and put them on their houses for years. It’s pretty scary when you have dead bodies near you when you slept, eat and stuff. Glad that they actualy buried them there.

  2. Pingback: The grass is always greener on the other side | The travelling diary of a Vietnamese little nomad

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This entry was posted on Tháng Mười Một 29, 2013 by in My Vietnam and tagged , , .

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