A tour of Ha Giang Province on New Year’s Eve replete with emotional feelings as well as interesting experiences recounted by a Thai tourist to Vietnam.
The mountainous province of Ha Giang with its beautiful landscapes and rugged routes is one of the destinations most coveted by many Vietnamese for a visit in their lifetime.
For me, a foreigner, when I was asked to join a trip to Dong Van karst plateau in the province and saw a photo of Ha Giang for the first time, I only shuddered at what kind of roads I would have to travel and how a vehicle could run on such zigzag roads with one side being cliff and the other abyss.
Yet my friends kept persuading me. They sent me many invitations, compliments to the beauty of the destination and information about the leader who is called “King of Travels.” Finally, I couldn’t resist the growing temptation to have a try. I agreed to their suggestion and prepared warm clothes for a trip to the region believed to have the lowest temperature in Vietnam at that time.
I’ve made the right decision! The trip to Ha Giang on the first days of a new year helped me enjoy many best things and many first times.
That was the first time I took part in the longest motorbike trip and traveled on the longest and most rugged road. That was also the first time I celebrated the New Year in the coldest weather in my life (minus one degree Celsius). That was the first time I stayed overnight in a tent that was set up near an ancient stilt house.
I was surprised to find that to be able to travel to Ha Giang, a foreigner like me had to have a certificate because this is a border area. Luckily, my team leader helped me with it successfully.
At the first night staying in a village of Dao ethnic people, I was fortunate to attend their ritual called “cap sac” in Vietnamese, which chronicles a man’s maturity. Despite the cold winds blowing at night, Dao ethnic ladies in traditional costumes danced by fire.
From Quan Ba District, I visited Can Ty Village, Yen Minh pine hill, Tham Ma and Chin Khoanh slopes. The winding paths made me feel very nervous, yet I was enchanted by spectacular landscapes of mountain ranges up above and villages down under. Those scenes reminded me of European landscapes in the fairyland.
After getting over the slopes, we reached a mansion whose architecture suggests a combination of Chinese, French and local styles. The house had green stone walls and a wooden tile roof with delicate carvings. I felt extremely chilly after entering the house because it was made of stones.
At that night, I felt even colder as the temperature dropped to minus one degree Celsius. We all gathered around fire in that ancient stilt house of Giay ethnic people.
On the first day of the new year, we climbed Lung Cu flagpole. On the spot, our eyes sparkled as we had completed the journey despite the cold climate. I came to understand why this pole erected on that peak has become a target for young Vietnamese.
During the trip, I realized how beautiful Vietnam is, from her people with their warm smiles to the landscapes like the Nho Que River surrounded by mountain ranges, the Happiness Path and Ma Pi Leng—one of four great passes in the country—the fairs in Meo Vac, the fields of buckwheat flowers, the northern terraced rice fields, cascades and historical relics.
However, I also felt sad when seeing the poverty of local kids, trash on the Nho Que River and the shortage of clean water on the way.
Celebrating the New Year in Ha Giang is now one of my unforgettable memories. Before returning to Saigon, I bought some local specialties like Shan Tuyet tea. The smiles of local kids will forever remain in my mind.
By Mananya Techalertkamol