The Nhiem River at Meo Vac, Ha Giang

Ha Giang Tour by Motorbike: Trip of Dreams Part 6

The closer to Dong Van, the road goes down and I can feel the air is dry again. Still, it gets colder and colder in the afternoon. Then it comes to the intersection with Road 4C, the main route from Ha Giang City to Dong Van Rock Plateau. There is a road sign saying Sa Phin Valley is 12km to the left and Dong Van Town is 10km to the right. I take the right and travel on the familiar road to Dong Van Town.

 

Children at Thai Phin Tung, Dong VanChildren at Thai Phin Tung, Dong Van

The scenery of a small road which travels through mountain gorges at Thai Phin Tung is always superb. I stop every now and again for photos and suddenly a few kids approach me with big smiles. I take pictures of them and show them how they look like in the camera. We all burst into laughter after each photo is taken. Some time has passed and I realize that I have a high pass to travel through and it is not good to do it when it is dark. It is time to bid farewell and I'm sure I'll come back to meet these happy little folks. They are so cute! I had no gifts for them, but we shared great moments together, didn't we!

 

Road to Dong Van, Thai Phin Tung, Dong VanRoad to Dong Van, Thai Phin Tung, Dong Van

 

The road to Dong Van is so quiet, given it is the main route for commercial activities within Ha Giang Province and between Ha Giang and Cao Bang. There are some Hmong ladies walking against me with big basket on the back. It is basically rugged limestone mountains with jagged peaks pointing into the foggy sky. Near Dong Van Town, there are some pine forests which bring some green color to the otherwise sheer gray world. Having been to the area, but I can't help but stop every now and then for photos and for adoring the sublime nature... 

 

Mountains at Dong Van TownMountains at Dong Van Town

 

Riding on the narrow road which meanders its way through mountain gorges, I'm completely absorbed in the landscape. Things look familiar but still mysteriously attractive in some way. I don't know how long it has passed before I realize I'm on the top of the familiar gradient with small houses in the front. It is Dong Van Town. While there are many new houses, but the town itself doesn't change that much from my last trip. It's weekday and there are not many people in town.

 

Dong Van TownDong Van Town

 

I stop to get more petrol for the motorbike and ride past the town. It is nearly 3:00 P.M and the weather is getting worse. It is still dry, but getting freezingly cold when I come to the splendid Pass of Ma Pi Leng. I stop to get some coffee and take photos of the sublime nature. The pass' landscape is a great work of nature; the road through the pass is a marvel of man's works.

 

Nho Que River, Meo Vac, Ha GiangThe Nho Que River, a view from Ma Pi Leng Pass


The 20km road from Meo Vac to Dong Van was completed in 6 years (from 1959 to 1965) by tens of thousands of workers from 16 different ethnic groups in northern Vietnam. For 11 months, there were 17 men in a suicide team hanging themselves on sheer rock with simple tools like chisels... carving out a narrow path on vertical mountain slopes which was expanded into the road nowadays... 

 

Ma Pi Leng Pass, Meo Vac, Ha GiangThe Ma Pi Leng Pass

 

The last drop of coffee has been consumed and the air is getting damper. The fog is closing in making visibility more limited. It is high time to get moving. There are various great photo stops on the pass, but now all are covered in fog. I make it straight away to Meo Vac and get to the cozy hotel that I always love.  It was a great day to travel amid the rock of Dong Van, it is also great to get into comfort after a day of adventure amid the cold...

 

Hotel in Meo Vac, Ha GiangHotel in Meo Vac, Ha Giang

 

After a much needed hot shower, I go out for a light dinner. Then, a stroll around Meo Vac Town for relaxing. There are quite a few street food stalls offering different types of sizzling food in town nowadays, but I don't see they have that many guests. It is cold and everyone wants to stay indoors certainly. It is time to go back to the room and have an early night; I will have a long ride tomorrow. It is still dry, but very cold a night...

I wake up early in the morning. It is always quiet in mountain towns like this and my sleep is usually sound. It takes me no time to pack up and check out. The hotel does not serve breakfast and I'll go to a restaurant that I found out last night. The rice papers and spicy sauce are great, so is my hot coffee. It is a wet and foggy morning. I don't remember I had ever got nice weather in Meo Vac on my earlier trips. 

 

Meo Vac TownMeo Vac Town

 

The weather seems to get worse as I ride uphill onto the pass outside of Meo Vac. The road is wet and slippery. I can only have a photo of the town, the fog is too thick that I can not see the splendid mountains around. It takes me half an hour or so to travel through the foggy area and I start seeing green mountains in the clouds. Here the altitude is lower and the air is drier. The temperature is also more pleasant. 

 

 

Chi Le Dung, Meo VacMountains at Chi Le Dung, Meo Vac

 

 

 

Idyllic scenery by the side of the Nhiem RiverIdyllic scenery by the side of the Nhiem River

 

 It is over one hour after Meo Vac that I arrives at the base of the mountain pass. The road is quiet and there are peaceful ethnic villages by the sides. For quite some time, the road runs along side the Nhiem River which starts its course from the Karst Plateau of Dong Van and flows all the way to Cao Bang Province. The landscape is fresh and idyllic. Then, I come across a street market with people from different ethnic groups. There must be a big Dzao community around here that I see many of them here.

 

a street market at Meo VacA street market at Meo Vac

 

 Leaving the market, my ride is smooth on an excellent road toward Cao Bang. Here I don't have to ride on steep gradients that much. It only goes up and down slightly. There are karst mountains around which make me feel that I'm cruising on Halong Bay! I stop to bid farewell to Ha Giang and to say hello to Cao Bang. The lands are so inspirational that I keep coming back!

 

Road from Meo Vac to Cao BangRoad from Meo Vac to Cao Bang