Dang Hoang Anh

I have been to Ha Giang three times, and every time this place feels brand new. This romantic land will surely capture the heart of any photography lover like myself.

A traditonal house in Sung La, Dong Van

The northernmost province in Vietnam, Ha Giang has hot and dry summers  and chilly winters, with fresh cool air and occasional snow. With unforgettable and pristine scenery, this region is aptly named “the land where flowers bloom on rocks”. Mother Nature has gifted Ha Giang with vibrant flowers that bloom seasonally on the rocky highlands. It’s also home to lovely hamlets where ethnic minority people live rustic lives. I returned to Ha Giang at the start of a new year to marvel at the spring beauty of the flower-filled Sung La Valley, the Dong Van Karst Plateau, Ma Pi Leng Pass, the Nho Que River, and so much more.

I left Hanoi at 5 am and traveled 400km in 10 hours to reach Pho Cao, Dong Van district, Ha Giang province as the misty sunset fell. Looming in the mist were figures of women carrying bundles of dry wood home after a day’s work. Quiet hamlets nestled under the peaceful mountains.

H'Mong children in Sung La, Dong Van

The next day, after passing through many towns in Ha Giang, I finally arrived at my first stop, the Sung La Valley on Highway 4C, about 20km from Dong Van district. Many communes, such as Lao Xa and Lung Cam, are located amongst the rocky valleys. I strolled along winding lanes in Lao Xa village armed with my camera, engrossed in photographing clay houses – a distinctive feature of Hmong people. The dark brown yin-yang roof tiles looked vibrant among the rosy color of ancient flowering peach trees, interspersed with the white blossoms of plum and pear trees in the early days of spring.

As dusk fell, I wandered around the Sung La Valley. The sun’s playful rays danced on the rocks and filtered through various types of blossoms, from peach, plum and pear, to oilseed. All of these lovely blossoms brightened the entire valley. Ha Giang’s native peach blossoms possess a natural beauty and bloom on the first full moon of the Lunar New Year. Besides the pink of the peach blossoms, Ha Giang is also filled with the yellow of late-season oilseed flowers, and the white of the early-blooming plum blossoms and pear tree flowers. In the afternoon sun, carefree children played under the ancient peach trees near the rocks, carrying colorful oilseed flowers on their backs.

Peach blossoms in Sung La, Dong Van

UNESCO recognized the Dong Van Karst Plateau as the first global geopark in Vietnam and the second in Southeast Asia. As a lover of photography, I was captivated by the beauty of Sa Phin, where tall limestone mountains rise. Fifteen kilometers away from Dong Van district in the direction of Yen Minh district, Sa Phin is like the sky’s gateway to the karst plateau. I was lucky to catch the most beautiful sunrise here, allowing my soul to soar over the undulating rocky mountains among a sea of floating clouds in the early morning sunshine.

Leaving Sa Phin, I continued my journey to conquer the legendary Ma Pi Leng Pass. About 20 km-long, Ma Pi Leng is one of the four highest passes in Vietnam’s northwestern mountains, along with Khau Pha, O Quy Ho, and Pha Din. The mountain pass lies at a high altitude with many tricky turns. On one side is a tall rocky mountain and on the other a deep abyss. Stopping my car at the top of the pass, I gazed down at the Nho Que River, which lies at the foot of the craggy rocks like a graceful and gentle strip of blue silk.

Indeed, I’ve fallen in love with this region’s winding roads, rocky mountains, and dreamy blue river.