As Dong Van plateau gains its reputation from its breathtaking mountainous landscape, the beauty of Dong Van is far beyond. It is home to 17 ethnic groups of Vietnam, which makes the district a tribal cultural hub that can be found nowhere else.
Let us skim through some inspiring things to do in Dong Van karst limestones.
Visit Quan Ba Heaven Gate and see the Fairy mountain
Quan Ba is, of course, not the door to heaven but it gives you a superb viewpoint of Dong Van’s zig-zag roads, misty clouds and lush mountains from the top, which is kind of the same. The gate is also the gateway to Dong Van geological park.
From Quan Ba heaven gate, you can view over Fairy Mountain. The two mountains sitting alongside each other look like the two breasts of a woman from afar. Locals people believe that it belongs to a fairy, who was once fallen in love and married to a mundane man. As her emperor forbade this love, she had to leave the land, thus, leave her breast here in order to feed her babies. And it is the milk from Fairy mountains that keeps crops around always lush and abundant.
Learn history at H’ mong Royal Palace
Hmong royal palace is an interesting historical site that is grandiose in style.
It belonged to the H’ mong kings who used to rule this land during the French colonial area. The wealthy royal family spent a handsome sum of money of USD 6.5 million and 8 years to build this palace as a fortress to protect them from attackers. During the August revolution, it is the hideout of the richest man of the region, who profited from drug dealing and trafficking. This explains why there are many poppy planted- shaped decorations in the palace.
Architecturally, The royal mansions bear heavy influence from the Chinese Qing Dynasty style with pine woods, terra cotta tiles, and Chinese-writing decorations. Yet it still has many Vietnamese traits. Images of lion, dragon, a phoenix that symbolizes power and prosperity, to name a few.
Challenge yourself in Ma Pi Leng Pass
Remember how we talk about the adventurousness of Dong Van plateau in the first place? Ma Pi Leng pass must be the most adventurous of all. It’s challenging to pass due to steep, winding, potholed roads which are often covered by thick fogs. Not to mention there are unexpected road constructions, no road barriers in many parts and it is a two-way traffic road.
Yet overcome the bumpy road, and the reward is awesome. From the height of the pass, you can see Ha Giang majestic mountains under your feet, and get a total view of local villages that are now tiny dots amid the green mountain.
Ma Pi Leng Pass is also the only place to fully view the probably deepest chasm of Southeast Asia, through which the green poetic Nho Que river runs.
My advice is to go to Ma Pi Leng Pass on a clear day to get the best view and wear enough warm clothes.
Dong Van Sunday market and local villages
Dong Van Sunday Market
Dong Van Sunday Market sits by massive terraced fields and the H’ mong royal palace. In a place where there are no malls, the Dong Van Sunday market is an important event for the locals to trade and to hang out as well. People come from miles away carrying goods on their backs to sell while wearing colorful dresses.
It is a busy, lively market that can give you so many insights about the life of local people. In the sweet scene of rice wine diffused in the air, you can try horse meat (a traditional dish of the H’ mong, practice bargaining for a piece of hand-woven fabrics or sort out different ethnic groups by their costumes.
The market starts from 5 am to 10 am, you’d better set your wakeup call early so as not to miss the authentic experience.
Be sure to spend some time on your itinerary trekking, as you do not want to skip visiting local villages hidden in the mountains.
You can spot local people with colorful, well-patterned handwoven dresses that represent their own ethnicity. You can also emerge in their unique folk tunes, tales, and watch their rural lifestyle that may as be just the same as hundreds of years ago.