Another very delayed post about a very special part of our journey. A short ride from Dong Van is where the road known as the Ma Pi Leng pass begins. It is arguably the most scenic route in Vietnam. I was very excited to ride it. The sun was out and around the last corner before the pass, we were greeted, almost saluted, by this little Vietnamese man. He seemed very dazed and did not move much the entire time we were there.
It is hard to describe in words what standing on this road feels like. We have visited many places in our four months of traveling, but we knew this place was special. The sheer scale can’t be captured in a single or any amount of photographs. There is so much detail arranged beautifully across these impressive mountains.
I felt the need to stop the bike almost every five minutes to take this place in. The photo opportunities seemed endless. It felt like riding on the very edge of the world. The hill tops were right next to the road, making for some great parallax as we rode through.
Ha Giang province is among the poorest provinces in Vietnam. This is largely due to the lack of available farmland. The local minorities that live in these mountains are forced to adapt. There are crops everywhere. Along the road, on tiny ledges, between rocks on a small bit of soil.
Every so often we would see a local farmer climb up onto the road from a very steep ledge. Sometimes these farmers were children. They would almost always still smile at us as we passed them.
Most of the area is inhabited by a range of different minority groups. One in particular we were told is incredibly efficient and fast at hiding. A side effect from the war.
We found this to be the most welcoming region in all of Vietnam. The people here are so genuine and seemed to have only the best intentions at heart. Sometimes they would stop us and want to chat – of course in Vietnamese. This lovely lady was curious about us.
It is this authenticity we had hoped to find in Ha Giang and what enticed us to make the tricky journey out here. It was all very worthwhile and was the most memorable time in our two months in Vietnam. This whole region is a far cry from the tourist trodden Sa Pa. The impressions the people here have left me with will stay with me for a very long time.
For most of the ride it was just us two and the roar of our little motorbike. I could not wipe the grin off my face. I savored every minute, regretting not having planned to spend more time here.
We rode past workers and farmers on their lunch breaks and right through villages. No one would try to sell us anything. A faint “Hello!” or curious look was all we would get.
Later in the day, when the sun sat lower, the valley was lit by beautiful warm sunlight and after school was out, the road was littered with smiling children. Some waved back, some were a little confused and even shy.
We explored another road and found the ancient palace of the Hmong King tucked away in a small valley and hidden among tall pine trees. A secluded attraction with hardly another visitor. After another perfect day, this was just the cherry on top as it managed to impress us with a very interesting blend of architecture.
Exploring the palace lit by the evening sun was a perfect end to an already astonishing day. A lot of Chinese architecture traits were mixed among local traditional building methods. The building was very tastefully restored.
We rode home just as the sun was finishing for the day, which made for some great lighting. Neither of us were looking forward to leaving the next day.
On one of the many beautiful corners we were met by this man. He was enjoying the sunset after a day’s work in the field and kept pointing at what we presume was his home across the valley.
We both agree that this is one of Vietnam’s best kept secrets.
We loved our ride so much that Emma lost sleep over possibly not having filmed enough footage today. We were scheduled to leave at six in the morning the next day, but decided to catch the noon bus. We hired another motorbike and rode half the pass again and spent about 3 hours taking more pictures and video. It was well worth it.