Ha Giang – Photography tour in the land of the exotic

Ha Giang – the northernmost province of Vietnam. A land of extremely picturesque scenery of limestone pinnacles, shrouded clouds, emerald rivers and peaceful villages. This was always the last frontier for the adventurous travelers. And Ha Giang is a challenge, but well-worth destination for photographers who aim to capture the beauty of life in the mountains of Vietnam.

Recent infrastructure improvements have drawn more people in, but Ha Giang is still a far away land for most city people. Thanks to this, Ha Giang is a place to photograph the pristine scenery and colorful local life. Most of the locals are the H’mong, who live in their earthen-wall houses, dressed in their traditional costumes and join the weekly mountain markets.

Ha Giang photography highlights

Venture into the land of photography

So you’re spent some days in Hanoi, probably have done some good Hanoi street photography? You might have also been to Ha Long bay with Karst formations out of the sea water. It’s time to venture further, as northern Vietnam has much more to offer to a photographer or a photography enthusiast  like you. Let’s do a photo tour to Ha Giang!

Where is Ha Giang?

Ha Giang lies 320 km to the North of Hanoi. Unless you want to make some side trips on the way, a constant ride following QL 2 will take approx. 8 -9 hours, either by car or motorbike. The road is well paved, given that at any time of the year there might be sections under maintenance. But generally speaking, it will take you a day to get there.

There are actually overnight buses departing daily from Hanoi, in case you need to save a night’s hotel.

What’s there for photography in Ha Giang?

To begin with, Ha Giang is the name of the province, whose capital is Ha Giang city. There’s yet anything striking in the city for photography, but it is the beginning of your next venture.

There are 2 basic routes, taking Ha Giang as the connecting point.

Hoang Su Phi – Photography the rice terraces.

Hoang Su Phi is a district of Ha Giang province, about 100 km (62 miles) from Ha Giang city.  A half of this road threads through mountainsides, forests and valleys, making it’s extremely scenic. Hoang Su Phi is home to most stunning array of rice terraces in the whole province.  Thanks to the steep terrain, the rice terraces here flow straight from a mountain top like a water fall, down to the valley, before surging to the other side.

Allow yourself 02 full days for photography in Hoang Su Phi, which gives you enough time to travel and photograph in the hubs of rice terraces such as Ban Phung, San Xa Ho, Then Chu Phin, Ban Luoc, Dan Van, Thong Nguyen. It takes around 1.5 hours riding to reach 1 of the mentioned places each way. You can stay in the town of Hoang Su Phi, where a number of simple hotels are available. If you’re looking for a more authentic photography, you might consider staying in one of the local home-stays. There, you’ll be treated with home-cooked meals and taste the mountain moonshine. Then, you can wander in communities and photograph the daily life of the ethnic people in Ha Giang.

Photography along the loop of Ha Giang – Quan Ba – Dong Van – Meo Vac – Ha Giang

This great loop is almost 350 km long (217 miles) and has numerous stunning riding sections:

The ride from Ha Giang – Quan Ba: Is about 2 hours. You can stay in Quan Ba instead of Ha Giang, if you want to skip city’s atmosphere. Around Quan Ba there are small communities surrounded with peaceful bucolic view, which well deserves your photography time.

The ride from Quan Ba – Dong Van: This ride of 138 km (85 miles) takes around 5 hours including stops. Dong Van has a small array of old houses (located in the “Old Quarter” section), with earthen walls where the locals have lived in for many generations. Don’t miss wandering through this “Old quarter” as it is truly photogenic.

  • While in Dong Van, you can travel to Lung Cu – the northernmost point of Vietnam. A tower stands 30 meter tall (90 ft) on top of a Karst formation, where the National flag is flown. This flag tower is a must see, offering panoramic view of the region.

The ride from Dong Van – Meo Vac: This 48 km road is home to one of the 4  greatest passes of Vietnam – Ma Pi Leng pass – which overlooks the mighty Nho Que river – a great source of hydro energy. This pass will give stunning panorama shots.

Mountain market photography

In each above places (with  the exception of Ha Giang city), there is a once-per-week market. This is when you can see the local minority people in their traditional costumes. They bring out the various domestic products for sale. These markets are incredible places to photograph life in northern Vietnam’s mountains. A place where shots you take might become history  in a near future to come, as the “marts” are not far from showing signs of coming in.

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