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 to the North of Hanoi, it’s 320 km from Hanoi or 192 miles. 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 basically well paved, given that at any time of the year there might be sections under maintenance, or some others sections become more worn-out. So, it’s a day travel 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 threat 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, and among most dramatic ones in Vietnam.  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 time, try staying in one of the local homestays, where you’ll be treated with home-cooked meals and taste the mountain moonshine. These homestays are a great base from where 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 can be divided into  smaller riding sections:

The ride from Ha Giang – Quan Ba: Is about 2 hours. And Quan Ba can be used to replace Ha Giang for accommodation, 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, home to the 30 meter tall (90 ft), which is raised on top of a Karst formation, giving perfect panorama of the surroundings.

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 placed (with  the exception of Ha Giang city), there is a “weekly market” – met once a week, when the local minorities,  dressed in their traditional costumes, show up with their domestic products for sale. These markets are heavens 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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