On this special journey, Momentlives – Vietnam photography tour takes you to the northernmost province of the country – the final frontier of Ha Giang. This far northern land is one of the most striking regions of the country for landscape & people photography. Here, stretching to as far as one can see, staggering limestone formations rise in a battle of the highest. Looking from the grandiose Ma Pi Leng pass, the Nho Que river is well bigger than a thread. And looking up from the pass, small houses of the H’mong tops a shrouded pinnacle. On one side of a far mountain, a group of people follow a slithering trail, carrying grass home for the cattle.
For a very long time, Ha Giang remained vague on the map of Vietnam’s travel photography due to distance and infrastructure. No road, no motel, no clean bed nor hot water. And hiccups as such turn out to be ideal in keeping Ha Giang untouched from the mass tourism. Then, in 2012 the amazing rice terraces of Hoang Su Phi received the title of “National Heritage”, and people started to come more frequently. Hoang Su Phi, only, is already a perfect spot for landscape photography.
The profound beauty of Hoang Su Phi towering rice terraces is among the first to mention. For many hundred of years, the “barefoot artists” minority people turn the mountainsides into agrarian lands. These steps help direct water into a downward flow to bring rice to life.
Every September, these amazing vertical fields turns mountain into a blazing yellow color. Sunrise, sunset or even the seasonal rain intensify the incredible beauty. And, photography Hoang Su Phi, Ha Giang in October is a Vietnamese photographer’s must-do.
Ha Giang’s staggering beauty is strongly enhanced by the towering Karst formations of the Dong Van karst Plateau Geopark. This 2356 km2 is home to towers of limestone. Each and every of them rise forward in a quiet, yet strikingly photogenic battle. The average altitude here is 1500 m and hovering clouds might come and go. Thus, the scenery is so surreal, making this ideal to photography. The colors of the mountain change in different lights, and the views are simply terrific. This dramatic landscape will surely lure your camera.
Nestling among these peaks are little pretty hamlets of the H’mong, Dao, Tay, Lo Lo and a dozen of others. Each have their own language and culture.
Ma Pi Peng is one of the “04 greatest passes” of Vietnam – an unofficial title given to 04 highest, most dramatic and most picturesque passes of the diverse landscapes Vietnam.
The main bloodstream of the pass is the Hanh Phuc road (Road of happiness), built in the 60s by the local minorities. Road of Happiness stretches 20 km long, connecting Dong Van (higher) and Meo Vac (lower). The drive is extremely scenic and the great thing is we can stop anywhere along this road. From these commanding viewpoints, the rivers and roads in the beneath valley doesn’t look well bigger than a thread. We surely will capture this jaw-dropping landscape.
From the Old Town of Dong Van, a road of 37 km is chiseled out of the mountains. This meanders to the Lung Cu flag tower – the northernmost point of Vietnam. The tower, which stands 30-meter tall, sits on top of Lung Cu peak overlooking little minority villages and the border between Vietnam-China. This commanding view point will give us perfect panorama of the endless mountain range.
Besides, a walk in one of the nearby communities dotting the Lung Cu summit is a photography experience. Here, life goes on as if there’s no modern world outside. People were born in this valley, grow up and settle life on site. Then they become nature in the valley, too. The only touch from outside world would probably be TV, a scooter and recently, smart phone. Still, most of life activities happen in an authentic way. People still go out in the field in their traditional dress. Farm works are still done by hands. Apart from capturing their daily life while mastering the lights and composition, this is a great learning experience, too.
Life in Ha Giang’s rugged mountains give birth to something uniquely photogenic: The once-a-week market.
Due to the challenging terrain, moving from one village to the next could be a time consuming task. The needs for trading persisted naturally anyhow. Therefore, people agreed to meet on a fixed date at a fixed location along the mountain range. Here, buyers and sellers are the same: none is an intermediary. They sell what they make and buy what others make. This type of market, therefore, is among the most traditional in Vietnam. And it’s not only for buying and selling. As this rendezvous connect partners, and thus, helps form families. Therefore, the minority youngsters are often dressed in their best for the market. The sounds, the smells, the colorful traditional clothes, the exotic items for sale. All pose perfectly for your camera.
And there are more, much more. So join Momentlives – Photography tours Vietnam – on this special photography tour to the incredible beauty of Ha Giang.
Day 1 to 3
Our photography tour starts from Hoang Su Phi, our first point of arrival after a good driving day from Hanoi.
Hoang Su Phi was long a sleeping destination, largely due to poor infrastructure. And this hid the place from the eyes of photography lovers. Till 2012, a gentle surprise came when images of the rice terraces of Hoang Su phi were revealed on national TV, the place somewhat outshone other rice terrace destinations in the country, such as Mu Cang Chai or Tu Le. It was probably the sense of adventure that some more people were now heading for Hoang Su Phi, in search of great landscape shots.
We will spend 1.5 full days in Hoang Su Phi, making sure we have enough time to hunt for the great shots, the best lights and the most stunning corners from there the beauty of the rice terraces are best captured.
We drive for 153 km in the afternoon of day 3 to reach a hidden hamlet, nested in a valley of Quan Ba.
This morning, head for the local market of Trang Kim.
In Ha Giang in particular and the northern mountains of Vietnam in general, each market tends to be held once a week, on a particular day of the lunar calendar. This is the time when ethnic people, dressed in their colorful costumes, participate in the buy-sell activities. There are many exotic products on display like tree roots, fruits, herbal medicines domestic animals, etc. And the locals trade in a unique way, such as looking carefully at a pig before making the bargain. Each market offers a great opportunities for photography as many fields of interests are on display before your camera.
This morning we will spend a good time looking for a great way to capture the soul of the market through portraiture.
In the afternoon, on foot we will explore the countryside in the peaceful valley in which our homestay is located.
Day 5. Quan Ba – Dong Van
Today, our drive today, itself, is a highlight. As we go further into the kingdom of mountains. We will be driving through super photogenic gorges, deep green valleys at at some point, we are as high as the cloud. This ride gives us great opportunities to do landscape shooting. Along the way, we can stop at any village to do photography, a lovely way to make friend with the local and capture their daily life.
In the afternoon, we photograph the old town of Dong Van, home to a good number of traditional H’mong houses, with clay walls and wooden doors.
During our stay in Dong Van, we will have time for a photography critique session, held in a coffee shop with unique architecture. We also will make way to the northernmost point of Vietnam on the map – Lung Cu.
Day 6, 7
Travel through one of South East Asia’s most spectacular passes: Ma Pi Leng. Standing at over 1600 meters above sea level, the pass boats mesmerizing view points from which, the emerald Nho Que river looks as small as a thread deep beneath the bottom of the gorge. This 21 km road took over 2 million working days of several ten thousands young men to build and it is a national sightseeing destination of Vietnam.
Our last accommodation of the tour is in a charming house on stilts of the Tay people.
Travel to Hanoi on day 7 on our private vehicle. Experience the countryside scenery of northern Vietnam along the way.
Cost of tour
Please contact us
• English photography guide
• Air-con private car/driver (all fuel included)
• Meals as indicated in the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
• Non-alcoholic drinks & biscuit, fruits during transfers
• All entry fees/permission
• Tip for driver
• Personal expenses (laundry, phones, tips)
• Items not listed in the Inclusions