Happiness Road leads to plateau of beauty

Nga Do
A professor at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, Dang Van Chuyet, has been to a lot of areas in Tay Bac (Northwest) region, but he said none were as beautiful and imposing as the karst plateau in Ha Giang Province.

Dong Van Karst Plateau covers 2,300sq.km and is home to nearly 250,000 people in Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac districts. The natural complex was recognised by UNESCO as a global geological park in 2010. Chuyet said he was impressed by the plateau when he took his overseas Vietnamese friends on their first visit to the geological park. "This is a remote area, and we can meet the hard-working local people here," he said. "It is inspiring to see how they survive and manage to live on the rocks. When we reached Dong Van, we had time to wander the ancient streets lined with ethnic Mong homes made from clay bricks and tiles roofs built centuries ago." It took Chuyet seven hours to drive about 320km from Ha Noi to Ha Giang Province.

"Many people warned me that the road from Ha Giang's centre to Dong Van Plateau is very dangerous, but I decided to drive myself," Chuyet said. "We wanted to see the geological park with our own eyes. And it satisfied us with its picturesque landscape and unique culture." The road to Dong Van, named Hanh Phuc (Happiness), was improved recently, making the drive much smoother and more convenient. From afar, the S-shaped road looks like a delicate silk scarf amidst the dense forests and rocky mountains. Driving along the road, visitors can enjoy the region's natural beauty. The province held a ceremony last weekend marking 50 years since Hanh Phuc Road was built. The event also honoured veteran volunteers from Ha Giang, Tuyen Quang, Thai Nguyen, Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Lang Son, Hai Duong and Nam Dinh provinces for their significant contributions helping build the nearly 200km road from Ha Giang Township to the province's four mountainous districts. Other must-see destinations in the province include the Vuong Family Mansion, a house used during the shooting of award-winning movie Chuyen Cua Pao (Pao's Story), Lung Cu Flagpole and Dong Van ancient street.

Chuyet's moment at the Lung Cu Flagpole was precious. "Reaching the Northernmost point of Viet Nam, and then having a look at the flag, which represents the unity of 54 ethnic groups, we all felt strong emotions," Chuyet said. "In the brilliant sunshine, under the national flag flying on the peak of Lung Cu Mountain, we joined other Vietnamese tourists at different ages and sang the national anthem together." Lung Cu Mountain or Mount Rong is located in Lung Cu, about 160km from Ha Giang's centre. Lung means ngo (maize) in the Mong language. Lung Cu means Valley of Maize. However, there's another explanation: A myth about Lung Cu Mountain. The story tells that the mountain was home to a sacred dragon. Local residents always lacked fresh water. So, before flying into the sky, the dragon allowed his eyes to become two lakes. Since then, the lakes were always bright green and never ran dry. Residents call the lakes Dragon's Eyes. The Lung Cu Flagpole was first built in the Ly Dynasty (1010-1225) of hard wood. It was rebuilt in 1887 under the French rule. It was renovated several times in later years and is now on top of a tall building.

Chuyet is not only person to enjoy a trip to the country's northernmost province. Since UNESCO recognised it as a global geological park, the province has received more and more visitors. South Korean Kang Pil-seok said he learned about Dong Van Karst Plateau in Viet Nam and booked a tour there. He rode a bicycle from Ha Giang's centre to the plateau. "I leisurely rode my bicycle to view the beautiful landscape and meet friendly local people," he said. "Surely I will come back." Riding bicycles helped Kang and his 30-member group explore places that were difficult to access. Organising the bicycle tour requires a lot of logistical work, according to Nguyen Thi Thanh Ha, director of Coach Tourism Company at Nghia Tan, Cau Giay, Ha Noi. "We always ask experienced tour guides who know the terrain well to be in charge of the bicycle tour to ensure the safety of our customers", Ha said. "The bicycle tours started about five years ago. It has lured foreign tourists because it is a green, ecological tour".

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