With its earth heritage and unique culture of ethnic minority groups, the Dong Van Karst Plateau in Ha Giang province is one of the most spectacular destinations in Vietnam. Located deep inside the Plateau, Meo Vac district is almost untouched and favored by adventurists.
From Ha Giang province, tourists take the national highway 4C for 43 kilometers to reach Quan Ba district. Passing over the bumpy Can Ty pass and through pine forests and round zigzagging roads, tourists will arrive in Dong Van Karst Plateau.
Sitting 1,600 meters above sea level and covering 2,530 square kilometers, the Plateau shows the typical signs of the development of the earth’s crust. 80% of the plateau is open-cast lime.
Dong Van is home to 139 geological heritages, of which 15 are international, 68 are national and 56 are local.
In the area’s stone sediments, bio-archeologists have found many fossils which have preserved the history of the plateau in Dong Van in particular and Vietnam’s northeastern region.
Geological diversity and climate shifts over millions of years have created diverse and spectacular rock gardens and rock forests like the Khau Vai rock garden in Meo Vac district which have flower-shaped, bud-shaped, dragon-shaped, and tiger-shaped rocks among many others.
There are several rock stacks that look like thousands of seabirds relaxing on the beach. In between of the rock gardens are high mountains and steep hills that make the karst plateau more spectacular.
Geologist Ho Tien Trung said, “According to the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, and studies of Belgian speleologists, in this region, there are many important findings including the cave system. The discovery of thousands of meters of caves is significant to research and tourism development.”
In the Dong Van Karst Plateau, Meo Vac is the most undeveloped area. Until 1965, there was only a small path leading to the township. Now, a new path winding around the mountain side has been paved to traverse the Ma Pi Leng pass with the steep rocky mountain on one side and the peaceful Nho Que River on the other.
The rocky outcrops, small waterfalls, terraced fields, and small thatched houses nestled behind rock walls and peach gardens creates a stunningly picturesque landscape. Ma Pi Leng is a must-stop for tourists to the Dong Van Karst Plateau.
Tran Thanh Hoang, a guide in Ha Giang, said, "Tourists call Ma Pi Leng one of the 4 top passes in Vietnam’s northwest. Though it’s shorter than other passes, it’s the most difficult one. In the ethnic minority language, Pi Leng means nose bone which is straight and high. Previously, it was too high for a horse to climb up. Now, the road to the pass has been upgraded to become more level. The work was contributed to by the great efforts of many people. President Ho Chi Minh named it the Happiness Road in the hope that the road would bring happiness to the locals.”
In recent years, Meo Vac district has focused on promoting the development of culture-tourism, especially since the Dong Van Karst Plateau was recognized as a Global GeoPark in 2013.
The local infrastructure has been upgraded to make travelling to the district easier. Many local festivals like the Khau Vai Love Market festival, buckwheat flower festival, Gau Tao festival of the Mong, Rain Praying festival of the Lo Lo, Long Tong festival of the Tay, Cap Sac festival of the Dao, and New Year Celebration of the Giay have been revived.
The diverse festivals of the locals and the spectacular landscapes have drawn both Vietnamese and foreign tourists to Dong Van and Meo Vac.