DONG VAN, A SUPERB STAGE ON THE " ROAD OF HAPPINESS"
This mountain village located on the famous "road of happiness" is an essential stopover on your way across the spectacular karstic plateau of the same name. We come to Dong Van to attend its fabulous ethnic market on Sunday morning but also because its surroundings contain natural, cultural and historical treasures.
The Dong Van Karst Plateau geopark, a wonder of nature
A member of the UNESCO Global geopark network and the Asia-Pacific geopark network, the Dong Van Karst Plateau geopark offers a spectacular natural landscape of astonishing limestone mountain ranges resulting from a long geological history and testifying to the evolution of the earth's crust over nearly 600 million years. Steep cliffs, karstic peaks dominating steep valleys, green and yellow rice fields suspended from blackened limestone blocks torn from the mountains. As well as rivers cutting a narrow passage between the rugged relief and dizzying canyons that follow one another during the crossing of this karstic plateau, which will offer you a unique travel experience!
The ethnic market of Dong Van
Dong Van ethnic market is one of the most amazing markets in North Vietnam. Every Sunday morning many minorities leave their high perched villages and converge on Dong Van to go to the market. In these remote areas, the market is not only a commercial area to buy and sell, it is much more than that. The market is a real information relay for these communities who live isolated in this tormented region. Among the many ethnic groups that enter the market at dawn, Hmong women stand out with their colourful outfits and scarves that cover their heads. Hmong men are dressed more soberly, with a cotton outfit dyed in indigo. You will notice that most of them are wearing a Basque beret, a distant memory of the French presence in this remote area of northeast Vietnam.
To discover in the surroundings of Dong Van
The fantastic scenery of the karst plateau and the ethnic market on Sunday morning alone could justify a stopover in Dong Van, but that is not to mention the other curiosities to be seen in its surroundings:
- The Hmong King's Palace, located only about 20 kilometres from Dong Van. Built in the 1920s according to the principles of geomancy and skillfully mixing traditional Hmong and Chinese art, this superb palace was the residence of the Vuong family. This Hmong family, who already ruled the four districts Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Meo Vac and Dong Van, saw Vuong Duc Chi consecrated king of the Hmong by the French colonial authorities in 1900 who made him an ally to control this border region with China. To establish his authority and prestige, the French built him a palace which is still standing to the delight of visitors who can admire its remarkable architecture, based on the model of the Manchu yamen with its three inner courtyards and 64 rooms.
- Lung Cu's flag tower, located about 40 kilometres from Dong Van, marks the northernmost point of Vietnam. A spiral staircase of 140 steps allows you to climb to the top of the flag tower and enjoy a superb panorama of the ethnic villages surrounded by rice fields. The road leading to the flag tower of Lung Cu is an opportunity to take a beautiful walk in a wild mountainous area.
- The Don Cao fort nestles on the heights of Dong Van, north of the city. Built at the end of the 19th century when the French took control of the area, the ruins of the fort offer an interesting walk from the city centre and a superb view of the surroundings of Dong Van.
- The Ma Pi Leng Pass, located about 20 km from Dong Van on the road to Meo Vac, offers one of the most breathtaking panoramas of the region. At the pass, a viewpoint allows you to enjoy a breathtaking sight of the Tu San canyon where the emerald-coloured Nho River meanders.
- The buckwheat flower fields are a real delight. Every year at the beginning of November, the fields around Dong Van are adorned with a magnificent white dress tinged with pink. Nobody can be unmoved by this spectacle worthy of a master's painting.
Best season: To fully enjoy the grandiose landscapes of the Dong Van region, we recommend you to go there between April and the end of November. However, beware of the summer monsoon rains between July and September.