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Adventure and cultural extremes in a setting that, even while sitting on that lookout, there was not one in the group who could describe what we were seeing and feeling with words.
As we roll up to a busy ethnic marketplace on our motorized beasts of burden, in our clunky helmets, coated in dirt, we are a crowd-stopping show. Chickens scatter, children hold their breath, and all business stops. Aliens in an alien world. A scene of speechless onlookers. The silence finally broken, with an exchange of two familiar, not-so foreign greetings common to all - smiles!
Ha Giang, 300 km away from Hanoi, located at the highest latitude in Vietnam. The province in borderd by Cao Bang, Tuyen Quang, Lao Cai, and Yen Bai. It also shares a border with China in the north. Many ethnic minorities, including the Dao, H'mong, Tay, and Nung, live in Ha Giang.
The climate is divided in two distinct seasons (rainy and dry), although it tends to vary greatly depending on altitude. Ha Giang is the ideal location to organize activities such as hiking and camping, trekking, motorcyle and 4WD adventures.
Dong Van Highland is situated at 1,025 m above sea level and is inhabited by the Tay and H'Mong ethnic groups. The temperature is approximately 1oC in winter and reaches 24oC on the hottest days. The plateau provides for fruit orchards such as Hau plums, peaches, and persimmons without seeds. Dong Van apples are as big as pears. In Dong Van, numerous valuable plants used for their medicinal value are also found, including ginseng, anise, and cinnamon.
Visiting Dong Van, one can see Pho Bang, also called Pho Bang Street, which was built a long time ago and features multi-storey houses made of clay bricks and tile roofs. Visiting Dong Van on Sundays, one can shop in a traditional mountain market where all kinds of goods and multi-coloured clothes can be purchased.
Khau Vai love market happens once a year - often in May. Colourful ethnic minorities gather and celebrate with songs, and courting rituals. It is also the time when the local tribes meet and sell many local products.
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