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Published: October 23rd 2014
The highlight of today's driving was to travel over the 1500 meter high Ma Pi Leng pass. One of the most spectacular parts of this road covers a distance of only 22 kilometers which begins soon after you leave Meo Vac headed towards Dong Van. The road was originally built by the ethnic groups in the area - the H'mong group that were that we saw at Meo Vac, Zao and Tay minority and the LoLo group that we would see when we visited the Sa Phin markets later in the day. However it was rebuilt in 1994 after suffering severe damage from the Chinese military. Unfortunately the photos I took that day do not do the spectacular scenery any favours, due to the smoke haze and my camera's ability.
Though the distance wasn't great it took quite a while to reach the lookout at the top of the pass. At times we were way above the river (about 1 kilometer below) which threaded through the valley. It was truly stunning scenery as, though we were passing through the massive limestone rocks of the plateau, below the road, dropping steeply down into the valleys were terraces of rice paddies. The
terraces were still green so the harvest hadn't finished. Corn seemed to be the only other crop growing but that had all already been harvested, leaving just the piles of dead stalks stacked into piles.
The road was very narrow and thankfully we didn't see much other traffic. It would be a fabulous trip to do on a motorbike, though not one I would wish to undertake on the small scooters that we saw the few other Western tourists riding. At the top of the pass we enjoyed a coffee and revelled in the view as we watched a group of young Vietnamese travellers dress up and pose in traditional costumes, using the amazing scenery behind them as a backdrop. In stark contrast just below us on the steep rocky slopes a group of young ethnic girls were working cultivating their crops.
Before we left this beautiful spot we spread some more of David's ashes - he would have loved the deep valley into which his ashes dropped.
We can not recommend this amazing part of the world enough. We've visited Sapa twice and it has it's own beauty which is shared by many other tourists but
Ha Giang is still very off the beaten track. But for how much longer? The people we met hereare still curious, open, very friendly and welcoming. The impact of tourism has not as yet changed this beautiful part of the world.
From there we continued driving the narrow winding roads - both of us with the windows wound down and heads out trying to absorb as much as we could. We passed many people working in the fields and walking along the road carrying big piles of greenery on their backs to be used as stock feed. The villages we passed through were a combination of traditional mud brick or roughly constructed besser block houses. There was certainly no evidence of wealth - most families would have been struggling to survive there I think. We stopped regularly for photos and to visit a few tiny villages. Tuin was extremely obliging when photo stops were requested. Mid morning we arrived at Sa Phin market. We knew we were close when we started passing groups of women, baskets on their backs loaded with goods, walking along the edges of the road.
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