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Vietnam Culture & People


A Geological Park

A Geological Park

Dong Van Plateau in Ha Giang Province consisting of Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac Districts contains great geological values, suitable to developing a model of sustainable socio-economic development.


The grandiose scenery in Meo Vac District, Ha Giang Province.


A Belgian scientist researches a cave of
the Cambri Age.


Prof., Doctor Jan Masschelein from
Belgium (right) and Belgian and
Vietnamese experts research the
geological map on Ha Giang Geological Park.


Vietnamese and Belgian scientists
have conducted surveys of caves and
grottoes for dozens of years.


Prof., Doctor Rudy Swennen
researches components of limestone.


A sample of precious limestone.


Doctor Tran Tan Van – Vice Director of
the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences
and Mineral Resources addresses at a
scientific workshop.

Vision of a project

Professor, Doctor Jan Masschelein from Leuven University, Belgium has researched geology of caves and grottos in the mountainous areas in Northern Vietnam for over 15 years. He said discoveries on Dong Van Plateau by scientists showed that the plateau is a world’s natural heritage that needs to be preserved. Therefore, not only local people but also nature lovers should take responsibility for preserving, embellishing and developing it for  benefits of the people.

Professor Michiel Dusar, Director of the Belgian Geological Department was very interested when he set foot on this superb plateau. He said that he had visited many places in the world but no other place had left such a strong impression on him like this area. It boasts a system of caves and grottos as well as a fantastic and poetic landscape. At many international seminars and field trips, the scientists had a common idea that the optimal model for Dong Van Plateau was to build it into a geological park of national and international stature.

I still remember a field trip to Lung Cu area with Professor Okke Batalaan from Brussels University (Belgium). Standing at a height of 1,800m above sea level he looked very delighted while contemplating ranges of mountains and hills of the plateau below. He said that with painting-like landscape and many customs which are very attractive to visitors, Dong Van Plateau is worthy of being a geological park. In the eyes of the scientists, Dong Van Plateau is beautiful and mysterious but it has slept for years. Moreover, it is in danger of desertification and human devastation. Therefore, the protection and preservation of its discovered values is an urgent task. The establishment of the Vietnam-Belgium Geological Park project on the basis of co-operation between the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, the Kingdom of Belgium and Ha Giang Province (Vietnam) is a sound decision to preserve and protect the geological and geomorphologic heritages and valuable landscape, and promote the socio-economic activities and sustainable development. Nguyen Truong To, Chairman of Ha Giang Provincial People’s Committee said that the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources and its partners in the country and from Belgium are helping Ha Giang Province work out a document to build Dong Van Geological Park on an area of 2,300km2 and submit it to UNESCO for consideration to be recognized as a global geological park.

Promoting economic and tourist development

Doctor Tran Tan Van, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources, who has been attached to geology for dozens of years, said that the geological park project is aimed at hunger elimination, poverty reduction and sustainable development, on the basis of educational and training activities for preservation of nature and reasonable use of natural resources. The establishment of Dong Van Geological Park will have a great significance in popularizing the values of this rocky plateau, especially developing the economy and tourism.

Standing on the peak of Ma Pi Leng Mountain which connects the districts of Dong Van and Meo Vac we had a feeling of being in a vast windy park. This area has beautiful scenery and unique geology. In front of us, there is Pai Lung Mount which is called a geologic monument by scientists. The Nho Que River looking like a silk band snakes through rugged cliffs which are 800-1,000m high. From this height we could contemplate peaks of mountains that look like pyramids running one after another.


Karst mountain ranges are always covered with clouds in Quan Ba. 


The Nho Que River runs through rugged cliffs.


Imposing waterfalls are often seen in rainy season.

A rare and precious species of langur in Ha Giang Province.


Children tend goats on Meo Vac District. 


Preparing for a new crop on Dong Van Plateau.


Tending vegetables in the early Spring.


Mustard greens flowers in Lung Cu Commune, Dong Van District.


Rice terraced fields in Ha Giang.

The unique natural values of Dong Van Plateau together with the typical cultural features of the ethnic groups have created a sustainable vitality in the area. The Khau Vai Love Market, second to none in Vietnam, helps create a strange attractiveness to this area. It takes place once a year, on the 27th of lunar March, in Khau Vai Commune of Meo Vac District, a place name connected with a legendary love story. The market is not only a rendezvous of men and women who can not become husbands and wives but also a meeting place of young people. The market has become an attractive destination for domestic and foreign visitors. Stones are available everywhere, in the terrace fields and in the home, where rice mortars, beds and horse stables are made of stones. The most beautiful feature is the earthen-walled houses surrounded by a stone barricade of the Mong ethnic people.


The cow-selling market in Meo Vac District.


Performing panpipes at Khau Vai Love Market.


At Lung Phin Market.


A Lo Lo girl.


A corner of a hamlet with houses having special architectural stone in Lung Cu Commune,
Dong Van District.


The house of the Mong ethnic people with gate and stone wall.


Early morning on Dong Van Plateau.   

Dong Van, a border area of Vietnam, is home to 17 ethnic groups including the Mong, Tay, Lo Lo, Pu Peo and Giay. Through many years they still retain their traditional cultures, such as the going-to-the-field festival, the new rice-worshipping ceremony, the panpipe dancing festival, etc. In particular, Dong Van Market is very impressive. It is not only a place for product exchange but also for cultural activities. Young Mong ethnic men express their feelings by playing the panpipes while young women in charming brocade dresses sing songs in response. Couples and friends sit around a large pot of Thang co to enjoy the food and drink maize wine. The ancient city of Dong Van has the shape of a bow stretching several kilometres. The house in the city has the architectural style of the mountainous area, with stone-paved floor, earthen walls and a yin-yang tiled roof. The local people are optimistic and hard-working. To grow maize on rugged mountains, they have to carry baskets of soil to the mountain and place the soil into the hollows on the rock before sowing the seeds.

We visited Dong Van Plateau several times and each time we had a different feeling due to its distinct seasons. It is warm in winter and cool in summer. In the rice ripening season, the terrace fields in Hoang Su Phi constitute an emotive artistic work. The weather is favourable for growing fruit trees, such as peach, pear, plum and apple as well as precious medicinal plants, such as Eucommea, Tsaoko, Duong quy, Slipper plant, Job’s tears and Shan tuyet tea. These products have created the potential for the plateau to develop.

Visit Dong Van Plateau you will enjoy and never forget its beauty bestowed by nature.

Dong Van Plateau is one of the special limestone areas which are connected with the development of the earth’s crust and have outstanding natural values, such as sediments with imprints of palaeobiological fossils including thousands of species, 120 varieties and 17 groups of creatures. Layers of limestone totalling up to 4,000m dated from the Cambri Age about 545 million years ago. Scientists have discovered hundreds of valuable heritage sites, including 4 reference cross-sections, 8 important geological events of regional and global dimension, 25 geomorphologic heritages, 23 structural-tectonic heritages, 11 paleontologic- stratigraphic heritages and hundreds of caves and grottos, of them many have tourist values. 

Story by Hoang Chuong

Photos by Hoang Ha – Ngo Du – Tan Van – Vinh Hung – Cong Hoan – Thanh Phuong    -    Copyright © Vietnam Pictorial

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