Nestled within stunning karst mountain formations, Dong Van is one of the main stops in the Ha Giang loop. It’s a perfect base to set yourself up for a night or two. You can enjoy town and also visit some of the breathtaking landscapes which are less than 10 minutes away. Close to the border with China, it’s also a meeting point to a range of different ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, Tay, Han, Dao and Giay.
What to do in Dong Van, Vietnam
- Đồn Cao fort. It’s a 1927 French Colonial fort. It sits atop a small mountain in the center of Dong Van. You can take the steep climb and enjoy the panoramic views of Dong Van and its surroundings.
- Sunday Market. In this one-day-a-week market, people from the mountains come down to the village to buy and sell their products. You can find a lot of interesting gadgets, clothes, foods, and snacks. So if you happen to be here in the weekend, don’t miss it!
- H’mong Royal Palace. This 100 year old royal palace belonged to the last H’mong King, Vuong Chi Sinh (1886-1962). It’s one of the oldest H’Mong structures found in the area. It has also sparked some controversy: its property rights are still in dispute between the H’mong and the Dong Van district authorities. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit!
- Mã Pí Lèng Viewpoint and Skywalk. Ma-pi Leng pass is 10 minutes away by motorbike from Dong Van. It offers some of the most breathtaking views along the Ha Giang Loop. There’s a viewpoint here, but you can also do a trek along the mountains and see the pass from yet another breathtaking viewpoint. The trek starts at this statue, and you can go as far as you want – from 30 mins to more than a couple hours. This trek will take you along small villages and valleys and will not disappoint.
- Lung Cu flag post. It’s a viewpoint with stunning views of China and the north of Vietnam. It’s only one hour by bike from Dong Van, just where the Chinese border is. You will spot it by the massive Vietnamese flag sitting on the top! If the weather is good, there’s also a small lake you can visit nearby.
- Karaoke Bao Minh. finally, don’t miss the chance of practicing your singing skills here! This one is especially interesting after you’ve tried the local corn wine!
Where to stay in Dong Vang, Vietnam
- Green Karst Guesthouse and Hostel. The best quality/price accommodation in the center of Dong Van. It offers both dorms and private rooms. The dorm beds have curtains for privacy. The rooms are clean and tidy. They provide you with towels and hot water.
- H’Mong Homestay. Run by the local H’Mong ethnic minority, this homestay will bring you closer to the traditional lifestyle of this area in Vietnam. You’ll get to enjoy a family setting and the delicious breakfast and dinner. If you’re lucky, you can also try their delicious corn wine (aka ‘happy water’), and learn how to say cheers in proper Vietnamese style!
Where to eat in Dong Van, Vietnam
- The Green Karst Restaurant. It has the best selection of foods in Dong Van, and their quality never disappoints! They cater for all tastes and budgets. They also have many vegan and vegetarian options. Great friendly atmosphere to meet other travelers! Here, you can find hotpots, Vietnamese dishes, western dishes, specialties, corn wine and cocktails.
- Bún Cá Thiên Vũ. Here you can find the best breakfast pho in town. It can also be a great chance to have breakfast with locals, and to share in with the animated atmosphere. The pho is delicious and prepared with fresh herbs and noodles. Tofu options available.
- Banh Cuon Ba Ha. Go here to try Banh Cuon (steamed rice pork/egg roll), a typical dish of Dong Van/Ha Giang. Dip the roll in the aromatic broth and enjoy its subtle but soothing flavour.
- Cháo Ấu Tẩu – Bánh Cuốn. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try Au Tau porridge at this place. This local dish requires careful preparation, and they say is highly medicinal. It’s prepared with the Au Tau bulb (a plant found in the mountains around the area) and cooked over many hours with meat and herbs. The final result is a kind of bitter meat and herb porridge.
- Sunday market. If you are in Dong Van on a Sunday, don’t miss the market! You can have Pho or Banh Cuon for breakfast, or try some of the many snacks you can find in different stalls. Some of the best snacks I’ve found: steamed pork buns, fried dough balls, buckwheat or rice flour cakes, corn cakes, mixed colored sticky rice…
Where to buy desserts & drinks in Dong Van, Vietnam
- Pho Co Coffee. Based in the town’s square, this coffee shop is built in the traditional style. It features a big open square in the center and cushion seats around low tables. Their drinks are tasty and include coffee, smoothies, teas, juices, cocoa…
- Hmong Coffee. lovely and modern coffee shop with great drinks
- On this corner you can try the Chè Thap Cam (mixed sweet dessert). Jelly, sweet beans and tapioca balls topped with coconut and peanuts – can’t be missed. Another awesome snack is the Thang Den, a sweet ginger soup with sticky rice balls and peanuts. It’s a local dessert for the cold weather: it’ll surely warm you up! Look out for signs around the center.
How to get to Dong Van, Vietnam
- By motorbike/car. Most people arrive to Dong Van as part of their Ha Giang loop tour, therefore renting bikes in Ha Giang.
- By bus: There are regular bus services from Ha Giang to Dong Van and back, so this is one option to get there. Of course, you will see some of the views from the bus, but you won’t be able to stop to take photos, nor choose the route.
To conclude, Dong Van is a charming, picturesque little town with a lovely atmosphere. You can go for treks, visit the many landmarks, eat delicious local food and meet other travelers. So take your time, relax and enjoy!
You can also check my Short guide to Ha Giang!