Monday, March 30, 2015

Dizzy Passes in Vietnam

With spectacular scenery and craggy terrain, these fascinating passes are ideal destinations for Vietnam motorcycling tours.  

Ma Pi Leng along with Pha Din, O Quy Ho and Khau Pha are deserved as four highest and most dramatic passes in north-western Vietnam, while Trieu Hai is the brand new dirty route challenging any traveler.

1. Ma Pi Leng

Ma Pi Leng pass

Lying on the legendary Happiness Road connecting between districts of Dong Van and Meo Vac, Ma Pi Leng is a majestic pass 20 km long, crossing over Ma Pi Leng peak at an altitude of 2000m above the sea level, belonging to Ha Giang province. Spectacular scenery with massive mountains and dazed hairpin turns, Ma Pi Leng challenges a lot of travelers to conquer on motorbikes.

Happiness Road is the result of extraordinary effort and even the blood and bones of young volunteers during 6 years (1959-1965). Just only Ma Pi Leng pass, the suicide squad hung on sheer cliffs, encroached ever cm of land and completed it in over 11 months.

This pass is surrounded by towering mountains piercing the sky with diverse bizarre shapes, some upright, some skew, some highly green with trees while others covered fully by a gray of bare rocks. Mã Pí Lèng means “nasal bridge of horse”, implying the abruptness of this pass such an extent that horses also breathe their last when climbing here. The pass protrudes from back of colossal mountains. Somewhere there are several small villages perching on high.

Under colossal mountains, Nho Que river valley appears as a highlight of landscape around the pass. Many H’Mong people walk on this pass. Some men get drunk, sleep naturally on side of road and ignore everything around.

2. Pha Din 

Pha Din pass
Located in Highway 6 and 32km in length, Pha Din Pass is the connection between 2 provinces: Son La and Dien Bien. Its highest point is 1,648m above the sea level. This pass has craggy topography, with one side is cliff and the other is chasm.

Pha Din is fanciful in cloud. The name “Pha Din” is Thai in origin: Phạ Đin, Phạ means “the heaven” and Đin means “the earth”, implying that this is the boundary between the heaven and the earth.

This winding road is really dangerous with numerous hairpin turns, zigzag turns and A turns; but also wonderful with tranquil scenery of green corn and yellow rice fields. From the back to the summit, floating white clouds embrace Pha Din, creating the feeling of a wonderland. Some parts are covered completely with fog. On the top, seemingly both means of transport and people are standing on bobbing and drifting clouds. But from 8h30 to 9h, dew will be disappeared.

Villages on valleys below are poetic peaceful, whereas it is hard to find a hamlet on the summit. Just only blue sky and imposing forests blend into one.

Pha Din pass is also a historical place name, where was incurred a lot of bombarding battles by airplanes of colonial French, where witnessed hardship and strong will of Vietnamese people, and where to recall heroic moments of the country.

3. Khau Pha 

Khau Pha pass
Located in the border area between two districts of Van Chan and Mu Cang Chai of Yen Bai province with barely 40km in length, Khau Pha is the second dramatic pass in northwestern Vietnam. It passes over some famous place name such as Mù Cang Chải, Tú Lệ, La Pán Tẩn or Chế Cu Nha. Khau Phạ means the “Heaven Horn” in Thai language, referring that the pass juts up to the heaven.

Khau Pha pass crosses over the highest mount in Mu Cang Chau, Khau Pha. This windy pass is covered in hazy mist. Two-thirds of the road’s parts are rough, full of gravels. At two sides of the pass, travelers can contemplate layered mountains, pristine old jungles and breathtaking rice terraces of Thai and H’mong tribe.

Over Khau Pha pass, there are about several tens of hairpin turns. On foggy days, the pass is extremely dangerous because it does not have any crash-barrier for safe or sign for warning.

Khau Pha is the most fabulous on September and October as rice terraces are golden.

4. O Quy Ho

O Quy Ho pass
This pass lies in highway 4D crossing Hoang Lien Son, which connects two provinces: Lao Cai and Lai Chau. With the length of 50km along with the ruggedness, O Quy Ho is dubbed as The King of Passes in mountainous Northwestern Vietnam.  

Known as the heaven gate to Hoang Lien Son Range at the altitude of 2000m, O Quy Ho is actually craggy by its zigzag curves. To conquer this pass, there are two way: from Tam Duong (Lai Chau) or from Sapa (Lao Cai).

O Quy Ho makes travelers truly terror-stricken. The road meanders, cars have to nestle closely cliffs to avoid each other. Towering mountains, interlacing roots, tottering “taluys” and deep valleys are misty in clouds. In some part, the road is just only 2m wide, one side is cliff and the other is deep chasm.

Despite being dangerous, many adventurers dream to once reach this pass thank to its mysterious beauty. Clouds cover thickly around imposing layered mountains. The endless road looms among spectacular scenery, lurking in cliffs. From the pass, travelers can take a turn to discover stunning rice terraces, Bac waterfall or conquering Fansipan mount. In winter, it can be snowy in O Quy Ho.

5. Trieu Hai

This is a new route captivates a number of adventure travel group in recent time.

Trieu Hai Mountain Pass crossing Nam Cat Tien forest from Da Teh to Dambri waterfall area, Bao Lam District, Lam Dong Province, is a brand new route full of harsh and exciting that motorcyclists are passionate to conquer. This Pass was opened for serving the construction of dam; hence, after completed, it became abandoned.

There are 2 ways to conquer this Pass, the easier way is going from Bao Loc city center to Dambri waterfall and at the Tam Chau Junction, turn left to Dambri dam.

From Tam Chau Tea Hill onwards, roads becomes smaller and rougher with a lot of big stones. Travelers will encounter the hydro lake, which has a strange and unique blue color, winding below.

From the lake to Da Teh, there is a giant expanse of rocks on the left created by nature since million years ago. The outstanding feature of this pass is small, dirty stages, some are flooded in mud. Motorcyclists have to concentrate completely. Even they have to carry motors when passing over high, sloping banks of streams. But the scenery is really picturesque and untouched.

The road is dirtier, slopes are steeper in later stages. Wheels fall into dry-mud drains, then stranded into wet-mud. Motors cannot move and travelers have to carry them.

Standing on the top of these passes, travelers will break into emotion. The journey conquering the dizzy passes urges the dream about adventures of many travelers. Once reaching these passes, surely you will desire to come back.


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