Dong Van, Jewel of Northern Vietnam

Hanoi was in the middle of monsoon and it was pouring down outside airport. With a couple of NZ $100 note on hand, I tried to exchange money into Vietnamese Dong. There was no Ding-Dong moment.  Most money-exchangers in airport didn’t want to deal with NZ dollars, and a couple of unwilling guys offered me quite depressing rates. Well, better keep NZ dollars for Thailand, grabbed a Cirrus logo-printed bank debit card issued in Korea, and inserted the card into one of the ATMs.  I was able to take out 4 million dongs(but the maximum withdraw amount at a time was 2 millions, so I did twice)

I became a millionaire  straight away  but Damn, the local  bus No7  which takes me to My-Dinh bus terminal costs me whopping 8000 dong(about 40 US cents).


I am not going into Hanoi central, but to Ha-Giang, northern mountain village where I can change bus and carry on to Dong-Van.

This sleeper bus leaves the Hanoi’s terminal at 8:40 PM , arriving Ha-Giang 4 AM next morning, and costs 200,000 dong(US $9). This one is a good example of roomy seats and less number of passengers.


Two local school girls opposite my bed. They love to watch Korean TV dramas and speak a little bit of Korean words too.


At Ha-Giang town, a mini bus goes to Dong-Van at 5 AM. An old Hyundai 23 seater that might have been used in a Kindy back in Korea 15 years ago is ready for taking off. This bus charges 100,000 dong to Dong-Van and it takes 6 hours(if road is good) of bumpy ride.


This bus doubles as a courier, a door-to-door pickup/drop-off too. The driver’s phone keeps ringing , and he turns around ,go back to pick up another parcel to deliver, until the bus is fully loaded.

Hard rain stops bus from keeping running and we pop into a local restaurant in the mountain for a rest.


The mountain ranges veil out slowly from back ground.


A young girl at the stall cooks a fried egg on my noodle with a slice of lime (in NZ lime costs $40 a kg), and this is all for 20,000 dong(US 90 cents).


The Maps-Me app on my Android phone shows the paths this bus has been and ahead, very windy.


Land slide ahead.


Typical mountain villages like this.


Now the bus descends into the mist.


One has to stop for an oncoming vehicle to pass.


Finally at Dong-Van. It is not hard to find a bed in Dong-Van. You will see many home stay signs like this on the street.  I check in a dorm which costs 70,000 dong(US $3.20)a night.


Dong-Van is a remote outpost town serving slowly increasing tourism, but at the moment, supply is too heavy for the demand. I am on the winning side when negotiating the price for a bed.


The other side of the main road from market has some good cafes.


This cafe “Pho-Co” shows a retro charm.


Practical choice for my coffee goes to this. “My Coffee”. Menu comes in a thick wood board book. I try the famous Cafe Phin.(Drip coffee in a traditional way but the beans used are Robusta)



The coffee comes with a plate of roasted sunflower seed.


Umm, average I would say.


Just walk along back alley ways where you can see the life of the locals.


Why chickens cross the road ? Because the referee was calling foul.


The back off-road  leads to the rice field.


Come across to this wonderful example of Russian-made Minsk bike that once the icon of Vietnam’s bike culture. It’s only 125 cc, but packs heaps of power.


See you again in Dong-Van .


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