A springtime trip to the UNESCO-recognized Dong Van karst plateau in northern Vietnam not only treats tourists to resplendent landscapes but also ethnic people’s eye-catching celebrations.
Tran The Dung, of the Vietnam Society of Travel Agents (VISTA) and director of a local travel firm, recently took a trip to the Dong Van Karst Plateau, which spans Quan Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van, and Meo Vac Districts in Ha Giang Province.
He shared with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper his experiences and photos which capture the picturesque landscape and people’s alluring festivity.
Dung began his account with the stunning scenes of earthen houses which nestle behind stone hedges adorned with blooming peach and cherry blossoms on the way to Dong Van Karst Plateau.
Mong ethnic people's signature "trinh tuong" (earthen) houses nestling behind stone hedges and gorgeous plum blossoms. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The locality is mostly inhabited by Mong ethnic minority people.
Dung spotted groups of Mong girls who looked their best in traditional costumes and were walking merrily along the meandering paths or throwing “pao” (cloth ball), one of the ethnic community’s most common folk games.
Groups of Mong ethnic girls are pictured walking on a mountain path amidst the pervasive springtime atmosphere. Photo: Tuoi Tre
During and after Tet (Lunar New Year), which began on February 19 and technically ended on Monday, kids play folk games on communal grounds, while young men showcase their flair playing “khen” (a kind of pan-pipe), which is made from six bamboo chunks, to grab the attention of potential mates.
They also dance elegantly while playing the instrument, while others usually join the dance in circles.
Young men and girls chant love tunes together as a way of expressing their budding love for each other.
Mong kids and youths are shown playing folk games. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The men can also tap lightly on the waists and buttocks of the girls with whom they are flirting.
If the girls agree to be their mates, the couples will leave the crowd for some privacy and intimate talk.
The tapping is one of the Mong community’s long-standing practices to express love.
A Mong ethnic man is seen tapping on the waist a woman he is flirting with to express his love at a spring festival. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A Mong woman and man are seen playing "khen" (Vietnamese windpipe) at a spring festival. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Mong women and men are seen chanting love tunes at a spring festival. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Another of the community’s springtime highlights is a goat fighting festival held in Meo Vac District.
The mountain goats, which are generally meek animals, turn into warriors with cunning, powerful yet non-lethal strikes, as Dung observed from a goat fighting fest which he visited during the trip.
A springtime goat fighting festival held in Ha Giang Province's Meo Vac District. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Elderly men partook in a springtime singing bird competition in Dong Van Karst Plateau. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A Mong mother and her little daughter look their best in traditional costumes for a spring outing. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A can-throwing game played by Mong ethnic men. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Young children in Dong Van Karst Plateau are seen having fun during the 2015 Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Youngsters are seen playing a game at a spring festival in Dong Van Karst Plateau. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The Dong Van Karst Plateau was recognized by the UNESCO’s Global Geoparks Network in 2010 as one of 77 geological parks in the world and the second in Southeast Asia, after the Langkawi Geopark in Malaysia.
Located at an altitude of 1,000m-1,600m, the plateau is one of the country’s unique limestone areas, which contains significant imprints of the development of the earth's crust.
Up to 80 percent of the plateau’s karst formations are limestone formed by the elements through different natural development stages.
At least 13 fossil-geological formations have been found in the Dong Van plateau. Among them, Chang Pung, the oldest, dates back 545 million years ago, according to the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Natural Resources.
The imposing UNESCO-recognized Dong Van Karst Plateau in Ha Giang Province. Photo: Tuoi Tre