Hoang Su Phi is known for its spectacular natural setting and the richness of the local cultures.

By DUONG THUY on June 07,2017 11:28 AM



Feeling worn out by the tough bus trip along mountainous roads with treacherous bends winding upwards into the Tay Con Linh Mountain Range in Vietnam’s far north, we finally reached Hoang Su Phi in Ha Giang province. The area has impressive terraced rice fields and interesting ethnic minority cultures, and is a paradise of seasonal flowers. Its many features provide visitors with a wide range of special tourist attractions.

Legend of the golden land

The chilly weather made it a little uncomfortable for visitors from the south like us.

Seated on the bus, we listened attentively to our tour guide Kien, who is native to the area. He told us an oral legend passed down among the La Chi ethnic minority people. In a time long ago, Heaven and Earth were within reach and human beings and saints could meet and greet each other, and all the animals could live in peace and happiness.


To give blessings to the land and human beings, God used his magic powers to give the people in the mountain range a type of tree with a heartwood of gold, so they could make gold jewellery, ornaments, and gifts for exchange at festivals. Knowing that human beings are easily bribed, God asked the local people to keep it secret, and said the whole area would be severely punished if anyone made the secret known to anyone from elsewhere.

Time went by and it was believed that local people would always enjoy a life of peace. A young La Chi woman, however, met a young man one day from another ethnic group. She fell in love with him and gave him a beautiful gold neck ring. The young man then showed it to his parents and asked them for permission to marry the young woman.

Tempted by the gold, the elders in the young man’s ethnic group grilled him about the secret, and it was finally made known to them. People from different ethnic groups then came hunting for the precious tree. They fought and killed to get the gold, and much suffering ensued.

Infuriated by such acts, God raised the sky far away from the land and sent down a rainstorm, causing a devastating flood. People, animals and plants in the whole area were quickly buried deep underground.


Still angry, God then used his magic powers to turn gold into ash, so that it would be scattered over a large area and tiny pieces of gold could only be found here and there in the air, along the river, on land, and in rocks, cursing human beings with the ability to see gold but not being able to enjoy it.

God created a huge tree with gold bark to remind human beings of their mistakes in the past. As a result, the gold bark tree became a haven for different ethnic minority groups.

Greed remained in people’s minds, however. Once again, they cut down the gold tree to satisfy themselves. Its roots were in Ta Su Choong while its trunk and branches covered a large mountainous area with different pieces of gold glittering everywhere.

People then started calling the Hoang Su Phi area a region of ‘gold bark’. But the lives of local inhabitants began to be difficult, because they had to begin to grow everything they needed and could no longer live an enjoyable life with lots of things from Mother Nature.

Colourful highland market

After we had a nice first night, Kien took us to the weekly market in Hoang Su Phi in chilly weather conditions, with mist floating around in the early morning.

Wandering among a crowd of people at the market on a hill, we were happy to watch the different activities taking place and had a great experience while looking with curiosity at the many products on offer.


While we were strolling along the path that winds around to the market, Kien told us the market is only held on Sundays, with people wearing the colourful clothes of different ethnic groups like H’Mong, Nung, Tay, La Chi, La Hu and Dao and gathering together to exchange goods and other items.

Feeling unfamiliar in the highland setting, I was mesmerised by the sight of local people carrying different things from their farms to the market, including goats, rabbits, geese, chickens, ducks, nuts, and fruit and vegetables. The fruit section at the market alone, with fruit like oranges, pineapples and docynia indica (a local type of apple), was amazing, with exciting sights and sounds.

The smell of corn wine mixed with the fragrance of star anise made me feel like I was a little tipsy. Nearby was a section for food, where people chatted while enjoying their favourite dishes. The scenes made me think that, for local people in Hoang Su Phi, a trip to the market was a social occasion and not just about buying and selling.

The market is also an occasion for young people to find partners. The young women wear beautiful clothes and eat and drink and chat while looking around trying to find a suitable husband.


One of the most interesting things about Hoang Su Phi is that the local people are so simple and honest. They don’t ask for higher prices for their products from visitors and aren’t pushy in the least.

Hopefully, such things will remain, so that more and more visitors will come and experience the local culture, giving the local people the chance to sell more products and promote economic growth in this golden land.

Time in the highlands

Visitors usually come to Hoang Su Phi to take lovely photos in June, when the terraced rice fields are full of water, in September and October during the rice harvest, or between November and March when different kinds of flowers blossom.

One of best things about this highland area is its clean and healthy food, such as chicken, goose, goat, pork and beef. These dishes are tasty because of special local additives from nature.

Visitors should learn to cook some of these dishes and should not forget to buy some specialities and ingredients to take home. They should also dwell on the interesting local legends, long after they have left these north-eastern highlands.

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