Journey on Happiness Road

Along the Happiness Road Highway 4C otherwise known as Happiness Road is the main road, 200km in length, which goes from Ha Giang city, passing through the rocky upland districts of Quang Ba, Yen Minh, Dong Van and Meo Vac with hundreds of hairpin bends and stretches that cling to the edges of precipices. Under construction from 1959 to 1965, the road was officially built through the blood sweat and tears of mostly young volunteers both local and from all over the country.

What  you will see in Ha Giang
What  you will see in Ha Giang

In the last cold days of 2014, when the 50th anniversary of the completion of Happiness Road approaches, the lives of those people who died on the road are commemorated. Pham Quang But from Hai Duong province, an Administrator of Cemeteries of the young volunteers in Yen Minh, could not hide hide his sadness when burning incense near their graves. He recalled that the road 4C was known as Happiness Road because of how it had since vastly improved the lives of those in the the area. The young volunteers, mostly from the local areas of PhuTho, Thai Binh, Hai Duong, working with just hoes, shovels,mini mines and often proped to the cliffs for safety, managed to complete 200kms in 6 years.
Opium flower proud  of Dong Van colony
Opium flower proud  of Dong Van colony

Leaving Yen Minh our team continued to journey on Happiness Road to the Dong Van rocky plateau. This is not only a world heritage karst plateau Geopark, but it contains vestiges of the Highlands in Ha Giang. Before the completion of the road, from Quan Ba to the border was separated by the Gate of Heaven and before the August revolution, all the mountainous area of Ha Giang was the kingdom of Vuong Chi Duc (1865-1947). The palace of King Vuong is situated close to Happiness Road, 14km from Dong Van. His trade connections with the north are clearly expressed in the architecture of the palace. The overall structure of more than 1000m2 with 13 main sections, is very similar to the royal houses of China of that era. the entire compound is surrounded by 1m thick stone walls, 2.5-3m in height, combined with a huge quantity of ironwood which clad the stone.
King's house Vuong Chinh Duc at Chau Dong Van
King's house Vuong Chinh Duc
at Chau Dong Van

Shimmering colours of the Plateau

In contrast to the dramatic grey of the stone plateau, the colourful costumes of the ethnic minorities will really bewitch you. Ms Dang Bich Tho, manager of a tourism company in Ha Noi, said, 'I am fortunate to have visited many countries all over the world and have some wonderful impressions. However, every time I bring international visitors to the Dong Van Plateau, I am again excited by the colourful costumes of the girls of the ethnic groups of H'mong, Dao, Tay, Lo Lo, etc which seem to enhance the shimmering beauty of the Plateau'. Along the road from Ha Giang town! to the Bac Sum slope, up to Quan Ba, (Heaven Gate), crossing Can Ty, Yen Minh, Mau Due pass, then from Dong Van town along the superb road of Ma Pi Leng to Meo Vac, all you see is rocky mountains and steep valleys. All come together and   overlap and run beside those chilling hairpin bends. Standing on the Ma Pi Leng Pass, one side is lofty cliffs and the other a deep chasm, and the Nho Que River gently flows deep in the valley. This is Nature at her most impressive.

Children on the way to Dong Van
Children on the way to Dong Van

Although when we went, the river Nho Que was shallow, as it winds around the narrow ravine it really makes the mountains seem majestic. If the scary but beautiful route of Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac leaves us breathless, the full vitality of the plateau is demonstrated by the people who will long remain in our memory. Along the Ma Pi Leng pass, in a temperature of 8 degrees, we saw the people continuing their daily lives, quite used to the harsh weather and the children still hard at work helping their parents and ragged and faded clothes and barefoot.

Day market in Meo Vac
Day market in Meo Vac

Like many visitors to the Dong Van Plateau we are mesmerised by the many different shapes and facets of the rocks as the sun's rays fall upon them. Some look like pyramids, some like porcupine quills, some form layers like ocean waves. Together they make an endlessly impressive scene. It can be said that on the land shaped like the letter 'S' there is no place like Ha Giang where stone is all shapes and sizes. Trains is and extremely rare and spectacular landscape.

Shimmering colours of the Plateau
Shimmering colours of the Plateau

When the Nho Que river disappears into the valleys, we reach Meo vac! a small town with the
185km landmark. Although the standard of living for the hardworking people in the north is still
very poor, we can almost feel the happiness blossoming between the stones. In our memories, the
rice terraces, the green corn fields, the highland markets and the lovely pupils here will live forever
and this journey call Happiness Road will never end.
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Mr Linh's Adventures


Mr Linh's Adventures is a Tour Operator specialized in Upscale Customized Vacations and Private tours in Vietnam
The company was founded by Linh , a Vietnam tour manager who has been working in the tourism since 2009.
He acquired a great experience on the road, specially Ba Be National Park and he is now ready to offer the best solutions to the people who are looking for memorable trips.

  • Mr Linh
  • 25/06/2019 11:16:56

Thanks to the author for such a useful article.

  • Mr Linh's Adventures
  • 25/06/2019 11:19:02

Thank you!

  • Mickaela Bengtsson
  • 25/08/2015 15:22:34

Our family (parents 2 girls aged 10 and 12) took the 5 night/6 days tour of Ha Giang province and Ba Be in early October 2014. The tour was well structured with a variety of accommodation and a very interesting itinerary that took in some spectacular scencery. Climbing the flag tower at Lung Cu at Vietnam's most northern point was a highlight along with Dong Van and Ma Pi Leng. Our guide, Mr Long, and driver Mr Cuong took very good care of us and navigated the small windy roads safely. Nothing was too much trouble and Mr Long would always come up with an answer (or ask someone) to our questions. They even bought us a bottle of Dalat red wine for our wedding anniversary which was very generous of them. Accommodation was a mix of hotel's and homestays, all of which were perfectly suitable. Food was also good and we were introduced to a range of local greens teas as we traversed the countryside. The trip finished up in Ba Be for the last 2 nights where we were abe to swim and enjoy cruising on a boat. If you have time it's worth extending your stay here for a bit of additional relaxation time.

  • Mr Linh's Adventures
  • 25/08/2015 15:29:03

Thank you for your review and your travel with us. We are very happy to arrange everything for you. And in the future if you come back to our country one again, please let us arrange the package tours for an unforgettable experience :)

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