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Khau Vai pass: wild canyon in northern Vietnam

The Khau Vai Pass in the northern mountainous Ha Giang Province offers stunning views, steep cliffs, and a green river for kayaking and camping trips.

The Khau Vai Pass is a scenic canyon in the north of Meo Vac District, near the border of Ha Giang and Cao Bang provinces. It lies within the Khau Vai hydropower reservoir area, about 20 to 25 km from the town of Meo Vac. It is almost 300 km away from Hanoi and takes 8 to 9 hours to reach from the capital by car.

Like the famous Tu San Alley at the foot of Ma Pi Leng Pass, which is one of the most magnificent canyons in Southeast Asia, the Khau Vai Alley has two towering cliffs and a green river flowing between them.

Long, a tourist from Hanoi, said he was impressed by the cleanliness and the wild beauty of Khau Vai Alley. “But it’s not as long or as spectacular as Tu San Alley,” he added.

He also mentioned that there is a spot of land within the canyon where visitors can camp and make their own food. This is a perfect place for those who like exploring, discovering and having a little privacy.

To get to the pass and the Khau Vai hydroelectric lake, visitors first need to go to the Khau Vai Wharf and buy a boat ticket along the Nho Que River. The ticket costs about VND100,000 ($4.26) per person. The wharf has toilets, bathrooms and clean water.

Activities that tourists should try in Khau Vai canyon include kayaking and stand up paddle boarding (SUP).

Le Duc Trung from Hanoi said that he and his friends had a great time rowing SUP to the land in the middle of the canyon and admiring the majestic landscape of the northeast region.

He suggested that tourists who want to cook for themselves bring tables, chairs, stoves, tents and coffee. He also recommended buying food items from highland markets and grilling chicken or fish.

The Khau Vai Pass has cool and pleasant weather at the moment, making it comfortable for tourists to take a boat ride without feeling too cold. The temperature can drop at night and early morning, ranging from 18 to 20 degrees Celsius. The best time to visit Ha Giang is from September to December, when visitors can admire the fields of wild buckwheat, a small pink wildflower with triangular-shaped leaves.

Alternatively, visitors can come here in the summer to escape the heat as the sorthwest region remains somewhat cool all year round.

Travel companies do not yet offer tours through the Khau Vai Pass. However, visitors can join a tour to Ha Giang and then travel the pass by themselves. They can also request a customized tour and get camping and food assistance from the company.

Ta Thanh Sang, a tour guide with SanSan Camping Travel, said there are only a few boats at the Khau Vai wharf, so visitors should book in advance. He also suggested that visitors bring essential items such as drinking water and food because there are not many services near Khau Vai.

On the way from Meo Vac Town’s central market to Khau Vai village’s boat station, visitors can also visit Khau Vai Rock Garden and the Khau Vai Love Market, which takes place on the 26th of the third lunar month. This is a unique market where local ethnic people wear their best traditional costumes and meet their former lovers in public.

Photos by Nguyen Long, Le Duc Trung

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