NORTHERN VIETNAM is known for its spectacular limestone formation, green, misty mountains, thick forests, dizzying mountain roads and ethnic minorities. Many battles between the Vietnamese and French and Chinese have taken place here over the years. The highlands and mountain plateaus in the north and northwest are inhabited mainly by tribal minority groups. The ethnic minorities include Tai, Nung, Hmong, Man and Dao in the northeast and Thai, Khu, Lao, Kinh Tay, Muong, Dzao, Dao, Hmong and Chinese in the northwest.

The main roads in the region are Route 1 (heading northeast to Lang Son and the Chinese border); Route 3 (heading north to Cao Bang and the Chinese border); Route 70 (heading northwest along the Red River to Lao Cai, Sapa and the Chinese border); and Route 6 (heading west to Son La and Dien Bien Phu and the Laos Border). A train also follows the Red River to Lao Cai (near Sapa) and the Chinese border.

Traveling and Transportation in Vietnam: The easiest way to get most anywhere in Vietnam is through a tour organized in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City or another major tourist town. Usually you can work out something with the staff of your hotel. If you want to shop around there are plenty of tour agencies on the streets of the tourist areas or on the Internet. For long distances you are best taking a flight. Air Asia serves many places but the flights often originate in Kuala Lumpur. Vietnam Airlines, budget carrier VietJet Air and Jetstar Pacific Airlines, a unit of Vietnam Airlines, all operate domestic routes. The trains are okay but the destinations they service are limited. It is possible to take local buses and minibuses but traveling that way is hassle and time-consuming: you have to deal with language issues, scheduling, locating where the buses leave and often crowded, hot conditions on the buses.


Thai Nguyen Province (80 kilometers from Hanoi) covers 3,526.2 square kilometers and is home to 1,131,300 people (2010). The largest ethnic groups in the province are the Viet (Kinh), Tay, Nung, San Diu. The capital is Thai Nguyen City. Administrative divisions: Town: Song Cong; Districts: Dinh Hoa, Dai Tu, Vo Nhai, Dong Hy, Phu Luong, Phu Binh, Pho Yen. Situated in far northeast Vietnam, Thai Nguyen Province is surrounded by Bac Kan Province on the north, Tuyen Quang and Vinh Phuc provinces on the west, Lang Son and Bac Giang provinces on the east, and Hanoi on the south.

Mountains account most of Thai Nguyen's topography with Tam Dao, Ngan Son, Bac Son ranges. The complex network of rivers includes Cau, Cong, Du, and Rang. The main natural resources are coal, iron, steel, and titan. Thanks to good soil, Thai Nguyen tea, especially tea of Tan Cuong origin has long been a nation- wide famous product. There are two seasons: winter lasts from November to April and summer is from May to October. Annual average temperature is 25 degrees C.

Places of Interest in Thai Nguyen Province has revolutionary tradition, historical sites including Van, Vo mountains, Dinh Hoa ATK vestige, and Duom Temple. Places of interest to tourists include Nui Coc Reservoir. This 2,500 hectares lake includes 89 islands, concealing mysterious legends. Near the lake, Coc Mountain stands imposingly. Phuong Hoang Cave and Mo Ga Stream attract many visitors to Thai Nguyen every year. The cave consists of three layers: Doi (Bat), Sang (Light) and Toi (Dark). Reaching the mouth of cave, visitors can see the landscapes of this land. Getting to Thai Nguyen Province: Thai Nguyen City is on National Highway No.3 (Hanoi- Cao Bang), 80 kilometers from Hanoi. There is daily train from Hanoi to Quan Trieu, about eight kilometers from center of Thai Nguyen City.

Museum of the Cultures of Vietnam's Ethnic Groups

Museum of the Cultures of Vietnam's Ethnic Groups (center of Thai Nguyen City) was established in 1960 in an area of 39,000 square meters of which 3,000 square meters is used for exhibition. It contains more than 10,000 documents, and artifacts belong to the cultural heritage of 54 ethnic groups of Vietnam. The museum also presents an extensive collection of agricultural, handicraft, and hunting tools. Typical ritual clothes with bright colors and decorative motifs of different ethnic minorities are also exhibited. The unusual costumes of the Tay and Nung ethnic groups used in shaman rituals are embroidered with lines and designs that supposedly perceive magical sounds.

The Viet-Muong showroom presents nearly 500 documents, objects, and photographs illustrating archaeological articles discovered in Phung Nguyen, Dong Dau, and Go Mun in the North of the country. Exhibits of Vietnamese national agricultural and handicraft productions and brocades woven by Muong ethnic minorities are also displayed. Exhibited in the Tay-Thai showroom are nearly 500 documents and artifacts related to the slash-and-burn agricultural technique and traditional trades of minorities, such as the Tay, Thai, Lao, and Lu. Women's clothes and musical folk instruments such as the tinh string instrument, the flute, as well as displays of the traditional ceremonies of several minorities are also exhibited.

The Hmong-Dao showroom displays approximately 600 documents and artifacts reflecting the agricultural practices of the Hmong, such as slash-and-burn farming, terraced rice fields, hunting weapons, and clothes of the Hmong-Dao ethnic group. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:00am to 11:00 am and 2:00 to 4:30 pm. Entry costs VND 10,000.


LANG SON PROVINCE (154 kilometers northeast of Hanoi) is a mountainous province that shares a border with China and is home to Tai, Nung, Hmong, Man and Dao ethnic minorities. Attractions include market with exotic items, minority villages, limestone mountains, Chi Lang Gorge, Tam Thanh caves, and trading center for Chinese goods.

Lang Son covers 8,323.8 square kilometers and is home to 735,600 people (2010). The capital is Lang Son City. The largest ethnic groups in the province are the Viet (Kinh), Tay, Nung, Dao. Districts: Trang Dinh, Van Lang, Van Quan, Binh Gia, Bac Son, Huu Lung, Chi Lang, Cao Loc, Loc Binh, Dinh Lap. Lang Son is a frontier mountainous province in the North-East of Vietnam. It shares border with Cao Bang Province on the south, Bac Giang Province on the north, Guangxi (China) on the east, Quang Ninh Province on the north-east and Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen provinces on the west.

Mountains and hills cover over 80 percent of the province's total area. The complex network of rivers makes a good condition for agriculture. Main rivers that run through the province are: Ky Cung, Ba Thin, Bac Giang, Bac Khe, Thuong, Hoa, and Trung rivers. The climate is cool and temperate. Annual average temperature is 21.5 degrees C. Annual average rainfall is from 1200 millimeters to 1600 millimeters.

Lang Son has an important strategic position in northeast Vietnam. It has potential for mineral, forestry, tourism and trading wealth. Star aniseed (hoa hoi) is a specialty. The province is proud of many culture and historical sites. These including the Rampart of Mac Dynasty, Doan Citadel Vestige, Chi Lang Defile, Ky Cung and Bac Le temples. Apart of these, Ky Lua Market, To Thi and Mau Son mountains, Tam Thanh, and Nhi Thanh grottoes also attract many visitors every year. Ky Lua and Tam Thanh markets are known for their abundant selections cheap goods Tourists also come for the Ky Lua or Long Tong traditional festivals and to taste special dishes such as roast duck, roast pig, Mau Son wine and lam rice.

Getting to Lang Son Province Lang Son is 154 kilometers from Hanoi, 60 kilometers from Thai Nguyen, 48 kilometers from Quang Ninh, 55 kilometers from Cao Bang, 73 kilometers from Bac Kan. The Hanoi-China international railway line has over 100 kilometers that run through Lang Son. Lang Son has two international border gates including Dong Dang railway border gate and Huu Nghi road border gate, two national border gates such as Chi Ma (in Loc Binh District) and Binh Nghi (in Trang Dinh District). Road: National highway routes on the territory of Lang Son province: A) No.1A: It departs from Huu Nghi Quan (Friendship Gate) and runs through Lang Son Province to Hanoi. B) No.1B: between Lang Son and Thai Nguyen. C) No.4A: between Lang Son and Cao Bang. D) No.4B: from Lang Son to Tien Yen Townlet of Quang Ninh Province. E) No.31: between Dinh Lap and Bac Giang. F) No.279: Binh Gia of Lang Son Province to Bac Kan.

Mau Son

Mau Son (Loc Binh District, about 30 kilometers from Lang Son City) is a hill station near highest peak in Lang Son region. The view is great. To the north is Ninh Minh, China, to the east is Na Duong and to the west is Dong Dang, all merging beautifully into one spectacular landscape. The winding narrow mountain path, like a snake, lies tucked between 2 steep mountains.

About seventy years ago before this path existed, there were only two ways to the top, walking or on horseback. At that time, this panoramic area attracted the French to Mau Son for relaxation. The weather was cool all year round and in addition, the Dear Mountain View of the northeast was the gateway to China, and the French built a military base there at the early of the 20th century to guard the border. The site's original inhabitants, members of the Dao ethnic minority, were moved to make way for the French settlement. Only authorized personnel were permitted to enter the French base.

Later, Mau Son tourists were also welcome to the hill station. In January 1936, Dr.O.Pflot, a student of the famous bacteriologist Dr. Alexandre Yersin, visited Mau Son. Some local people say that the doctor first came to Mau Son to collect traditional medicinal herbs, which were cultivated in the region. And then, he petitioned Mr Tholace, then French governor of the North, for permission to build tourist villas at the site. In 1936 he got the goaded to buy land and to start the construction.

There were thousands of local people working on the project, all mining, breaking and carrying stones to bad a number of massive villas, all in all it took seven years of work to accomplish this task. There were no bricks available to build with; the only materials available were stones, bled to ruins. Blocks of orange moss-covered stories are scattered throughout the site, lying dead amongst the old foundations, where even now, it is possible to identify the houses former kitchens, fireplaces and staircases. Like sleeping beauty, after almost five decades, it was all but forgotten. Until 1987 motorbikes were not even allowed onto the torturous road up the mountain.

Caves and Natural Sights in Lang Son Province

Chi Lang Defile (Chi Lang District, 110 kilometers from Hanoi and 60 kilometers from the Sino-Vietnamese border) consists of a valley surrounded by high mountains and through which runs the Thuong River.The mountains were opened in two locations to form two gates. The northern gate was named Quy Mon Quan, meaning "monster gate," after the Chinese invaders who entered Vietnam through this gate. The southern gate was called Ngo The, meaning "swearing gate." Vietnamese ancestors who swore to sacrifice their lives to protect their motherland and to prevent invaders from entering Vietnam via this defile built the gates.

In the past, in this area that King Le Hoan defeated the Chinese Sung troops in 981 and killed all the enemies. In 1076, Prince Consort Than Canh Phuc set a front line against 300,000 Sung enemies. Led by Quach Quy in 1285, Nguyen Dia Lo killed traitor Tran Kien in the second National Resistance against Yuan-Mongol invaders. In 1427, Lam Son righteous army killed invader leader Lieu Thang, caught Hoang Phuc, killed 10,000 Ming enemies and overthrew all their maneuvers. Now Chi Lang Defile is considered a historical site with imposing landscape where visitors stop to enjoy the natural scenery.

Tam Thanh Grotto (Thanh Ward, Lang Son City) features a poem by Ngo Thi Si carved on the grotto wall praising the magnificent natural beauty of the area. Tam Thanh Grotto is one of the famous grottoes in Lang Son, lying west of Ky Lua Street. Its door is approximately eight meters high, opening to a corridor with 30 stone steps carved into the mountain. There are dense groves hiding the grotto from the sun. Poet Ngo Thi Si (1726 - 1780) carved one of his texts on the grotto wall while he was a Mandarin guard in Lang Son. The poem praises the magnificent natural beauty of the area, more specifically the sound of the water stream falling on hundreds of rocks, almost like a graceful murmur. Vong Phu Mountain, meaning "waiting for a husband," is located nearby. Here, one can explore a grotto with marvelous stalactites and a statue of Buddha.

Nhi Thanh Grotto (in Nhi Thanh Street, approximately one kilometer from the Lang Son City) is 600 meters long. On the cliffs at the entrance are 20 inscriptions that are precious historical and literary documents, including autographs of famous scholars. The statue of scholar Ngo Thi Sy on the cliff engraved in 1779 is a precious work of art. The grotto has numerous stalactites and stalagmites in different shapes. Above the grotto is Tam Giao Pagoda, which was built in 1779. The pagoda is dedicated to Confucian, Buddha and Laotze. Tam Giao Pagoda and Nhi Thanh Grotto is one of the eight sites that attract a large number of visitors in Lang Son.


BAC KAN PROVINCE (166 kilometers north of Hanoi) covers 4,859.4 square kilometers and is home to 296,500 people (2010). The capital is Bac Kan Town. The largest ethnic groups in the province are the Viet (Kinh), Tay, Hmong, Dao. Districts: Ba Be, Ngan Son, Cho Don, Na Ri, Cho Moi, Bach Thong, Pac Nam. Bac Kan Town is 166 kilometers from Hanoi. It is located on the Hanoi - Cao Bang inter-provincial No. 3.

Bac Kan is a mountainous province, sharing its border with Cao Bang Province to the north, Tuyen Quang Province to the west, Lang Son Province to the south-east, and Thai Nguyen Province to the south. The topography is mainly midland, mountainous. The province has a complex network of rivers and springs. There are two seasons: dry and cold lasts from April to October and hot and rainy from November to December. The cold season lasts longer in the north region. The annual average temperature is 25 degrees C. The annual rainfall is about 1,400 millimeters- 1,800 millimeters. The weather has drizzling rain and high humidity in March, April and August.

Bac Kan has mineral resources and forests. Interesting sights include Ba Be National Park, Dau Dang Waterfall, Ba Be Lake, Puong Cave. Bac Kan was a cradle of the Vietnam revolution so it has many revolutionary sites such as the ATK. Bac Kan is famous for Ba Be Lake Spring Festival which features many rituals and activities such as boat racing, wrestling, dancing and nem con (colorful ball throwing). The festival attracts a lot of people around the region.

Nam Xuan Lac Nature Reserve is located in Xuan Lac, Ban Thi and Dong Lac communes (Cho Don district, Bac Kan province) with the forest area of 25.5 square kilometers within a strict protected zone.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Nam Xuan Lac Nature Reserve has plant and animal resources with many rare species listed in Viet Nam Red Book and IUCN Red List, such as: Black Monkey, Assam Macaque (Macaca assamensis), Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), Lesser Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus),, White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus)... and other rare and precious plants. [Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

It also preserves Burretiodendron hsienmu hundred-year primitive forests in combination with cultural, historical and ecological tourist sites such as Na Da waterfall, Nghien cave, special mountainous hamlets villages of Mong, Dao, Tay ethnic minorities; and a system of hundred-year mining road system built by the French, French housing, cable-car system to carry ore from the top of mountain to be down... still be maintained quite the status quo which are evidences for a historical period associated with the biggest zinc lead mine in Viet Nam and the French workers’ generation under the French colony.

Ba Be National Park

Ba Be National Park (70 kilometers northwest from Bac Kan Town and 250 kilometers north of Hanoi) covers an area of 7,610 hectares and has 3,000 inhabitants of the Tay, Mong and Dao ethnic groups living there. The national park boasts primeval forest on an old limestone range that surrounds clear water lakes. The park contains 1,281 species of plants including 162 families, among which 25 species have so far been recorded in the Red List of The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources-IUCN. The fauna of national park is include 81 species of animals, 27 species of reptiles, 17 species of amphibians, 322 species of birds, 106 species of fishes, 553 species of insects and spiders, of which 66 species has been listed in Vietnam and World Red Book such as Great hornbill (Phuong hoang dat), Rhinopithecus avunculus (Vooc mui hech), Presbytis francoisi francoisi (Vooc den ma trang).

Ba Be Lake cover 500 hectares and is home to 106 species of freshwater fishes,including rare species such as Ba Be paramesotriton deloustali (ca coc), Bagarius yarrelli sykes (ca chien), ca lam xanh, ca sinh ga In addition to Ba Be Lake, the national park has tourist spots such as Puong Grotto, Dau Dang Waterfall, Tien Pond, Ba Be National Park is situated in Ba Be District, Bac Kan Province.

Ba Be National Park is located in the Northwest of Ba Be district in five communes: Nam Mau, Khang Ninh, Cao Thuong, Quang Khe, Cao Tri (Ba Be district, Bac Kan province) and embrcaes 105 square kilometers. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Ba Be National Park is considered as the most important and meaningful natural habitat for biodiversity conservation and it is also a home of many rare endangered flora and fauna. The forest cover of Ba Be contains a typical sample of limestone vegetation and is scarce in other countries in the region. [Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

In Ba Be National Park, there are over 1,800 living species of flora and fauna, including endemic species such as: Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), Francois’ Leaf Langur (Semnopithecus f. francoisi), Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), Lesser Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides), Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Banded civet (Chrotogale owstoni), Clouded Leopard (Padofelis nebulosa), Sumatran Serow (Naemohedus sumatraensis), Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus), Tam Dao Salamander (Paramesotriton deloustali)... and other rare plants. Inside Ba Be National Park, Ba Be Lake is 150 meters above sea level. Ba Be Lake is 450 hectares width; formed about 10,000 years ago, from 17 to 23 meters average depth, the deepest is 35 meters, which contains about 90 million cubic meters of water. On the clear green lake are Karts Islands, around the lake is the evergreen tropical forest on limestone and is an important living habitat of rare plants and animals, at the same time, also creates beautiful natural scenery in the mountains and forests. So far, many beautifully caves in the area have been discovered which are extremely esthetic. Dau Dang waterfall is a famous landscape with 53 meters height, pouring water of the entire alley of Nang River down from the height of 85 meters which captivated people’s hearts.

Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area

Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is located in Bac Kan and Tuyen Quang provinces. And consists of four main parts: 1) Ba Be National Park (Ba Be district, Bac Kan province); 2) Nam Xuan Lac Nature Reserve (Cho Don district, Bac Kan province); 3) Na Hang Nature Reserve (Na Hang district, Tuyen Quang province); and 4) Lam Binh Protection Forest (Lam Binh district, Tuyen Quang province).[Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area with majestic mountains, numerous caves, waterfalls and landscapes, is converged by Gam River, Nang River and which is also famous for Ba Be Lake on karst mountain. It becomes a land of inspiration associated with the myths of humanity, where variety ethnic communities live together in harmony with wild nature. It has a lot of special cultures, which absolutely attracts researchers and visitors to visit and learn about heritage values. The interference of different ethnic cultures creates a fascination with indeed traditional indigenous cultures of the Tay, Nung, Dao, Mong, Pa Then ethnic minorities... In Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area, it can be found many magnificent natural caves with high aestheticism in which many caves still exist the mark of human development history over 10,000 years (Tham Thinh cave and Puong cave, Tien cave-Ba Be district, Phia Vai cave-Lam Binh district, Phia Muon cave-Na Hang district).

In addition to the value of biodiversity, this area is also the home of wild marvelous natural scenery. That is: Immense and vast but quiet Ba Be Lake amidst thousands of mountains and forests, it is a natural freshwater lake formed about 10,000 years ago in the karst mountains with the most unique form of the world. This is the convergence of two rivers: Gam River and Nang River with majestic mountains with countless beautiful natural attractions, such as Thuong Lam where 99 mountains have gone into poetry and legendary, it is like "Ha Long Bay on land amidst mountains and forests".

The highlight of the heritage site is the magnificent limestone towers together with the system of the vault-shaped, most special dome and caves in the World which are covered by the primary rainforests all year round. Up to now, we have discovered over 20 high aesthetic beautiful caves (Puong cave, Tien cave-Ba Be district, Song Long cave-Lam Binh district ...). The tossing marvelous clear white streams touch people’s hearts (Dau Dang waterfall, Khuoi Nhi waterfall...).

Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is considered to be a high priority area for conservation of Viet Nam and the World with many valuable and rare species of flora and fauna, details as follows: 1) Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is a magnificent sculpture of nature. Thousands of big and small limestone mountains together with Gam River, Nang River, Ba Be Lake create a wild picturesque scenery with thousands of shapes. Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is still kept as primary natural features and not deteriorated despite the presence of human beings for a long time. The prominent features of Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area are magnificent limestone towers together with the system of the vault-shaped, most special dome and caves in the World which are covered by the primary rainforests all year round. 2) Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is the World's Biodiversity Center with many rare and valuable species of global classified by the IUCN. Of these, 85 species of rare animals and plants are listed in the Viet Nam Red Book and the IUCN Red Lists. Specially, two species of Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) and Francois’ Leaf Langur (Semnopithecus f. francoisi) are particularly endangered species which are being concentrated by the World protection. In particular, the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) is considered as the valuable global conservation importance by the IUCN. Moreover, there are also many plant and animal species ranked as the Critically Endangered (CR) Species by IUCN.

Wildlife in Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area is a typical area of primeval forest on limestone mountains with abundant and diverse fauna and flora; this area also holds many biodiversity values. In particular, rare species of plants can be referred to as Kim Tuyen orchid (Anoectochilus setaceus), Hoang Dan (Cupressus tonkinensis D. Don/Cupressus tonkinensis Silba), Kim Giao (Nageia fleuryi), Bamboo pine (Podocarpus), Pa Co pine (Pinus fenzeliana)...; animals with Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), Francois’ Leaf Langur (Semnopithecus f. francoisi), White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus), Chestnus-necklaced Partridge (A.Charltonii), Silver Pheasant (Lophura nycthemera), Grey Peacock Pheasant (Polyplectron bicalcaratum), Brown Hornbill (Anorrhinus tickelli), Phoenix, Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), Lesser Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides), Pig-tailed Macaque (Macaca nemestrina), Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus), Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), Banded civet (Chrotogale owstoni), Golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), Clouded Leopard (Padofelis nebulosa), Sumatran Serow (Naemohedus sumatraensis), Tam Dao Salamander (Paramesotriton deloustali), Ram xanh fish (Sinilabeo lemassoni), Anh Vu fish (Semilabeo notabilis)… Especially, the Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey has been listed in the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which contains global extinction risk. This has become a high priority area for conservation of Viet Nam and the World. [Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

The forest flora of the area is characterized by the tropical forest ecosystems on land mountains and limestone mountains. The species composition of the flora is extremely abundant. According to research results, the flora of this area has 4 branches with a total of 1,162 plant species belonging to 614 genera and 159 families; with many valuable and rare plants listed in the Red Book of Viet Nam as well as abundantly worth and uncommon species of plants such as: Excentrodendron tonkinense, Garcinia fagraeoides A.Chev, Cinnadenia paniculata, Madhuca pasquieri, Manglietia fordiana, Aquilaria crassna, Parashorea chinensis, Sargentodoxa cuneata, Calamus platyacant… Besides, there are also some famous rare and worth species of Northern flora of Viet Nam, such as: Chukrasia tabularis A.Juss, Hopea ferrea, Fagaceae, De xanh, Aglaia spectabilis, Magnolia hypolampra and other high valuable wood with large quantity.

In particular, the medicinal plants in the area are also abundant and diverse as the families of Asteraceae, Acanthopanax aculeatus, Lamiaceae, Apocynaceae, Acanthaceae, Rubiaceae, Fabaceae… Large quantity families including Polygonatum Kingianum Coll.Et Hemsl, Lasia spinosa, Homalomena occulta, Stemona tuberose, Smilax glabra, Stephania, Dioscorea hamiltonii, Loranthaceae… Other forest resources besides wood are Bamboo and Neohouzeaua. Most of them have high use value, such as: Bambusa bambos/Bambusa blumeana, Bamboo, Indosasa angustata, Indosasa parvifolia, Bambusa textilis, Storks, Chimonobambusa microfloscula, Schizostachyum pseudolima, Schizostachyum funghomii... There are bamboo forests which not only have their own use value but also be objects of scientific researches.

Threatened plant species are threatened with extinction listed 48 species, including 4 Critical Endangered, 18 Lower Risk, 14 Rare, 05 Threatened and 07 Near-threatened species. Typical species are Dracrydium elatum (Roxb), Nageia Wallichiana (C.Presl.) Kuntze, Garcinia fagraeoides A.Chev, Chukrasia tabularis A.Juss and Excentrodendron tonkinense (Gagnep)...

According to research results, there are about 730 species of fauna in the area including: Mammals (Mammalia): There are 88 species (accounting for 68.2% of the total species in the fauna of the whole region) of 25 families and 8 orders considered, of which 18 species are listed in the Viet Nam Red Book and 15 species in the IUCN Red List. Birds (Aves): There are 294 bird species (accounting for 68.2% of total species in the fauna of the whole region) of 25 families and 8 orders considered, of which 18 species are listed in the Viet Nam Red Book and 06 species in the IUCN Red List. Amphibians (Amphibia) and Reptiles (Reptilia): There are 30 species of reptiles and 18 species of amphibians, including one in the Viet Nam Red Book and 03 reptiles in the IUCN Red List.

Besides, there are 300 kinds of butterflies in the area, over 40 species of bats, many species of fishes and aquatic species distributing in the communes of Ba Be-Na Hang Natural Heritage Area including Paramesotrition deloustali listed in the IUCN Red List. There are 37 rare and endangered species, of which endemic species are currently in danger of extinction, namely: According to the Viet Nam Red Book, there are 37 species including: Endangered (E): 06 species, Vulnerable (V): 23 species, Rare (R): 07 species, Threatened (T): 01 species. According to the IUCN Red List, there are 23 species including: Critical Endangered (CR): 01 species of Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), 05 Endangered (E) species, 11 Vulnerable (V) species, Near-threatened (NT): 06 species. In particular, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) is a species of IUCN listed in the Critically Endangered Species (CR) of an importance global conservation.


CAO BANG PROVINCE (270 kilometers north of Hanoi) is another mountainous province that shares a border with China (in this case almost 320 kilometers) and is home to Tai, Nung, Hmong and Dao ethnic minorities. Attractions include market with exotic items, minority villages, limestone mountains, 100-foot-high Giac Falls, wild orchids, BeBe national park, and horses. The Tai (Tay) group makes up a large portion of they population. They have own handwriting (Tay-Nung language group). Their village festivals feature vi and then singing. Some of the highest mountains here receive snow.

Cao Bang covers 6,724.6 square kilometers and is home to 513,100 people (2010). The largest ethnic groups in the province are the Viet (Kinh), Tay, Nung, Dao, Hmong and San Chay. The capital is Cao Bang City. Districts: Bao Lac, Bao Lam, Ha Quang, Thong Nong, Tra Linh, Trung Khanh, Nguyen Binh, Hoa An, Phuc Hoa, Quang Uyen, Ha Lang, Thach An.

Cao Bang Province is located in the far northeast of Vietnam. It shares borders with China on the north and east, Bac Kan and Lang Son provinces on the south, and Ha Giang and Tuyen Quang provinces on the west. The topography is complicated so inter-transportation is limited. Cao Bang has temperate climate. There are four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter. The average temperature is 25 - 28 degrees C in summer and 16 -17 degrees C in winter. Snow sometimes falls in winter on high mountains such as Trung Khanh, Tra Linh. The cool weather combines with many high mountains to create beautiful wintertime scenery.

Sights in Cao Bang Province include Thang Hen Mountainous Lake in Tra Linh, Ban Gioc Fall and Nguom Ngao Cave in Trung Khanh. Ban Gioc Fall is among the most beautiful waterfalls in Vietnam. Several sites where Uncle Ho lived and worked before the August 1945 Revolution include Pac Bo, Coc Bo Cave, Lenin Stream, and Khuoi Nam Stream. Traditional festivals such as the Long Tong Festival and Inviting the-Moon-Mother Festival (Moi Me Trang) and important to specific ethnic groups. Getting to Cao Bang Province Cao Bang is 272 kilometers north of Hanoi following National Highway No.3. Cao Bang has National Highway No.4B and 3 linking to Lang Son, Bac Kan, Ha Giang provinces and to China. There are direct buses from Hanoi, Thai Nguyen and Lang Son.

Natural Spots in Cao Bang Province

Phja Den (240 kilometers from Hanoi) is a natural area with the total area of 24,631 hectares in Thanh Cong, Phan Thanh, Quang Thanh communes, Tinh Tuc Townlet of Nguyen Binh District. Located at an elevation of between 1,000 and 2000 meters above the sea level, it is rich in plant and animal life, high mountainous terrain, caves, and large tracts of primitive forest. Rare fauna includes knootweed, false ginseng, black chics. Phja Den was used as a vacation spot by the French. A few French weekend villas and compounds have been preserved. The Dao ethnic group has villages in this area.

Thang Hen Lake (about 20 kilometers from Cao Bang Town) is situated at a height of 1,000 meters above the sea level and regarded as one of the 36 most beautiful mountain lakes in Vietnam. Rows of trees rising from steep cliffs are reflecting in the blue water. The lake has basin shape with the length of over 500 meters and the width of 300 meters. On the far side of the lake is a large cave from which a water source runs out day and night. In the rainy season, while the other lakes turn reddish, the water in Thang Hen Lake is still clear and blue. In the dry season, the water level drops by about 10 meters. Near by Thang Hen Lake is Thanh Luong lake, in the middle of which rises a very beautiful mountain. Thang Hen Lake is located in Quoc Toan Commune, Tra Linh District. From Cao Bang Town, go to Hoa An District (19 kilometers) by the Nation Road 3, turn left along Road 205 for about five kilometers, then turn left 3-4 kilometers to reach Thang Hen Lake, east of Cao Bang Province.

Pac Bo Cave

Pac Bo Cave (accessible from Cao Bang Town, 350 kilometers north of Hanoi) is known nationwide as a revolutionary resistance base. Located in Trung Hoa Commune, Ha Quang District, it is set amid rice fields, green mountains, small hamlets with dozens of houses on-stilts under the shade of towering clusters of peach trees, and the winding streams with thatch-roofed bridges. The main historical sites in this area consist of Pac Bo, Coc Bo, Bo Bam Cave, Lenin Stream, Karl Marx Mountain, Co Rac Ground and Khuoi Nam. The famous Coc Bo Cave is where Ho Chi Minh established his residence and worked on Vietnam’s revolutionary course after returning from 30 years abroad.

Walking on the rocks along the side of the stream, where Uncle Ho used to work and fish, visitors reach a wooden bridge over Coc Bo rivulet where Lenin Stream starts. The water is clear, cool and so tranquil that one can see the fish and pebbles on its bed and the green watercress in the water. Beyond the bridge is the place where Uncle Ho often cooked soup with vegetable and bamboo shoots. By the side of a rugged rocky mountain is Pac Po Cave. Looking down into the cave from its mouth, you can see the words "February 8th, 1941" written by Uncle Ho on the wall. That was the day he came to live in this small cave, a wet and cold place lying deep in a mountain gorge that nobody paid much attention to.

Inside the cave there is a wooden board as a bed for Uncle Ho. In this place, Uncle Ho, in the simple dress of the Nung ethnic group, often sat by the fire at night to talk with his assistant Pham Van Dong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Phung Chi Kien... about the situations at home and abroad. Here, Uncle Ho predicted: "In four or five years, the Vietnamese revolution will be successful." His words became true. On September 2nd, 1945 the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the first State of workers and peasants in Asia, came into being. One night when staying in this cave, General Vo Nguyen Giap was advised by Uncle Ho: "Undertaking revolutionary activities requires di cong vi thuong which means, common benefits must be put above all". His teachings were short, clear and precise as a truth, but to implement them were not easy.

About one kilometer from the mouth of Pac Bo Cave, there is a small shack by the side of Khuoi Nam Mountain. In this shack Uncle Ho held the eighth Party Central Committee Meeting, which promulgated a resolution on preparations for the armed insurrection and the establishment of the Viet Minh and the revolutionary war zone. Adjacent to the shack is milestone 108 marking the Vietnam-China border, where 59 years ago, Uncle Ho bowed to kiss the beloved land of his country, after many years living abroad. At that time he was 50 years old with grey hair.

Ban Gioc Waterfall

Ban Gioc Waterfall (89 kilometers north of Cao Bang Town) is regarded as the most beautiful waterfall in Vietnam. The waterfall originates from Quay Son River. On the Viet Nam side, the river has a picturesque scenery, fresh environment with grass cover, evergreen forest, bobbing white clouds mingling with the peaceful atmosphere of villages of mountainous ethnic minorities. On the other side is the neighboring country of China.

With a height of 53 meters and a width of 300 meters, the waterfall is divided into 3 layers consisting of small and large upper flows. Large water blocks fall into limestone steps, making a curtain of white sprays. From the distance, visitors can hear the roaring of waterfall echoing through a large area. Rising from middle of the waterfall is a large water mound covered with trees, splitting the river into three spouts that look lie three white silk strips. At the foot of the waterfall is a large river that is calm as glass surrounded by many precious flowers. On hot summer days, it is still cool here. Every early morning, the sun shines through steam creating a sparkling rainbow. Ban Gioc waterfall is situated in Dam Thuy Commune, Trung Khanh District,

Nguom Ngao Cave (three kilometers from Ban Gioc Waterfall) is located in Gun Village, Dam Thuy Commune, Trung Khanh District. Considered one of the most beautiful caves in northeast of Vietnam, it was discovered in 1921 by local people and opened to tourists in 1996. Over 2,144 meters in length, Nguom Ngao cave has three main entrances with 900 meters open to tourists. Visiting cave, tourists come in Nguom Luom entrance and go out Nguom Ngao entrance.

Inside the cave, visitors will be dazzled by seven-colored stalactites hanging down from high stone cliffs. Nature is clever to create stone statues of which some look like human bodies, some look like forest plant, animals, a fairy combining her hair or a lotus bulb, etc. Since 2006, an asphalted road from Highway 206 was built to Nguom Ngao site and cement ways spreading inside cave combined with light systems.


TUYEN QUANG PROVINCE (165 kilometers from Hanoi) covers 5,870.4 square kilometers and is home to 728,900 people (2010). The capital is Tuyen Quang City. Districts: Na Hang, Chiem Hoa, Ham Yen, Yen Son, Son Duong, Lam Binh. The largest ethnic groups in the province are the Viet (Kinh),Tay, Dao and San Chay. Situated on Far-North East, Tuyen Quang Province is surrounded by Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Yen Bai, Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc provinces. The province is on National Highway No.2: Hanoi- Viet Tri- Tuyen Quang- Ha Giang.

Mountains occupy almost the entire area of the province. The main rivers are Lo and Gam.Influenced by tropical climate, the summer is very hot. There are two seasons: dry and rainy. Annual average temperature is 24 degrees C. Tuyen Quang has over 300 historical and cultural sites. Tan Trao Historical Site is the site of a resistance base before the August 1945 Revolution. The main places of interest include Tan Trao Communal House, Hong Thai Communal House and small jungle hut where President Ho Chi Minh lived from June to August 1945. Na Hang Primitive Forest is home toof valuable fauna and flora such as dinh, mun (ebony trees), sen (bassia), panthers, flying squirrels, antelope, and upturned-nosed monkey.The sounds of the waterfall, birds and gibbons, and silver light going through the thick layers in Thac Mo (Mo Waterfall) provide enjoyable feeling for visitors.

Mo Waterfall (100 kilometers from Tuyen Quang town), or Thac Mo, means “Dream Waterfall.” Located in Na Hang Natural Reserve in Na Hang District, the waterfall has silver hues and is composed of three layers. To reach the second layer, visitors have to climb up 100 meters by a rope ladder. At the foot of the second layer, there is a small and pure lake. Here, visitors will see the imposing landscape with the caves, which have beautiful stalactites and stalagmites. The water flows slowly through the green moss-covered rocks, which look like a velvet rug. Climbing upwards, visitors reach the third layer. Here the water pours down very strongly and there are panoramic views of Na Hang Town, which is surrounded by 99 mountains. The sounds of the waterfall mixes with sounds of birds and gibbons, The road to Thac Mo is convenient. One can hear the noise of water pouring far from above. The closer visitors draw to the waterfall, the cooler they feel. Visitors can take a small boat to reach the waterfall.

Na Hang Nature Reserve

Na Hang Nature Reserve (110 kilometers northeast of Tuyen Quang, 270 kilometers northwest of Hanoi) is located in the South-East of Na Hang district and occupies a special-use forest that covers an area of 212.4 square kilometers four communes and one town: Thanh Tuong, Son Phu, Khau Tinh, Con Lon and Na Hang town (Na Hang district, Tuyen Quang province)..

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Na Hang Nature Reserve is characterized by the bow-shaped topography of Lo-Gam Limestone Mountains in the Northeast of Viet Nam, at stretch-accumulated mountains following the Northwest-Southeast direction. Its terrain has a complex karst structure with many caves. The average height is 400m, the average slope is 250-300. The lowest point has an absolute height of 120m (the riverside area of Gam River has its highest peak is 1,074.2m (Khau Tep peak in Khau Tinh commune). [Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

Land and soil of Na Hang Nature Reserve are quite variety and divided into many groups, land types and soil are good, which are suitable for many kinds of forestry plants, specialty trees (tea, cinnamon...) providing high productivity. It is a cool climate here, especially in elevation areas from 800m to above; temperate climate is well matched many tropical and subtropical plants, as well as many living animals’ habitat.

According to the study results, Na Hang Nature Reserve’s vegetation consists of seven main vegetation types: (1) Evergreen rainforest on limestone at the elevations over 700 meters; (2) Evergreen rainforest on limestone at the elevations lower 700 meters; (3) Evergreen tropical lowland scrub; (4) Tropical low-lying grassland; (5) Forestry plants; (6) Short-term agricultural plants; (7) Long-term agricultural crops.

In recent years, Tuyen Quang province has made much effort to protect Na Hang Nature Reserve as a model of the wildlife sanctuary. Therefore, there are nearly 2,000 species of animals and plants living in Na Hang special-use forest, including rare and precious plant and animal species listed in the Viet Nam Red Book and the World. Fauna is including Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus) which is listed as a “Critical Endanger” by IUCN and species: Francois’ Leaf Langur (Semnopithecus f. francoisi), Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang), Lesser Slow Loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus), Stump-tailed Macaque (Macaca arctoides), Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina), Banded civet (Chrotogale owstoni), Clouded Leopard (Padofelis nebulosa), Sumatran Serow (Naemohedus sumatraensis), Tam Dao Salamander (Paramesotriton deloustali), Golden cat (Catopuma temminckii), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Particolored Flying Squirrel (Hylopetes alboniger), White-eared Night Heron (Gorsachius magnificus), Wood Snipe (Gallinago nemoricola), Big-headed Turtle (Platystern megacephalum), Black-breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda spengleri)… and other rare plants.

Lam Binh Protection Forest

Lam Binh Protection Forest is located in three communes — Thuong Lam, Khuon Ha and Lang Can — in Lam Binh district, Tuyen Quang province and covers an area of 198.3 square kilometers. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Lam Binh Nature Protection Forest not only plays an important natural ecological environment, in which is living habitat for many animal species watershed protection forest, but also be a riverhead protection forest to keep, regulate water source for protecting soil, preventing soil erosion, and providing irrigation water of lower-landed agricultural activities. [Source: Vietnam National Commission for UNESCO]

Lam Binh Protected Natural Forest has plant and animal resources with many rare species listed in the Viet Nam Red Book and the World. Beside the value of biodiversity, Lam Binh Protection Forest is evaluated by marvelous natural scenery, such as Thuong Lam area with 99 legendary stretched mountains described in poetry and legend, that is compared with "Ha Long Bay on land admist mountains and forests"; beautiful caves such as Song Long cave with magical stalactites, Phia Vai cave where archaeologists have discovered ancient Vietnamese burial relics dated over 10,000 years ago.

This place also concentrates different cultural nuances of highland ethnic minorities such as Phuc Lam Pagoda and Pu Bao Temple which have been ranked as national heritage Sites by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Viet Nam, traditional villages of Tay, Dao, Pa Then ethnic groups... including a house-on-stilt village of Tay ethnic cultural village in Na Tong, hundreds of houses on stilts of Thuong Lam commune also preserves both high conservation value and potential tourism to contribute community development for improving the living standard of local people.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

Last updated August 2020

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