Meo Vac, Vietnam

    Nestled in far Northern Vietnam, Méo Vac is a neighboring district and town to Dông Van. Small in size and extremely remote, Méo Vac is slowly but steadily becoming a tourist destination for adventurous travelers. Lacking the overwhelming noise and light of big cities, the town of Méo Vac is a true “off the beaten path” destination.

    Switching out chaos for calm, travelers in Méo Vac will discover one of Vietnam’s last untouched landscapes. An opportunity to reconnect with nature, Méo Vac rewards visitors with jaw-dropping views that few others have ever seen.

    Rural Town and District in Hà Giang Province

    Méo Vac is both a rural town and district in Northeastern Vietnam. Part of the Hà Giang Province, the district’s boundary is neighbors to Dông Van, and it meets Vietnam’s border with China. The town of Méo Vac is not too far from the border either and is the district’s capital.

    meo vac, vietnam

    View of the rural landscape around Méo Vac, Vietnam. Photo by: fabulousfabs.

    Additionally, there are 17 communes within the greater district. Covering an area of 574 sq km (222 sq mi ), Méo Vac is one of four districts that make up the Dông Van Karst Plateau Geopark.

    Close to Méo Vac is the Mã Pí Lèng Pass, which winds through the mountains for about 22 kilometers (14 miles). The pass connects Méo Vac to Dông Van, and it is one of the area’s most famous landmarks. Some travelers may be coming from Hanoi, which is 9 and ½ hours to the south.

    Méo Vac’s remote location can only be accessed by private car or public bus as there are currently no services to Méo Vac by train or plane.

    History

    Méo Vac is within the boundaries of the Dông Van Karst Plateau Geopark, which means that the land around the town was formed millions of years ago. About 550 million years ago – to be exact. Méo Vac’s impressive landscape is made of steep limestone karsts and deep valleys, which is a major reason for the increase in tourism in modern Méo Vac.

    During the days of French colonization, the area became home to a small group of French soldiers. Settling mostly in the nearby Dông Van, a few soldiers also found their way to Méo Vac. Today, remains of the past still stand as a few of the town’s homes have been preserved from when they were built in the mid to late 1920s.

    meo vac, vietnam

    Hmong girls heading home from the weekly market. Photo: Peter Garnhum

    Not much else stands from the days of colonization and a re-shaping of the area’s history has been used to highlight the local ethnic people. Dozens of culturally different groups of people have lived in and around Méo Vac for centuries. The dominant group is the Hmong people, which have roots throughout Northern Vietnam.

    Even today, the town of Méo Vac celebrates its ethnic culture by hosting homestays and festivals. For a peek into some of Vietnam’s diverse culture, Méo Vac is definitely a friendly destination where travelers can meet and interact with locals.

    Fun Facts

    • From a census done in 2019, an estimated 86,000 people live in the Méo Vac District
    • Elevations in Méo Vac range from 1,000 to 1,500 meters (3,280 to 4,921 feet)
    • Méo Vac has been nicknamed by travelers as Vietnam’s “Final Frontier”

    Main Attractions

    meo vac, vietnam

    Meo Vac town seen from viewpoint. Photo:

    Small but mighty, Méo Vac has several attractions within the area that guests can explore during their trip around Northern Vietnam. The majority of activities revolve around nature, so tourists should be prepared to head out into the wild. Activities in town or in the nearby villages are based on learning a different way of life and experiencing a new culture.

    With various options, visitors can easily spend a few days journeying around Méo Vac.

    Drive the Pass

    Méo Vac’s premier attraction is the Mã Pí Lèng Pass. Reaching an altitude of 1,500 meters (4,921 feet), the pass connects Méo Vac to Dông Van. Considered to be more than a pass, this scenic route is a huge part of tourism in both areas. Travelers are often eager to drive the twisting roads and stop at the summit where there is a small lookout.

    meo vac, vietnam

    Gentle section of the Mã Pí Lèng Pass in Méo Vac, Vietnam. Photo by: Gavin White.

    Surrounded by green mountains and bordered by sheer cliffs, the Mã Pí Lèng Pass is a thrilling adventure for brave souls.

    Hike in Méo Vac

    If driving all the way to Méo Vac is not your cup of tea, travelers can also go on foot and take the Jubo Trail into town. Rated as a difficult hike, the Jubo Trail stretches for 14.8 kilometers (9.2 miles) and it takes hikers through beautiful terrain. Furthermore, you will also have the chance to see some of Méo Vac’s unique wildlife.

    For those who want a shorter trail, there are many options around town. A few trails loop around Méo Vac and others head to the district’s remote villages. Local guides can help travelers pick a trail that matches suit with their trekking skills and timeline. A few guided tours have multi-day trekking packages, which is an option for travelers who want to explore the most remote areas.

    Visit the Sam Pun Port

    Situated along the border with China and not too far from Méo Vac is the Sam Pun Port. Used by locals to trade and transport goods, the port is built on the banks of the Nho Que River. Active today, many visitors travel to the port to see how it operates and to view the beautiful river.

    Enter the Dragon Cave

    Located in the Ta Lung and Pa Vi communes of the Méo Vac District, the Dragon Cave is the largest underground system in the Dông Van Karst Plateau Geopark. With the tallest chambers measuring in at about 30 meters (100 feet), visitors will be able to view underground lakes, streams, large stalactites, and bats.

    The road to the cave is also exceptionally beautiful as it passes through epic karsts and agricultural terraces. Nearby in the Lower Pa Vi Village, the Nhim Cave is another cavern that has impressive stalactites and streams.

    Shop at the Local Market

    meo vac, vietnam

    A day at the Méo Vac Market in Méo Vac, Vietnam. Photo by: fabulousfabs.

    Selling local and handmade goods, the markets in Méo Vac are some of the best in the area and certainly the best in the district. There are various markets throughout the week, and it is guaranteed that from Monday to Sunday, there will at least be one place open that sells local goods.

    Some of the most popular markets that are held throughout the week in Méo Vac include Central, Pa Vay Su, Xin Man, Then Phang, Nan Xin, and Coc Pai Market.

    Tour the Chung Pua Village

    Dating back to 300 years ago, the Chung Pua Village was built by the ethnic Hmong people. For centuries, locals have lived in the village and now, it’s open to visitors. Almost like an open-air museum, the village is a popular destination where visitors can view ancient Vietnamese architecture like the traditional yin-yang tiled roofs and thick pinewood pillars.

    Accommodation

    As a smaller community, there are fewer accommodation options for travelers to stay the night in Méo Vac. The good news is that of the handful of hotels and hostels in town, all are well-rated, and they have very affordable nightly rates. Accommodation options in Méo Vac include small hotels, hostels, and homestays.

    Méo Vac Clay House – Located in town, the Méo Vac Clay House is a hotel and hostel that has some of the highest ratings from previous guests. Functioning as a bed and breakfast, the hotel has an onsite restaurant, bar, and lounge that caters to its guests. Breakfast is served every day à la carte or American style.

    meo vac, vietnam

    The Clay House exterior. Photo: Meo Vac Clay House

    The hotel garden and sun terrace are communal areas that guests can enjoy; weather permitting. Rooms at the hotel are very affordable and guests have the option of sleeping in a dorm or private bed.

    Thao Linh Motel – A few minutes outside of Méo Vac in the Mia Xu commune, the Thao Linh Motel is a quiet property that is excellent for traveling families. With a garden, terrace, and free Wi-Fi, guests have the option to spread out and enjoy having a little more space. All rooms at the Thao Linh Hotel come with a private bathroom and closet.

    For less expensive nightly rates, guests can choose to share a bathroom, though they would still have access to a private room.

    Méo Vac Valley – A favorite amongst international travelers, the Méo Vac Valley Hotel has a little bit of everything to keep its guests happy and entertained. Aside from clean rooms with private and dorm options, the hotel has BBQ and karaoke facilities. Free Wi-Fi is provided to all guests and there is a 24-hour front desk for safety. Breakfast is served in a traditional Asian style or à la carte.

    Homestay with Locals – Another option for guests who want a more authentic experience would be to arrange a homestay at any of the local communes. Homestays are a popular choice for many travelers who wish to integrate themselves into the local lifestyle. Guests can book a homestay for a single night or spend multiple nights with a family. There are homestay options throughout the Méo Vac District with many families being very happy to accommodate tired travelers.

    Dining

    In Méo Vac, there aren’t a lot of international options, but that almost makes the food better since locally sourced ingredients are fresher. A favorite dish amongst locals is the sticky rice, which is served as 5 different colored dishes in Méo Vac. Visitors can also try local meals like grilled moss and handmade noodles.

    meo vac, vietnam

    Breakfast at the market. Photo: Theo G N

    Thanh Phuong Restaurant – Versatile and friendly to all travelers, the Thang Phuong Restaurant has a diverse menu that includes vegetarian and vegan options. The food is fresh, and the friendly staff ensures that the good word spreads amongst foreign travelers. Thanh Phuong is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    Mr. Hung Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar – For a break from the local cuisine, travelers should try the pasta and pizza at Mr. Hung Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar. Menu prices are affordable and there are vegetarian or vegan options. The attentive staff also add to the experience as good service always makes for happy customers.

    Serving a variety of food, the restaurant opens for breakfast and stays open for evening service.

    May Co Restaurant – Designed to be “pick and choose”, patrons can pick their ingredients and watch as it is fried up in front of them. Common dishes at this restaurant include rice or noodles with a side of meat and vegetables. Though, vegetarians and vegans can rejoice they can simply skip the meat to make a tasty dish.

    The restaurant’s central location in town also makes it an excellent choice for travelers who want to grab a quick bite before heading off for the day.

    Special Events

    One of the special events held just outside of Méo Vac in the Khau Vai Commune is the Love Market, which has garnered international attention for its unique customs and beliefs. While most days of the year the market operates without much fuss, but all of that changes during the third lunar month.

    On the 27th day of that month, the market becomes a place where locals gather to find love as well as exchange goods and products. In a bid to increase tourism in the area, local officials have integrated the market into their Khau Vai Culture and Tourism Week.

    Transportation

    meo vac, vietnam

    Bamboo bridge crossing. Photo: fabulousfabs

    The main ways to get around Méo Vac are by walking or taking a taxi. A few people may choose to rent a motorbike if they feel comfortable driving themselves, but most would prefer to just pay a driver. In Méo Vac town, visitors can safely walk around the streets as most things are situated close together.

    Taxis can be used to travel to some of the nearby communes or to get from Méo Vac to Dông Van. Taxis can be expensive, depending on where you want to go, but travelers can get the best rates by asking their accommodation to pre-arrange a ride for less.

    Weather

    Méo Vac’s elevated mountain location means that unlike most of Vietnam, the town has 4 seasons throughout the year. Normally, Vietnam is known for having two – a wet and a dry, but in the northern parts of the country, the temperatures can drastically drop come wintertime. The off-season in Méo Vac spans for most of the year as tourism drops from January to September.

    Better weather conditions start in October and last until December. These fall months tend to have less rain and heat. The months also fall during a time when foreigners have vacations for the end of the year holidays, so more people are traveling internationally. While it can get cold, visitors shouldn’t need more than a light jacket if they visit Méo Vac in the fall.

    meo vac, vietnam

    On the road to the summit of Mã Pí Lèng Pass near Méo Vac, Vietnam. Photo by: NguyenTrung.

    Aside from nature’s beauty, more and more people are becoming intrepid travelers as they explore the places that are lesser-known. Far from Vietnam’s well-known tourist hotspots is Méo Vac. A stunning destination, visitors traveling through Méo Vac will get to see the beauty of the land and people as they traverse the karst formations.

    Whether making the journey to Méo Vac to see the mountains or learn about the culture, Méo Vac is Northern Vietnam’s next “up and coming” destination.

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