Travel hotspots

Pai Lung, the question mark of Dong Van

In Vietnam, there is perhaps, no road that brings as much emotions to travel lovers as the 4C road. Shaped like a question mark on that road, Pai Lung slope offers visitors not only beautiful scenery but also the memorable experience to discover the story behind the nickname, Road of Happiness.
Pai Lung slope is located in Pai Lung commune, Dong Van district. According to locals, Pai Lung means white dragon. Viewed from above, the bend of the slope lies snuggled within four rocky surfaces not unlike the shape of a dragon at an altitude of more than 1,400m above sea level.

Located at the gateway of the great Ma Pi Leng pass, the dizzyingly changing twists and turns of Pai Lung slope create a daring challenge for riders before they suddenly see in front of them a towering monument commemorating the pioneers who opened this route.

Built in 2017, the monument is located at the opening of the slope to pay tribute to volunteer youth and ethnic minorities who participated in building this route. Right next to the monument area, there is a small museum that shows artifacts associated with the construction of the 4C road.

Visiting the monument feels like a walk back more than 60 years ago, a time when rocky mountainous terrain rendered horse-riding the only possible travel method of nearly 100,000 ethnic minorities. They were isolated from the outside world, surrounded by backwardness, due to the lack of an accessible and usable road.

 Pai Lung slope offers visitors beautiful scenery. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

A house with a distinctive stone fence in Pai Lung. Photo: Viet Cuong / VNP

On the way to the White Cliff, you can see the majestic and beautiful natural scenery in the area of Ma Pi Leng pass. Photo: Viet Cuong / VNP

Children play on the slope of Pai Lung. Photo: Viet Cuong / VNP

The gratitude monument to Volunteer Youths and ethnic minorities participating in the opening of 4C road,
is located at the beginning of Pai Lung slope. Photo: Viet Cuong / VNP

Concrete has now been poured on the old trail over Ma Pi Leng pass to serve tourists and local people. Photo: Viet Cuong / VNP
Then, within 6 years from September 1959, tens of thousands of young volunteers and citizens worked relentlessly to open a route through the mountains. It was completed in March 1965 and Pai Lung slope was the most labor intensive part in the whole work. Back in those days, young volunteers with rudimentary tools often had to hang from steep cliffs, below was a deep abyss down to the Nho Que river. They diligently chiseled and broke every centimeter of stone to create a route to the top of Ma Pi Leng pass. The construction took more than 300 days.

The completion of the national highway brought a great deal of changes and joy to tens of thousands of ethnic minorities in the four northernmost districts. The 4C road from Ha Giang City to Meo Vac therefore has another name - the Road of Happiness.

From the slope of Pai Lung, leaving the national highway, travelling back up the mountain along the way to the White Cliffs - the highest floor of Ma Pi Leng, we can experience the old way of traveling through the pass. The small, sloping concrete road now is not as threatening as it used to be, but many visitors still feel fear when weaving between the steep cliff on one side and steep walls of rock on the other. This is also the ideal route if one wants to admire the most majestic scenery of Ha Giang, with the greenish flow of the Nho Que river.

If staying long enough at Pai Lung slope, visitors are not only awed by the majestic and beautiful nature but can also witness the unique lifestyle of the people of Dong Van. Perhaps there is no place more worthy to linger than Pai Lung to perceive the change that the legendary road named Happiness has brought to the northernmost borderland of the country.

By Viet Cuong        Translated by Hong Hanh