Visitting four horse-shaped peaks of Vietnam
“Horse’s Nose”, “Ma Phuc” (lying horse), “Co Ma” (horse’s neck) or “Ma Quynh” (horse’s elbow) are just some of the attractions connected closely to the horse – the animal of 2014. These are also the most imposing and challenging mountain passes of the Northwest that travelers should conquer.
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Text and photos: Son Nguyen
Imposing Ma Pi Leng
“Ma Pi Leng” meaning the horse’s bridge of the nose in Vietnamese, links the two furthest communes of Ha Giang province. The mountain pass was built in 1960 by H’Mong people. At first, it was a high and dangerous path for pack-bikes and walkers. To carve the stone into a road, constructors had to hang themselves on a rope above the rugged rocks for 11 months.
The mountain pass is about 20km long amidst rocks and endless mountains. Grey and mighty mountains form a part of the great horizon. Faraway, Nho Que river flows gently as a thin scarf. The path down to the river runs parallel with the river until they meet at the river bank. Red soil is mixed in the wheels. From this side of the river, we can view the entire road as a curving snake slithering from this mountain to another one.
Local people cannot grow vegetables or farm produces in the rocky mountain. Every day, the H’Mong people must carry soil from the lower lands to those caves, chock them and then plant corn seeds in them. Green corn trees are always growing from grey rocks as the life of the local people continues to develop daily in this hard land. A big monument was built at the peak to commemorate those who sacrificed their time for the stone path which has been named the ‘Happy’ path, the very place where they had grown up with rocks, had been living with rocks, and dying in rocks.
Today, Ma Pi Leng mountain pass is a favorite destination of those who would like to conquer remote landscapes.
Curving Ma Phuc
The mountain pass is named Ma Phuc (lying horse) because on both sides of the national road, there are two very high limestone blocks facing each other as two lying horses would. The pass is 620m high. After seven slopes, we can reach the peak, where the road plate with the message ‘Welcome to Trung Khanh’ has been embedded as a plaque in the limestone block face. The limestone mountain in Cao Bang is not as high, magnificent and dangerous as other mountain passes. From Ma Phuc, the mountains spread to the main branches of Cao Bang. From the foot of the mountain pass, turn left to Tong Cot village, which houses a famous ancient tree and the buffalo market on Sundays. Here, you can visit Na Ngan ancient village and the Tra Linh bordering gate. Passing by Quang Uyen and turning right, you will reach Ta Lung international bordering gate. Turning left, you will reach Trung Khanh. Passing by the chestnut forest, you can visit the breathtaking Ban Gioc waterfall and head on further to Ha Lang, the final place of the province.
The mountain pass is wide and beautiful. Short mountain ranges appear side by side with carpets of purple triangular flowers in spring and green corn fields in summer. When the sun sets over the mountains, kids round up their cattle to take them back home, while their peers play happily. It really is the serene scenery of a mountainous area without the noisy sound of cars and smoke. Tay and Nung ethnic people are still doing their farming works at this time while others travel back home. It is just a short path to travel to Trung Khanh.
Impressive Co Ma
Co Ma (horse’s neck) mountain pass is located near Dai Lanh mountain on the 1A national road, Dai Lanh commune, Van Ninh, Khanh Hoa province. It is called Co Ma because the mountain is shaped as the neck of a horse, viewed from the sea.
Under the mountain pass, there contains a deserted beach, which is a safe and beautiful place for guests to rest and relax. However, this beach is not located in the bay, and, affected by the waves and tides, it features some dangerous whirls. Guests are advised to be very careful when bathing in the sea here.
Co Ma mountain pass is not too long but travelling through it is risky, as it is a mountain on one side and an immense sea cliff on the other side. Many people have had accidents here because of the many dangerous turning points. From the mountain pass, we can witness the panoramic views of the mountains and the bending channel of Khanh Hoa. From here, we can visit the famous Vung Ro bay. At present, there is a construction project that involves building a tunnel through the mountain pass, as well as a construction project involving building a route through Ca mountain pass.
Crossing Ma Quynh
Nearby Ma Phuc mountain pass in Cao Bang lies another mountain path, this one is called Ma Quynh or “the horse’s elbow”. It is a short mountain pass that leads to Trung Khanh. The path is curved along the mountain slope with a cliff on one side and a deep abyss on the other side, with the roofs of the hand-built houses of the Tay ethnic people occasionally visible behind corn fields and terraced fields. The path runs through the mountain endlessly. The terraced field here is small with less stairs that the bigger and wider terraced field. Local people here only take advantage of the small lands here for growing rice around their houses.
Viewing from above, Ma Quynh mountain pass is viewed as a heart connecting the Cao Bang mountains and rivers with the exotic scenery that surrounds it, and it alludes itself as a picture of the Creator donating an essential part of life to this province.
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