Get an insight into Lang Son’s charms in a day

By Ngan Duong    December 16, 2020 | 10:41 pm PT
Lesser-known Lang Son could offer an exciting adventure to its best attractions, including Chi Lang pass, Phai Ve mountain, and Huu Nghi border gate.

In far northern Vietnam, bordering China, Lang Son is a province of mountainous beauty and historical vestige.

Chi Lang Pass

Chi Lang is a narrow, oval-shaped valley surrounded by high mountains and through which runs Thuong River. It is 20 kilometers long and its widest part measures around three kilometers. The pass is the historical site of glorious feats against the Chinese invaders in the feudal times.

Chi Lang Pass

Chi Lang museum that reflects the victories at the pass in Lang Son. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

Amongst its many mountains, Mat Quy (Devil’s Face) Mountain, about 100 meters away from Chi Lang Pass, stands out in particular. The mountain has the shape of a devil-like face, hence its name.

Interestingly, local villagers do not consider the devil face an evil and threatening symbol. Rather, they perceive it as a guardian who protects them and ensures a peaceful life.

Devil’s Face (Mat Quy) Mountain.

Devil’s Face (Mat Quy) Mountain. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

When visiting Chi Lang Pass, tourists can sign up for an introduction on the rich cultural history of the land at the Chi Lang museum.

Not only is Chi Lang the proud land of legends and history, but also the well-loved sweetsop, also called custard apple. The season for these sweet, fleshy fruits lasts for two months from July until September.

Locals pick and gather the fruits from high up in the mountains then bring them down to ground level via pulley systems. Grown at a high altitude on rocky mountains, these sweetsops have a deeper sweetness and chewier texture.

Huu Nghi border gate

International border gate Huu Nghi (Friendship), located 17 kilometers to the north of Lang Son Town, capital of the eponymous province, is a busy border trading point between Vietnam and China.

Before Covid-19, tourists could cross the border with a little paperwork. From the border gate, hop on a taxi to Pingxiang City of Jiangxi Province that lies 15 kilometers away to sightsee and relish in Chinese dishes.

Tourists posing at the entrance of the Mac Dynasty Citadel.

Tourists posing at the entrance of the Mac Dynasty Citadel. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

Mac Dynasty Citadel

A must-visit national historical relic, Mac Dynasty Citadel leans on To Thi Mountain and was an important military base in the Le-Mac civil conflict. Its construction began under the order of King Mac Dang Dung in the final years of the 16th century and completed in mid-17th century.

Today, the remnants of the base include two 300-meter-long walls and a citadel front that measures around one meter, built with large stone blocks in the middle of the canyon.

To reach the entrance, tourists need to scale over 100 steps. Inside the enclosure lies an empty parcel of land from which you can admire a panoramic view of Lang Son.

Mac Dynasty Citadel. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Van.

Mac Dynasty Citadel. Photo by VnExpress/Hong Van.

Tam Thanh Grotto

In the heart of Lang Son Town, Tam Thanh Grotto belongs to the group of relics and landscapes Nhi – Tam Thanh and To Thi Mountain – Mac Dynasty Citadel. Inside of the grotto stands Tam Thanh Pagoda.

Deep inside the cave nestles Am Ty Lake that is always full of cool water. On the ceiling of the cave, stalactites shimmer and form lively images.

From Tam Thanh Grotto, a pathway leads to Lau Vong Thi Peak where a stone sculpture of To Thi holding a child and waiting for her husband coming back from a fight stands. To Thi is a character in a well-known Vietnamese fairy tale. Nearby, a poem by Ngo Thi Si depicting the scene is carved into the wall of the grotto.

Lastly, swing by the Tay ethnic people's traditional stilt house to complete the tour. A ticket to Tam Thanh Cave costs VND20,000 ($0.87) per person.

Phai Ve Mountain

Archaeological relic Phai Ve Mountain is located at Lang Son Town's center. According to research, Phai Ve was chosen by ancient people as residence and was a critical location in prehistoric development. Additionally, it is also a key historical site having served as tactical refuge for military units during Vietnam's wars against the French colonists and American invaders.

The mountain resembles a giant bonsai "island-mountain-panorama" landscape in the heart of the town. On top of it is an 80-meter-tall flag pole that is accessible via four different pathways that each includes 535 steps.

From the flag pole, you have a 360-degree view of Lang Son Town and Ky Cung River weaving through it. This makes for a great sunset spot as well, thus make sure to drop by around 5 to 6 p.m. to catch the last sun rays of the day.

[Phai Ve Mountain

Phai Ve Mountain with an 80-meter-tall flag pole. Photo by VnExpress/Ngan Duong.

Ky Lua night market

After dinner, head to Ky Lua night market for a taste of Lang Son’s bustling nightlife. The market is situated in Hoang Van Thu Ward. This is not only a marketplace for goods but also a meeting point for ethnic communities in the region.

The marketplace convenes on the 2nd, 7th, 12th, 17th, 22nd, and 27th of every lunar month. On these days, ethnic women, men, and youth throng the market to shop, mingle, and even sing. Here, you can find anything from household appliances to electronics to local specialties.

In October Lang Son officially opened pedestrian streets around Ky Lua from 6 p.m. until midnight every Friday and Saturday. Performances, traditional games, souvenir shops, and food stands can be found along the streets outside Ky Lua Market as well as on Le Lai, Tran Quoc Toan, and Luong Van Tri streets.

Additional Information

*Food: Lang Son culinary culture is deeply characterized by unique specialties like roast duck, stewed pork, wormwood cake, sour pho (sour noodle), and Coong Phu cake. Some recommended eateries in Lang Son Town are as follows:

-Manh Ha Restaurant (specializing in roast duck and pork) at the intersection of Son Ha and Huu Lung)

-Roast duck with clausena leaves at 12 Bac Son Street

-Sour Pho at 194 Bac Son Street

-Steamed rice rolls with egg at 2 Dai Hue Street, 119 Bac Son Street, or 14 Nguyen Du Street

*Transportation: Lang Son is 155 kilometers away and around three hours by car from Hanoi. If departing from Hanoi, you can hop on a bus from My Dinh Bus Station or Nuoc Ngam Bus Station. A ticket ranges from VND100,000 ($4.3) to VND170,000 per person.

You can also travel by motorbike. The route will take you along National Route 1A and around four to five hours depending on your pace and traffic. Taking the train is another option though a less convenient and popular one. Buy a ticket from Hanoi Train Station to Dong Dang Station in Lang Son Province.

*Accommodation: For two to three star hotels, consult the following options: Hoang Duong Hotel at 202 Phai Ve Street, Vi’s Boutique at 185 Tran Dang Ninh Street, and Song Long at 122 Ly Thuong Kiet Street. The rate starts from VND300,000 to VND600,000 per night.

For four to five star hotels, Lang Son has Muong Thanh Hotel at 68 Ngo Quyen Street and Vinpearl Hotel at 27 Tran Hung Dao Street with nightly rates ranging from VND750,000 to VND1.5 million.

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