I heard my friends raving about a peaceful land not far from Ha Noi, with green grass, blue skies, wind blowing and clouds up in the sky.
They said it was a perfect location for an overnight camping trip, and that got me tempted.
Without any hesitation, I packed my bags, bringing along food for other four friends who joined me, with tents, sleeping bags, outdoor stove, and battery operated torches. We were determined to head for Dong Cao on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
The highland, which is nearly 1000m above sea level, is located in Ga Village in Thach Son Commune in the northern province of Bac Giang, about 150km from Ha Noi.
The way from Ha Noi to Chu Town in Bac Giang Province was pretty smooth, but the closer we approached our destination, the more scattered the houses were, and the tougher the path became.
It got darker as we drove deep into the forest, so we had to speed up, as we followed the small concrete road. However, we still had a rough 5km pathway ahead to get over before we reached Dong Cao Highland.
It was not an easy drive at all, as we had to constantly battle against the muddy ground below and thousands of “skinny hands” jutting out from the trees around us. We had to grope our way with the assistance of the lights of our motorcycles to venture through the dark.
After an hour of groping around on the slippery path, we finally saw a flickering light coming from several houses. It is estimated that there are only over 20 households scattering within Dong Cao highland, most of them are poor and lack electricity.
It was a very hot summer day, so our T-shirts were wet with sweat. But as soon as we reached the area of Dong Cao, we were instantly struck with a cold feeling of the typical cool climate of the highland.
We stopped on a flat surface on the highland to erect our tents and started a fire to warm ourselves and prepare for dinner. What an unforgettable night it was to enjoy the freshly grilled meat in the feeble light of the stove with endless, untold stories while contemplating the twinkling lights above.
The wind kept blowing hard through the grass, but I could not visualise the surroundings as it was pitch-dark. We were soon lulled to sleep with the pleasing sound of insects chirping.
Then the moment that we looked forward to most finally arrived. It was when the sun rose to clear the mist and clouds and the overall picture of the highland started to appear clearly in the brilliant sunlight. Dong Cao suddenly woke up to become a charming fairy land, especially attractive to photographers.
The clouds kept floating above us, at times so thin, but at times so dense that we could only see the top of Yen Tu Mountain from afar. We could hear the melodious sound of the flute coming from somewhere close by. However, as soon as we discovered the source of the sound, the horse herding boys who were sitting on huge stones on the highland, giggled and ran away, shying away from our cameras.
“The life here is so peaceful and pleasing,” exclaimed one of my friends, adding, “I would rather be a farmer herding cows and cutting grass!”
Each of my friends started to disperse to discover different parts of Dong Cao. Some of them went hunting for photographs, some paid a visit to the surrounding waterfalls or streams while others energetically climbed other green hills.
Dong Cao has an abundance of both grass and breeze. To me, taking a leisure walk on the lush green grass in the early morning and taking a deep breath with the sweet smell of the forest and mountain was pleasing enough. Suddenly, all our worries disappeared with the gentle wind blowing around us.
We rewarded ourselves by moving around at a slow pace, and enjoying every moment of it. We all felt sorry that the next day we would have to return to the normal fast pace of modern life and its many worries. Then Dong Cao Highland would be our peaceful fairly land with starry nights and cloudy mornings that we would all long to return to someday.
Dong Cao Highland is among those rare destinations that are suitable for camping all year round, especially on weekends. It is recommended that you visit the land on Saturday evening and find flat land to erect the tents before it gets dark.
It is also recommended that you should carefully store enough food and water, as the highland is pretty far from any residential areas, and there are no tourist services available. However, it is the isolation and quiet of Dong Cao Highland that attracts visitors, especially young adventurers.