Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Urban Ha Giang


Most of the pictures we see from Vietnam’s Ha Giang province focus on rural life: landscapes, markets, villages, people from ethnic minorities in traditional costume. Nothing wrong with that, of course; I’ve taken plenty of those pictures myself, and posted them here.

But what about the urban life of the province? Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh and Ha Giang City may not be the most vibrant locations – nobody goes there for the nightlife – but there’s plenty of interest in the everyday life of these unassuming, low key towns. Travelling through the province in the autumn of last year and the spring of this, I became fascinated by urban Ha Giang: the banh cuon joints, the cafes and tea stands, the meat and vegetable markets, the games of checkers and volleyball, the windows and doorways, all the little things that make up the lives of these highland towns.

I think these towns are more than just places to spend the night before speeding off on the next leg of the loop. They are surrounded by mountains and karsts but, overlooked by breathtaking scenery, daily life goes on as normal. I suppose even the most beautiful surroundings can become mundane if you see them every day.

Of course, you can’t completely ignore the rural element in this part of the country, even in the towns. There’s no dividing line; the rural and the urban blend into each other. Walking down the streets of Dong Van or Yen Minh, you can catch glimpses of the surrounding countryside through gaps between the buildings where houses are being knocked down or built up. Dong Van is a town surrounded by mountains and sheltering a basin of rice fields. People from Vietnam’s numerous ethnic minorities are in the majority here.

These pictures were all taken in Dong Van, Meo Vac, Yen Minh and Ha Giang in April and May of this year.



















5 Responses to “Urban Ha Giang”

  1. Alison and Don

    Wonderful photos Jon. I love glimpses like this into the ordinary life of the people. I especially like the photos of the men playing the board game, and the close-up of the hands best of all.

  2. jessandrenelli

    Beautiful photos, love the set of green seats the farm worker is sitting on, they look like they come out of a 1960s beauty parlour. Great compositions as always 🙂

  3. solotravellerontour

    Fantastic photos. And I agree with you, while the scenery in that region is just spectacular, the little towns are worth a visit as well. Witnessing the daily life there is interesting, especially during market days. For that reason alone I never understand why anyone would rush through that area.


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