In the northernmost regions of Vietnam exists a remote destination that has been open to tourism for a mere six years. Ha Giang is both a city and a province, and shares a border with China’s Yunnan province, with a population of just over 700,000 people. This is one of Vietnam’s poorest places, and it shows – not because it is decrepit or run-down, but just the opposite – not being reliant on a strong economy has kept the area pristine and preserved, virtually untouched by the harmful effects of mass tourism and big industries.

There is no mistaking Ha Giang for a luxury destination – this province is the definition of basic, though it was a lot better than I expected. Visitors to this area must be prepared for, and indeed enjoy, plenty of driving. I drove 25 hours in five days, which is pretty average. The hotels I stayed in were much like the place itself: comfortable and clean, but certainly not luxurious. They tended to be new, with features like hot water, air-conditioning, WiFi, and TV with English channels, but with very little service.

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