To reach the sites, people have to travel on National Road No 4C, or Happiness Road, which has been dubbed a legendary road with famed proper names including Quan Ba Heaven Gate, Fairy Mountain (Twin Mountain), Pac Xum Slope, Tham Ma Pass and Ma Pi Leng Pass.
The latter pass is one of four most beautiful passes in the north together with O Quy Ho Pass linking Lao Cai and Lai Chau Province, Pha Din Pass in Son La Province and Khau Pha Pass in Yen Bai Province.
The pass is located on National Road 4C in Pai Lung and Pa Vi communes, Meo Vac District of Ha Giang. Ma Pi Leng in Mong language means a horse’s nose with the figurative meaning that the peak is quite dangerous, where even mountain horses may slip and die when climbing.
Happiness Road links Ha Giang City with Dong Van Town and Meo Vac Town.
Ma Pi Leng Pass is a dangerous pass, some 20km long at heights of 1,200 – 1,400m above sea level.
The mountain was created by the sediment of karst stone and silica limestone containing fossils from some 400 million years ago. The site also features cracks from geographical changes creating dangerous landscapes of steep cliffs and the Nho Que River running in the middle of Ma Pi Leng Pass and Xin Cai Pass, which hosts the boundary milestone and Sam Pun Border Gate with China.
French people came to examine the site in 1900 and hoped to build roads there, but could not do anything except provide food and ammunition to guard troops on local mountains using small lanes.
Before the Happiness Road was built, the more than 80,000 residents in the area traversed the Ma Pi Leng Pass by hanging on ropes to climb over high cliffs.
Construction of Happiness Road began on September 10, 1959, linking Ha Giang, Dong Van and Meo Vac.
After six years of construction, more than 1,300 young volunteers, mostly working by hand, completed the road on June 15, 1965.
The road has helped improve the lives of locals and has become a tourist magnet. VNS