If you ever find yourself being under great pressure at work, or tired of the big cities’ cramped space, or simply just want to try new experiences and discover new places, you should spend your weekend in Lai Chau province to immerse in its spectacular nature, along the unspoiled villages on the mountain sides, nearing terraced fields.
We would like to introduce a two-day tour departed from Hanoi for those with limited time but still eager to experience the mountainous area and enjoy the Northwest flavor including majestic natural landscapes and traditions of local people.
Means of transport
Departing from Hanoi, you can catch the luxurious hi-class buses from My Dinh Station or Giap Bat Station. Most of them depart daily from 4 PM to 8 PM. After 12-hour trip, the coaches will reach Lai Chau at 5 to 8 A.M in the next day. There are 6-10 coaches from My Dinh Station and Giap Bat Station to Lai Chau every day, which could meet the demand of 300-500 passengers.
For the return trip, a similar number of buses will bring you from Lai Chau back to Hanoi. You can conveniently book the tickets in advance at the station or with the bus companies.
Lai Chau – a young urban city will surprise you the first time coming there. Lai Chau is located in a valley surrounded by huge foggy and cloudy mountains. The spacious and modern administration and political offices standing beside the large square with the monument of “Uncle Ho and Lai Chau ethnic people” present Lai Chau as one of the most attractive, beautiful and worth visiting provinces in the Northwest region.
After the first impressions, you should rest for a short time, book the hotel, and have breakfast to prepare for the attractive destinations ahead.
Beautiful villages amongst the fog
From the city center, you can reach the villages of the ethnic Mong, Day, Lu, Thai people with rustic houses on the foggy mountain sides. Some of the must-visit tourist villages are located near the city center, it would take you less than one hour to visit them and be back within half a day.
Nung Nang – rolling in foggy mountains
Only 3 kms from Lai Chau City, Nung Nang appears attractively behind the wavy slopes. This nearly 100% ethnic Mong commune is located in Tam Duong District (very close to the city) but still retains the natural landscape and traditions. Once there, you can feel an atmosphere very different from the prosperous urban life, enjoy a world with rustic houses, fabric dresses; limestone fences surrounding yellow cabbages or in corn and rice fields. You can also asking local students or other people for the direction to remote villages near the romantic primary forests, and have a chance to explore these new wild places.
Mong People in Nung Nang
With the average altitude of over 1000m over the sea level, Nung Nang is surrounded by limestone mountain systems and primary forests. Consequently, the weather there is cool all year round, full of fogs and clouds. You can see the sunshine sometimes, but it would only provide some great surprises when the foggy atmosphere suddenly return. After spending half a day in Nung Nang, you can energetically continue to discover other places.
Hon Village – full of highland colors
Old stilts houses, women with black dyed teeth can still be found in Ban Hon nowadays, not just in poetry or history. Ban Hon – the village of Lu people with special traditional culture preserved will attract you from the first sight.
Ban Hon is only 15km away from the city. Ban Hon 1 and Ban Hon 2 are very attractive destinations with homestay services, giving you a chance to live with local people like a visiting family member.
The local friendly citizens will welcome people visiting their homes or asking them about their traditions and customs. You can try working together with them by doing some household chores such as cooking, weaving fabric, hunting or working in the field…
However, you should check in advance and pay attention to a local tradition that is still maintained here: the rituals of worship in early and middle of the year, when strangers are forbidden to enter the villages.
Peaceful Gia Khau on the immense highlands
As the village of Mong locals in Nam Loong commune, Gia Khau is located in a rather flat plateau surrounded by limestone mountains. The well preserved traditions and the famous beauties here will definitely attract you. At the end of autumn, you will be surprised by the endless yellow color of daisy covering houses and fields. In spring and summer, Gia Khau is covered by the green color of rice and corn. This village is famous for the Mong Ke strong wine brewed from the millet and wild leaves yeast. Large fields, upland rolling hills with grazing herds of wild horses will bring the visitors feeling of being in a fairy attractive highland.
Many options for the nights
Seating in small ice tea shops around Thuy Son Lake, walking and taking photographs in the square, enjoying special mountainous dishes in restaurants or even going to the local cinema will give each of you a set of experiences very different from others’. The free admission film showings begin at 8 PM in the weekends; most of the audience are school students and young people. Seats are available only for earliest arrivals.
Sunday morning in highland market fairs
The normal market is opened twice a week, in Thursday and Sunday morning, but the main fair is in Sunday morning. Tam Duong Dat or San Thang market fair is one of the most amazing fairs in the Northwest region. The easy-reachable market square is opened at the entrance of the city. It is not only a trading place, but also the location for local ethnic people to exchange their cultures. The colorful clothes or small gifts will be unique souvenirs for tourists
Fanciful Pu Sam Cap caves
The cave system was recently ranked as a national scenic landscape and has just been opened for tourists. Even though the infrastructure and roads are still rudimentary, the gigantic stalactites with many fanciful shapes will make it worth your while after some kilometers of trekking through the jungle track.
Local tour guides will lead you in any road or cave. After visiting the caves, you can come back by the previous way or discover the primary forests with many strange floras such as Moc plants through a different way back to the starting point.
You can research the information on accommodation, restaurants, maps and some photos of the destination via website dulichlaichau.vn, or ask for consultation from Lai Chau Information and Tourism Promotion Center at: No. 019, Tran Phu Road, tel: 02313.794.628. The local people are also pleased to show you the directions to those places.
You can walk between local places. Buses or taxi can also be a smart choice for a group of people, or motorbike can be hired at the price of 150k VND per day. There is only one place with motorbikes available for hiring: Ngoc Minh shop, No. 051, Tran Hung Dao Road, Tel: 01694.816.947. Note: you must deposit an amount of money roughly equal to the value of the vehicle, or at least 5 million dong. Foreigners can leave the passport as deposit instead.
Translator: Thu Phương