Sin Ho plateau – the roof of Lai Chau

Update: 07/17/2014
About 60 km to the west of Lai Chau borough, following national road 4D, Sin Ho is a mountainous district in middle of Lai Chau province. With the population of 56.000, including 15 ethnic groups, Sin Ho’s area is 1746 km2. Geographically, Sin Ho borders Van Nam (China) in the north, Phong Tho province in the east, next to Tua Chua (Dien Bien) in the south and Muong Te in the west.

The town of Sin Ho

According to the local language, "Sin Ho" is home to many streams. At the height of 1,500 meters above sea level, Sin Ho plateau is like the roof of Lai Chau province. The climate here is quite similar to Sa Pa town, the air is cool all year round, providing perfect conditions for a wide varieties of flowers, tropical fruits such as plums, peaches, pears, etc. to develop.

Sin Ho - an attractive destination

From Lai Chau Town, on the way to Sin Ho, there are many forests with valleys, ravines and plentiful caves. From Dien Bien, along national road 12 to Muong Lay, passing the crossroad of Chan Nua and turning to provincial highway 128, visitors have chances to travel to the mighty Black River, conquering cloudy Ma Thi Ho (Muong Lay town) and Chan Nua (Sin Ho town) passes. Choosing either of them, travelers can enjoy the wild beauty and risky feelings going up and down dizzy roads.

There are numerous beautiful sceneries in Sin Ho such as the Heavenly Gate, the Mountain of Tien Ong, the Mountain of O Da, etc. Visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the cloudy mountain peaks, sunny valleys spotted with terraced rice fields in the harvest season. Going into the Pu Dao village, Ta Ghenh, Hoang Ho, Ta Phin, Phang Xo Lin of the Mong, Dao people nestling on the cliffs, visitors seemed to be lost in a fairy space to see small wooden houses standing out among the green of the jungle, ethnic women slinging water and go up the steeps or the pigs foraging near the edge of the forest.

Sin Ho becomes more beautiful during the weekend fairs. The fairs start on Saturday morning with mainly people from the immediate area. Come the next day, locals from distant villages like Mong Do people from Chan Lua, Lang Mo or Lu, Dao people from Phang Xo Lin to Mong Hoa, Phu La people from Pu Sam Cap gather in the crowed and exciting atmosphere. They bring their home-made products in baskets slung over shoulders. The gentle faces, colorful brocade dresses, the murmurs or laughter and mountain taste-dishes together create a vivid picture full of life’s colors.

New tourism product

In recent years, in area 2, Sin Ho Town, there have been some visitor health care services such as medicine leaf bathing, massage and reflexology, managed by Mr. Sung A Pao, a Hmong ethnic doctor. Many leaders of the district and other agencies and departments has introduced customers there as a specialty of the locality, but this product has not been well developed due to lack of capital and a reasonable investment direction.

The bathing solution is a dark-colored water boiled from 10 medicinal plants harvested from the mountain, including ginger and lemon grass which can be planted in the garden. Guests will be invited to a small room, shed their clothes and took a dip in solution of hot water about 40ºC, is contained in a wooden cask with strong unique smell.

After soaking just some minutes in this “special medicine”, visitors seem flabby into a pleasant and lightheaded feeling. Before stepping into the container, the technician repeated that "if feeling drunk, stand up and lift the curtain to breathe the outside air". After 30-40 minutes of soaking, guests will be invited to "technique" massage and reflexology.

Many guests after experiencing the physician’s fingers move on the acupuncture points around the body, have no doubt of naming him the "golden hands". Starting from the temples, the lower jaw, spine, etc. towards the tip of the toes, fingers, wherever his hand is placed on the initial feeling is serious hurt, following by numbed feelings and the bodies are melting to be recovered. The most interesting gesture is the pat in the back as the transmission “chi” power, bounced the customers skillfully and ended the unique physical therapy process. Another point that worth mentioning is also unique service fee: only VND 50,000. Before parting, guests are invited to drink a glass of hot water, cooked from herbs like in bath water.

Potential and prospects

Sin Ho is a potential tourist areas of Lai Chau – a relatively new destination to many visitors. In addition to the wonderful natural landscape as Da O Mountain, there are two historic sites, one is Le Loi memorial, carved on cliffs of the north bank of the Black River, the other is the former residence of the puppet Thai king Deo Van Long during the time of the war against France. The beauty of terraced rice fields, the highland fairs showing multiple cultural identities and local traditions will attract the tourists. Moreover, the village of Mong, Dao nestling on a cliff remains a mystery, especially Pu Dao village of Sin Ho district, 13 km from the town of Muong Lay (formerly the central town of Lai Chau, now of Dien Bien province) with 887 residents, is voted as one of the most attractive destinations in Southeast Asia by customers of a British travel agency.

Although Sin Ho attracts about 30,000 domestic and foreign tourists every year, the tourist activities are often spontaneous, without professionally developed products and clearly targeted audience. In the oriented plan about social and economic development of Lai Chau in tourism development project 2011 – 2015, the stakeholders have focused on developing sustainable tourism in Sin Ho plateau in stages, in which tourism development community, eco-tourism resort destinations from association with the village, the village culture, tourist routes followed by other districts, provinces in the North West region, while focusing on the folklore values of the communities in the area are carefully considered and planned.

In addition to the potential of eco-tourism, visitors to Sin Ho also have the opportunity to participate in physical therapy, enjoy the famous local dishes such as buffalo meat wrapped with “lot” – a kind of mountain leaves, steamed goats, local pigs, fish streams, sticky rice, “thang co” – a special kind of horse stew, and salmon originated in cold countries which is raised successfully locally.

Mai Kim Thành

Translator: Thu Phương

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