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Off-road trip to Pu Luong

posted Jun 20, 2018, 8:47 PM by Michael Nguyen   [ updated Jun 20, 2018, 8:48 PM ]

During my adventures across the country, I had been amazed by the twisting roads in the north and impressed by the driving skills of local residents on their Honda Win motorbikes.

Something inside asked me to get on a motorbike and challenge myself on these dirt roads. However, only when my friend asked me to take part in an off-road trip to Pu Luong Nature Reserve in the northern province of Thanh Hoa did my dream come true.

Located in the northwest of the province, Pu Luong is an ideal place for trekkers to train to improve their physical strength and drivers to test their driving skills.

People who love to go on off-road trips like to experience difficulties on dirt roads in rainy weather to get a feeling that they can overcome challenges in their lives. While we were still at home, we got very excited about the journey after looking at photos of drivers carrying motorbikes and walking through a deep stream, and being followed by passengers carrying luggage.

We expected to have the same experience but it did not rain for the two days we stayed there. However, it does not mean that we did not face any difficulties on this trip.

After having a night of sound sleep in Hoa Binh Province's Mai Chau District, 12 members of our group headed for Kho Muong hamlet in Ba Thuoc District's Thanh Son Commune on road 15C. The road was not paved with concrete and was covered with gravel and small rocks. That damaged the inner tube of a motorbike's tyre and prevented us from speeding up. Pillion passengers had to get off and walk ahead, while the drivers struggled a lot to ride their motorcycles properly. Heavy rain earlier had caused landslides, leaving only a 1.2m-wide path clear. All riders reduced their speed and, one by one, drove through the path, paying careful attention to the road.

It took us nearly three hours to reach Kho Muong hamlet where we were welcomed warmly by Thai ethnic people in their traditional clothes. After ordering lunch at one house built on stilts, we trekked 1.5km to Kho Muong cave and enjoyed the fresh atmosphere of the countryside.

The cave, which is known to be one of the most gorgeous ones in the nature reserve, has blocks of 250-million-year-old limestone and is home to at least four different kinds of bats, such as insect-eating bats and fruit bats. We could not see the bats because the light from our mobile phones was not enough to help us proceed further.

After saying goodbye to the beautiful land, we faced a new challenge on the road to Hieu hamlet. The first few kilometres did not bring any trouble for us but the slope leading to the hamlet's waterfall did. When we arrived, another group of people was there, trying to help each other. The bikers were revving up and their pillion passengers were pushing the bikes from behind. Although it started to rain lightly when our turn came, we could still complete the hard task. Some members took pleasure in relaxing in the water and others took photos of the waterfall.

On the way to Nua hamlet, we saw pumps transporting water to the paddy fields and Thai women taking bath in the stream. Seeing the sunset and cloud-covered mountains, we felt very satisfied for what we had accomplished.

We stayed in Nua hamlet for one night before continuing our journey. As scheduled, we intended to trek to Kit hamlet, located in the core area of the nature reserve. Unfortunately, one of our bikes had a breakdown the next morning. We had brought only simple tools for repairing punctures. So we had to take it to a repair shop in a nearby town and did not have time to discover any more areas.

Right after the bike was repaired, we were on the road back to Ha Noi. Tran Thi Phuong Thao, who had joined the off-road trip to Pu Luong for the first time, said that she was a bit disappointed that the weather was good as she could not have the same experience in rainy weather with her friends.

"I am very fond of off-roads trips because of the wild beauty of the landscapes. Dangerous roads always make us frightened but when we go through them, we get a feeling that there is no difficulty that we cannot overcome," she said.

"I think that in all trips, pillion passengers have to follow basic regulations and cooperate with the bikers. They also need to learn signs to show the way for the motorbikes behind."

Meanwhile, leader Tran Hung, who has taken part in other off-road trips, advised that bikers should maintain their vehicles before every journey and should equip themselves with protective equipment for legs and hands as well as high quality helmets.

"I love everything in Pu Luong because the landscape is so beautiful and its people are very friendly and willing to help anytime. I will go back there one day because there are still many places to discover," he smiled. — VNS

Explore one of Vietnam's most special waterfalls in Thanh Hoa

posted Jun 20, 2018, 8:43 PM by Michael Nguyen   [ updated Jun 20, 2018, 8:44 PM ]

Explore one of Vietnam's most special waterfalls in Thanh Hoa - Hieu Waterfall stands out in the green jungle deep inside Pu Luong Natural Reserve, about 25km from Canh Nang Town in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

Whoever sets foot here agrees that Hieu is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in central Viet Nam.

Following the rugged stony path from the centre of Co Lung Commune, visitors arrive in Hieu Village, which is also the furthest village in the commune and the location of the waterfall.

Local cultural researcher Ha Nam Ninh from Ba Thuoc District said the name of the waterfall, which originated from the language of the Thai ethnic minority people, means "protrusion like a tree branch", just like the area where Hieu Village and the waterfall are located.

The most interesting feature of the area near the waterfall is that nearly everything that the water flows over, such as trees, turns into stone. This is because the water contains a large quantity of limestone substances and flows all year round.

It is unclear where the source of the waterfall is located. Some people say that it starts in Mai Chau District in the northern province of Hoa Binh, while others think it originates in the limestone mountain range. Thanks to its limestone content, the waterfall is cool and clear in summer and warm in winter.

In order to reach the top of the 800m waterfall, visitors have to spend about an hour climbing the mountain and wading through water.

But it is worth the effort. They can see stunning beauty from the top. The flowing water bifurcates in the middle of the mountain, creating two different waterfalls that flow in two different directions, but reunite at the bottom. The cliffs create many layers of water that burst into several beautiful white bubbles.

Visitors can also enjoy a wonderful view of the surrounding beauty, such as the modest stilt houses of the Thai ethnic minority dotting the foot of the mountain or set among green terraced fields, or the stream water wheels that provide fresh water to the local people as well as beautify the jungle and the mountains.

At the foot of Hieu Waterfall is a natural "swimming pool" that is just a little more than 1m high and has a bed full of sand. Adventurous visitors can try jumping from the top of the waterfall into the natural pool below, while the less adventurous ones can swim leisurely in the cool, transparent water.

There are also three caves located deep in the mountain, the most beautiful of them being Tinh Yeu (Love) Cave. It is about 3m wide and 10m deep, with several sparkling and colourful stalactites inside.

Swimming in the cool water of the fall in the wild and poetic natural atmosphere helps to erase the daily worries of the visitors. They get even more pleasure when they are welcomed with delicious local wine made from the cascading waters.

A trip to the area is not complete without a sampling of local specialties such as bamboo shoots and the tender and delicious Co Lung duck.

A meal in Hieu Village is very reasonably priced between VND150,000-200,000 (US$7.5-9).

A favourite tourist spot on the way back to Hieu Village is Don Market, a special fair of the local people that is held only on Thursday and Sunday mornings every week. There the visitors can enjoy bowls of bitter soup made from a kind of bitter vegetable, leisurely walk around the market, and purchase local specialties such as honey and bamboo shoots.

With spectacular natural views and delicious food, Hieu Village and Hieu Waterfall are surely destinations that should not be missed by tourists in their journey to discover the western region of Thanh Hoa Province. -VNS

Pu Luong Nature Reserve protects rare animals

posted Jun 20, 2018, 8:35 PM by Michael Nguyen   [ updated Jun 20, 2018, 8:36 PM ]

The management board of Pu Luong Nature Reserve in Bac Thuoc district, north central Thanh Hoa province, has implemented a research project to preserve the Asian black bear and palm civet between 2017 and 2019.

The project aims to record the number and distribution of the two animals, food resources and possible threats to devise measures to move them off the list of endangered species.

Director of the management board Le The Su said the three-year-old project will invite experts to provide inspection and preservation training for 20 officials.

A dozen workshops will be held to raise local awareness of protecting the rare animals.

The number of Asian black bears and palm civets at Pu Luong has declined due to illegal hunting and deforestation.

An Asian black bear weighs 80-180kg with round-shaped ears, a white V-shaped chest and a short tail.

A palm civet has a pale yellow or buff-grey body with 4-5 black bands on its back.-VNA

Pu Luong Trekking Tour

posted Jun 20, 2018, 1:55 AM by Michael Nguyen   [ updated Jun 20, 2018, 1:55 AM ]

Pu Luong trekking tour can be arranged in three or four days in Pu Luong nature reserve. Pu Luong trekking tour should be arranged in advance with a Hanoi tour operator who will provide transfer from Hanoi to Pu Luong Nature reserve, an English-speaking tour guide, local porter, cook and other necessary trekking equipment.

During the Pu Luong hike you will sleep in the houses of the people. The houses are simple and each day you will sleep in one kind of house, depending on the origin (ethnology)  of the family. The guide will tell you why the houses are different from each others.

You will sleep on the floor, with other people (guides). But they put a mattress for you, and make a kind of private room with the mosquito's´s protector. The bathroom is on another place, outside the house. So don´t forget to take a comfortable sandal to walk outside. It is very comfortable. But maybe you will not find before the end of the trek, so you can take a shoe like Crocs. It will be ok.

There is another important thing. When you go to the hike, your bags will be taken in a motorcycle. So don´t forget to take raincoat for your bags. If you don´t have one, you can take big a plastic bags (garbage bags)  to cover your bag, because during the days, it rains. Take one for each day of walk, because it can tear

After the trekking tour to Pu Luong nature reserve, it is possible for you to come back to Hanoi or make a short extension trip to Tam Coc (“Halong bay inland”).

Contact us for more information.

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