Hiking in the highland nature reserve in Pù Luông (Vietnam)

Next morning I depart from Pù Luông Retreat with a young local guide, Xưỡng, around 8:30. The hotel prepared a lunch box for us – roasted chicken, sticky rice, banana, orange and bottle of water. By the way, most of staffs working here are Thai minority, they do speak an excellent Vietnamese, although some can’t write. I curiously asked them whether they understand Thai (Thailand) or Laotian (Laos) language, to my surprise – they understand some, 20-30%! That’s cool!

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I’m so impressed by the vast rice fields in the valley in the national nature reserve

Back to my trekking, I got a whole day ahead, 15km of hiking around the nature reserve, from one “bản” (i.e village) to another and we have totally around 4 or 5 “bản” to visit, only two of us, so my 19-year-young local guide decided to take me on his bike, we can explore much more! I’m happy with his proposal, otherwise walking on some muddy roads, especially around the terrace rice fields (Pu Luong is still in rainy season) – it could be an unpleasant experience!

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Firstly, we are going down to the valley, I’m so impressed with the vast terrace rice fields in there, some fields already after harvesting, some still in green and will be harvested by the end of October. Different timing due to different kind of rice, those in green are a kind of special popular sticky rice in Northern region.

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After the rice harvest, the farmers will plant the sugar cane, my tour guide did mention the price of the sugar can now at the bottom, because everyone do the same thing and it leads to the sugar can overproduction situation. For me, as a city boy, I’m impressed with any kind of intensive agriculture, never leave the soil empty, one crop after another.

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We follow the small alley on the right to another village

A lot of bamboo trees along our hiking route, the bamboo image is closely associated with Vietnamese village, either in the North or in the South, it has been described  as a symbol of Vietnamese unbeaten spirit in our literature. We passed by some traditional water wheels until we reach the Cham river for rafting adventure. The river is so calm, sitting on this bamboo raft was a pleasure, we slowly go by the currents and admire the amazing reflection on the water, just like a mirror.

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The image of bamboo – the symbol of Vietnamese unbeaten spirit

From time to time, the raft lady keeps sharing stories about her life. She’s actually from another minority, Mường, but married to Thai minority husband and sadly didn’t have a chance to come back to her homeland for 16 years. Life in Pu Luong seems much easier than at her hometown.

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And here we go – the water wheels – typical image in the countryside in Northern region. Different region, from North to South, has different method of getting water from the river to the rice fields or fish ponds. I’m happy that people here don’t replace it with the electric water pump!

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The traditional bamboo water wheels

Another surprise during my hiking, in the middle of nowhere in the woods, I met an Australian guy, Luke Ford, who used to manage my trip to Son Doong in 2014, actually we didn’t keep in touch for long but suddenly here, we met again. Such a nice sudden!

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The wheels are working thanks to the currents and getting the water from the river to the fields through these bamboo aqueducts. The image of these wheels is quite unique in this remote rural area and it reminds me of the other “traditional tools” of getting water in different regions.

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A film crew member and a star of the green field

Back to Luke Ford, not featured in the above photo, he quickly shared with me his passion to Vietnam, to the beauty of the nature in those untouched lands, he’d love to bring it to the world. He recommended me to visit Hà Giang, in the Far North, another incredible beauty of the nature up there!

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Picturesque village in the middle of nature reserve
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all-terrain jeep from the film crew…
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across the river and with the fly cam on the air to capture the beauty from above

I explore a little bit around and curiously follow what the crew tried to shoot for their film. Before leaving this hidden gem in the jungles, standing on the bridge I look at the brood of ducks playing in the river, it’s actually a very rare duck breed named after the village “Cổ Lũng”, existing for hundreds of years and “available” only in this area. Nowadays people try to preserve and to develop it. It reminds me of the dish at the hotel I tried later – the duck meat is extremely good!

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The rare duck breed Cổ Lũng, existing for hundreds of years and only in this area.
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Fascinating scenery of the highland countryside
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Low tide season but during the rising tide could be up to those stilt houses on the right
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Waterfall  Hiêu – unusual waterfall

Leaving Luke Ford and his team behind, we continue our hiking to the waterfall “Hiêu”, the waterfall has been named after the village nearby, this waterfall is unusual because, according to the local guide explanation, the water contains “limestone”, so wherever the water runs, it covers everything with limestone, like the white stone in the photo, by somehow the moss can’t grow on it, that’s why absolutely no slippery!

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due to the limestone in the water – make everything non slippery!
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Beautiful mother and daughter, both are so well-behaved

We have a quick lunch break next to the waterfall, together…with several dogs and cats around. We fed them with what we have from our lunch box. I noticed one dog, a mother and probably with her daughter, so well-behaved, no fighting, no growling with the other dogs, gently enjoyed either a piece of bread or chicken!

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After waterfall, we continue our journey and on the way out we noticed a beautifully flowering path leading to a stilt house on the slope,  I approached the house but no one at home, otherwise I could ask them for permission to get in.

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It seems no one at home – lower part of stilt house mostly for storage or cattle
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Beautiful view from the stilt house with flowering entry path
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This’s a stilt house but just for the night watch to look after either the fish pond or the cattle
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We also have a quick visit to ethnic fabric house

After the ethnic fabric house we have a long ride uphill – the road at some part is very bad, covered with big crushed stones. Sitting on the bike from behind, I’m not sure how can I hold it safely, the road is quite steep…walking could be much better and safer!

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It looks ok on the photo, in fact not easy to ride a bike steeply uphill due to big crushed stones…
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but finally we reach the top and look down at the village Kho Mường in the valley
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or just relax our mind with this view, my wish – a little bit sunshine, it will be wonderful!
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Two Thai minority ladies on their way back home
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Stilt house in Kho Mường village
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The rice fields surrounding Kho Muong village, the harvest will be in two weeks time
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Another terrace rice fields next to the Kho Muong village
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The path between the terrace rice fields leading down to the valley

Visiting village Kho Muong was our last destination, it takes a long way to get there, the road up to the steep hill, covered by large crushed stones, but what I witnessed at the end of each hiking I was absolutely overwhelmed with the breathtaking scenery, the amazing untouched highland, the picturesque landscape…the incomparable beauty of the Nature.

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My tour guide, Xưởng, while waiting for me to take photos around.

There were many exciting moments or some minutes of hesitation or exhaust, especially when we were at nowhere in the woods, or stuck on the bad road uphill…my young guide, Xưởng, always encouraged me to go on…such a lovely high-spirited young man! Thank you!

 

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