An authentic place virtually untouched by modern civilization still exists today. When you travel inland, towards the border with Laos, a different Vietnam unfolds for your eyes. One area is especially beautiful and fortunately, protected from mass tourism. That is Pu Luong.
Pu Luong Nature Reserve is an area of breathtaking scenery, culture and biology. The region is blessed with fertile valleys, forests and stunning rice terraces. Driven by tipping bucket mills, water flows via complex systems of canals and bamboo pipes. Farmers work in the paddies with water buffalo's pulling ploughs. Women carry large baskets of firewood or produce on their backs supported by headbands. Stilt houses have straw roofs and are clustered in charming villages, where life is unhurried.
Eco-tourism has developed slowly here, which is what the local minority people prefer, not wanting to lose their culture and traditions. Visitors overnight in traditional home-stay accommodations where they experience the everyday life of Ethnic Thai and Muong people.
Ninh Binh is the best place of departure for a tour to Pu loung. A three day arrangement to Pu Luong is exclusively offered in Ninh Binh. A few travel agencies in Hanoi also visit Pu Luong, but usually as part of a multiple destinations tour. Not surprisingly, such an arrangement is far more expensive.
In the morning we depart for a scenic drive to Pu Luong Natural Reserve. On the way you see tapioca, sugar cane fields and rice paddies. After the 4 hour drive (car) we arrive in Kho Muong village where we enjoy lunch. We continue our trip and drive further into the reserve for the beginning of the trek (approx 3 hours). Our destination is the Thai village of Ban Hieu. Depending on the season you have the opportunity to swim under the waterfall. Here we spent the night in a friendly home-stay, a traditional house on stilts. It is a fascinating way to learn more about the minority life and culture.
After breakfast and before we start our trek you have some time to enjoy a stroll around Ban Hieu village. The six hour long trek will lead through charming Thai villages and picturesque valleys with stepped rice paddies. We will arrive in the minority village Ban Don where we have dinner and stay for the night in a home-stay.
We say goodbye to our hosts and embark on a trek for approximately three hours. We pass more scenic villages, forests and take in the magnificent views. With this trek we conclude our stay in Pu Luong Natural Reserve and we drive back to Ninh Binh* where you will arrive before dinner.
On this all-inclusive tour you will be escorted by a guide with good knowledge of the area and spent two nights in different local minority home-stays. It is a fascinating way to discover the ethnic peoples life-style while staying in their homes.
Transportation is either by car or with motorbikes. Please note that the duration of the ride by car is 4 hours long and done by motorbikes approximately 7 hours. Due to this longer transfer, the itinerary on day 1 and 3 is a little different when opting for motorbikes. The road from Ninh Binh to Pu Luong is stunning and offers many photo opportunities. As such, it is actually part of the tour and there will be several stops to make this journey memorable. With rainy or very hot weather conditions we recommend traveling by car.
* Instead of bringing you back to Ninh Binh we offer a transfer to Mai Chau for a reasonable extra fee. In Mai Chau tourism is more developed and there are many home-stays to choose from. Furthermore, there are good bus connections between Mai Chau and Hanoi.
Unlike Sapa, in Pu Luong you don't encounter hordes of tourists at every bend of the road. Sapa is undeniable a beautiful destination absolutely worth visiting. The only drawback is that the locals have adjusted too eagerly to the tourist industry. A typical scene is the foreigner surrounded by a dozen local women repeating the mantra: buy from me. The minority people in Pu Luong do not have the intention to make tourism their major source of income. There are no people who sell souvenirs.
There are also no hotels in Pu Luong. It is simply not possible to visit this area on your own if you don't speak the language. There is no town, only villages. A guide is necessary to communicate with the local hosts. He will assist them to prepare your meals who are somewhat different than their own local dishes.
Our guide is Lien's son Nam. Because of his experience and good connections in Pu Luong he is one of a handful people in Vietnam who can organize this tour. He is often booked by upscale hotels in Ninh Binh and agencies in Hanoi to organize the same tour for their clients. Needless to say that the price for the identical tour from these selling points, is much higher. Our prices start from $45 per person per day (2 persons going on motorbikes, 1 person rate is $60)
If you want to visit a place, that’s off the beaten track and as beautiful as it can get, don't miss this special opportunity.
Green Papaya home stay,
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