Quietly tucked amid vast primitive forests, Bac Son Valley exudes mystery and unparalleled charm, intriguing thousands of nature-loving souls. What makes Bac Son stand out amongst the countless number of trekking spots in Northern Vietnam is its untouched beauty, which features tranquility, rusticity, and tenderness that a rural, mountainous area should have.
An interesting thing about Bac Son is that rice is not cultivated at the same time, resulting in one section ripening before another, while some are still in the early vegetative phase. This unique method of cultivation magically creates a splendid ‘accidental’ artwork with irregular patches of different colors.
Bac Son Valley Trekking Tours
Day 1 – Doing a Bac Son Homestay at Quynh Son Village
Quynh Son Village, officially named Quynh Son Cultural Tourism Community, is an ancient space packed with distinctive cultural and natural heritage. All the wooden houses are densely distributed, representing the profound community spirit of the Tay. This village is also known for pristine natural settings with rippling Karst Mountains and a system of caves, adorned with mirror-like springs.
Quynh Son Village
Set off on a 4-hour journey at 8 AM from Hanoi along National Highway 03 to Thai Nguyen City, and then National Highway 1B to Lang Son Province. By noon, you will arrive at Quynh Son Village, a tranquil village populated by Tay ethnic people, where the wooden on-stilt architecture is in perfect harmony with its natural surroundings. In a villager’s stilt house, you will have your first authentic local experience with exotic local delights while enjoying the heartwarming company of your host.
Where to visit in your Quynh Son exploration?
For cultural buffs:
- There is Dinh Son Shrine (a national level relic) dedicated to Duong Tu Minh, who defeated the Song invaders and kept the border residents safe in the 12th century.
- Stop by Ra Rieng Bridge (a provincial level relic), where local residents together with Vietnamese soldiers ambushed French troops and confiscated many weapons and equipment, contributing to the success of the Bac Son Insurrection on September 27th, 1940.
- Quynh Son Village features many ancestral crafts, particularly, the traditional roof title-making hamlet – Tan Huong.
- ‘Then tunes’ with an immense spiritual meaning is accompanied by the sound ‘Dan Tinh’ (a two-string instrument) and traditionally used in worshipping. ‘Vi tunes’ and ‘Tan Dan Dance’ are also some of the most unique cultural features of the locals.
For nature lovers:
- Quynh Son Village is ideal to observe nature in its purest form with a multitude of natural attractions to view and visit. There is the giant banian tree, The Fairy Well, the primitive Ironwood forest and cave system, and the antenna station on the top of Na Lay Mountain for a panoramic view of the entire village.
Black Chung Cake Slices
Take a leisurely stroll to discover the cultural identities of the Tay and eat your way around the village. Local delicacies here run in a wide range, from sweet treats and fruits to traditional glutinous rice liquors. With exotic flavors and fresh ingredients, Quynh Son is no doubt a heaven for foodies with its signature black Chung cakes, wormwood Day cakes, Cooc Mo cakes, Cam sticky rice, sausages, Bac Son sweet tangerines, golden flower glutinous rice wine, etc.
Cloud hunting on top of Na Lay Mountain
Professional photographers and those riveted by outdoor activities make it a point to climb to the antenna station on the summit of Na Lay Mountain to capture Bac Son Valley in a different light. Sitting at an elevation of 600m above sea level, the 500+ steps to the top make Na Lay Mountain a relatively tough challenge to conquer. There isn’t much to see on the way, but it’s totally rewarding once you have made it to the peak.
It takes around 25 minutes to get to the station for experienced trekkers and about an hour for first timers. October and November is the best time to ‘hunt clouds’ in Bac Son as the weather conditions and scenery are at their best.
Bac Son Valley is always beautiful, but it looks even more surreal during twilight, making sunrise and sunset the 'golden hours' for 'cloud hunting' on Na Lay Peak. Some professional photographers start trekking at 2 or 3 AM, or even stay up all night to get the perfect shot. It's unparalleled visual glory to watch the radiating sunrays bring out mountain range after mountain range, revealing a brilliant world of serenity. At sunset, the crepuscular rays fade into a fathomless abyss of pale orange; the mountains become sharply outlined silhouettes and eventually vanish into the misty horizon.
There is no better way to capture candid moments of tribal life than to do a Bac Son Homestay! Thus, head back and enjoy a homemade dinner and cozy night at your host's home at Quynh Son Village.
Day 2 - Pedaling through the placid countryside of Bac Son Valley
After breakfast with your hosts, head out on a biking tour around Bac Son. Cycling is a safe and enjoyable way to get exposed to the natural and socio-cultural values of Bac Son Valley. Passing through the poetic ambiance with layered surroundings, you will get to meet and interact with many different ethnic minority groups clad in their own traditional costumes made of hand-woven cotton. Soak up the tranquil atmosphere and watch local life go by at its very own pace.
Nong Luc Temple
Pay an en-route visit to Nong Luc Temple, where Vietnamese communists set up the Bac Son Insurrection against French colonial rule in 1940. This historical and cultural relic was constructed in the early 20th century, combining Northern Vietnam’s architectural style and the on-stilt architecture of the Tay.
When is the best time for a Bac Son tour?
In addition to the medium altitude and favorable climate, the natural geographical conditions of Bac Son Valley aren’t as rugged compared to other parts of North Vietnam. Thus, it is almost always a good time for a Bac Son tour or perhaps a Bac Son valley trekking tour. When is the best time to visit Bac Son should rest on your personal interests.
Bac Son in harvest season
Many people favor Bac Son in harvest season, which is from July to November, when the whole plateau is carpeted in rich color. The ripened rice paddies in dusky yellow illuminated with slanting rays of sunlight, together with tantalizing clouds floating effortlessly above make the valley look like an intricate mosaic of a Venetian artist.
Another best time to visit Bac Son is during Long Tong Festival, held by the Tay people at Quynh Son Shrine, Quynh Son Village. Long Tong means ‘going to the field’ in the Tay Language and the festival is celebrated annually to pray for a bumper crop. This festival falls on the 12th and 13th of lunar January, featuring an array of rites and activities. All of the traditional games (swinging, throwing cotton balls, playing Tien Chess, etc.) and performances take place throughout the festival (Then tunes, Vi tunes, etc.).