Away from the major tourist landmarks, Pu Luong is a rather timeless and otherworldly land. To the East and West there are tropical forests; to the South there are limestone mountain ranges and verdant valleys; and everywhere you look there are rustic hamlets of the Thai and Muong tribes. So embark on your Pu Luong tour to explore the land of cascading rice fields, hill tribes, and towering mountains.
Pu Luong nature reserve
What to do
Hike up mount Pu Luong
The panorama of mount Pu Luong
Spanning 2 days, this itinerary is packed with spectacular scenery. The dirt road that leads to Pu Luong’s summit is peppered with Mexican sunflower meadows as well as streams and bamboo forests. As with other mountains in South East Asia, the route to the summit of Mount Pu Luong is an uneven hike – trudging on soil trails and clambering up rock boulders. By the time you get to Pu Luong point, there is nothing around but clouds and a commanding view in every direction.
Take a nature walk to Kho Muong hamlet
Kho Muong hamlet
The trek is of an intermediate level and covers a distance of 11 km. A good old-fashioned walk like this will allow plenty of peace and quiet while you explore Vietnam’s countryside at your own pace. This craggy trekking route features several steep slopes, cascading rice terraces, and a hilltop settlement.
Ringed by majestic mountain ranges and overlooking the lush cascading rice fields, Kho Muong is a Thai tribe’s hamlet where traditional life goes on as it has for decades. This region offers a quintessential look into a Vietnamese rural life unaffected by the world beyond. Drop by the chief’s stilt house for a hearty lunch with locally sourced fare and listen to his stories about the French air base here, the harsh climate, and little known historical facts that only an insider would know.
Go to Pho Don open-air market
For a small place, Pho Doan has no shortage of the finest organic produce. Stall-holders arrive in laden back baskets at the crack of dawn to unload heaps of bitter melon, banana, walnut, and fabric with exotic patterns. Pho Don boasts a loyal following from all corners of Pu Luong Nature Reserve, despite the great distance that the market-goers have to cover in order to reach it.
There are not many markets in the world where non-monetary exchange still takes place. A typical transaction here might go like this: after reaching an oral agreement, the two parties hand over their goods, a chicken for a dozen of eggs and a bunch of vegetables for instance.
If you have grown tired of your bargaining skills being tested constantly in Vietnam, you will love the fact that here in Pho Don market, haggling is a total strange concept. Most households in the region are somewhat self-sufficient, so they don’t care much about getting the best value for their products.
Spending a night at Hieu hamlet
On the way to Ban Hieu
If you fancy a slice of Vietnamese mountain life without the commitment of a long trek, Hieu hamlet might be a good place to start. Hanging on vertiginous slopes overlooking patches of cascading rice fields and fresh water streams, it is not the easiest walk but the views are worth the effort. The location of this hamlet provides you with beauty, peace, and stillness that only the mountains can provide. If you don’t feel like strolling around the village or doing a Pu Luong trekking tour, you can still feel refreshed by just relaxing and taking in the views.
Where to stay
Although Pu Luong still remains off the beaten track for both foreign and local tourists, it is a good idea to book your accommodation in advance. If you are unable to find a place to stay, just knock on a door and ask if they take visitors into their home.
Mr. Si’s homestay
Close enough to popular trekking destinations to feel convenient, but far enough away from the crowd to get some peace and quiet; Mr. Si’s homestay is a delightful stilt house that oozes mountain charm. Located at the end of a craggy winding road beside a stream, this house sits on the mountainside with splendid landscaped vistas. The bedroom is upstairs with a few mattresses and mosquito nets. Downstairs are sofas and swinging chairs with a valley view. The toilet and shower are kept clean and are housed in a bamboo compartment.
Mr. Ba’s homestay
Mr. Ba’s homestay
If you fancy a taste of the true local life, Mr. Ba’s homestay is the place to opt to. Roosters, hens, and chicks roam freely in the courtyard, cattle in the bamboo cowshed and pigs in the pigsty; this is what a typical Vietnamese farmhouse looks like. The food here is homely, locally-sourced, and superb.
Pu Luong retreat
Pu Luong retreat
Conveniently located in the leafy neighborhood of Don Hamlet, Pu Luong retreat is set out like a traditional Thai village. Here, it’s all about the details: dense tropical woods, Vietnamese ethnic minority artifacts, and a private balcony with a panoramic view. Other highlights include an infinity pool; a spa in form of a hut, and a cozy restaurant.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to and around Pu Luong is to book a Pu Luong trekking tour or Pu Luong private tour and everything will be taken care of for you.
If you want to do the trip on your own, the guide to Pu Luong Nature Reserve by motorbike from helloVietnam tour operator will help you:
From Hanoi, follow highway 06 and then Ho Chi Minh highway to reach Cam Thuy (Thanh Hoa province). Take the right turn onto 217 national road to Canh Nang town, and then turn right again onto 15C road. Continue on for about 10 km then ask for directions to Pho Doan.
From Ninh Binh, take the bus to Dong Tam junction on NR.15 and get off at Canh Nang, a small town at the southern gate of Pu Luong Nature Reserve, before your bus reaches the junction.