Visitors to Mau Son will find stunning mountain views and diverse ethnic minority cultures
Mau Son is known for its delicious peaches, fragrant local liquors and winter snows. Yet despite this familiarity, it remains off the tourist map. Just 30km from Lang Son, Man Son retains the unspoilt ambiance of the wild Northeast Highlands.
From Lang Son City to Man Son I drove 15k along meandering mountain roads. With steep cliffs on one side and deep chasms on the other, even experienced drivers must drive slowly. The road left me both anxious and exhilarated by views of boundless greenery and overlapping mountain peaks. Silver clouds swirled playfully around the peaks like a soft white scarf. Along the road lie safe places for visitors to stop and take photos. Here, local ethnic peoples such as Dao, Tay, Hmong and Nung sell handicrafts to visitors. They are eager to communicate with lowland people.
The higher I travel, the purer the air and the lower the temperature. Situated 1500m above sea level, Mau Son Peak is a wonderful spot to relax. The average temperature in Mau Son is 15.5°C. The winter is characterised by thick fog and occasional snow. The summer is cool and pleasant even in radiant sunshine. And in springtime, all of Mau Son is draped in tantalising pink peach blossoms.
Thanks to its changing seasons and unspoiled nature, during French colonial times Mau Son was designated as a tourist resort. In 1923, a French doctor by the name of Dr. Opilot arrived in Mau Son and laid the cornerstone of a convalescence villa. More French colonists followed suit, building villas in the hills. Unfortunately, after years of warfare, this budding tourism area was forgotten. The ruins stood grim and grey, uninhabited by even ghosts. Even though some villas have been converted into fine and ancient hostels, their facilities remain limited. Yet thanks to this wild and rustic setting, people can come closer to nature.
Drawn by the cool climate, French settlers built a tourism resort in Mau Son in the 1920s
Mau Son is popular with backpackers and hikers who climb its high mountains. Visitors can also learn about the local cultures and visit sacred sites. Hiking here yields many surprises, but visitors must remain alert for changing weather. Mist and wind can come suddenly, and it gets dark quickly in the mountains. After a busy day I took a relaxing dip in a herbal hot tub prepared by Dao natives.
Visitors in search of adventure can choose to camp in the mountains and feast on local delicacies such as roasted boar with móc mật leaves, and grilled chicken or frogs with bamboo shoots. Be sure to sample the local Mau Son liquor, raising a toast to this amazing landscape and the hospitable locals.
Next year, I’m going to another mountain in Hanoi suburbs called Tram mountain to visit the pagodas
Hoi An doesn’t lack nice homestay but if you want to stay at quiet and poetic homestay, don’t hesitate to visit Heron House or some rooms in An Bang.
The homestay below are foreigners’ favorite places by its space, comfort and tranquility.
Many visitors coming Hoi An are looking for a quiet place to stay and Heron House is the ideal choice. However, the peaceful space with surrounding rice fields is not the only attraction of this resort for tourists. The house was redesigned on base of an old French building. There are only 3 rooms, but the rooms are spacious with 65 meter square and balconies overlooking ocean with many windows to get a lot of wind, sunlight. Sun loungers, coffee tables, hammocks are also available at the balcony for guests interested in a lazy day.
Because there are a few rooms, the owner here often take great care of every little detail with different colors. Here, there are also a swimming pool and a kitchen to welcome guests and they can cook favorite dishes themselves at the nice kitchen and relax by the swimming pool. The cost for per night is $120 each room, the special holidays or peak season, the price up to 140 dollars.
An Bang Seaside Village
Nearby the sea and the surrounding green trees are a plus point of this homestay
Homestay located among the fishing village started to open in 2012 with 9 rooms in 3 different locations. The same point of rooms is comfortable, surrounded by many trees, fruit trees. They were designed by the simple way, but the owner focuses on color that makes feeling youthful. Either choose a room overlooking ocean or garden, you can easily dive into cool water of ocean because the rooms are just about 50 to 100 meters.
These homestay named by fruits such as mango, papaya, avocado, bananas have room rates from 55 to 92 dollars. Two rooms overlooking the sea have the most expensive, with the price from 92 and 144 dollars, but you know, they have the great views and accommodate over 5 people. 3-room houses with flowers, the average price is 62 USD.
With the aim of building a Vietnamese brand in the fast food industry, young entrepreneur Nguyen Danh Hien created iBanhmi serving banh mi (Vietnamese stuffed baguette) that is inspired by cooking styles in many foreign cities but still maintains a real Vietnamese taste
According to Nguyen Danh Hien, he himself selects materials and supervises the processing, producing and packaging of eight types of bread, stuff ingredients and dressing before they are delivered to each restaurant.
Ibanhmi is serving 14 dishes and four combo sets of banh ml from eight types of bread. Photo:Trinh Van Bo/VNP
Noteworthy, ibanhmi is serving bread made from takesumi (carbonized bamboo) from japan, which is used in hanoi for the first time this way.
Like other fast food restaurants, iBanhmi’s main customers are youngsters. Photo: Trinh Van Bo/VNP
Nguyen Danh Hien studied in Switzerland and worked in managerial positions for many high-end restaurants and hotels in Vietnam. However, his dream was to create a Vietnamese fast food brand. In a wide range of signature cuisines of Vietnam, the Western-educated young man chose banh mi to build his own brand.
iBanhmi is a shortened version of the popular cry “Ai banh mi day” (who wants to buy a loaf of bread?) of banh mi vendors, which remains in the memories of many Vietnamese city dwellers. When studying abroad, Nguyen Danh Hien often told his friends about the cry.
Tram Mountain is famous for not only its ink painting-like scenery, but also a lot of relics and pagodas which have great spiritual significance and historical and cultural values
Tram Mountain in Phung Chau Commune, Chuong My District, Hanoi has another name, Ngu Nhac Son, which originates from a legend. It is believed that the mountain was formerly a white pearl from heaven. When the pearl fell to earth near the Day River, it turned into five phoenixes which are today five mountain peaks. The name of the mountains was then changed into Tu Tram Son.
Doai area’s countryside with paddy fields seen from Tram mountrain Photo: Khanh Long/VNP
It takes only 10 minutes to get halfway up the mountain where there is flat ground for tourists to have a panoramic view of five white peaks. Here, there are different paths leading to these peaks.
Tram Mountain is known as a spiritual destination with three ancient pagodas, including Tram, Hang and Vo Vi which are small but very sacred. Vo Vi, built in the 16th century with a total area of nearly 10m2, is the most well known. Most of the area of the pagoda is designed for worshipping Buddha. There is also a pavilion, called Nghenh Phong, where visitors can enjoy fresh winds and behold the romantic landscape formed by a river peacefully winding through rice paddies and the rural countryside.
An ancient poem praising the beauty of Tram Mountain is carved on a stone turtle’s shell Photo:Khanh Long/VNP
Right at the foot of Tram Mountain stands a 3m high entrance that leads to Hang (Cave) Pagoda where many stone Buddha statues are worshiped. Here, there are also various stalactites in different shapes and sizes, creating majestic scenery. Besides stone drums and statues from the Le Dynasty, the pagoda still preserves 15 ancient poems and literature works of great value on its stone walls.