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, Mau 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.
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