Not far from other well-worn tourist sites, the Pu Luong protected area offers spectacular untouched scenery and warm and friendly people.

By Long Tuyen on October 17,2017 04:47 PM


photos: Long Tuyen

Just 25 km northwest of the popular Cuc Phuong National Park, the Pu Luong Protected Area in Thanh Hoa province has recently made a name for itself as being one of the most pristine areas in Vietnam’s north.

Nearby Mai Chau has long been known for its tourist attractions like Lac village and Van village, which have a host of accommodation options. Tourists, though, need only travel about 10 km to the southeast to find the unspoiled Pu Luong, lying peacefully in valleys of yellow rice fields between green mountains, with smoke rising from the chimneys of stilt houses dotted here and there in the late afternoon. Pu Luong attracts visitors with its untouched beauty, which many other mountainous areas have long since lost.


Pu Luong still possesses many species of rare flora animals and plants. In the core of the protected area.

Once in the area, visitors can see amazing images of the waterwheels carrying water from rivers up to canals among the paddy fields via a system of bamboo tubes, and groups of children happily playing in the water while taking care of buffaloes.

Times have changed considerably over recent decades, and pumps, tractors, and rice mills are now readily found in local villages. Except for such machinery, however, the area remains largely unchanged for several reasons.

First, getting there involves a long and quite difficult trip as many stretches of the road are in an almost permanent state of disrepair. Most importantly, though, it is the largest protected natural area in northern Vietnam, with very strict rules in force regarding travel and tourism.

On an area of 17,662 ha, Pu Luong borders the districts of Mai Chau, Tan Lac, and Lac Son in Hoa Binh province to the north, and the district of Quan Hoa in Thanh Hoa province to the south. It’s still almost unknown among tourists.

The local inhabitants are mainly from the Thai, Muong, and Kinh ethnic groups, and many people in particularly remote areas don’t speak Vietnamese. The children often look at foreign visitors with wonder and surprise in their big round eyes.

Pu Luong still possesses many species of rare flora animals and plants. In the core of the protected area, it’s said there are rare animals such as Indochinese tigers, clouded leopards, and flying squirrels. Finding them, though, is extremely difficult, as they, perhaps unsurprisingly, stay far from populated areas.

In place of seeing such rare animals, Pu Luong instead offers a range of mesmerising sights. Two ranges of limestone mountains create a valley in the centre, with gentle rivers and magnificent waterfalls.


Local people in the villages of Kho Muong and Cao Hong have learned how to provide tourist services over the last few years. Visitors can spend a night in a pile dwelling before making their way along narrow paths into the mountains in the morning to take breath-taking photos. Unnamed paths spread out in different directions. While one path leads to the mountain summit at an altitude of 1,700 metres, another cuts across villages and leads far into the forest. Any direction holds major surprises for visitors.

Fields of yellow ripe rice, patches of reeds clinging to the mountainsides, white reed flowers covering parts of a forested area, or groups of small pile dwellings far down the valley are also to be found, and from a distance it’s hard to imagine how people can get to and from their houses.

Visitors can forget about luxury air-conditioned hotel rooms and cars or buses dropping them right outside of tourist attractions. Such conveniences are simply not what Pu Luong is about. Everyone must walk to wherever it is they’re going, and local dishes bear the typical flavours of the Thai ethnic minority people.

Of the many dishes found in the north, the flavours of those from the Thai people are the most delicious, as they create splendid mixtures of natural ingredients. The superiority of Thai food is readily recognised by other peoples around the north. The Thai people are also very hospitable towards visitors, providing adequate blankets and mosquito nets and treating them as friends or relatives. Such things make a great impression on visitors to Pu Luong, many of whom are keen to return and continue their explorations.

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