The milk of Moc Chau
2010-01-04 (GMT + 7)
Among the wildflowers and tea fields of the rugged northwestern mountains, you’ll find some of the best milk Southeast Asia has to offer.
As we approached the Moc Chau Plateau, the fields in the valleys below the high mountain road looked like a quilted blanket, an agricultural robe draped over the foothills and canyons.
We had left the town of Hoa Binh in the province of the same name earlier that day and the cooler temperatures now told us we were finally in Son La, a northwestern province bordering Laos.
Parts of the road were flanked by busy markets set up by the Mong and Muong communities indigenous to the area. They sold crafts and wares as well as local culinary specialties. We stopped for some hot fresh corn.
Before reaching Long Luong, our destination, we began to see vegetables and fruit orchards spliced between crop fields and glimmering in the spring sunshine. Every once in a while large mountains along the road would be separated by fields of flowers.
Long Luong, which the government has plans to turn into a major tourist destination, is at the center of Moc Chau District, where the road runs through vast forests of tea plants at the foot of the mountains.
But in addition to the tea, a lesser-known Moc Chau specialty is its fresh milk.
Since 1960, a special military unit stationed in Moc Chau has been raising cows and producing what might be the best milk Southeast Asia has to offer.
Moc Chau was the first locality to raise cows and produce milk commercially in Vietnam. It produces about 12 tons of milk a year from 5,000 cows.
Tourism infrastructure is underdeveloped in Moc Chau at the moment, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, especially because most of the roads in the area are in good condition – that is, perfect for motorbiking.
Other culinary traits of the area include the 30-kg wild pig. Its flesh is tough and sweet; its skin is crispy and it is lean on fat. It can be boiled, smoked or roasted.
Moc Chau is also known for its tasty buffalo jerk, fried fish and boiled bamboo shoots which are not bitter like bamboo elsewhere.
Many of Moc Chau’s fields are white with flowers in the spring, the mix of flowers and corn fields creating checkered patterns when you look down on the district from its mountaintops.
In October, the traditional Cow Festival, now called the “Cow Beauty Contest,” pits the best-looking dairy producers against each other to see who can be queen.
The cow that is the most beautiful and gives the most milk wins the competition.
HOW TO GET THERE ?
From Hanoi, travel southwest to Hoa Binh and then take National Road 6 west to Moc Chau. The best means of transportation is a private vehicle as the roads are pretty and at some times steep. A motorbike is great for an adventure. It is also the best way to admire the natural beauty along the road.
In Moc Chau, the best place to stay at is Cong Doan Hotel in Nong Truong Town. Rooms with basic facilities are VND200,000 (US$10.8) per night. There are other hotels.
Source: VietNamNet/Thanh Nien