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Home » Vietnam information » Vietnam Travel News »

Hoa Binh: Not just Mai Chau and the power plant

20/08/2006 (GMT+7)

Most people know Hoa Binh for Mai Chau, or as the site of the country’s largest power plant; but the province, in fact, has much, much more. We decided we wanted to escape the crowded and close atmosphere of the millions of motorcycles in Hanoi, and we headed to Hoa Binh for an early summer weekend.

Hoa Binh Mai Chau: Not just Mai Chau and the power plantMost people know Hoa Binh for Mai Chau, or as the site of the country’s largest power plant; but the province, in fact, has much, much more.

We decided we wanted to escape the crowded and close atmosphere of the millions of motorcycles in Hanoi, and we headed to Hoa Binh for an early summer weekend.

Traveling by motorcycle, we took Highway No 6 on an early morning in April, which was when we were told was the best time to visit the area in terms of weather. It was not too sunny that day.

For the first 20km the road was still busy with many small trucks and scooters carrying vegetables, food and other kinds of goods from the countryside of Ha Tay province to Hanoi, the greatest consumer market in the north of Vietnam. But along the road rice paddies spread as far as we could see.

Toward the end of Ha Tay territory hills gradually came into view. Hoa Binh is just 75km from the capital city of Hanoi. We stopped in the middle of the road to Hoa Binh, where we could get a good look at the limestone mountains surrounding the rice paddies. And at the foot of those mountains appeared the Muong ethnic minority people vaguely amidst the thickset bamboo. In the rice field, some Muong women in their traditional attire were working. The landscape was so peaceful that we could hear the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves of nearby trees.

Muong people are believed to have the same ancestors as the Kinh people but split thousands of years ago. They live mainly in the lower land of mountainous areas in the north and central regions of Vietnam. The total population of the minority is around one million.

The tour that the travel agent offered us was a boat tour on Hoa Binh Lake. The lake was formed upon the completion of the power plant dam. From the boat we could see villages of the local Muong and Dzao ethnic peoples on the bank.

On the boat, we had our lunch of sticky rice cooked in bamboo tubes and grilled meat. They are two typical dishes in common meals of local people. The meal was presented on a large banana leaf, which made me think about going hunting in the jungle.

We stopped at the small shop of a Muong man, who sold a number of things for tourists. While chatting with us, the man told he had set up the shop a couple of years ago and together with cultivation the business helped his family of 6 people have basically enough food.

Our next destination was Kim Boi hot spring, which is a 30km drive from Hoa Binh. Prior to Doi Moi, most Vietnamese people knew Kim Boi as a place where mineral water was bottled and sold.

Kim Boi now has one rest house to provide services to tourists coming to the place for bathing in the hot spring water. The house was built near a large mineral water pool. Visitors sitting inside the house can hear the water, which is at a constant temperature of 36°C, continuously spouting out. The services were very basic.

I am not a businessman, but I can imagine that with more investment, Kim Boi could be a place of high-quality spa services for tourists. The trip from Hanoi to Kim Boi takes only three hours, so with the allure of its mineral water, Kim Boi could easily tempt Hanoi tourists to enjoy the relaxation of bathing and tasting local Muong ethnic minority food.

The receptionist at the guesthouse told me that “a Muong night” was available upon request. The event usually involves a campfire, Muong traditional dancing and food. Tourists have the chance to drink Ruou Can - a special wine served in light brown porcelain pots. To drink it people use tubes made of bamboo and share pots with each other.



Sources: Vietnamnet

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