Intrepid travelers are discovering Pu Luong, a beautiful Natural Reserve with amazing biodiversity
While Mai Chau is crowded with tourists, just 80km away, Pu Luong remains as calm as it was decades ago. Visitors who venture off the beaten track will discover pristine forests, terraced rice fields and thatched-roof stilt huts. Recognized as a Natural Reserve, Pu Luong straddles the two districts of Ba Thuoc and Quan Hoa in Thanh Hoa Province. An ecological treasure trove, this area has great potential for ecotourism, if it is managed sustainably.
Adventurous visitors come here to sleep in stilt houses and escape modern life. There is no wifi, nor electricity in places. Most of the area’s residents are hospitable ethnic Thai people who farm rice. Passing along old lanes, visitors will reach the hamlets of Hieu, Don, Kho and Muong. Here, stilt houses stand side by side, encircled by terraced rice fields. Some of the locals speak only faltering Vietnamese, while local children hide behind their mothers and cast shy but curious glances at foreign travelers.
Visitors delight in trekking through the core of the Reserve and camping overnight in Don Village, Thanh Son Commune. They also enjoy the beauty of Cham Fountain, which flows through the valleys in Ban Cong Commune, Ba Thuoc District. While water wheels are rare in most mountainous areas, they still operate here, carrying water along small canals in a sophisticated system that reaches the furthest furrows. In the late afternoons, photographers can’t resist capturing scenes of daily life, such as locals taking their buffalos home or children playing by the fountain. Tourists can also sign up for tours that give them a glimpse into local life: following farmers to their fields to learn how to plant rice or learning how to prepare local dishes like sticky rice, grilled meat and fish wrapped in leaves and grilled over charcoal.
Pu Luong is home to some 1,542 plant species and 908 animal species, including many endangered species listed in the Vietnam and Global Red Books, such as Pa Co Pines, terrestrial orchids, Phayre’s leaf monkeys, cheetahs, antelopes, and Asian black bears. While the larger animals are hard to spot, visitors who hike into the forests can enjoy the region’s butterflies, birds, flowers and interlacing vines. They can also explore the remnants of a former military airport.
Thanks to efforts to both promote and preserve its nature and identity, Pu Luong is attracting more visitors. Several resorts have been built near local villages, and some families have opened comfortable home-stays. Thanks to the use of natural materials, these tourism facilities don’t mar the area’s natural beauty, yet offer modern comforts. It’s such a pleasure to sit at a bamboo table overlooking golden rice terraces. It’s also a pleasure to savor simply prepared but authentic Thai foods after a day of trekking or kayaking. Pu Luong has the quiet charm of a shyly smiling Thai maiden in a piêu headscarf.