Nam Nghiep Village, located at an altitude of 2,500 meters above sea level, is part of Ngoc Chien Commune, Muong La District, Son La Province, where heaven and earth are only an arm’s length apart. The village is most beautiful in the spring when the hawthorn trees bloom in the mountains and forests like giant tufts of cotton candy suspended in the blue sky.
The hawthorn flower season begins after the Lunar New Year when the plum and peach blossoms are falling. After hearing about a small village high in the mountains whose beauty rivals that of Japan or Korea during the cherry blossom season, I decided to visit Nam Nghiep. Even the most experienced drivers will struggle to reach this remote village. I sat in the car, convinced I was on a roller coaster of death: my body shook with every rock wobbling on the road and every hairpin turn.
After navigating the perilous road, rolling mountains and white hills covered with hawthorn flowers appeared before my eyes. In this pristine location in the midst of a heavenly white cloud, it felt as if I could touch the sky with only one hand. My fatigue vanished after a deep breath of fresh air among thousands of hawthorn flowers. Everything became clear and free of dust.
Nam Nghiep cultivates hawthorn trees on an area of over 1,600 hectares, including 800 hectares of ancient trees ranging in age from 300 to 500 years old. The roots of the hawthorn trees glisten in the sunlight as they stand tall in the sky, with lush roots and long branches that hang down as softly as a young girl’s flower-covered hair. In full bloom, the hawthorn tree has only white flowers that cluster together, with little green in between.
I followed a red dirt road that meandered through hills covered with blooming hawthorn flowers to reach the residential area of Nam Nghiep Village, where homes are perched on high hills. Despite their difficult circumstances, the locals are full of life. Women and children wear ornate and colorful handcrafted clothing, but it is their smiles that stand out the most. The children in the village have white teeth, plump and rosy cheeks, and clear, sparkling eyes. I enjoyed watching them laugh and talk to one another, as well as occasionally joining in to play small games. My heart was filled with joy and peace. When the children saw my camera, they covered their mouths, giggled, whispered, and dashed behind the old hawthorn trees one after another. As I became more familiar, they showed me the largest flowering trees high up in the hills, where I could hunt for spectacular sunsets and feel as if I could touch heaven with my own hands.
Visitors to Nam Nghiep can spend the night in a homestay or camp under the ancient hawthorn trees. Trekking enthusiasts can attempt to conquer the 2,979-meter-high Ta Chi Nhu Peak or simply stroll around the hillsides, admiring the hawthorn orchards that bask in glorious morning dew or in dreamlike sunsets.