Forget Sapa!! Come with us to experience Pu Luong Nature Reserve
Don't get me wrong, Sapa is a beautiful destination to visit but it is crowded with tourists and the locals can be a little annoying at times. Why not step off the beaten path and experience the less crowded and equally beautiful Pu Luong Nature Reserve. Some of our staff just visited Pu Luong for the first time on a educational trip and they were blown away by the beauty of this stunning area.
We started our journey from Ninh Binh early Monday morning and drove through the Pineapple Plantations just outside of Ninh Binh, stopping to take some photos of the endless rows of pineapples and a short walk to see the farmers at work in the fields. The farmers here supply the pineapples to a juice factory and then the seconds can be sold at local markets.
From Pineapple Plantations to Sugar Cane Farms, the drive is amazing as we leave Ninh Binh and enter Thanh Hoa, our next stop was to see how they make sugar cane syrup which is used to make local cakes. It has its own unique taste and several processes are involved, first they have to juice the sugar cane, then boil it for several hours, during the cooking process they have to filter it and keep boiling it until it produces a thick syrup. The locals then sell it to be used in baking.
After our sugar high we continued our drive through the beautiful landscapes passing through a rubber tree farm, this was an interesting stop to see where rubber actually comes from. You will see many rubber plantations over Vietnam, the tree needs to mature before they can be carved for rubber. They carve from the bottom up and as you can see in the photos, a white liquid substance is essentially milked from the tree and collected in a small bowl attached to the tree.
A quick photo stop at the Rubber Farm and then we crossed over the Ma River and arrived to Doan Town where we stopped for a local lunch of Pho Bo before starting our trek to Hieu Village. The sun was out and it was lovely weather for trekking, they have just finished harvesting the rice so we got to see lots of rice being dried out and also cassava and corn. Trekking through some small villages, rice fields, crossing over bamboo bridges and saying hello to the friendly locals, plenty of opportunities to take amazing photos and enjoy the fresh air. The trek on the first day was about 10km on mostly good paths, the occasional stream crossing and a steeper climb upto to the homestay in Hieu Village.
In the late afternoon we arrived to our Homestay in Hieu Village, the family were very welcoming and happy to see us, they served us some local tea and we enjoyed the view over the rice fields. To cool down we went with the children from the homestay for a swim in the waterfall nearby, the water was absolutely freezing but it was nice after a long afternoon of trekking. In the evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner cooked by the family along with some local rice wine. We were all pretty tired so went to bed early and it didn't take long to fall asleep with the help of the sounds of the water gushing from the waterfall.
In the early morning we could all hear the roosters crowing and it wasn't long before everyone gathered in the kitchen to enjoy some breakfast before starting our trek back to Doan Town. We said our thanks to the family for their generous hospitality and continued up the hill to see the source of the Waterfall and through a small village before trekking on a narrow path surrounded by bamboo and trees. It felt like we were totally isolated but the path is nearby many of the terraced rice fields with farmers hard at work on the other side of the trees. Walking through this area it was hard to imagine how the local people transport all the rice from the fields back to their homes on such narrow and steep paths. We passed by a small Kindergarden on top of the mountain, they have a small animal farm with some chickens and deer that are native to this area. From here we started our trek back down into the valley, it was a steep decline back down and a little slippery in some areas so we took our time and were all grateful to reach the road and walk on flat ground. We stopped for a morning tea break at a small village cafe before continuing through the small village and rice fields to reach Doan Town.
We then started our drive back to Ninh Binh stopping for lunch along the way and took a different route through Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh and entering Ninh Binh at Nho Quan Town before getting back to Chookie's Beer Garden in Tam Coc. All the staff had a fantastic time and loved seeing a different part of Vietnam and were excited to expand their knowledge so they can recommend the best places for people to visit when they come to Ninh Binh.
So come visit us at Chookie's Beer Garden in Tam Coc or Chookie's Travel Cafe in Ninh Binh City to experience Pu Luong Nature Reserve for yourself. Tours departing daily from Ninh Binh.