You are seeking a destination where you can enjoy a vast green plateau, touch clouds on grandiose mountains and wade in streams on rivers; but you also want to explore the most exciting part of Vietnamese culture reflected by ethnic minorities? It's Son La.
1. Moc Chau Highlands
Moc Chau Highlands is 1050m high above sea level. About 200km to the Northwest of Hanoi, this highland is 80km in length and 25km in width. The area covered by fields is about 1600 ha.
It is not overconfident to state that Moc Chau is the greatest resource for Son La’s and North-western Vietnam’s tourism. Among all the special characteristics of the highland, the most precious resource of Moc Chau is its climate. This land has an annual average temperature of 20oC and a much more favorable winter compared to other parts of the region.
The most typical tourism activity in Moc Chau is sightseeing. Indeed, there are hundreds of natural sites that can take your breath away. In addition, the highland’s collection of traditional festivals is another thing that attracts tourists from all over the country.
Some of the places to check out are: Son Moc Huong Cave, Chien Vien Pagoda, Dai Yem Waterfall, Phieng Luong Peak, endless pine forests, and the villages of the Dao ethnic groups. The music of ethnic people spreads all over the highland while the delicious traditional dishes and local souvenirs enchant tourists.
Besides, the highland is also close to many other attractions of the province such as Xuan Nha – Sop Cop ecotourism site. This is another place where you can find an immense area of primitive forest and many scarce animal species.
2. Loong Luong
In Spring, Loong Luong is flooded in peach and plum flowers. When the summer comes, Loong Luong is a wonderful oasis under the cool forests of plums and peaches.
The fall fluttering of leaves together with wooden fire kitchens creates lonely feelings for the people far from home. Winter under the trees of peach and plum makes us feel the deposit of time.
Loong Luong stands quietly and peacefully by the side of the 6th National Road, on the way from Hoa Binh to Moc Chau. Tourists can see the beautiful scenery of simple houses looming under the shade of green gardens full of peach and plum trees.
Everything in Loong Luong can made tourists feel curious when traveling here. From the peaceful life of Mong people to the green color of forests, gardens or simply the red color of Mong people’s clothes, folk games of children, etc… All of these things will make you want to discover this beautiful land, take you to a peaceful world, your dreams about childhood.
3. Son La Former Prison & Museum
French colonization endedin 1954, but a huge number of traces still exist as memory keepers for one of the darkest periods in the history of Vietnam. Among these historical relics, Son La Prison is regarded as one of the most famous places, with a no less notorious name “Hell on Earth” to describe the frightening brutality of French colonialists to Vietnamese prisoners here.
The prison was established in 1908 at the center of Son La town and on top of Khau Ca Hill. A tiny one at first, the prison soon expanded to become a crucial place where numerous political prisoners were kept.
The place was notorious at the time as a cruel and terrifying jail where resisting wills and patriotism on the mind of prisoners was diminished in the bloodiest methods. However, for revolutionaries imprisoned inside Son La Jail, the place was a “college” where stamina, solidarity and combating spirit was enhanced.
There are various stories about the tenacity and courage of revolutionaries who resisted the colonizers and perished at this place like To Hieu.
Although the original construction was partially demolished after two wars, Son La Prison has still conserved major features, especially jail system and torturing facilities inside. The impression of visitors of the outer scenery might be nothing special, but most guests entering the prison will be surprised with inside space because they will find it hard to understand how French colonizers could lock prisoners in the terrible place like this.
The atmosphere is damp and stifling with ugly smell and insects everywhere. For the underground jails, the condition is much worse and essential elements for human life like light and air seem only to be a luxury.
Moreover, there are also special rooms for torture that have complete collection of unbelievably terrifying items and methods for collecting information from prisoners.
The common feeling of visitors when they see those rooms is horror with their brutality.
Son La Prison is at the center of Son La town, about 7 hours from Hanoi. The best way to visit this Northwestern mountain province is with an organized tour.
4. Mong Village
Mong Village is a great destination for people who look for a new and interesting ecotourism site. This captivating cultural village is located in the area of Hua La district in Son La province.
Upon their arrival at the village, tourists will immediately notice the distinctive scenery of spectacular mountains and rivers. The mountains of different sizes form a stunning range that resemble a dragon embracing the Nam La River. Coffee trees, pine trees, plum trees, apricot trees and bamboo covering the sides of the mountains.
The village is also surrounded by primitive forests full of precious trees and colorful orchid flowers. Every time the spring comes, apricot flowers, plum flowers and Ban flowers show off their beauty, competing with one another to dominate the picture of forest.
In addition, the yellow bees fly around, dancing cheerfully on the bed of flowers and adding to the brilliant scenery of Mong Village.
The village will become tranquil and gloomy in the winter. In fact, winter is a perfect time for Vong Gai flowers to bloom, filling the forest with a bright red color.
Feeling the winter breeze in the air while immersing yourself in the hot spring tub and looking at the red stilt houses and Vong Gai flowers will be something that you will remember forever.
5. Son Moc Huong Cave
Son Moc Huong Cave is often referred to as Moc Chau Bat’s Cave. In fact, the second name might be even more popular among foreign tourists. This is a piece of art, a national treasure given to land of Moc Chau by nature.
From Moc Chau town, the cave can be easily accessed. Only a few minutes driving towards Son La City will take you to Son Moc Huong cave. The cave is located 150m away from the National Road No. 6. Its mouth faces a big and spectacular valley, on which stand 7 small gem-like mountains.
It is said that, once upon a time, there was a holy dragon flying toward the East Sea. When crossing Son La, it was amazed by the spectacular terrain, cool weather, and the peaceful scenery of this land. Thus, the dragon decided to settle down in the valley.
Nowadays, according to local people, the range of mountains surrounding the valley is nothing but this holy dragon. Interestingly, the mountains look white in the early morning, blue at noon, pink in the afternoon, and purple at sunset. There is no other way to testify to this statement other than going there yourself and watching the lights play with the colors!
When the dragon died, to thank the land, it placed seven dragon’s gems in the valley. The mouth of the dragon, which is also the mouth of Son Moc Huong Cave, turns to the South to look at the precious gems.
Inside the cave, stalactites and stalagmites create a picture full of rainbows. Many stalactites reach a length of nearly 20m; they look like the banyan tree’s roots touching the ground. In addition, the stalactites and stalagmites also come in many other shapes such as “Money Tree”, fairy, elephant, lion, tiger, lizard, eagle, and even floating clouds.
Even though they are all created naturally, these pieces of art look as if they are carefully and aesthetically carved by the most skilled craftsmen. In some places, the ceiling of the cave can get up to 30m. Many small ponds can be found inside the cave.
The cave has its name from the fact that it is the house of thousands of bats. However, not a single tourist lets this fact deter him from exploring this wonderful cave.
7. Dai Yem waterfall
Dai Yem waterfall is a historical landscape, which is closely related to the history of Thai people in Muon Sang land a long time ago. The name Dai Yem is derived from a story about the brassiere of the girl who saved a boy from the flood.
The waterfall includes two levels of falls with the second located 150 meters at an angle below the first one. Above the second waterfall is a floral stretch of land from where visitors can view the surrounding mountainous view.
8. Pha Luong Mount
Located 30km from the town of Moc Chau, the Pha Luong peak is the roof of Moc Chau. At a height of nearly 2,000m, Pha Luong is an attractive destination for young people. Conquering this mountain requires the courage and strength of real adventurers.
9. Son La hot springs
Many of the 120 families who live in the village, which is about three kilometers from the capital of Son La, offer this hot water bath service for travelers to shrug off their exhaustion and revitalize their energy after a long day of trekking.
The water of over 30oC is pipelined from natural hot springs nearby. The best time for a hot water bath is in the early afternoon, before the weather turns cold. Soaking in the morning is not recommended as it will give you a chill. The staff in the houses clean the bathtub and run the hot water before they invite their guests to soak their whole body, or only their feet if they prefer, for as long as they want. The cost is not more than VND10,000 a time.