Mountains around Moc Chau Plateau
Mountains around Moc Chau Plateau

Adventure to Moc Chau and Mount Pha Luong (Son La)

 “After the rain, the sun shines again” goes as a Vietnamese saying. It had been a few days in Hanoi with cloudy sky and summer rain, and the weather forecast said there would be a spell of heat in the coming week. It had been ages since my last holiday and it was just the right time to do it now.

I left the city on the first day that the sun came back. This time it shone brightly and strongly. While trying to get through the busy traffic in the city, I could feel the heat building up in mid morning. Luckily, out in the suburb there were breezes and the rice fields that made me feel much better.

Da River at Tu Vu, Thanh Thuy, Phu Tho
Da River at Tu Vu, Thanh Thuy, Phu Tho

It was noon when I reached the Da River near Ba Vi National Park. There had been a ferry here earlier, it was Dong Quan Bridge now across the river. I had a stop on the bridge and took some photos of the idyllic countryside. The breezes were so refreshing!

A ricefield at Thanh Thuy, Phu ThoA ricefield at Thanh Thuy, Phu Tho

Then the road traveled through flat rice fields which were turning into golden colors. The sky was blue with white clouds and the chain of mountains lining the horizon was so scenic. After over an hour or so, the road wound its way amid low hills and tea plantations. And  the last stretch of road in Phu Tho was through high mountains with breathtaking view of valleys below. It was early in the afternoon and everyone seemed to stay indoors that the traffic was very quiet.

View of a valley from Deo Khe between Phu Tho and Son LaView of a valley from Deo Khe between Phu Tho and Son La

After Deo Con, the high pass between Phu Tho and Son La Province, I felt much better with lower temperature and cool breezes. There were valleys with a flat road running through beautiful rice paddies. Coming out of Phu Yen Town, the road was smaller and running by the side of the Da River. There were some landslides on the way due to recent rains. And the riverside scenery was breathtaking.

A rice field at Phu YenA rice field at Phu Yen

 

The Da River at Van Yen, Moc ChauThe Da River at Van Yen, Moc Chau

After a ferry ride at Van Yen, I left the Da River behind and rode on a meandering mountain road which went further into the Moc Chau Plateau. The air was dry and fresh, and the temperature got lower and lower toward to end of a day. I arrived in Moc Chau Farm Township in late afternoon. It was still day light but the sun had set. It had been a long day ride and I didn't feel tired at all! The familiar green tea plantations on the conical hills were so appealing to the eyes!

Moc Chau PlateauMoc Chau Plateau

 

My hotel at Moc ChauMy hotel at Moc Chau

The receptionist got me the same room as my last trip here that had views of the mountains both in the back and in the front. The room had been renewed recently that the interior decorations looked much better. I got some hot tea and gazed mindlessly through the window of my room until it was dark. Dinner at a local restaurant was sensational.

Dinner at Moc Chau on the first nightDinner at Moc Chau on the first night

 

Broth at dinnerBroth at dinner

I awoke at 0500 in the morning and found the sun was very bright already. The temperature was very pleasant though. I tried to get some sleep back but failed and I was the first guest at the restaurant for breakfast. Then I got back to the room and ready for the day trip at 0700 A.M.

The plan for the day was that I would meet my local tour guide, a Hmong guy, at Pha Luong Village where I would ride pillion on his scooter for the next 7 or 8km on a mountain trail to the base of Mount Pha Luong which was on the Lao border and which was about 2,000m above sea level.

The ride to Pha Luong Village was without difficulty but the ride from the village to the mountain base was much worse than I had thought. And Chong proved to be a great scooter rider. Most of the time, we had to climb or descend a small path on a mountain slope which was so steep that I thought we were actually dropping down along with the scooter. I did have to jump off the scooter sometimes and helped to push it upward because the front wheel went up above the ground... Sometimes, the small path was like the saddle on a horse back that both sides were deep streams or ravines and surely mistakes were not allowed!

A rice terrace at Pha LuongA rice terrace at Pha Luong

We made it to the border police station at 0900 A.M. After formalities completed quickly, we were ready for the ascent. To start with, we had to trek through rice terraces on a steep mountain slope. It was breezy but the sun was strong and I felt very uncomfortable. Over half an hour later, we were under the cover of thick forest and it was much more pleasant. I felt sleepy but didn't dare too sleep at first. I was scared that the cool winds could be fatal as I was sweating during the hike. But soon I gave up, partly due to lack of sleep the night before and partly I was feeling quite tired climbing. The hike was vertical sometimes and more than once did I have a feeling that I might not make it to the top...

The forest at Pha LuongThe forest at Pha Luong

 There were quite a few huge boulders on the way to the summit of Mount Pha Luong. I wasn't sure if I had ever seen so many big rocks in my life! They were all covered with green moss. For a while I was climbing a steep path in a thick maple forest and I felt it must have been beautiful in autumn. After a steep ascent, we came to a flat area with planks lying around where I dozed off for the third time. A cool breeze brought me around and I felt hungry. I said to Chong who was playing cards by himself that we should have lunch. The food helped me with so much energy that I felt recovered immediately and was eager to go. I asked Chong how far to the top and he said it was right there!

My tour guide at Pha LuongMy tour guide at Pha Luong

 

 

The trail on the summit of Mount Pha LuongThe trail on the summit of Mount Pha Luong

Yep, the top of the mountain was only rock with smooth surface which went up slightly. The winds were strong here that I could hardly keep my camera steady to take photos. A dark cloud appeared suddenly above which boded little good of the coming weather. I didn't mind the descent but I was scared of the ride from the mountain base back to Chong's village. It would be next to impossible to ride on the trail when the soil was wet. I urged Chong to go down as soon as possible and he was more than happy to follow my advice.

View over Muong Lat of Thanh Hoa Province and Laos from Mount Pha LuongView over Muong Lat of Thanh Hoa Province and Laos from Mount Pha Luong

To my surprise that I could run all the way to the mountain base without much difficulty. We made there in less than one hour and a half. Even the officers at the border police station were surprised with our record. Also, I was really impressed with the officers here; they were probably the kindest ones I've met in my life!

The trip back to Pha Luong Village seemed less scary than in the morning. The rain didn't come as expected and the breezes were wonderful. Chong and I had a trivial talk at a drink shop where we said goodbye to each other. He was a genuine and warmhearted man...

It was sunny and pleasant when I traveled back to Moc Chau. I felt sleepy again on the way back and made it to the hotel at 0430 P.M. The receptionist was surprised seeing me back so early and she asked if I made it to the top! She had been giggling in the morning assuring me that I should not worry because I'd be back before nightfall anyway! I told her the trip was great and yes I made it to the top. Then I got straight into the room. The adventure made me so tired that I got a deep sleep and didn't get up until 0730 P.M. After a hot shower and a sensational dinner, I kept on with my adventure in bed!

Awakened early in the morning again, but I felt fully recovered. I came down the restaurant for an early breakfast and told the receptionist that I'd stay for another day at the hotel. The weather was beautiful in Moc Chau while it had been sizzling hot in Hanoi, and I didn't see any reason to rush. The whole morning was for reading and writing, and I got out of the room only when it was early in the afternoon. The restaurants around the hotel didn't have food left and I had to have lunch at one in the town center. The food was really bad, so was the price. I made it quick and left for the wonderful back road that I had once missed the chance to explore all due to that I was low on petrol.

A tea plantation at Moc ChauA tea plantation at Moc Chau

The sun was bright, the air dry and the breezes extremely pleasant. I'd remember this kind of weather in Moc Chau forever. I rode at a relaxing pace amid green tea plantations. I stopped and got into a plantation for a chat with the workers who gave me some understanding of their life here. We all agreed that while farm work was hard everywhere, but it was far better compared to the farmers in the Red River Delta who worked in much worse weather condition. They offered me a cold water and told me to freely pick plum fruits from the nearby trees for which I thanked and which courteously declined. It is just so wonderful that while you are on a trip far from home and you have unexpected encounters with strangers whose kindness and hospitality is simply heart-touching.

Workers at a tea plantationWorkers at a tea plantation

For the remainder of the afternoon, I rode aimlessly amid tea plantations, corn fields and plum forests. The landscape was captivating and my ride was relaxing. For a few times, did I leave my motorbike and wander into trails leading off to nowhere in the mountains. I just wanted to get relaxed and better angles for my photos.

Breathtaking nature at Moc ChauBreathtaking nature at Moc Chau

 

 

A beautiful mountain road at Moc Chau
A beautiful mountain road at Moc Chau

I arrived back at the hotel when it was dark. Dinner at the same restaurant was just as sensational. I thanked the family for the great meals and told them that I'd leave the day after. I'm sure their business will be thriving with the great food and service. There was not anything in the town of particular interests to me, I went back to my room for an early night.

Last dinner at Moc Chau
Last dinner at Moc Chau

Awakened in the early morning by strong winds against the window, I got up and had a peep outside. It was a cloudy day like the rain could come any time. I had checked the weather forecast the night before and found that it'd be rainy in Moc Chau for the next few days. Never mind then! I had had a great time on this trip and the weather had been perfect. After quick refreshment, I came down to the restaurant for breakfast. It'd be better to leave early.

I was ready to leave at 0730 A.M when a few drops of rain were sprinkled down. It seemed like the rain wanted to keep me stay longer here. No doubt that I loved this land, but I had to go home anyway. I had thought of putting on the rain coat when the rain suddenly stopped. Wow, it was a farewell only! I said goodbye to the hotel staff and slowly made my way back on the same road again. In fact, it was another great day with cloudy sky and gentle breezes. The sun was nowhere to be seen and the air was particularly fresh. If there are moments that I experience perfection in my life, those of today were certain among them!

Mountains at Moc Chau Plateau when I was leaving
Mountains at Moc Chau Plateau when I was leaving

 

 

The Da River at Van Yen on the way back
The Da River at Van Yen on the way back

 

 

Buffaloes at Phu YenBuffaloes at Phu Yen

 

 

Buffalo riders at Phu YenBuffalo riders at Phu Yen

 

 

Ricefields at Ba Vi, HanoiRicefields at Ba Vi, Hanoi

It was very interesting that the clouds followed me all the way to the suburb of Hanoi. When I turned into the dusty smoky and noisy road filled up with vehicles and scooters, I felt the heat immediately. The sun came out like an angry man which scared away the beautiful gentle clouds. “Goodbye my sweet clouds! I'm getting home very soon, safe and sound. Thank you a lot for your protection and I'll see you again on my other adventures!”