Escape the Hanoi hustle in Soc Son

By Darren Barnard   July 29, 2023 | 10:32 pm PT
An abundance of resorts and picturesque scenery just an hour from Hanoi make Soc Son District the perfect place when you're craving cleaner air and some adventure.

Here's how to explore the area in 24 hours:

Thanh Chuong's Viet Palace

Any trip to Soc Son should include a visit to Thanh Chuong's former studio. The previous home of the celebrated painter is a sanctuary of lotus ponds and leafy green gardens with wonderful works of art displayed among the restored traditional buildings. Many of them have been meticulously carved with eye-catching patterns, and the artwork within offers striking color and imagery to the scenery.

The 10,000-square-meter site can keep you busy for over an hour. Chuong's legacy is not limited to his paintings, the site also houses his life's collection of historical artifacts from the Dinh, Ly, Tran and Le dynasties.

While visiting the site you can also enjoy one of the many traditional teas or a coffee for a caffeine-kick after the journey from the city.

Thanh Chuong's Viet Palace is featured in a CNN's video promoting Hanoi destinations in 2018.

Vuon Sinh Thai Huong Tram Restaurant

A popular lunch destination a short drive away from Thanh Chuong's site is Vuon Sinh Thai Huong Tram. The restaurant's specialty dish is claypot fish (ca kho to), which is slow-cooked in clay pots for 15 hours with garlic, ginger and onion to create a wonderful mix of flavors. The dish is more commonly associated with the coastal and southern areas of Vietnam and you will be pleasantly surprised by the outstanding taste. It can also be perfectly accompanied by fresh local vegetables and steamed rice bursting with so much flavor that no soy sauce or other condiments are required.

The restaurant overlooks Dong Quan Lake with tables comfortably accommodating large groups. Just make sure you reserve one of these in advance as they are extremely popular, especially on the weekend.

Ham Lon Mountain

People set camps by Nui Bau Lake at the food of Ham Lon Mountain. Photo by Hachi8

People set camps by Nui Bau Lake at the food of Ham Lon Mountain. Photo by Hachi8

A natural highlight that cannot be missed in Soc Son is Ham Lon Lake. While you're there, you will often be accompanied by the rhythmic sound of local trail runners' footsteps as they make their way up the mountains.

If you are feeling inspired by the running enthusiasts, you can hike up to the viewpoint nearby, where pine trees tower over you and supply much-needed shade.

Once you reach the 426-m-high peak, you will be greeted by a stunning view of the surrounding area. The hike is moderately comfortable for anyone who enjoys walking and being in nature.

If you like the tranquility of the area, you can choose to camp by the lake. However, be warned: the peace may be disturbed by karaoke singers testing out their lung capacity in the evening.

Thanh Giong Monument

Although the view at Ham Lon peak is rewarding after a hike through the forest, a more easily attainable view can be reached at the Thanh Giong monument. It can be reached without leaving the comfort of a motorbike.

The giant statue of one of the Four Immortals of Vietnam will be the most striking feature upon arriving at the summit, however the 360-degree view of Soc Son will be far more memorable.

The view from Thanh Giong Monument. Photo by Darren Barnard

The view from Thanh Giong Monument. Photo by Darren Barnard

To the west, you can see a gorgeous gallery of green rice fields stretching to the distant mountains. If you time your trip to Thanh Giong Monument correctly, you can watch the sun slowly descend behind the mountains and witness an orange afterglow light up the sky.

Accommodation in Minh Phu

After a day of exploring and driving from the city in the heat you will be desiring the comforts of air-conditioning or a pool to cool down. There are a multitude of options available in the area, particularly in Minh Phu, where there are fully-equipped villas that can accommodate couples, families or larger groups with ease.

Prices for accommodations start at over VND1 million for smaller retreats. You can pay more and have amenities like a swimming pool, a billiards table or a barbecue for you to cook in the evening.

Dong Do Reservoir

The next morning has arrived and it’s time to leave the calm countryside to return to the chaotic city. However, if you’re an early-riser you still have plenty of time to enjoy some activities at the Dong Do reservoir in Minh Tru Commune.

The lake, which was formerly a small stream until 2000 when the Dong Do dam was built, is beautifully boarded by protective forests. Here, you can rent fishing rods, kayaks or stand-up paddle-boards to explore the reservoir. At the water’s edge there are also numerous cafes and restaurants offering refreshments and a range of Vietnamese and western food to enjoy before the drive back to Hanoi.

A woman sits at her campsite by the Dong Do Reservoir. Photo by Thu Huong

A woman sits at her campsite by the Dong Do Reservoir. Photo by Thu Huong

go to top