In town for the SEA Games? Make your weekend unforgettable by exploring Moc Chau, a northern Vietnam town that teems with tea plantations and some ultramodern attractions.
Longest glass bridge
Located in the northern highlands province of Son La Province, around 200 kilometers from Hanoi, the town has been in the news for Bach Long (White Dragon), a glass-bottom bridge that its investor claims is the longest in the world.
Inaugurated on National Reunification Day (April 30) this year, the 630-meter bridge is suspended some 150 meters above a lush green jungle valley.
The floor of the bridge, which allows a maximum of 450 people at a time, is made with French-produced tempered glass. The investor says the bridge was tested by having heavy cars and trucks drive over it.
"It’s a thrilling experience to walk over the bridge. At first I didn’t dare to look down but after sometime, I felt more confident and enjoyed the sight of the beautiful green canopies," said Hanoian Hoang Manh Nam.
"Fantastic - it would be a real adventure crossing this bridge," said Mary Kritz from Canada as she gave it the once over.
The bridge has sought recognition from Guinness World Records as the longest pedestrian glass bridge in the world. If this happens, it would unseat a 530-meter glass bridge outside China’s Guangdong Province.
Conquering the 2,000-meter high Pha Luong mountain peak, the roof of Moc Chau Plateau, is another thrilling experience that awaits visitors who dare.
This trek along the Vietnam-Laos border has been a notorious hotspot for smuggling and drug dealing, so one is not allowed to camp overnight and have to register with the Pha Luong border patrol.
The journey offers breathtaking views of the northwestern mountains, challenging slopes, green forests, hair-raising cliffs, and the opportunity to interact with the Hmong ethnic minority community and experience their unique culture.
Marnick Schoonderwoerd, who has been in Vietnam for over six years and has conquered the Pha Luong Mountain Peak, said it was located between the border of Vietnam and Laos and trekkers are therefore required to leave their passport with the border guards before they climb the mountain.
It involves walking three to four hours from the border station at the foot of the mountain to the Pha Luong Peak. The route takes trekkers through rice terraces, dense forests and huge rocks covered with moss.
"The wind is often extremely strong on the mountaintop, don’t try to get to the edge of the upper part, even though you can take beautiful pictures from there," Schoonderwoerd advised.
The best time to climb Mount Pha Luong is the dry season from December to April.
Undulating tea hills
At an altitude of 1,054 meters above sea level, Moc Chau boasts a temperate climate with average temperatures ranging from 15 to 26 degrees Celsius. Thanks to the cool climate, it’s home to about 3,000 hectares of tea estates and is considered as the country’s largest tea growing area.
The tea harvest season is from April to December. The common belief is that tea leaves plucked in April produce the best tasting tea, as they are the first leaves to be taken after a four-month period of rest.
The best time of the day to pick leaves is considered to be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At the Moc Chau Tea Farm, the green tea hills are eye catching sight. The landscape gets even more beautiful when the sunlight streams down.
Onie T from the Philippines said he visited Moc Chau in 2019 and it was his first time at a tea plantation. The views were amazing, he said.
"You can walk around and choose a spot for great photos. You can also rent traditional Vietnamese clothes to take photos with local farmers while strolling around the tea hills," he said.
Around 7 kilometers from downtown Van Ho District, the Nang Tien (Fairy) Waterfall has emerged into tourism awareness very recently, so not many people know about it without being tipped of by tour guides or locals.
The waterfall has three cascades, each with its own beauty that will keep the visitor enchanted for a long time.
The way to the waterfall is itself scenic with rice fields, houses on stilts and then, entering deep into a forest.
The road to the waterfall is not difficult. Visitors can rent a 7-seater car or pickup from downtown Moc Chau.
Entry tickets cost VND20,000 or less than $1 per person.
The Hang Tau Village in Chieng Hac Commune, around 18 kilometers from downtown Moc Chau, is home to nearly 20 Hmong families who live a relatively isolated existence without electricity, internet or mobile phones.
It is not yet located on Google maps, but locals in Moc Chau Town can direct visitors, who can then take a drive along bumpy roads to reach the village.
Hmong families here use water from the mountain for their daily use and raise pigs, goats, chickens and ducks. They also make tasty and heady corn wine.
Nestled inside Ang Village in Dong Sang Commune, around two km from downtown Moc Chau along National Highway 43, a 43-ha pine forest has become a new camping destination. This has prompted the emergence of homestay and other tourism services.
Some people have compared this forest to a miniature version of Da Lat in the Central Highlands.
Entry tickets cost VND30,000 per person and the entrance gate to the pine forest will close at 9 p.m.
Visitors can book overnight stays at homestay facilities inside the forest, with prices ranging from VND300,000 to VND2.5 million a night.
The rising tourism popularity of Moc Chau has seen rapid development of homestay in the town.
Some homestay addresses worthy of consideration for budget-conscious travelers are MAMA's House, Le Chalet du Lac, Fairy House Moc Chau, House By Lake, The Nordic Village and Moc Chau Retreat, with prices ranging from VND300,000 to 1 million a night.
Some luxury resorts with outdoor swimming pools and modern interiors include the Moc Chau Eco Garden Resort, Phoenix Resort Moc Chau, Thao Nguyen Resort, Van Ho Ecolodge and Moc Chau Arena Village with prices ranging from VND1.3-1.5 million a night.
Be chao (fried veal) is a signature dish in Moc Chau that can be found in many restaurants.
The veal is sliced into small pieces that are then mixed with a dash of crushed ginger, sliced lemongrass and salt before they are fried. The meat is very tender and tasty, and not greasy.
Local grilled fish is a specialty. The fish caught in the clean streams of Moc Chau plateau are delicious and irresistibly aromatic when grilled. If visitors are lucky to get the chance to dine with a Thai ethnic minority family, this dish will be on the table.
Dry buffalo dish is a specialty of the Black Thai community and it can only be found in northern Vietnam. Marinated buffalo meat is hung on wooden bars in the kitchen for several months. The meat tastes sweet and chewy and it is always enjoyed with corn wine.
Apart from tea, Moc Chau is also known for dairy farming and a good place to try cow milk, which is sold all over the country and even exported.
Fresh milk in Moc Chau is more delicious than packaged products.
Some cafes with lovely views are Rio Coffee & Tea Skyview; Wind Chil Hill; Moc Coffee; Tom's Garden Coffee & More; Garden Coffee & Chill Hill with prices ranging from VND40,000 - 60,000.
The Lan Kwai Fong Café is designed like a famous and noisy Hong Kong street.
Around November and December is the most ideal time to visit Moc Chau. During these months, you can have chances to observe the beauty of the plateau covered with the white color of cauliflowers and yellow carpet of wild sunflowers.
The distance between Hanoi and Moc Chau is 190 km, so it takes around 4 to 5 hours to get there. Every day a number of buses leave for Moc Chau from the My Dinh bus station in Hanoi.
After getting there, one can rent a motorbike or a car with a driver to explore the place.
Most hotels and homestays also offer motorbike rentals at an average price of VND250,000 per day.
Story by Du Hy, Hoang Phong