Lung Van: The lost land of the Muong ethnic people

Leaving Ngoi Village, a beautiful and pristine village on the banks of Hoa Binh Lake, we were eager to discover Lung Van.
September 22, 2017 | 19:09

Leaving Ngoi Village, a beautiful and pristine village on the banks of Hoa Binh Lake, we were eager to discover Lung Van.

Lung Van: The lost land of the Muong ethnic people

Children play in in Lung Van. (VNS Photo Bach Lien)

We set off on our trip to the northern mountainous Province of Hoa Binh in the early hours of the morning.

Lung Van is a highland commune in Tan Lac District. It is still unaffected by tourism with its spectacular natural scenery and the unique culture of the Muong people.

The destination, some 40km from downtown Hoa Binh City, is located at an altitude of 1,200m above sea level. It is covered with white clouds all year round, which is why it is also called Thung May (Cloud Valley).

Lung Van is considered “The Roof of Muong Bi”, one of the four major, and the most ancient, cultural cradles of Muong ethnics in Hoa Binh Province, including Muong Bi, Muong Vang, Muong Thang and Muong Dong.

From Ngoi Village, we were lucky enough to take the Ba Khan-Mai Chau Town-Lung Van route. It was a wonderful journey.

Ba Khan is located in Mai Chau District and seems to be forgotten. However, this may also work in its favour as it remains unexploited by tourists.

Lung Van: The lost land of the Muong ethnic people

A beautiful site in Lung Van. It is said that this place is always covered with clouds from February to April. (VNS Photo Thai Ha)

During the itinerary, we had to pass through steep mountains where wattles are used to make the walls of village homes. The road through the mountainside wound alongside the Đà Rriver reservoir. We also saw waterfalls hidden in the bamboo forest and Muong’s houses surrounded by terraced fields.

While basking in these beautiful sights, we reached Lung Van, got out of the car and took a deep breath of the pure air.

The place has a spectacular scenery, and is ideal for those who want to escape the city chaos. We discovered that the region is still unfamiliar to many people as it is surrounded by deep blue mountains far away from the main road.

Many of its traditional, cultural and architectural facets are still alive, such as the tortoise-shaped roofs and the Muong women’s dresses, which are black and decorated with colourful patterns.

According to the “Land and Water” epic of the Muong ethnic people in Hoa Binh, Lung Van was once a peaceful village, which was then completely destroyed by a devastating flood. No one survived except for a couple who were saved after holding on to a giant tree called Bi. The tree was not swept away as it had deep roots in nine rivers and 10 mountains.

With no place to live, the couple built a tent under the tree and reclaimed new land for farming, tamed wild animals and built containers to store water. They then established a hamlet and named it after the tree to show their gratitude. The present-day Muong Bi is a vast mountainous area of many communes in Tan Lac District, and Lung Van is the highest place where the Muong people live, and is believed to be the area where the Bi tree grew.

Lung Van: The lost land of the Muong ethnic people

Go Lao Waterfall seen on the way from Ba Khan to Lung Van. (VNS Photo Thai Ha)

This land has many fairytales written about it, and is called the land of longevity because it houses many people more than 100 years old. At the age of 90-100, they still work in gardens and fields. It is believed that the locals’ longevity is due to the water from streams in the region, their good and simple lifestyle and the pure atmosphere.

It was a pity that we visited Lung Van in August, when the white clouds were missing. It is said that this place is the most beautiful after Tet (New Year), from February to April, because at that time it is covered with clouds. It is also the time the Muong people prepare for a new crop on the terraced fields- “A Giant Mirror of Muong Bi.” From May to July, Lung Van has hundreds of streams and waterfalls gushing down from the peak of the mountains, forming an imposing scenery.

The Muong people here are hospitable, friendly and close to nature. “Terraced fields are only cultivated when it rains. We farm using traditional methods so the productivity is not high, but Lung Van’s rice is very delicious. In the old days, it was donated to the hamlet lords so it was also called Gao Chua Muong (the rice of hamlet lord),” said Ha Van Binh, a local.

“The Hoa Binh Province’s leaders have now dedided that Lung Van will be a place where eco-tourism will be developed. This is because it lies in the Ngoc Son-Ngo Luong Nature Reserve and is near the Pu Luong Nature Reserve,” said Bui Thanh Truyen, chairman of the Nam Son Commune’s People’s Committee.

“Moreover, near Lung Van, there is a large and beautiful cave called Nam Son, recognised as a national relic. It was discovered in 2004 by locals. In 2005, the Archaeological Institute of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, carried out an excavation to assess the potential of the cave. Inside they found a lake about seven metres deep, and large and magnificent rocks,” said Truyen.

Lung Van: The lost land of the Muong ethnic people

Terraced fields in Lung Van are only cultivated when it rains. (Photo:

After speaking to Truyen, we decided to visit Ngoc Son-Ngo Luong Nature Reserve. It was another memorable experience for us as we had another chance to discover a reserve containing a variety of wonderful landscapes and ecosystems./.


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