From Dong Hoi city (Quang Binh), following the Ho Chi Minh trail back to route 12A, turning to a tortuous road through the mountains, you will reach the peak of Cha Cap mountain. Right in the middle of the valley at the foot of this mountain is Ta Vong village hidden behind the fog.
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The picturesque scenery of Ta Vong surrounded by mountains and forests from above - Photo: HOÀNG BÙI
Ta Vong is one of the villages of Lom area in Trong Hoa commune, Minh Hoa district, Quang Binh, situated along the Vietnamese-Laos border. With its wilderness beauty and the distinct and unique culture, in recent years, Ta Vong has attracted a great number of tourists to come and explore.
Villagers with the clouds.
Mr. Bui Xuan Hoang, Quang Binh Tourism Headquarters officer, is a traveler who has discovered many of the furthest lands of this area. However, when he first reached the peak of Cha Cap mountain, Mr. Hoang still feel stunned when viewing the valley from above.
Right after a rain, the fog from mountain rocks covers Ta Vong and makes the scenery feel like an early morning at the end of autumn in Da Lat. One guy in the group of motorbikers was about to go downslope when Hoang stopped him and said that: “ Just stay and feel the atmosphere here. Ta Vong is most beautiful after a rain.”
After staying at Cha Cap peak for some minutes more, the fog from mountain rocks is out and transfer to the surrounding mountains. At that moment, houses of the villagers start to appear behind the fog.
Looking from above, houses in T Vong village are like musical notes from the choir of forests and mountains. “I have only heard that this place is beautiful, but I never thought the real scenery is such picturesque.” Hoang said.
The sun start shining in the area. After the group travel through three more mountains downslope, they have nearly reached Ta Vong. The way to enter this village is built into stairs along the slope of the hill. Ta Vong seems to have its own way to appeal to people from different distances.
If this village looks like a picture when viewed from above, after entering the village, tourists will also be convinced by the tidiness of the local people.
Wooden housed are perfectly in line. From house to roads and trails, villagers have cleaned everywhere as much as they can. Each family has its own homegrown vegetable garden like in the lowlands.
All houses are surrounded by a fence on the top of the hill and there is only one open space which is a way to the main road. One guy in the traveler group “accidentally” dropped a piece of paper on the backyard of a house. Then a woman came out, take that piece of paper and put it into the trash bag behind her house.
Ho Khien, the village headman, said that normally, people in the village is like living with the clouds. Every late afternoon or early morning, clouds move down the peak of the mountain. According to Ho Khien, living in this beautiful scenery while being untidy makes him feel guilty with nature. Every few months there is a meeting between villagers to remind of the clean lifestyle.
“Villagers can be starving or be out of clothes, but they should not lack awareness. Consequently, many tourists have unforgettable memories when coming to Ta Vong” – Ho Khien said.
The beauty of Ta Vong also comes from the surprisingly clean and tidy houses – Photo: HOÀNG BÙI
Trying grilled fish by the side of the river
Ho Khien’s house with two other houses in the village is the accommodation of tourists based on the public tourism service. Although they have doing tourism service for a few years, local culture is still in the veins of Ma Lieng and May people in Ta Vong
Saying like Ho Khien, the way Ta Vong operates tourism is nothing but letting the tourists live the daily lives of the villagers. As a result, tourists that have come here are often be irresistibly attracted to the place.
The wind blew heavily at night. Ho Khien and his son came to the back of their house to bring a roll of fishing net and got to Ta Leng spring behind the village with some tourists. When they reached the spring, while the son threw the net onto the spring, Ho Khien turned on a light to find some firewood. A fireplace was lit by the spring just after a few minutes. The son had also caught a bunch of river fish.
Ho Khien took out a jar of rice wine which was cooked by the villagers. Just in a few minutes, the quietness was gone. Tourists started to relax in the wilderness of the forest.
Fish was grilled just next to the spring. Both tourists and villagers sipped some wine. The time seemed to stop as if it feared this moment would end soon. “What an unforgettable feeling!”-Thanh, a tourist, said.
In the early morning, while the tourists were still asleep, they were woken up by the continuous sound of pestle and mortar. Not only one house but the whole village has that sound. In the nearest house, two women were focusing on crushing something with their pestle and mortar. Right under their place was a combination of sticky rice, cassava and corn. Each woman crushed a kind and then mixed them together.
This was when the whole village woke up to make the Poi rice. After crushing, the mixture was steamed. This is also the main dish in Ta Vong local people’s daily lives. The two women let the tourists try to make Poi rice.
To make good Poi rice, you have to crush the 3 ingredients until they blend into one and then put them inside the bamboo tree and steam. “When I was at home, I had also heard about this dish. But I have never thought that making this require so much effort.”-Thanh said.
According to Ho Khien, this is the traditional rice of May and Ma Lieng people. This dish has been within Ta Vong villagers’ daily lives for many years. When they started to operate tourism, they also chose this dish to represent their food culture.
“This is made by our villagers. Tourists can try this dish to remember Ta Vong” – Ho Khien said.
The village was reconstructed to avoid rocks falling.
In the early morning, women at Ta Vong village wake up very early to crush sticky rice, cassava and corn into Poi rice. – Photo: HOÀNG BÙI
According to villagers, Ta Vong before is more than 2km far from today’s Ta Vong. It is deep into the mountains and at the other side of Ta Leng spring. Due to the sloppy topography, that raining season comes and leads to erosion, which is dangerous for villagers; in 2012, officials motivated villagers to move out of this dangerous area to build a new village.
Mr. Dinh Tien Dung, a Trong Hoa culture officer, said that Ta Vong did not only have a natural beauty, it also had a distinct culture. If the public tourism service succeeded, Ta Vong would not only become a well-known tourist attraction but the daily lives of villagers are also improved.
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