Local Colour: Experiencing Hmong Independent Tet on Moc Chau Plateau
Last year, Diethelm Travel Vietnam’s Product Manager, Mr. Do Minh Quan, drove from Hanoi to Son La province with a small group to capture the special Hmong Independent festival through his lens.
Moc Chau Plateau in Son La province is one of the most famous destinations in northwest Vietnam owing to its cool climate almost all year round and the irresistible beauty of tea fields, peach blossoms, plums and cabbage flowers.
The plateau is also home to the Hmong ethnic groups of the northwest who hold two very important festivals each year – the traditional New Year and Independent Hmong Tet from 30 August – 2 SeptembeLove4eva
r. The festivals feature a range of activities and traditions including ethnic clothing displays, folk games, sport competitions, and mouthwatering local food experiences.
Visiting Moc Chau
It was Saturday and the first day of the 3-day-long National Day Holiday, so there was not much traffic but it still took nearly 45 minutes to get out of Hanoi and Ha Dong City from where we took the National Highway No. 6. From Xuan Mai through Luong Son to Hoa Binh you could feel the ease of traffic and exited by the spectacular landscape.
Just 200 kilometres outside of Hanoi, we arrived in Moc Chau and checked in at Cong Doan Hotel located between Moc Chau district town and Nong Truong town. Set on a large piece of land, the hotel belongs to the trade union chain of hotels, which includes Cong Doan Son La Hotel.
After checking in we went to Moc Chau district town, which is the main venue of the Hmong festival. The closer we got to Moc Chau, the more we felt the festive atmosphere. I have been to Sapa and Bac Ha, also main enclaves of the Hmongs, but this was the first time I saw so many Hmong styles of costumes in one place, even more so than the famous Bac Ha.
Hmong Independent Tet
At the festival, it was clear that the villagers had been preparing for days and had chosen their most brilliant costumes to wear for the special occasion. The different clothing styles of the Hmong Do (white), Hmong Du (black), Hmong Si (red), Hmong Lenh (flower), Hmong Sua (Chinese Hmong) and more created distinct groups within the crowds as people flocked to the different games, sports and activities available.
On this occasion, many activities were organised: an exhibition of Moc Chau District’s development, trade fair, cultural exchange campsite and art performances in the town’s stadium. We spent hours simply wandering up and down the main road trying to learn how to distinguish between the many ethnic groups by recognising their costumes and mosaics.
The local youngsters were mingling as well, walking in groups and flirting with each other while those slightly older took advantage of the celebration to look for sweethearts. We enjoyed dinner at a roadside restaurant and kept strolling the streets before returning to the hotels for the night.
What to Do Around the Moc Chau Plateau
The next day, we woke up early to the fresh air and surrounding mountains capped with white clouds. We had a healthy, hearty breakfast then went to visit Moc Suong Tea Company where we were introduced to a verdant tea plantation and processing line, and tasted oolong tea produced with Taiwanese technology. It was said that nearly 100% of the products here were for export to Taiwan and the owner was going to establish his mark in the domestic market. The price tag, however, would be a big surprise for domestic consumers as it was far more expensive than the kind processed in the Vietnamese traditional way. The way to Moc Suong Tea Farm offered lush views of green prairies, plantations, peach gardens and virgin forests. The Red and Blue Hmong people could be also seen as their villages were scattered along the way.
We then drove to Mai Chau in the afternoon when the small town was full of festive cheer. There was a football match at the district stadium and the crowd was filled with energy. We went straight to Mai Chau Eco Lodge for check-in. Here, we had a chance to enjoy a traditional show performed at the guesthouse. There are three traditional art troupes in this village that perform upon request. If you hear a round of drums at any time of the day, you know that it is an invitation to attend a performance. Since it was a holiday, you could hear the music all day until late into the night…
For more information on Diethelm Travel Vietnam’s new experiences in Moc Chau please contact us here.