Ngoc Chien the Wonderful Land of Surprising Things


Ngoc Chien commune is located in Muong La district, Son La province, about 80km northeast of Son La city, Vietnam. This beautiful and peaceful commune is the home of the three main ethnic groups: Thai, Hmong, and La Ha who have many unique customs and habits. In addition to the special identity of the local, the other great factors that make Ngoc Chien attract more tourists annually are the natural hot mineral springs and the century-old stilted houses made of Pomu.

Ngoc Chien is compared to Dalat of the Central Highland or Sapa of the Northwest because of the fresh and cool air all year round. The way to Ngoc Chien runs through the valley, along the river of Nam Chien, then up to the top of the misty mountains of the Hoang Lien range.


To enter to discover the strange and mystery world of the Thai, Mong, La Ha people, you have to overcome the hard journey of crossing the Sam Sip pass with 30 layers of mountain slopes for it is the only path leading to the land it protects and holds many strange things about this hundred year land.

The dawn of the Ngoc Chien villages will impress tourists with the hot and dry wind, the clean air, the barefoot of chubby children following their mother to the mountain or hill slope to cultivate, the sound of the children spelling from a primary school erected simply.  All look like a picture with nothing of the noisy urban life.

There are thousands of over 100 year old Pomu wooden houses hidden in the early morning mist. The Thai houses in Ngoc Chien have very complicated architecture and design with mainly 1 floor, 4 direction roofs and a small quadrangle cellar which are slightly different from the Thai houses on stilts in the Northwest of Vietnam.

Po Mu is a precious kind of wood with its distinctive aroma, beautiful wood grain as well as unusual weight and non-destructive termite characteristics. Pomu houses under the years, the roof tile are still durable but turn into the black color. The people here say that the big Pomu trees should only cut down by the knife, not by the saw but it still creates the straight boards. Pomu wood can’t be sawed. If the wood has been sawed, the pomu roof will be leaked and become rubbish. Normally, local people have to use a knife to split into the interstices, then use the wooden wedges following the wood grain to split into many pieces of fiber. Making the Pomu roof is also an extremely hard and elaborate process.

The Thai people have lived in this land for hundreds of years. This land had been known as the isolated and abandoned valley and then generations of Thai people have come here to settle down. At that time, there were innumerable Pomu trees and this kind of tree has become the main material to make houses and living things in the Thai family. It is no doubt that The Pomu stilt houses have been closely attached to the history and culture of the Thai people so far.

Unlike the Thai people, the Mong people reside on the high slopes, so they build their house with earth walls and cottage or tile roof to avoid the impact of wind and storms. The Mong houses have low columns, rafters, boards, connecting rooms, Pomu roof and doors.

The house on stilts of the La Ha people has two types of architecture: temporary house style of the nomadic group with the roofs curved like the oval shape, lengthen in the both sides as the pig’s jaw shape and the house style of the perennial group with two gables of the roof like the turtle shell. The house inside is divided into two rooms: one is for reception, the other for the host family. The two rooms are separated by a pillar and a bottle of Can wine.

Northwest is endowed with many surprises but perhaps, the strangest and most beautiful things seem to converge in Ngoc Chien. Muong Chien field is about 6km2 and grows mainly Tan specialty. This is the type of sticky rice you only find in Ngoc Chien: very delicious and soft. Tan sticky rice is 3-4 times more expensive than the common kinds of sticky rice. The collecting Tan sticky rice is also different from other types of rice, not harvest but pluck the heads of grain.

No one can explain why Ngoc Chien land makes fruit or flowers become specialities. Peach or plum blossoms here bloom all year round. Wild flowers are also very unusual, the same wild pineapple flowers but in Ngoc Chien, the flowers are 5 to 6 times bigger than that in anywhere else, up to nearly 10 meters high.

Realized the special climate in this region, in 2004, some local and foreign experts brought variety of Tulip, Lys flowers to plant along the Chien stream. Surprisingly, the beautiful incense and color of the flowers are awesome.

The Luot village in Ngoc Chien is very famous for its hot springs. Hot mineral springs from thousands of years now are flowing through the village to make the skin of the young girls become pinky-white.

Up to now, the local people still believe in the legend of hot mineral springs in the Luot village. That was the mountain where the mountain dragon flew to the cloud after defeating the tribe who robbed the property of the kind people. Hot springs were formed by the fire of the dragon to chase the bandits. After that, local people have used the water of the stream for their daily activities and have become healthier and more beautiful day by day.

Since then, the whole village people have had a bath in the early morning before going to work to have more energy for the whole day and in the late afternoon, they have returned home to bath to recover after hours of hard working. The people here always have nude bath. It is a really beautiful and simple beauty of customs of the highland people.

After a long journey, you can choose any home-stay in Luot village to stay and relax yourself in the hot mineral water to say goodbye with the tiredness. It costs less than 100,000 VND per person for one night stay and bathing in hot water here. If you only bath, not stay overnight, you have to pay 10,000 VND per person.

Local people in Ngoc Chien are very friendly, honest, simple and hospital; therefore, to Ngoc Chien, visitors can stay with any family and will be welcomed by host as guests. They can prepare a warm meal with many local specialties such as Can wine, Tao Meo wine, Tan sticky rice, grilled chicken, grilled fish, together with the host to gain the best of your journey.

In our Vietnam motorcycle tours, riders have home-stay in Ngoc Chien 1 night, usually it’s in 3nd night or 4th night depending on which itinerary. After some off-road riding days, riders should be enjoy this hot spring, foods and hospitality of local.

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