Hanoi to Kunming via the road less travelled


What makes an overland journey from Hanoi to Kunming so extraordinary? What are the highlights of this region? What learning and discovery is there to be had on this adventure of a lifetime? All these question’s and many more will be answered in this week’s blog post which covers our Tribal Lands of Vietnam & China small group tour.

Read on to find out more about the road less travelled from Hanoi to Kunming and exploring Yunnan province.

Mai Chou Valley

Imagine ethnic minority villages sitting amongst a patchwork of paddy fields surrounded by soaring mountain peaks, that’s Mai Chou Valley. Mai Chau is home to a variety of minority groups with their own unique culture and languages. The village of Pom Coong will be the locale for a traditional lunch is a great opportunity to try local cuisine, chat with your hosts and gain a real insight into life in this fascinating and picturesque region their people, lifestyles, customs and culture.

Mai Chau, Vietnam
Mai Chau, Vietnam

Son La Old French Prison

Son La’s Old French Prison was a French penal colony where it’s incarcerated inhabitants once included anticolonial revolutionary soldiers and political prisoners. This notorious jail is known as ‘hell on earth’ became somewhat of an institution of stamina and solidarity to the Vietnamese prisoners. It was destroyed by the ‘off-loading’ of unused ammunition by US warplanes after bombing raids but is now partially restored. Rebuilt turrets stand guard over crumbling cells and a famous lone surviving peach tree, planted by To Hieu, a 1940s inmate.

Tram Ton Pass

The road between Lai Chau and Sapa crosses the Tram Ton Pass, a winding mountain road that snakes the periphery of Fansipan, Vietnam’s highest mountain. At 1900m this is Vietnam’s highest mountain pass and acts as a dividing line between two weather fronts. The lookout points here have fantastic views and you will see why it is often referred to as ‘Heaven’s Gate’, with its picturesque landscapes and sheer magnificence resembling a gate to the Heavens.

Tac Tinh Waterfall

Tucked away in a small green valley where the Dao ethnic village resides, the pristine and pure beauty of Tac Tinh Waterfall will make you feel as though you have stumbled upon a bygone era. Locals shorten the name of the waterfall to just ‘Tinh’, which means love in Vietnamese. Legend has it that a forbidden love between a man and a woman of the Dao ethnic group tragically ended here when she jumped down the waterfall and he followed.

Hill tribe village of Cat Cat

Cat Cat Village is located on the Muong Hoa Valley and is the village of the H’mong people who originated from China about 300 years ago. The H’mong people are easily recognisable by their dark blue or black clothing, the dye they use being from the indigo plant which is native to the area. H’mong women wear long aprons with embroidered waistcoats and have their hair rolled up into a turban-like hat, while the men wear a black skullcap. What better way to experience this than on foot in an afternoon guided trek.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

There are many countries with rice terraces but none of them is nearly as amazing as Yuanyang. And don’t take our word for it, UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site in 2013. Not only are the most beautiful they are also officially the biggest in the world. Your Yangyang Rice Terrace visit will be a start early as you will be making the most of enjoying a spectacular sunrise; the colours, shadows and the reflections on the water are constantly changing, creating an amazing way to start the day.

Yuangyang Rice terrace
Yuangyang Rice terrace

Xingmeng the Mongolian Village

The village of Xingmeng dates back to 1253 and is the only ‘Mongolian Village’ within the Yunnan Province and you will see the statue that features the arrival of the Mongolian cavalry. You will also see Xingmeng Mongolians in their traditional clothing as they go about their daily lives and continue to practice their own unique customs. Their presence here, a very long way from Mongolia, Outer or Inner, is a living historical vestige of an important story in Yunnan’s long history and how it became part of China.

The Stone Forest

In China’s Yunnan Province is the famous stone topography of Shilin, meaning “stone forest.” Covering an area of four-hundred square kilometres the stone forest is a massive otherworldly landscape of karst formations over 270 million years old and is known as the ‘First Wonder of the World’. Over the millennia seismic activity and water and wind erosion have carved the present-day limestone formations. Its giant stalagmite-like pillars create huge arrays of labyrinths and include both large and small stone forests, as well as many other scenic spots. Walking through the site, you will marvel at the sheer size and beauty of the natural stone masterpieces and their intricate formations.

To make these experiences your own join our Tribal Lands of Vietnam & China small group tour. Contact us today!