Northern Vietnam is the most ethnically diverse region in the country, and Son La is home to a variety of different ethnic minorities, including Black Thai, Meo, Muong and White Thai. In fact, until the 20th century there was almost no influence from lowland Vietnamese culture in this area, and Son La formed part of the Tay Bac autonomous region from 1959 until 1980.
Location and history
Son La is located in Northwestern Vietnam with its topography fully describe geographical traits of this area of Vietnam with many mountains, hills, rivers and mineral sources, surrounded by primitive forests. Son La border quite many provinces such as Lao Cai and Yen Bai to the North;Phu Tho and Hoa Binh to the East; Dien Bien to the West; and Thanh Hoa and Laos to the South.
This province was first appeared on Vietnamese map during King Le Thanh Tong Dynasty in 1479 as a part of Hung Hoa Province. The province has gone through a lot of changes in its area before officially named Son La on 23/8/1964.
Son La used to be a part of Viet Bac Interzone, consisting of the 6 Northwestern provinces that was headquarters of Vietnam Communist Party and Viet Minh Government during resistance war against French colonist in 1945.
Son La Cultural Tourism
Right in the central of Son La City, tourists would have chance to visit the most renowned relic of this province, which is Son La Former Prison and Museum. The site is preserving historic objects – evidences of a difficult but heroic time during the war; and also exhibiting the historical and cultural tradition of 12 ethnic groups living here.
Son La City also possesses the “Que Lam Ngu Che” Epitaph erected since 1440 written by King Le Thai Tong. Nearby the epitaph is a temple built for worship of the respected king and the natural wonder “Tham Bao Ke” Cave. Attending tours to Son La, visitors may have unforgettable experiences by visiting cultural ethnic minorities’ communes. Ones are given opportunities to rest in special inns there, which are stilts houses exclusively available in ethnic minorities’ villages. The locals there are very hospitable who are pleased to treat you their specialties like “Ruou Can” (wine with straws); “Mang Lay” (special bamboo sprout); “Com Lam” or roasted fishes.
Son La Landscape
Son La Highland is most famous for its imposing Moc Chau Plateau, which is an ideal place for milk-cow breading, tea and fruits planting. Not only that, Moc Chau Plateau won’t disappoint travelers with its wide range of natural wonders like “Hang Doi” (Bat Cave); “Thac Dai Yen” (Brassiere Waterfall) and immense forests of pine hidden behind soft mist. It would be a big mistake if ones come to Son La but miss to visit this wonderland.
Another indispensible destination is the gigantic hydroelectric dam of Son La, the biggest hydroelectric dam of Indochina.
Furthermore, Son La is a venue of ecoregions for ones who want fresh air, peacefulness and to mix with the nature. Going on a boat downstream of the smooth Da River, passing Ta Khoa, to Van Yen wharf and reach Muong La to experience charming landscapes on the river’s sides. Letting the water current to guide you to Hang Chu Village where Hong Ngai Commune is located to taste “Hong Ngai” wine and witness the primitive beauty of orchids inside deep forests; to touch floating clouds on hill tops or dipping in cool fresh streams.
Son La Specialties
Hoa Ban (White Bauhinia) is the symbol of this Northwestern Province as this white of flower appears in numbers of poems admiring its beauty. Besides, Son La is also one of the sources of Hoa Dao (Prunus Persica), which is a symbol of Tet in the North of Vietnam.
Spring should be the best time to fully explore natural beauty and special culture of Son La when forests of both the flowers bloom beautifully. Spring is also the season of festival when Tet Holiday definitely the most enthusiastic occasion of the year takes place; as well as lavish carnivals of ethnic groups in Son La like Xoe Dancing, “Khèn” Flute performance or “Còn” Throwing competition.
Son La’s culinary is not very diverse, however, it still occupies some popular dishes and drinks like buffalo meat, Thit Gac Bep, Com Lam and Ruou Can.
How to get there?
Son La is 320km to the Northwest of Hanoi, along National Highway No. 6, through Dien Bien so tourist may visit this historic city on the way as well. Coaches are available to you in stations in Hanoi with a fare of about 100,000 VND. For romantic travelers, going on boats from Hoa Binh Lake to Son La is a good suggestion.