Ban Hieu Village – Pu Luong Reserve
Bản Hiêu is a small Thai ethnic village situated next to a cascading stream in a lush jungle valley. It is part of the Pù Luông reserve, a 17,662 ha nature zone that lays some 180 km south-west of Hanoi. Its environment is pristine surrounded by forested mountains with clean air and a crystal clear, spring-fed stream. The stream flows straight out of the limestone mountains and further down the waterway flows past traditional stilt huts. The Hieu stream is diverted to irrigate the fields of corn and rice bringing with it the tranquil sound and sight of running water. It is a great spot for a peaceful night of sleep.
Ban Hieu is a handy stop for those motorbike touring between Ninh Binh and Mai Chau who want to stop a little early for the day. The final road to the higher main village is off-road and gets interestingly slippery during the rain.
What to do there
Chilling out and enjoying a quiet traditional village is the main thing to do. Take in the natural beauty and walk around the area, it’s a good place for photography and there are a few water wheels near the village entrance. Bathing in the village’s spring is of course great in summertime. Those keen on walking can hike to the top of the waterfall, it’s a 1 hour uphill hike. There are also a few caves up the top and a good viewpoint over the main village. For serious hikers there a walks between villages that can take days, sadly motorbikes can’t be ridden on these trails.
What to eat
The main local specialty of the area is Co Lung Duck – Vịt Cổ Lũng. The ducks graze the stream and farmland free-range and eat organically which makes them soft and juicy to eat. The fowls are stuffed with jungle herbs and spices before being placed on skewers then roasted on hot coals. It is served with a dipping sauce made from the duck’s liver, salt, chilli and peanuts.
Wild bamboo shoots are also delicious here and there is a unique pickled shoot soup worth trying. The local chickens are delicious and if you are with enough friends consider a roast mountain suckling pig. The more adventurous traveler may also want to try the mountain snails. All the food is chemical-free and incredibly fresh including the local fruits. Visitors are often served banana fritters and pancakes for breakfast along with pure mountain honey.
Accommodation in Ban Hieu Village
There are quite a few homestays in the area both somewhat before the village and up at the top. You can stay in a traditional stilt house or in a private wooden bungalow. There is also higher-end accommodation with a couple of resort/retreats set up nearby.
When to visit
The warmer months of June to October are when you can take advantage of the stream and its falls. It is generally the time of year when the rice blooms which is also extremely pretty sight on the terraced fields.
Due to its geographical location on a mountainside, it can also get very cold during winter. While the fog can be impressive, if you dislike the cold it is best to avoid December to February.
Nearby Ban Hieu
If you are looking for a much larger waterfall you can head 80 km east to Thac May (cloud waterfall). Further away, at around 120 km to the east is the Cuc Phuong National Park, the oldest park in Vietnam.
60 km to the west is Mai Hich another Thai village along with the more popular Mai Chau a bit further down the road.
You can go up and over the mountains to the north towards Hoa Binh city but bear in mind the first climb is very, very steep. It is an easy ascent for a decent motorbike such as a CRF 250 but don’t attempt it on a substandard motorcycle packed with luggage. Update 2020 – this road has been discontinued and an easier road is in place.