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Just 80 kilometers or so to the southwest of the capital city, Hoa Binh is a place where one can "get lost" in quiet, romantic landscapes. To make your choice of a weekend getaway location in the northern mountainous province easier, here are three recommendations.
1. Hoa Binh hydropower plant
This might sound like a strange getaway destination, but a pleasant surprise awaits visitors to the nation’s largest hydropower plant. An inside tour of the factory allows a glimpse into the engineering feats behind providing power for daily life, from households to big factories.
In this area, an 18 meters tall statue of President Ho Chi Minh and a memorial to Vietnamese citizens and Soviet experts who made great sacrifices to building the plant allow visitors the space for some quiet reflection.
Visitors can pay VND20,000 ($0.87) per person for an outside tour of the plant. A detailed visit of the plant costs VND50,000 ($2.16).
During the rainy season, from May to October, visitors can see the power plant operate in full gear, but over the rest of the year, a visit to this place opens up other attractions like the Bo waterfall, the Long Vuong (Sea God) Temple, the Ba Chua Thuong Ngan (Regional Goddess) Temple and nearby ethnic minority villages.
2. Da Trang Mountain Pass
About 47 kilometers southwest of the Hoa Binh hydropower plant, the Da Trang Mountain Pass is a stop that visitors should not miss.
The pass has become well known for the white limestone that gives the impression of snow-covered peaks. Those heading to the tourism hotspots of Mai Chau District, Hoa Binh Province are always enticed to stop at the pass. If they have it, a flycam will allow visitors to get a panoramic picture of the place.
North of Da Trang Pass, the Ba Khan Commune is also a highly recommended destination since it offers travellers breath-taking views of nature's rug and raw beauty
3. Lac Village
Lac Village in Mai Chau District is about three hours drive from Hanoi. It is a destination that offers both a superb picnic setting and an opportunity to observe the lives of the Thai ethnic minority community at close quarters.
Travellers need to pass the 12-kilometer Cun slope before arriving at Lac Village. The higher you go, the more spectacular the landscape. Standing on the mountain slope looking down at the white cloudy beach that obscures the land below is an unforgettable experience.
After that, venturers will meet the Thung Nhuoi Pass where the sight of the beautiful valley with stilt houses in the middle of the space gives you the feeling of being in another world.
Cherry blossoms dot the hills by the village, lush green bamboo clusters sway in the wind, and rice fields seem to stretch endlessly. The scenery is both breathtaking and calming. Talking to the friendly residents further deepens the sense of an unhurried life that is a tonic that gently reenergizes the spirit.
At the end of the day, visitors can enjoy a meal prepared by the locals with local ingredients like rice, fish from the local lake, wild boar and wine. And the meal can be enjoyed while watching Thai women perform their traditional dance.
If you feel like spending more time, outdoor camping, homestay accommodation and hotels are not difficult to find. For the outdoor experience, it is advisable to come prepared with warm blankets, mosquito nets and favorite books.
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