Exploring Pu Mat

About 130km southwest of Vinh in Nghe An, Pu Mat National Park is known not only for its splendid landscapes but also for the mysteries of the Dan Lai with the habit of sleeping upright.

Mysterious ethnic group
From the wharf on Pha Lai dam in Mon Son commune, Con Cuong district, we went upstream on the Giang river, starting our journey to explore the life of the Dan Lai in the forest of Pu Mat and find out the answer to the myth of this ethnic group’s practice of sleeping upright.

The Dan Lai in Bung village live in a valley upstream from the Giang river on the border with Laos. The ethnic group has the habit of sleeping sitting up. They set up a fire for warmth and sleep sitting up, resting their foreheads against a stick while sleeping.

Seventy-four-year-old La Van Phong, the oldest man in Bung village, said the practice of sleeping upright originated from the former nomadic life of the Dan Lai who often moved from one place to another to avoid wild animals.

The Dan Lai in Bung village still keep their age-old customs such as worshiping ancestors during the lunar new year festival, on the first and fifteenth days of every lunar month and in ceremonies, and eating betel and areca. Worshiping rites are conducted by the village shaman at the request of villagers.

Pu Mat National Park has a tour on the Giang river from Mon Son commune to Co Phat and Bung villages.

The Dan Lai ilive in Bung village located in a valley upstream from the Giang river.
It is the most remote area in Con Cuong district.

The Giang river used to be the only waterway connecting the Dan Lai in Bung and Co Phat villages
with the Thai and Muong in Con Cuong district.

Bung village has 109 families with over 400 people living in thatched roof stilt houses.

Thai children play on Pha Lai dam.

From above, the
100km Giang river looks like a soft silk band crossing mountains.

The local administration has promoted the culture of the Dan Lai by introducing a one-day eco-tour to explore the beauty of the Giang river, Pu Mat forests and mountains, and the life of the Dan Lai. From Mon Son commune, visitors can travel by boat on the Giang river, take a bath in wild springs in the middle of the forest and visit Bung village to see the daily life of the Dan Lai.

Visitors can also go to Bung village by motorbike on a newly opened road after a suspension bridge over Giang river is built. Going this way, visitors can see the entire view of the immense mountains and forests, and the Giang river which looks like a soft silk band crossing mountain, and have lunch in the middle of the cloudy sky of Pu Mat.

Treasure of western Nghe An

Pu Mat National Park is an attractive ecotourism destination for local and foreign visitors with its rich and diverse wild flora and fauna many of which belong to rare and precious species.

The headquarters of Pu Mat National Park is based in Chi Khe commune, around 2km from Con Cuong township, which boasts two interesting sites: the Pu Mat plant and animal museum and the wildlife rescue center.

Visitors should also visit Khe Kem falls, a popular tourist destination 18km west of Pu Mat National Park’s headquarters. The gorgeous falls with a height of 150m, called tang nam kem toong chinh in the Thai language, has white running water all year round. Visitors can have a foot massage by small fishes at the foot of the falls.

Summer and autumn are the best time to visitsang le(Lagerstroemia tomentosa) forest in Pu Mat national park.

Two French visitors who learned about Pu Mat from the internet travel to Vietnam to explore the beauty of Pu Mat.

Some 45,000 visitors visit beautiful Khe Kem falls every year.

Ma Nhai stele was carved on Thanh Nam mountain in Chi Khe commune, Con Cuong district. The text
was drafted by Nguyen Trung Ngan in 1335 to record the victory of King Tran Minh Tong (1300-1357) over invaders.

Taking photos of stalactites near the Ma Nhai stele.

Pu Mat natural forest has a diverse flora with about 2,500 species of 160 families.

Weaving brocade in Xieng village, Mon Son commune, Con Cuong district.

Brian Bean from the US is interested in traditional brocade items of the Thai in Xieng hamlet.

A traditional dance of Thai women in Ran village, Con Cuong town.

Steamed shrimp is a local specialty.

Another delicious local dish – Mat fish soup (a special species of fish from the Giang river).

In their trip to Pu Mat, visitors will experience the original culture and cuisine of the Thai, who make up over 66% of the population of Con Cuong district. Beautiful Thai women are not only polite and smart, but are also excellent cooks. Thai traditional dishes, including com lam (sticky rice in bamboo cylinders), fish soup, crab boiled with lemon grass and fried forest frogs, attract visitors with their beautiful presentation and delicious taste.

It is pretty easy to reach Pu Mat today. Visitors can enjoy their weekends with families or friends at homestay guesthouses in Nua and Rang villages in the middle of mountains and forests.

By Tran Hieu