Tua Chua Karst Plateau

Tua Chua Karst Plateau in Tua Chua District of northwestern Dien Bien Province is located at a height of 1,500m above sea level. There are various rugged rocky plates placed on one another and shaped into citadels and mounts with different names such as To Cu Nhe, Chung Khoa, Chung Si Seng, Vang Long, and others. Such a natural magnificent landscape has attracted many visitors, both domestic and foreign, to the northwestern region of Vietnam.

Tua Chua Karst Plateau, located about 130km from downtown Dien Bien in the northwestern region of Vietnam, has three-fourths of its area rugged rocky land. It is rated as the country’s second “Dong Van Karst Plateau” (which was recognised by UNESCO as a Global Geo-park in 2010).

From downtown Tua Chua, we travelled along provincial Road 129, driving about 30km of curving roads, over high mountains and deep passes before arriving at the Tua Chua Karst Plateau. Our reward after the difficult trip was enjoying the natural magnificent views of the northwestern forests and mountains.

Tua Chua Karst Plateau belongs to the two communes of Sin Chai and Ta Phin. The rugged karst rocks here are not as high as those in Dong Van Karst Plateau in Ha Giang Province, but they are formed into hills, running up and down, and are scattered along provincial Road 129. The local weather is not harsh and it favours local people in a developing economy. They can grow corn, rice and fruit trees such as plum and peach.

We met Ha Mac and his wife from Seo Phin Hamlet when they were plowing the narrow land between the rugged rocky land. The husband rode the buffalo to plow the soil into rows in front while his wife walked behind to sow the corn seeds. Sometimes, the animal stopped for a while, then continued working.

Mac said that the buffaloes on this highland plateau are sensitive. They would stop walking if the plow hit some stones, and thanks to that the local people’s tool would rarely be damaged.

Watching the ethnic couple working hard in the rocky land to sow the seeds (being their hope for life), we truly acknowledged how hard the life of the local people is, but what a good co-existence between man and nature it is.

Part of the Tua Chua Karst Plateau seen from high above.

Nature favours the Mong people. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

100 percent of Tua Chua Karst Plateau’s residents are the Mong people.

A road through the karst plateau in Sin Chai Commune. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

The Mong people living in Tua Chu Plateau in Sin Chai Commune use buffalos
to plough small fields among rugged rocky plates. Photo: Hoang Ha/VNP

Growing cereal on small fields among rugged rocky plates.

Part of the Vang Long Stone Citadel which was built with a special technique of arranging stones,
one on top of the other without any adhesive substances. Photo: Viet Cuong/VNP

Thao A Mang with a stone used for making the roof.

A stone-roofed house of Thao A Mang in Sin Chai. Photo: Hoang Ha/VNP

Hamlets of the ethnic Mong Si, or Red Mong, people are located here and there on the Tua Chua Plateau. Their houses are built with a unique architecture that attracted the attention of visitors. For example, the house of a local, Thao A Mang, has a stone roof. He said that he had to travel up to the Da River region to find suitable stones, and then transported them by horse down the mountain, and finally by bus to his hamlet. The roof cost him about 90 million dong, equivalent to the value of three buffaloes.

We followed To Van Tuan, deputy head of Tua Chua District’s Agricultural Department, to visit the local relic of Vang Long Citadel. According to historical records, the citadel was built more than two centuries ago and has been rated as an architectural work of art, with cultural and historical value.

The citadel was built in a closed circle by hand and with stones without any cement. The stone plates are arranged in a scientific way, with the large ones sitting on the base and the smaller ones on top. The work is three meters high and its surface is more than one meter wide, which provides enough space for both men and horses to walk on.

The one-day trip to Tua Chua Karst Plateau is truly too short for visitors to totally enjoy its magnificent beauty, which looks like a water color painting. Before leaving, we climbed to a high spot to have one more look at the panoramic view of this natural masterpiece so as to preserve its beauty in our mind.

Story: Thao Vy
Photos: Viet Cuong & Hoang Ha