Ngoc Son - Ngo Luong BTA Tour

21:44:00 - 01/04/2014

Ngoc Son - Ngo Luong Nature Reserve Community Eco-Tour

Location: Tan Lac and Lac Son District, Hoa Binh province, Viet Nam (150 km from Ha Noi City)



Ngoc Son Ngo Luong Nature Reserve (NSNL NR) is located in Tan Lac and Lac Son Districts of Hoa Binh Province, has a land area about 19.254 ha and forms the central portion of the greater Pu Luong - Cuc Phuong landscape. The NR was established in 2006 and opened to tourist in 2010.


NSNL NR represents a significant remnant of the limestone forests of northern Vietnam and is a globally important karst ecosystem. NSNL NR has a high levels of biodiversity, contains a range of species listed as globally rare or endangered, and many are protected under Vietnamese law.

Variety scientific researchs about flora, fauna, natural water resources, land use and forest use… funded by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and Development (AECID) has provided essential, synthetic, adequate information about NSNL NR.

There are 2,578 households, approximately 14,000 people from seven communes (Nam Son, Bac Son, Ngo Luong, Ngoc Son, Ngoc Lau, Tu Do, and Tan My) live in NSNL NR. This zone is the poorest zone of Hoa Binh – a poor province of Viet Nam.

99% of local people belong to the Muong ethnic group. Muong ethnic group is one of six minority group living in Hoa Binh, and they counts the majority of Hoa Binh’s population (63%). Each group has their own language, culture and traditional festival.




Biodiversity assessments carried out from 2008 to 2010 recorded 667 higher vascular plant species of 373 genera in 140 families in Ngoc Son-Ngo Luong Nature Reserve. Of these: 28 are threatened species listed in the Vietnam Red Data Book 2007, 7 are listed in Vietnam’s endangered species Decree 32/2006, 10 are in the International Union for Conservation Nature (IUCN) Red List 2008, and 14 are species endemic to Vietnam. Some populations of the rare Nghien (Excentrodendron tonkinense) can be found on limestone ranges inside the reserve in Tu Do and Ngoc Son communes. While many of the species here are found in other limestone formations elsewhere in Vietnam, in NSNL NR they are quite large and concentrated, even when compared to those found in neighbouring protected areas (Cuc Phuong National Park and Pu Luong Nature Reserve). Mun (Diospyros mun), a critically endangered species in IUCN’s Red List, is also located in the reserve. Trai (Garcinia fagraeoides), Cho Dai (Annamocarya sinensis), Dinh Vang (Fernandoa bracteata) and Lan Kiem (Cymbidium spp.) are other endangered trees species that are located within Ngoc Son Ngo Luong.

Evergreen forests on limestone are the largest subtype of forested areas in the reserve. Ngoc Son Ngo Luong’s forests provide many economically important plant resources, particularly in terms of their value to local communities. Yet, forests on limestone also hold the most significant biodiversity resources of the reserve and contain the highest variety of rare, endangered, and endemic plant species. The evergreen forest subtype is an important asset for biodiversity preservation and is a valuable resource for scientific research and ecotourism.

At present however this forest subtype is being degraded due to illegal exploitation. Two particularly high value tree species Garcinia fagraeoides and Excentrodendron tonkinense are being overexploited and have become increasingly rare in the reserve. To conserve biodiversity throughout the reserve, it is necessary to strictly protect the forests here in order to save one of the largest, richest, and last limestone ecosystems in northern Vietnam.

Further research carried out in 2011 in NSNL NR demonstrates the critical conservation value of the Mun (Diospyros mun), Nghien (Excentrodendron tonkinense), and Lan Kiem Dai (Cymbidium), Magnolia lilifera, Kmeria septentrionalis, Michelia gioi, and Michelia odorum; Begonia nimgmingensis and Begonia filiformis; and Theana vietnamica Aver., sp. nov These are the most significant species found in NSNL NR, since theyhave never been recorded in Cuc Phuong National Park and Pu Luong Nature Reserve.


Kmeria septentrionalis




Biodiversity assessments carried out from 2008 to 2010 show that NSNL NR contains a high level of faunal biodiversity. There are more than 455 vertebrate species, include: 93 mammal, 253 bird, 48 reptile, 34 amphibian, and 27 fish species. Specifically, 26 animal species are listed in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2006 Red List and more than 57 are listed in the Red Data Book of Vietnam. The value of the nature reserve for invertebrates is still largely unknown, though the species richness is very rich for groups such as butterflies and molluscs.


As in other protected areas in Vietnam, overexploitation is the largest threat to faunal biodiversity. Vietnam’s rapidly growing and increasingly wealthy urban population means increased demand for the profit-driven wildlife trade which has taken a heavy toll on many species. NSNL NR is no exception to this trend, and while wildlife has long been a natural and normal resource for local livelihoods, there is also the illegal income for a few people who traffic in protected species with external actors. Five species: Delacour's Langur (Trachypithecus delacouri), White-cheeked Gibbon (Nomascus leucogenys), Dhole fox (Cuon alpines), Asian Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinera), and Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) are known to have gone extinct in this area during the 20th century.


However, there is evidence that the nature reserve is still home to populations of other emblematic Vietnamese threatened species like the Asiatic Black Bear (Ursus thibetanus), Clouded Leopard (Pardofelis nebulosa), Serow mountain goat (Carpicornis sumatraensis), King Cobra (Ophyophagus Hannah), Keeled Box Turtle (Pyxidea (Cuora) mouhotti), and Tonkin Asian Frog (Annandia delacouri).

Ursus thibetanus

Carpicornis sumatraensis



Muong people and culture

Muong Khu are an ancient minority group with a long history in Hoa Binh. The Muong Khu is one of the most iconic ancient Muong groups whose origins are preserved in the epic ‘De Dat, De Nuoc’ (Giving birth to the soil, giving birth to the water).

“Muong” means “unit of residence”, “Khu” means stone, and Muong Khu thus translates as ‘landscape of stone’, below Muong was the village. Vietnamese feudal dynasties laid a foundation of administrative rules that assigned the official name of Ngoc Lau Commune to this land until 1957, at which time Muong Khu – Ngoc Lau was divided into the three current communes: Ngoc Son, Ngoc Lau and Tu Do



The Muong Khu are generally found in rugged and high mountainous areas on the border of Thanh Hoa and Hoa Binh provinces. Muong people are usually warm-hearted, hospitable, and diligent in productive labour. From the time of “De Dat – De Nuoc” (Giving birth to the soil, giving birth to the water), they live in harmony with nature, explore narrow valleys, change it into flat lands and live there until now.

Muong ladies

Life in stilt house



In Muong epic, this land is on the way that the army of Dit Dang King found “Chu” tree: copper trunk, brass flower, tin leaf, and bring it to the plain. This story reflects the way ancient Viet found the copper and developed metallurgy.

In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the Muong assisted the military forces led by Vietnam’s King Le Loi in the Lam Son uprising which halted the aggression of the Ming Chinese. In the mid 18th century, Muong Khu was one of the important military bases of the Le Duy Mat uprising against the Trinh Lords and is now home to many historical monuments of that era which are being maintained in the Bai Bang area…



Due to the ruggedly mountainous topography, the lifestyle here is quite distinctive, people live largely in harmony with nature and still maintain many traditional aspects of Muong culture including:

++ Residing in stilt houses:

++ Traditional costume: Women’s clothing is very original and beautiful. They are all handmade weaving products. With creative mind, Muong people make their clothes with colourful brocade in harmoniously decorative shuttle-woven fabrics. Researchers have found these same patterns used on ancient Dong Son drum engravings from more than 2,500 years ago.


++ Cuisine is also very special here. The Muong’s dishes are very attractive, the most popular dishes are: “Boiled Springtime Bamboo Shoots”, “Chicken Cooked with Sour Bamboo Shoots and Doi Seeds”, “Sang Vegetable Soup”, “Violet Glutinous Rice” and Can Wine (a fragrant rice wine drunk from a shared jar through long, arcing bamboo straws).

Co La (food be presented on banana leaves)

Lam Rice


Can Wine


++ Popular heritage: The space of Cong Chieng (gong music) culture, a performance called Sac Bua art (xec bua) includes 12 instruments played by 12 girls, while other music performances include Chieng music, love song duets, and mythic poems that tell ancient stories.

++ Recreation: The Muong Khu still maintain many popular ancient games such as “Danh Mang” whose players are typically women, “Con Throwing”, and “Danh Cu” for children.

Chieng Music

Con Throwing

Danh Mang


Like a princess awaking to a new life after a long sleep in the quiet castle. The Muong Khu are becoming increasingly connected to the outside world and are opening their hearts and homes to welcome all tourists. Yet, there are still many difficult questions about sustainable development, forest conservation, and preserving traditional culture. Only then can Muong Khu retain a truly Muong Khu identity and do visitors come to Muong Khu…


Objectives of the tour

VCBET-Network coorperate with Ngoc Son Ngo Luong nature reserve to offer the community based ecotour.


- To preserve local culture.

- To improve local communities’ livelihoods.

- To support nature conservation.

- To reduce family violence gender inequality.

- To mitigate and adapt to global climate change.

- To provide cultural exchange between tourists and local hosts.

- To empower and train local communities to manage CBET independently in the future.

- To gradually improve the capacity of the local community.


(*) Your travel to NSNL NR will contribute directly to forest conservation, wildlife conservation as well as poverty reduction for the people here. 10% tour revenue will be donated to the local conservation, community coordination and poverty reduction fund (NSNL NR management board). This is also the mission of true community based ecotourism.

We develop community based tourism in NSNL NR as a beacon for other areas in Vietnam to learn and develop community based ecotourism together.


High light

Located in the mountainous area of North Viet Nam, NSNL NR is home to traditional villages of the Muong ethnic minority. Visiting Ngoc Son Ngo Luong, you will feel the simple but majestic beauty of the scenery, experience ordinary but also interesting life in local community. With the aim of developing sustainable tourism, we offer the opportunity for you to enjoy peaceful life, wild nature in the best hygienic conditions and with the best service. You are an important part of helping us preserve the cultural​, natural value and helping poor local people improve their livelyhoods.

- Live with the local people in a home stay, experience a completely different lifestyle, gain a deeper understanding of the rich indigenous cultures and local daily life.

- Trek through the forest, contemplate the majestic nature. Pass clear streams, enjoying the beauty of Mo waterfall, Mu waterfall. Have the opportunity to see rare plants such as: Nghien, mun and many types of orchid, rare animal such as gibbon, many species of birds…

- Bike along nature reserve, enjoy the picturesque scenery of mountain and villages (Long term tour)

- Raft on the Buoi river, listen to a variety of bird songs and observe local fisher man at work.

- Participate in daily activities with local people: farming, weaving, and cooking traditional dishes...

- Watch traditional music show, enjoy special traditional dishes…

- Visitors can design their itinerary with the support of experienced local guides.


Muong Khu Trekking route

Location and Name of Route

The Muong Khu Trekking Route is covered on three provinces of Hoa Binh, Thanh Hoa and Ninh Binh. An exciting and adventurous three-day trek flows quietly through NSNL NR and CPNP. The name of route “Muong Khu” originated from one of ancient residents of Muong in general, the area the route passes through.


Data of Route: Length, Features, Starting/Ending Points

The nature trail was set up, 2009-2010, in a rare example of limestone forest habitat and noted for its high biodiversity and high rates of endemism, representing a significant remnant of the northern limestone forests of Vietnam, a globally important karst ecosystem.


The Muong Khu Trekking Route is a 60-km long walk, starting/ending at the NR HQs and ending/ starting at the Bong Center (17 km away Endangered Primate Rescue Center and Botanical Garden of CPNP).


The Objectives of The Route

The trail is designed to give trekkers the combination of two key attractions of the landscape; and the limestone forest and traditional culture. Trekking through a variety of  habitats: regenerating secondary forest, and mature forest of tropical area, getting the opportunity to see some wildlife, crossing small streams, climbing over limestone rocks, skirting the foothills, walking between rice fields, observing and chatting with local people sometimes in traditional dress, staying in homestays of ancient Muong hill-tribe, enjoying local foods, looking at the landscape from view points and swimming in streams and multi-cascade waterfalls.

Besides, the trail is designed with the hope it is the potential way to generate livelihood benefits, and crucially, associate in the minds of local people, the need for environmental and cultural conservation and preservation.


The full 60 km can be walked with colored alternative of easy, medium, difficult and adventurous levels. You may choose to break off and return to the entrance if you do not have time to complete the full trail. 



Please help us keep the Muong Khu Trekking Route clean and tidy:

Do not throw litter away, but take it away with you.

Please do not pick flower, collect or kill any wildlife (including insects and other small animals).

Please follow the signals on the route and interact with local guide, in order to preserve nature and your own safety.

Please be respectful toward locals and traditions as the partly trail lies on Muong villages.

Enjoy the unique and friendly culture of the Muong Khu and Muong Khu!


Some photo tour:









Thank you! Hope you will have a pleasant trip.

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