The fifth largest province in the country with not many visitors and tourists.
Son La province (Sơn La) is a good place to stop if you are coming down from Dien Bien to Moc Chau or vice versa. You will not find too many tourists and historic sites. Up to 80% of the natural environment is covered by mountains. A lot of people of different ethnic groups (Ma, Hmong, Dao, Muong, Kinh, Tay, Thai, …) live in this province, you can visit their villages. Many villages are located north of the town of Son La, along the TL106 road for about 20 km, and further northwest, the road QL6 and AH13 for about 40 km.
On a motorcycle you can go to the one of the largest dams in Vietnam.
In this area is one of the biggest dams in Vietnam – Son La Dam, built because the region suffers from water shortages. This dam is about 50 km north from the city on the river Da and there is no problem getting there on a motorcycle. The Son La Dam was completed in 2012 and became for a time the largest hydroelectric producer in Vietnam. Along the way you pass many interesting villages. Look on the map below the article. The largest dam in Vietnam is in Hoa Binh province.
The Black River (Sông Đà) is the longest river of northern Vietnam, it is 527 km long. The Black River is the most important tributary of the Red River. It also forms part of the border between Phú Thọ Province and Hanoi. People use the water to irrigate rice fields in the lower reaches.
The THAI people – the 3rd biggest ethnic group in Vietnam (1,500,000 residents).
Members of the Thai ethnic minority are the 3rd biggest ethnic group in Vietnam after the the Tay inhabitants. Their number is estimated at less than 2% of the total population of Vietnam. The approximate number is about 1.5 million inhabitants. The people of this minority live mainly in Son La, Mai Chau, Lao Cai and Lai Chau. In the area of Lai Chau and Lao Cai in the north live more people of the White Thais. While in the southern part of the province of Son La, Yen Bai and Mai Chau live members of the Black Thais.
The Thai ethnic minority is well known for its beautifully woven garments and other accessories and typical houses on stilts. These houses are designed to protect the residents from possible flooding and from dangerous animals.
Son La is an area with Thai ethnic residents, these people came from Thailand.
Another popular visited place near the town of Son La is Hua La village (5 km south). Its a very easily accessible location in the beautiful valley and hills. The valley is covered with coffee trees, plums or apricots. I recommend you taste some typical dishes of the Black Thais, for example Pia (meat sauce with different parts of cattle) or Ruan Can (wine with straw).
Visit a prison and museum from the time of French colonization (1908).
From this period one of the most famous monuments is the prison which was well known as “hell on earth“. It was known for the brutality the French colonists practiced on prisoners. You will find this prison on the top of Khau Ca Hill, Khau Ca street. At the Trade Union hotel in the north of Son La town is a good viewing point to the city. It is possible to rent a motorbike in this hotel, in the city you may have a problem with renting a motorbike.
You can visit Ta Sua nature reserve in Son La province.
About 3 km north of the city its a good idea to stop and look into the Tham Tet Toong cave. This cave is 150 m long with the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites. Above the cave there are the cliffs and hills covered with the green trees. West of the town of Son La is a small town – Thuan Chau, which hosts an ethnic market with different products (bags, pendants, materials…). You can also hike Phú Lương mountain in Son La province. It is the 3rd biggest mountain in Vietnam.
The entire area is suitable for riding a motorcycle, the roads are in very good condition. Son La has a mild climate, so you can come here at any time. The best months are in the spring time. The weather is almost the same as in Hanoi.
Moc Chau district is a very good stopover in northwest Vietnam.
Moc Chau is a district of Son La province and its capital is of the same name. It is a large mountainous and hilly region. It lies about 140 km from Son La town to the south. It’s a very good stop between Son La city and Mai Chau city. If you come here, I recommend staying a while in this beautiful area of tea plantations, flowering fruit trees and flowers. Especially in the spring, this place is very beautiful and has a very good climate suitable for traveling. Moc Chau is a significant producer of high-quality milk and tea.
The area is inhabited by the people of different ethnic minorities. A lot of Thai and Hmong people live here but also other minorities are in this area – Dao, Kho Mu, La Ha Tay. More information is in the article about Moc Chau.
How to get to Son La town:
There is no problem to take a local bus from the town of Dien Bien Phu, Lai Chau, Moc Chau, Mai Chau. From Hanoi to Son La you can travel by several buses from the My Dinh and Yen Nghia bus stations. These buses go in the morning but also in the afternoon. Lots of buses go over Moc Chau and continue to Dien Bien Phu (eg. Hai Van bus from the My Dinh bus station). Son La is a good place for a stopover in the northwest of Vietnam. There is no train connection in Son La province.
Weather in Son La:
Generally a mild climate, the weather is about the same as in Hanoi, with the exception of the mountain areas. During the summer, warm air comes from Laos, and in the summer Son La has high temperatures.
➜ Current weather in Son La
🏡 Accommodation in Son La town:
Booking portals Agoda and Booking offer in Son La town practically nothing (February 2017). Only one hotel you can find on Booking. There are some cheaper guesthouses and hotels in the Son La town. So you need to take a look in the town.
📷Places of Interest in Son La:
• villages with ethnic minorities – Bo Muoi, Tong Lanh, Ta Bu (north, north-west near the town of Son La)
• Son La Dam
• colorful market in Thuan Chau
• Mong village at the area of Hua La
• Prison and museum from the time of French colonization
• scenic peak above the town
• Thẩm Tét Toòng cave
• Da river
• Ta Sua nature reserve
• Phú Lương nature reserve (Ta Chi Nhu mountain)
• Moc Chau district
Son La – map: