by Minh Thu
|Home sweet home: Wooden houses of the K'Ho ethnic minority. — Photos courtesy Mai Tuan Anh
The picturesque sight of houses amidst a valley of flowers sent me into an ecstasy of delight when I visited Cu Lan Village.
My husband and I didn't intend to visit the village. While riding a motorbike on Road 722, we saw many tiny boards directing us to "Cu Lan Village tourism area".
Curious about the strange name of the village, which means "slow loris" (a sloth-like animal), we decided to follow the road signs to the site.
When we arrived, the exterior landscape and the village's gate didn't impress us so much. But when we passed about a hundred steps to go down the valley, we were totally absorbed by the beautiful scene of houses near murmuring Silver Stream.
Cu Lan Village is about 20km from the centre of Da Lat city in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong. It's located in a 30ha valley amid the vast greenness of pine trees of Lat Commune, Lac Duong District.
The whole view creates a wonderful green paradise. You will totally forget your fatigue amid the breathtaking combination of wild nature, poetic landscapes and exciting daily life of local people.
|Rolling in the deep: Tourists discover Cu Lan Village and the forest by jeep.
Established in the 1960s, the village is home to people from the K'Ho ethnic group. When they went into the forest, they found many cu lan, a little, good-natured animal which looks like a monkey with big and very beautiful eyes. Then they named the village after the animal.
The village is also home to the cu lan tree, a kind of herb used to stop the bleeding of wounds. The tree is also used to make souvenirs of the Central Highlands region.
In 2011, musician Van Tuan Anh from the central province of Quang Nam and his friends started developing the village and built it into a tourism site for Vietnamese and foreign visitors.
All the works built in the village aim to preserve the wild beauty of nature, Anh said, hoping that tourists would enjoy listening to the sounds of the stream and birds and especially seeing lorises and their trees.
"Due to cruel hunting, it's hard to find lorises in nature," he said. "We are raising about 10 lorises in the village and tourists always find it interesting to play with them."
The shy animals often curl up sleeping all day. Hearing us, they woke up, opened their big round eyes and looked dazedly at us. Then they hurriedly put their hands over their eyes and hid themselves in sleep again.
Visitors can ride horses along the valley's path or take a jeep over streams and through forests. We preferred to walk so as to fully enjoy the wild, natural beauty.
Standing on top of green stone steps on the path that winds its way up the hillside, we looked down and saw a small, peaceful K'Ho commune with a stream nearby amid a forest of blooming flowers. Located in a flat area covered with green grass, it is the heart of the village. Rows of houses inhabited by local ethnic people stand side by side.
Villager K'Bieng told us that the commune had been a residence of the K'Ho people for centuries. It is now divided into small parts, each providing some kind of service to tourists.
He introduced us to a short piece of gong music and offered us grilled sweet potato dipped in honey, a speciality of the K'Ho for cold days.
There are various services to entertain tourists including riding rafts on the stream, catching fishes and ducks.
|Wide-eyed: The village was named after cu lan (slow loris), a little, good-natured animal with big and very beautiful eyes
On festive days, the lake is a scene for exciting boat races. At night, torches are lit, making the entire hamlet so fanciful amid the magnificent mountains and hills.
Tourists can spend the night in the flower valley or wild jungle, where they can join the campfire and taste hot barbecue and special wines of the Central Highlands. It's also a chance to take part in the gong dance hand-in-hand with the local people.
The flower valley package includes lodging in well-equipped wooden houses, while the wild jungle package includes a night in a tent and will intrigue more adventurous tourists.
"Lam Dong Province is my second homeland," said Anh. "Building Cu Lan Village is the way I show my responsibility to my country to protect the environment, as no constructions in the village damage the jungle. Rather, the village is like a jewel to make the forest more beautiful. The village also helps promote local cultural heritage, with wooden houses preserving the K'Ho tradition and an exhibition room of famous Vietnamese painters."
Leaving the village, I regretted that I didn't have enough time to spend a night there. The taste of grilled sweet potato dipped in honey still lingered on my lips. — VNS