Khoang Xanh-Suoi Tien is a tourist destination 60km from Ha Noi on the way to Son Tay and located in an area of primitive forest in Van Hoa Commune, Son Tay District.
Former classmates from high school visited the area to relax and rekindle memories of our teenage years.
We departed at 7am and arrived at 8.30am. The weather is cool and fresh year round so we enjoyed the fresh mountain air plus the atmosphere of many man-made lakes.
Khoang Xanh-Suoi Tien is 400m above sea level. It is surrounded by mountains and imposing forests, with dreamy waterfalls such as the Mo, Hoa, Tram and Mam Xoi.
"It is wonderful. I feel like I am in Da Lat, [summer resort town in Central Highlands]," said my friend, Nguyen Thanh Binh.
In the ethnic Muong language, Khoang Xanh means "cool stream in the green valley". Once this area was uncultivated and uninhabited, just forests and streams. In the early 1990s it was woken up by local officials who turned it into one of the district's leading tourism zones.
Khoang Xanh-Suoi Tien is also the subject of a romantic legend in which a fairy drops down to earth and wanders among the trees and blooming flowers to the sound of bird-song, with no thought of the time. Until the sun went down, that is, when she immediately flies away and leaves behind her green robe. Since then Khoang Xanh-Suoi Tien has been "green forever".
On the way to discover the beautiful falls, we saw thousands of stones of various shapes and sizes, worn by time, scattered along the stream.
The stream runs around a forest which is home to many species of birds, insects and animals, a rich biodiversity with big trees, orchids, ferns and creeper.
We strolled through the dense groves to discover the wildlife and wallow in the water until we found a place to rest.
"The sound of the breeze, the stream and birdsong create a lovely concert of nature," said 33-year-old teacher Bui Nhu Quynh.
Sitting on the rocks under the shade of green trees, we sang songs, told stories of our high-school days and laughed a lot.
This primitive area exists side-by-side with modern tourist attractions such as the Wild Animal Reserve, Dinosaur Park, Hot Mineral Swimming Pool and Mysterious Underworld.
We were eager to get back to discover the 1,000sq m Mysterious Underworld with its rocky mountain surroundings. It was a chance to test our bravery by venturing into the darkness before lunch at the Suoi Tien Restaurant with local specialities.
In the afternoon we took a mud-bath, a first for most of us. We entered the sauna room with the soft perfume of herbs and then a bath in a large mineral pool, which at 50m in length is considered the largest hot mineral pool in Viet Nam. It has boards for jumping and eight lanes for swimming. Water is always at 37oC.
Then we took a shower under a 6.5m waterfall before having the mud-bath. A current of warm muddy water flowed into our tub and soaked our bodies. It was watery, not thick and gooey like we imagined, though there was a pot of thick mud near the tub for us to cover our faces.
Our car left to return to Ha Noi at 4pm and on the way back we stopped at markets to buy souvenirs and specialities. I felt tired but exhilarated by my exercise in the cool fresh mountain air with my friends and surprisingly cleansed by the mud bath, my once in a life-time experience.
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