A horseman called Hoang Van Chu of the Nung ethnic sects, who has been living in the northern mountainous Lao Cai province’s Bac Ha Plateau, has expressed his love for the area while he carries tourists in a horse-drawn carriage in Bac Ha.
He who lives in the province’s Na Hoi Nung Village of Na Hoi Commune is the first person to have an idea of improving the horse carriage and earning a living by transporting tourists in the horse carriage.
He said “with various means of transport in the area including modern ones like motorbikes and minibuses, it is easy for tourists to find a vehicle to travel. However, tourists who are well experienced in travelling will go for a horse carriage.
Tourists are impressed by the amazing views of mountain landscapes which they witness while sitting on the horse carriage.
Impressive experiences when visiting Bac Ha Plateau include with the colourful ethnic costumes, the horses’ neighs, and the screams of mountain pigs intermingled with the sounds of hammers on the fires of blacksmiths. Especially, tourists have a chance to enjoy some specialities of the locals like Tam Hoa plums.
According to Chu, a number of tourists visiting the plateau said that travelling by horse carriage helps them leisurely enjoy the pretty landscapes and take nice photos.
Hoang Van Chu is a farm horseman in the region who is good at shooting and horse straddling. He has learnt to ride a horse and fire a gun since he was a young boy. “My parent told me that there were a lot of horse carriages in Bac Ha during the years of French colonialism from 1857 to 1945. At that time, horse carriage is one of the unique and outstanding features of this plateau. The locals use horse mainly for transport and only the rich could ride carriages,” he said.
He also noted “however, this mean of transport gradually sunk into oblivion and was replaced by modern vehicles. Since the 1990s, there has no horse carriage at all on the roads of the region.”
The sound ‘click clock click clock’ of horses’ hooves and the tinkling of the tintinnabula bells on their necks gradually faded in local residents’ memories, which saddened the horseman Chu.
After much searching and studying, Chu decided to order a horse-drawn carriage from a Chinese worker when he came to this country, aiming at bringing back a traditional feature for this plateau. According to him, “the Chinese worker sent the carriage on time but his product didn’t satisfy me as it was not convenient for carrying tourists”.
As a result, he decided to create a horse carriage on his own. With his efforts, the vehicle finished and was used to serve tourists in the region that surprised all the local residents.
“Some of my neighbours laughed at me and called me a madman. They said that there would be no demand for this kind of vehicle from tourists. Yet, I ignored all those sneers and kept my job on the carriage,” Chu said.
At first, Chu carried tourists free of charge along with the most beautiful destinations in the area, such as Hoang A Tuong edifice, Trung Do Temple and on misty paths, in a bid to build a reputation for his service, as well as advertise the beauty of his hometown.
“Foreign visitors often called me a ‘cowboy’. Some of them told me that during their trips in Bac Ha Plateau, they loved most of all the sound of horses’ hooves on-road and the tinkling bells on the horses’ neck, which made me so happy,” Chu said.
Chu is the only one in the area who provides tourists with horse-drawn carriage rides. According to him “I had to spend all my savings, worth VND60 million (US$2,800), to make my carriage. No one in the area dared to spend the sum as I did.”
Besides Chu’s horse providing rides for tourists, there are many horses in the area to carry goods. Riders of baggage horses often gather in front of Bac Ha Temple ready for hire to carry goods, which is one of the area’s oldest jobs.