More than 30km from Đien Bien Phủ City, Che Căn Village features many cultural values of ancient Thai ethnic people and is an attractive community tourism destination for those who visit the northwestern province of Đien Bien.
To reach Che Căn Village, tourists can take Highway 279, through Na Nhạn Commune, Đien Bien District, then follow provincial Road 3 into Mường Phăng Commune.
Visitors can also follow a southeast road of Đien Bien Phủ City passing through Ta Leng Commune.
These two routes both lead through the winding roads along Pa Khoang Lake hidden under the green forests with fresh air and peaceful natural scenery.
The village is on a part of the Pu Đồn mountain range which has the highest peak of Pu Huốt, 1,700m above sea level.
It was on the top of this mountain that the Commander-in-Chief of the Viet Nam People’s Army (VPA), General Võ Nguyen Giap, ordered an observation post to monitor the developments of the fighting with the French forces in Mường Thanh during the pivotal Đien Bien Phủ Battle in 1954.
Before exploring Che Căn Village, visitors can visit the famous revolutionary base where the VPA headquarters at the campaign were located.
Che Căn was one of the few villages that existed before 1954. “Che Cẳn” means protecting people from foreign invaders. In the past, the village was deserted, locals lived in small, humble houses in the middle of the murky mountains and forests, and people mainly farmed, planting maize and cassava.
After 1954, locals were able to make their stilt houses bigger and more stable, their livelihoods gradually developed with cattle and poultry raising, as well as growing wet rice and fruit trees.
Che Căn Village has nearly 100 households with more than 430 people, all of them of Thai ethnicity.
They maintain their cultural values with the traditional architecture of stilt houses of the black Thai as well as clothes, beliefs and festivals.
In addition, the village attracts tourists with traditional occupations such as brocade weaving, knitting, forging, carpentry and making traditional musical instruments.
Stilt houses and festivals
From the centre of Mường Phăng Commune, walking on a clean, airy concrete road, we saw mossy stilt houses on the dark blue background of mountains and sky.
The plum trees were in the gables of many houses and in each family, we saw many women doing embroidery, sewing on the porch and cooking traditional dishes.
According to local Lường Văn Lả, the most unique feature that visitors coming here all note is the traditional architecture of the black Thai stilt houses. Traditional stilt houses were usually built in a high, cool place with their back leaning on the hill, mountain and the door facing a river, stream or crop field.
The stilt houses have two floors, the upper floor usually has three compartments, for the host’s family and guest reception, while the lower floor is for agricultural tools, wood, firewood and breeding.
The village also hosts special festivals with unique folk songs and dances.
According to Mua A Kềnh, vice chairman of People’s Committee of Mường Phăng Commune, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recognised Che Căn as a typical traditional village of ethnic minorities and was one of 20 traditional cultural villages preserved in the country.
Kềnh said over the years, the local government has made efforts to preserve and promote the traditional cultural values of the Thai in Che Căn by harmoniously combining tradition with modernity and preserving the traditional household items of the black Thai such as stone mortars to grind maize and to pound rice.
In Che Căn, visitors will have a chance to experience a unique Thai stilt house.
Lò Văn Đuc, owner of the homestay Phương Đuc, said his family received advice from the provincial Community Development Centre to upgrade his two adjacent stilt houses and he built additional facilities to serve about 50 guests.
He has a bicycle service for visitors to explore the village’s open spaces, clean alleys, colourful flowers and rice fields.
An interesting experience in Che Căn is that for only around VNĐ30,000 (US$1.3), visitors can ride a buffalo cart to explore tourist sites around the village. In addition, harvesting agricultural products is also a very attractive experience for many tourists in Mường Phăng.
In Che Căn Village, visitors have the opportunity to enjoy the Thai cuisine with delicious dishes such as pa pỉnh top (grilled fish) nom da trau (buffalo skin salad), thịt trau gac bếp (buffalo meat smoked in the kitchen), grilled chicken, steamed pig with banana leaves, fish salad, and purple sticky rice.
Stemming from the local geographical conditions, climate and living habits, food from the Thai ethnic community here always has a unique flavour, taste and colour.
After dinner, visitors have the opportunity to mingle with the local people in the cultural space of the Thai, with wonderful dances and songs. —
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