The land of areca palms and gurgling streams beckons


geeglenews Bridge – Son Tay District of the central province of Quang Ngai has long been dubbed the “Land of Areca” for its seemingly endless hills covered with areca palms. With mountains on one side and the sea on the other, Quang Ngai is also well-known for one of the most beautiful beaches in central Viet Nam, cultural vestiges of Chau Sa Citadel as well as a number of pagodas.

The land of areca palms and gurgling streams beckons

Cooling water: Thac Lua waterfall looks like a white silk thread running from the mountain peak to an abyss

Son Tay is the westernmost district of Quang Ngai. Located at a height of 400 to 1,700 metres above sea level, nearly 100 kms away from the nearest city and with 80 per cent of the area comprised of mountain and forest, it beckons those seeking a healthy dose of nature.

Driving along curving roads from Quang Ngai City, one arrives at the Land of Areca – 1,000 ha of areca palms that are the major source of income for local residents. Areca is everywhere, even scattered on rice terrace fields. The landscape of vertical areca palms and the aromatic scent of its flower have been an inspiration for photographers and artists.

Areca has long been a local treasure – its firm trunk has been used as pillars for houses or rice stores, its leaves for thatch roofing and areca nut is for sale or exchange on special occasions, including engagement and wedding parties. Areca nut and betel leaf are traditional symbols of love and marriage. It is also used as an offering for ancestors and a cure for indigestion.

But Son Tay is not only about areca palms. It has golden rice terraces, mountain ranges and crystal clear water streams. Peace and fresh air are in abundance. The silence is only disturbed by the gurgling streams. The landscape is dotted with a few little stilt houses and some ethnic women dressed in colorful traditional costumes.

Son Tay is now home to two major ethnic groups – the Ca Dong (about 85 per cent) and Hre (7 per cent), who preserve their traditional customs and rich culture. Travelers are likely to catch sight of ethnic people wearing traditional brocade-decorated dress that they have made, on their backs a basket that they have woven.

Huy Mang stream in Son Dung commune has been recognised as a landscape relic by the province. Water flowing through the cracks between rough rocks creates interesting sounds. Along the two banks are climbing plants, wild flowers and big old trees under which one can cool off. Huy Mang stream, which winds through forested mountains, is nearly 1km long.

Thac Lua (Silk Waterfall), in Son Tinh Commune, like its name, looks like a white silk thread running from the mountain peak to an abyss. At the foot of this waterfall lies the curving Xa Ruong stream. Feeling the coolness of flowing water in this stream and letting the playful fish run around one’s legs is a fun experience.

Food is also a highlight of Son Tay travel. Grilled fish is a must. Locals use a type of local fish called nieng, which lives in the natural streams and eats algae and moss, giving the fish a unique taste of mild bitterness. Snail broth cooked with local vegetables is also a popular dish for its juiciness.

The land of areca palms and gurgling streams beckons

Gurgling streams: Local residents playing gong near a water stream in Son Tay District.

The land of areca palms and gurgling streams beckons

The color green: Son Tay District is a good choice for those wanting to immerse themselves in nature.

The land of areca palms and gurgling streams beckons

Multipurpose trees: About 80 per cent of Son Tay District in Quang Ngai Province are mountain and forest, about 1,000 ha of which are areca palm trees. — Photos


Thuy Linh