Water wheels in Na Khuong
Update: Sep 20, 2017
Visitors going to Na Khuong Hamlet (Ban Bo Commune, Tam Duong District, Lai Chau Province) to admire the beauty of the Nam Mu River flowing through the middle of a pristine mountainous area are also attracted by the sights and cascading sounds of 25 huge water wheels on the river bank, which continuously spin to send water to the rice paddies.

Water wheels in Na Khuong are so interesting to tourists that they have become a new tourist
product of the northwest in 2017

"Pumping machines'' in the Muong area

For people of the Thai, Muong, Tay, Nung ethnic groups living in the northwest, a water wheel is an essential agricultural tool that helps locals deliver water from the lower rivers or streams to the higher fields. People passing by large fields like Muong Thanh (Dien Bien), Muong Lo (Yen Bai) often catch sight of water wheels continuously spinning to take water to a higher place for irrigation of the rice during the growing season.

Perhaps the area with the most beautiful water wheels in the whole northwest is Na Khuong. According to Lo Van Cac, during the ninth lunar month of each year, in order to provide enough water for scores of hectares of rice paddies, villagers build water wheels along the Nam Mu River to deliver water to their plants. So far, 25 water wheels have been built along the river.

To build a water wheel, the Thai in Na Khuong choose a log as its horizontal axle. The log must be light, resilient and water resistant. Spokes of the wheel are made of straight stems of vau, a type of bamboo. Rattan woven blades are added to the outer rim of the wheel so that the water power can drive the wheel and deliver water higher.

Water wheels in Na Khuong Hamlet are often 6m high. They are only used before the flooding season. When the floods come, water wheels are often carried away by the raging water.  They are rebuilt in time for the next planting.

The Thai people often compare water wheels to huge pumping machines that bring water to their fields. These water wheels spin continuously, delivering water for farming and also creating a simple but beautiful image closely connected to the local life for visitors to admire and explore.

Experience agricultural tools from older times

According to Lo Van Cac, in the beginning villagers were surprised by tourists coming to see and take pictures and videotape the water wheels by the Nam Mu River.

In order to meet the tourists' demand for local food as well as renting ethnic costumes for photos, his family and other households in the hamlet build stalls by the river to provide these services.

The area is the most crowded during weekends. Tourists are mostly office-workers from Lai Chau and Sa Pa (Lao Cai). As Na Khuong Hamlet is only 40km away from this tourist capital of the northwest, many travel agencies have launched tours for tourists in Sa Pa to cross Hoang Lien Son Mountain to enter Lai Chau and explore this area.

Tu Huu Ha, Chairman of the People's Committee of Tam Duong District informed me that there are a large number of tourists that will come to Na Khuong Hamlet in 2017, which is a welcome sign for tourism development in the district. He also revealed that in the future, the district's authority will examine further investment to promote this area so that it can attract more tourists.

Na Khuong is also nominated to be recognised as a tourist attraction by the Department for Culture, Sports and Tourism of Lai Chau Province so that it can plan for further development into a signature eco-tourist destination of Tam Duong District in particular and Lai Chau Province in general by 2020.