A Shau Valley
The A Shau Valley is inland from the city of Hue, almost as far as the Laotian border. There are mountains of the Truong Son range between Hue and the A Shau, and there are more mountains between the valley and Laos. One of them is Hill 937, or Hamburger Hill of Vietnam War fame.
The A Shau Valley is hidden among these mountains. It's longer dimension is parallel to the Laotion border not far away, and much of it's drainage is into Laos to the Mekong River.
I first saw the A Shau from a high prominence in 1969, and that was when I immediately knew that Vietnam is a beautiful place. Though populated now, the valley is a very special place in Vietnam. It is unlike anywhere else I've been. Though A Luoi is a bustling town (I didn't see it at all, decades earlier), the valley has a beauty all its own, and I found a peaceful feeling about it on this February morning.
Xuan Hung and I ate at a small cafe in the open air, I wrote and mailed some post cards at the Buu Dien (post office), and we visited the local police station to see if we could get permission to explore southward in the valley. Part of the A Shau is some sort of military area that requires permission to visit.
The police were very pleasant and helpful. We sat down. One officer took my passport to another room and maybe made a phone call--I don't know. But in the end, we could not visit the sensitive areas. Permission had to come from the province, so although they tried, the police could not help us.
We drove as far south out of A Luoi as we could. At one point I got out of the car and just walked down the road. It was a scene of modest dwellings, pastoral land, and animal husbandry. I saw one stream and much forest.
Back to A Luoi we soon went, and turned onto Highway 49--a paved road out of the valley, over the mountains, to Hue.