Yellow season in Northwestern Vietnam
In September, autumn brings a wonderful yellow season on every regions of Northwestern Vietnam, from Mu Cang Chai – Yen Bai, Y Ty – Lao Cai to Hoang Su Phi – Ha Giang. Paddy fields of H’Mong people in Vu Lung Sung village, Trung Chai commune, Sapa, Lao Cai used to be recognized as one of seven most breathtaking terraced fields of Asia and the world by Travel & Leisure magazine.
See more Vietnam travel guide at here.
Text and photos: Lam Linh
In September, it is cold enough for you to showcase your scarves, warm clothes and gloves when touring around natural masterpieces in the Northwest of Vietnam in its most fascinating season. At this time of the year, it is very cool and airy for a long journey.
Faraway Mu Cang Chai - Yen Bai
You can only take the 32 national road to Mu Cang Chai. From Hanoi, pass by Khe mountain pass to Yen Bai, then go through Nghia Lo to Mu Cang Chai. You can witness fabulous terraced fields from Van Chan village. The aroma from terraced fields of Thai people in Tu Le spreads out over the region. You can also try new rice if you travel here in the harvest season. Or you can enjoy green rice flakes of Tu Le. In the late afternoon, when Thai boys and girls finish their work in the fields, warm streams amidst fields are the most crowded. Thai people get used to bathing at streams.
From Tu Le to Mu Cang Chai, you will have to take about 20km of Khau Pa mountain pass. You can witness paddy fields, which are turning into yellow, in the magnificent valley that everyone wishes to contemplate or relax with lush green valleys and yellow fields by a cup of hot coffee.
Passing by La Pan Tan and Che Cu Nha, two communes with the most exotic terraced fields in Mu Cang Chai, cowboys are playing by fences in national roads. This 500ha field is the heritage of H’Mong people that was recognized by the country. Ethnic people in Yen Bai often grow rice on high mountain slopes while Thai people build their village in lower region, grow aromatic glutinous rice in Tu Le valley. H’Mong people have turned severe slopes into stunning terraced fields. Skillful hands of Dao, H’Mong, Ha Nhi, Giay, Tay, Xa Pho Nung and Pa Di ethnic groups, from generation to generation, have been creating wonderful masterpieces.
In 2007, 500ha terraced fields in La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and De Xu Phinh (Mu Cang Chai) were recognized as a national beauty spot by Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Culture, sports and tourism week with the rice festival, photo exhibition about terraced fields, markets, cuisine, traditional dances and music performances of H’Mong people will take place from September 14th to 20th, 2012 in Yen Bai.
Specialties: Tea of Giang village, glutinous rice and chicken of Tu Le, frog of Mu Cang Chai mountain, salted bamboo shoots, boiled pork meat, grilled pork meat with phrynium leaves, smoked buffalo meat and wine.
September and October are the best time for visiting famous terraced fields in Northwest. At this time, foreigners and Vietnamese travelers often discover the landscape by motorbike. International guests can hire a Minsk with tour guides in the Old Quarter of Hanoi.
Floating Y Ty – Lao Cai
You can travel to Y Ty from O Quy Ho mountain foot, then from Bat Xat – Ban Vuoc to Muong Hum and from A Mu Sung near Lung Po, where the Red River starts flowing into this landscape.
The road runs through high mountains, deep forests and along risky cliffs with some small villages.
White clouds cover the entire valley. The sparkling sunshine spreads over the landscape. Y Ty is located within the mountain and holded by fog all year round. At the height of 2000 meters and leaning on Nhiu Co San mountain range with a peak of 2,600m, the sun rarely shines the whole village. Therefore, Y Ty is called the “foggy land”.
The early market is crowded with people from ethnic minorities such as Dao, Ha Nhi, H’Mong and Giay, dressing in colorful costumes. Some go with children or wives, some ride horses and some walk to the market within the mountain of the Northwest. They seem to be riding clouds to the market when the sunlight makes the cloudy valley more mysterious. Girls dressing in colorful dress and scarves that cause the market as a mobile flower garden. When the market closes, girls still take a rest on mountain-side rocks, talk, view the beautiful scenery and embroider.
Passing by Den Sang, you will come into view yellow paddy fields that are in their harvest. From Muong Hum to Y Ty, roads are filled with ripen rice, clouds and bright sunshine.
Roads to Y Ty are not smooth with many slippy paths; accordingly, you are advised to bring gloves, knee covers in order not to be scratched.
In the mountainous areas, the temperature is differential in the day and at night. You should bring scarves, woolen caps, gloves, warm clothes, a sleeping bag and thin blanket.
Y Ty has the only one guest house of Ms. Hau Thu My with several rooms. You are advised not to travel here in the evening.
Remember to report to the village leader and bring your personal documents.
From Y Ty, you can visit Lao Chai 1 and Lao Chai 2, where feature the most beautiful “trinh tuong” houses in Lao Cai and also travel through Hong Ngai, the most remote village in this territory.
Hoang Su Phi – Immense yellow paddy fields
Hoang Su Phi is located in the mountain foot of Tay Con Linh, where attracts a large number of young visitors every autumn. The way to Hoang Su Phi is much more difficult than that to Mu Cang Chai.
From Y Ty – Lao Cai, we must pass by a “hard” road, to Lao Cai, to Bac Ha and then travel 40km to Xin Man, the most challenging road, to Hoang Su Phi. Thí landscape welcomes guests with immense yellow carpets of paddy fields, which expand along till the mountains.
At Hoang Su Phi, you can indulge in magnificent nature or relax in fresh air of the mountainous area and listen to the sound of brooks. Hoang Su Phi has four cultural and tourist villages, which are Nam Hong, Giang Thuong, Phin Ho and Lang Giang.
Hoang Su Phi is an enchanting destination for tours, especially to the Pan Hour ecological tourist site by Thong Nguyen stream. In the peaceful and romantic scenery, the youth of Dao girls will impress you at your first sight. In addition, you can also discover the culture of Dao ethnic group, which is about 80% of population in this region.
Local people in Hoang Su Phi grow rice once a year in May and harvest in September that are two most attractive seasons.
From Hanoi, take along the 2 national road about 320km to the North, to Viet Quang, then turn to Hoang Su Phi. The road is crooked with few vehicles.
From here, you can conquer Tay Con Linh 1 and Tay Con Linh 2 peaks with many famous attractions.
Rice in Hoang Su Phi is growing higher than that in Mu Cang Chai.
You can find terraced fields in most of villages in the region but mostly in Ban Luoc, Ban Phung, Thong Nguyen, Ho Thau, Nam Ty and San Sa Ho with a total area of nearly 765ha.
Ready for your “backpack”
- Remember to bring thick coats and scarves when traveling to these regions in this season.
- Do not ride too fast or closely to each other. You are not encouraged to ride your motorbike in the evening to avoid fog. Remember to bring your personal documents and sparse parts of your motorbike in case it is damaged.
- You are also advised to bring necessary medicines in case you catch some diseases such as headache, flu and stomachache.
- If you travel in groups, you must remember schedule and own a map in your hand as well as phone numbers of other members of your group.
- Bring necessaries such as warm clothes, gloves, helmets, knee covers, rain coat, booth and sleeping bag.
- Put your necessaries into nylon bags before placing them into the backpack in order to avoid being wet in case it rains.
- Other tools: ropes and other items such as a knife or scissors.
- Try to tighten your lugguage conveniently to move easily in streets.
- A group should include maximum 5 motorbikes and ten people in order to get on well easily in streets or in remote areas.
Some addresses for motorbike renting in Hanoi:
- Hoang Motor: 27 Lane 62 Tran Quy Cap, Van Mieu, Dong Da
- Tel: (04) 66 50 50 19 - HP: 092 829 0000 / 0922 586 122 / 0904 23 23 41
- Nguyen Thanh Tung: 1017 Hong Ha, Hoan Kiem – HP: 0913 532 229
- Mr. Trung: 51 Doi Can – HP: 091.241.0562
- Vietnam Heart Travel: 119 Au Co, Tay Ho – HP: 091 33 44 069 (Mr. Thiep)
- Other addresses in Dinh Liet, Ta Hien, Luong Ngoc Quyen, Hang Buom…in the Old Quarter.
See more Vietnam travel guide at here.