Mu Cang Chai, a rural district lying at the root of the Hoang Lien Son mountain range, is 1.000 meters above sea level. The terraced paddy fields in three rural communes namely La Pan Tan, Che Cu Nha and Ze Xu Phinh are designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports & Tourism as a National Monument.
Nghia Lo is a former province, in northwestern Vietnam. Nghia Lo Province was established under Resolution renaming Thai Meo Autonomous Region in Northwest Autonomous Region of the National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, through September 27, 1962. Nghia Lo Province inception of 4 districts: Than Uyen, Mu Cang Chai, Phu Yen and Van Chan and Autonomous Region in Northwest. After this set up 2 Tram Tau and Bac Yen district. Its capital is the town of Nghia Lo.
Since December 27, 1975, was merged with the province of Yen Bai, Lao Cai province in the Hoang Lien Son, Bac Yen district except two in the south and Phu Yen provinces of Son La enter. From December 26, 1991, Hoang Lien Son is divided into two provinces of Lao Cai to Yen Bai; most Nghia Lo province (including Mu Cang Chai district, Van Chan, Tram Tau) was merged into the province of Yen Bai. Uyen district into separate provinces of Lao Cai, until 2004, then moved to the new Lai Chau province.
Yen Bai’s large forest ranges supply valuable pomu, lat hoa, cho chi wood. Van Yen cinnamon, Suoi Giang tea, Tu Le glutinous rice are special products. The province owns well-known stone-pit in Luc Yen, too.
Yen Bai has artificial Thac Ba Lake, a scenic spot as well as a historical place. The lake consists of 1,331 hill-islands, varies vegetation cover and a diverse ecological setting. In the middle of the lake stands the Mong Son Grotto, home of the Yen Bai Party Committee during the anti-American resistance. Coming to there, tourists are able to relax in the lake, climb the mountain and explore the forests.
Visitors are attracted to Dong Cuong and Dai Cai temples. Archaeologists have found many remains of the Son Vi culture in the Dong Cuong Temple area. Dai Cai Temple was built on a large area covered with many green trees and beautiful riverside roads.
Yen Bai City is 180km from Hanoi. The province is on the railway from Hanoi to Yen Bai then Lao Cai. There is National Highway No.32 linking to Lao Cai and National Highway No.37 connecting to Tuyen Quang. Buses leave daily for Yen Bai from My Dinh Bus Station (Hanoi).
Yellow Autumn’ Draws Visitors to Mu Cang Chai
In autumn, the fields of Mu Cang Chai turn varying shades of brilliant yellow and are filled with life as ethnic Mong farmers, wearing traditional attire, harvest the abundance of ripe rice and shoulder bags of the grain home over mountains and hills and across swinging suspension bridges.
Terraced fields, which rise and fall on hills and mountainsides as well as streams and rivers, are beautiful all year round. Visitors in March are treated to the sight of glittering ponds. Locals transplant rice seedlings from April to May. After that, all hills are covered by an everlasting green. Rice fields start to turn yellow with ripeness from early September.
“Harvest lasts from now to mid October. You will see the full beauty of terraced fields during that time,” says Vang A Doi, chairman of the De Xu Phinh Commune People’s Committee.
Terraced rice fields are visible from virtually everywhere in the district as they expand over 2,200ha, including 500ha in Che Cu Nha, La Pan Tan and De Xu Phinh communes. The terraced fields in these villages were recognised as a national heritage in 2007 by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
A trek through these villages offers a fabulous view inside the lives of the Mong people. Young boys are often seen joyfully playing on the roadside. In the distance, huts used to provide cover as farmers watch over their harvest dot the vista.
From Trong Tong Hamlet in La Pan Tan, terraces pour onto each other from above like yellow stairs calling people to heaven. “As I think about the wonder of Mu Cang Chai, I find it hard to restrain my happiness as I take in the beauty before my eyes. In fact, this scene has inspired me to love life and labour. I love my country more because of the simple things it offers,” says 20-year-old Bui Xuan Giang, an adventurous traveller.
Rice fields are not only a source of food and income for the Mong; they are an intrinsic part of their culture and of Mu Cang Chai, which is itself a quiet district on the bank of the Nam River. “If any one asks me where I plan to go this autumn, I will reply without hesitation that I plan on visiting Mu Cang Chai, a district in Yen Bai Province, some 300km north of Ha Noi,” says Giang.
To reach Mu Cang Chai from Ha Noi, you should follow the beautiful route of Road 32. Do not forget to stop at Tu Le Town in Van Chan District on harvest days to enjoy the outstanding flavour of sticky rice with chicken. In this town, local people harvest unripe rice to make green rice flakes which have the aromatic flavour that speaks of the beginning of autumn.
At this time, some of the rice fields scattered in the valley are turning a dark yellow which brings a sweet-scented ambience throughout the vast valley.
After leaving Tu Le, you will follow the Khau Pha mountain pass to travel the 27km between Van Chan and Mu Cang Chai. The name of the mountain pass literally means “sky’s horn”. In the morning, the pass is typically hidden in a thick fog, making it impossible to see more than two metres in front of you.
“Sometimes, I have to close my eyes because of the curves. However, when I reach the summit, where cool breezes blow throughout the year, I have a sense that I’ve reached the gates of heaven and am standing on a cloud. In fact, when I stand at the top of Khau Pha pass, I can barely believe my eyes. Off in the distance, I see rooftops peeking out among tree covered hills and yellow rice fields. The fluffy clouds swirling below me are like a beautiful props from a fairy tale,” says Giang.
In addition to terraced fields, Mu Cang Chai was blessed with naturally beautiful flora and fauna and outstanding geographic features, including vast mountain ranges with high peaks which have protected the people for ages, says Doi.
With forest area covering 80,000ha, researchers have found 22 reptile species, 127 bird species and 53 animal species, notably 200 individual black lemurs. There are animal reserves in Mu Cang Chai’s Che Tao, De Xu Phinh and Pung Luong hamlets. “I used to think that Mu Cang Chai was an isolated and desolate land with ethnic people living silently near the base of the mountain. However, my mind changed when I finally had the change to visit,” says Giang.
Giang recommends a stop at the Giang stream in Van Chan for a soak in the jacuzzi to relax after a long day of adventure. You can also buy some aromatic San Tuyet tea to take home as a gift for family and friends at home.
Try the highlands flavor of snow Shan tea
Suoi Giang Commune in the mountainous northwest area not only wins the hearts of tourists with its fresh atmosphere, pan-pipes and flute sounds of H’mong people but also with the specialty snow Shan tea.
Located in the northern province of Yen Bai at a height of nearly 1,400 meters above sea level, Suoi Giang is endowed with an ideal cool climate like Sapa in Lao Cai or Dalat in Lam Dong Province.
This is home to snow Shan tea trees, a wild tea tree growing on 800-1,800-meter-high areas in the country’s north, most of which are over 300 years old with huge trunks covering several meters in diameter.
Coated with a white/grey color, tender tea leaves are likened to snow flowers, thus named ‘snow Shan tea’ with Shan meaning ‘mountain’.
In the tea season, the tea flavor pervading throughout Suoi Giang is so strong the tart flavor catches your throat.
Early in the morning, visitors to the region will have a chance to climb century-old tea trees to pick young tender tea leaves with local residents. Tea leaves that are neither infected with insects nor old are recommended.
The next job is to roast tea leaves manually which is not suitable for the inexperienced tea-maker. After roasting, the tea leaves will shrink into fish-hook shapes but their snow spots and pure flavors must be ensured.
Making the tea also requires high-quality skills, with either well-boiled rain-water or deep-well-water selected. Tea drinkers at first are treated with the yellow and green colors of tea water before enjoying the tartness then turning into pure flavor from their tongue tip into their throats.
Mu Cang Chai’s terraced, Yenbai
Photographers flock to Mu Cang Chai district in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai–in the harvest season to grasp incredible moments of the terraced fields.
Mu Cang Chai is about 300km away from Hanoi, to the northwest. The location has been closer and more famous for domestic and overseas travelers. Overseas backpackers and photographers usually tramp to Yen Bai just to witness the terraced fields, enjoy fresh air, taking nice and splendid photos.
September and October are the finest months in Mu Cang Chai and also the most attractive month to tourists and travelers.
The rice terraced fields of Mu Cang Chai have been recognized as a national heritage site.
This artificial lake has an area of 23,400 ha and 1,331 islands and hills with diverse ecological environments. The water in the lake is blue and clear, and imprinted with the reflections of the surrounding ancient forests.
The thousands of hills and islands feature caves such as the Hum, Cau Cuoi and Bach Xa. The Thac Ba Temple always draws visitors.
Thac Ba Lake is not only a beautiful landscape, but it is also a national vestige. In 1285, the Thu Vat Battle took place under the command of Tran Nhat Duat against Mongolian invaders.
There are plans in the works to develop Thac Ba Lake into an ecological tourist centre with entertainment, mountain climbing and hiking.
The 13-day tour, provided by Lotussia Travel includes such outdoor activities as day walking tour, trekking, hiking, boat junk cruise, sea canoeing tour. You travel through both remote and popular travel places in the north of Vietnam including Mai Chau village, Suoi Lon, Bac Yen, Thu Cuc, Nghia Lo, Tu Le, Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai, Than Uyen, Binh Lu, Lai Chau, Sapa, Hanoi and Halong Bay. The accommodation is simple as you spend most of the nights at local homes (homestay) and budget hostels. The multi-day trek is completed with a three-day tour to Halong bay where sea canoening, scuba diving are available.
Day 1: Hanoi – Mai Chau. Mai Chau valley trek.
Transfer to Mai Chau. Mai Chau is in a valley just over the biggest hump, about 10km from the Song Da river and only 150 metres above sea level. The village, nestled between two towering cliffs and surrounded by emerald green paddies, is an enchanting sight as you wind down the cliff side. On the way, trek some kilometers through ethnic villages (Muong and Thai). Lunch will be providd in Mai Chau. Dinner and overnight in Lac village.
Day 2: Continue trekking Mai Chau. Travel to Suoi Lon.
After breakfast, transfer 17 kilometers then we start trekking in an area of inhabitants of ethnic minority Thai, Muong the villages of Cun Pheo and Hang Kia. On arriving at Bai Sang wharf, we will take a boat to cruise on the Black river. Arrive at Suoi Lon for overnight in Muong’ Village.
Day 3: Thai and Muong villages trek. Travel to Thu Cuc.
Transfer to Ta Sua plateau, you can contemplate the highland scenery of it. Visit some villages of ethnic Black H’mong and discover the daily life and custom of local inhabitants here, especially you can enjoy the local specialties: Ta Sua Tea and agriculture products then come back the mountain town for lunch. After having lunch, visit the local market, the handicraft and farming products made by many ethnics are available here. Then continue to trek over 5 Kilometers through villages of Thai and Muong village. During the trekking you can take a rest and enjoy the local wine distillated by ethnics. Transfer to Thu cuc. Overnight in Muong Village.
Day 4: Trekking hilltribe villages. Travel to Nghia Lo.
Trek through Thai, Dao, Mong visit the water wheel. It is used to scoop the water for the rice fields near the streams. Lunch will be provided en route. Continue going to Nghia Lo through the direction of Lung Lo pass. Arrive at Nghia Lo, check in hotel then take a visit the local market at the moment of decline of day.
Day 5: Continue hiking. Travel to Tu Le.
Leave Nghia Lo for the itinerary, trek and visit some villages of ethnic’s minorities along the road: black Dzao, H’mong, white Thai, etc. They are very kind, honest and plain. Arrive at Tu Le village, dinner and overnight in house on stilt of inhabitants here. You can discover the daily life activities of this village in particular and the Thai ethnic in general in Vietnam. Overnight in Thai Village.
Day 6: Hiking Yen Bai. Travel to Than Uyen, Lai Chau.
Take leave of inhabitants of Tu Le, it takes 2 Km to village center, you can visit lots of activity on the early market day and it is typical colorful ethnics of this high mountain regions. Transfer to the the footing of Kau Pha pass for us to start trekking about 9 Km through the forest and ethnic villages. This trail runs parallel with the famous and beautiful Kau Pha pass. We finish the trail at the peak of the pass (1800m above sea level). Transfer to Mu Cang Chai for lunch. Visit the local market and go on to Than Uyen. Arrive at Than Uyen, check in local guest house.
Day 7: Than Uyen – Binh Lu – Sapa. Sapa village trek.
Transfer to Sapa, on the way, we can take trek to visit lots of beautiful villages of ethnic. Especially, you can meet the most typical ethics as: Lao, Lu (Xa Pho). They wear the long traditional and colorful costumes with jeweler hand made. Moreover, you can discover the kind face in black dyed teeth of ethnics here. Arrive at Sa Pa. Check in and rest of the day at leisure or visit Sa Pa famous tourist town in Northern Vietnam . You can visit and go shopping, market for buying souvenirs such as handicraft made by ethics, ethics’ traditional costumes, etc before ending the days in North West Vietnam.
Day 8: Trekking Sapa (Sapa – Tavan – Seomity).
After breakfast, you will go South by car toward Muong Hoa valley. Your trek will begin from Tavan village of Giay minority. The first day trek will be mostly uphill. Whenever you stop for a rest, you will be able to enjoy valley view. Before noon, you stop again at a nice spot for lunch. The trek will be softer in the afternoon. But the scenery becomes even more beautiful. You pass by Seomity village of Black Hmong minority before you arrive in a campsite, which locates nearby a river outside the village. While porters put up tents and cook dinner, you can take a walk to stretch the legs.
Day 9: Continue trekking Sapa (Seomity – Den Thang – Ta Trung Ho).
The trek today takes you through beautiful rice paddies and over old suspension bridges. You will trek on small trail sneaking through rainforest. You arrive in Den Thang village of Black Hmong by noon. Here you stop for lunch either nearby a river or in a local school according to the weather. After lunch, the trek wills becomes tough on tinny footpath going up and down, which requires some concentration. You will reach to Ta Trung Ho village of Red Dao minority where you spend the night in local house. Both the valley and the village have just received foreign visitors. The night will be even more interesting when you are in the wonderful hospitable atmosphere of the Red Dao.
Day 10: Trek & return Sapa town. Travel to Lao Cai. Overnight train back to Hanoi.
You are now at the fringe of the rain forest by the Hoang Lien Son mountain range. Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina with its 3143 m, is located in this mountain range. You will start the trek today by ascending to Nam Toong village of Red Dao minority. Here your lunch will be prepared in a local school.
In the afternoon, before descending to Ban Ho, you can make a stop by a waterfall to refresh. On the last hours you can enjoy the valley one final time whilst trekking up to Su Pan, where your car takes you on the journey back to Sapa befor transfer to Lao Cai for the night train back to Hanoi.
Day 11: Arrival Hanoi. Travel to Halong Bay. Cruise and kayaking tour.
Upon your arrival at Hanoi Railways Station, you will be greeted by Lotussia Travel local guide and driver then transferred to a small hotel in town for breakfast and quick shower. Depart to Halong Bay.
Enjoy the journey through the rich farmlands of the Red River Delta and the scenery of rice fields, water buffalo and everyday Vietnamese village life. Arrive in Halong and board the Bai Tho traditional sailing junk. Whilst cruising the exquisite waters sample the regions fresh seafood. Visit the recently discovered Surprise Grotto with its great views, and on the next island see the yawning mouth of Bo Nau Cave. Take a kayaking trip to explore the Bay or enjoy a swim in the emerald waters of Halong Bay at any spot that you wish to visit. Watch the sunset over the bay whilst enjoying a delicious dinner.
Day 12: Continue cruising and canoeing Halong bay.
Breakfast on board. Then we continue kayaking zigzagging through many small islets of different shapes. We will kayak to the Black Grottoe and The lake of Three Grottoe. The journey is really wonderfull and adventurous! Back to the support boat for our lunch which will be provided on board.
In the afternoon, we cruise towards the Islands of Rocks and visit the Fishermen floating village. We will kayak in Ba Men temple area which is also a important highlight of our journey. Swimming at the sandy Three Peach beach if weather permits and enjoy the great view of Halong bay sunset. Dinner and Overnight on board.
Day 13: Halong Bay – Hanoi.
Breakfast on board. Then we continue our cruise in Halong bay before going back to shore. Arrive at Ha long wharf about 11h00 and take our car for journey back to Hanoi.
Arrive in Hanoi at around 15h00. Enjoy a short cyclo excursion through the bustling old quarter streets named after the specific goods once offered for sales at these places.
Yen Bai is 183km far from Hanoi, located at the northern part of Vietnam. Yen Bai is an agricultural – based province , the main economy of Yen Bai is forestry and farming. The location of Yen Bai makes this province plays an important part in the transportation to the Northwestern part of the country, as a transport hubs Yen Bai share the border with Lao Cai , Lai Chau , Son La , Tuyen Quang , Phu Tho. Yen Bai has an advantage to develop tourism for both international and domestic tourists.
Yen Bai is a hilly province cover with forest, and 2 big rivers go along Hong river and Chay river . So the province famous for The Thac Ba Hydropower Plant, it is a major hydropower project located within the province on the Chay river, built between 1964 and 1971 with assistance from the Soviet Union. The Thac Ba lake becomes the important destination of tourism of the province, one of three largest man-made lakes in Vietnam. Every year, the Yen Bai Provincial People’s Committee arrange the Thac Ba Discovery Festival, supported by Lao Cai, Phu Tho and Yen Bai provinces. It is held in the vicinity of the Thac Ba Hydroelectric Power Plant. Participants in the festival typically visit the lake and take part in a boat race that is held there. A village festival showcasing ethnic minorities, a trade fair, a costume show, sports and traditional art competitions are also held.
There are many ethnic groups in Yen Bai, but Kinh people is the majority population came here long time ago and in unison with the local minority groups as Muong Lo and H’Mong.
Dong Cuong and Dai Cai are two famous temples in the province. The festivals are held at different time of the year , some are very important with local people : Dong Cuong temple festival, Muong Lo cultural week, Suoi Giang panpines festival, Grapefruit flower festival, Nam Cuong Temple Festival, Mong ethnic cultural festival,…